Luxury Breaks: Now you can buy a piece of the American Dream

A new trend in holiday-home ownership harks back to the days of the Great Camps. Sarah Barrell heads for the Adirondacks

The Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies may have had the funds to propel 19th-century America through its post-Civil War economic boom, but for these Gilded-Age elite families, holidays were about the modest pleasures in life.

In summer during the 1800s, the most prominent East Coast families would gather up their sturdier kitchen wear, linen and packhorses and set out on camping retreats in the Adirondack Mountains, in deepest upstate New York. In reality these rustic jollies were more akin to a modern-day five-star safari, with elaborately designed log cabins that became known as the Great Camps.

Fast-forward to today, and where do the dotcom rich and East Coast bankers go for some R&R but a Great Camp, or at least its modern equivalent. Thanks to Joe Barile, a former Olympic luger and local developer, the Adirondacks are once again home to a Great Camp in the shape of the Whiteface Lodge Resort and Spa.

This new hotel, which is set in 14 acres of woods near the 1980 Winter Olympics village at Lake Placid, aims to evoke the "rustic" splendour of the Gilded Age. Think vast exposed timber ceilings, soaring tree trunks for beams, rough-hewn wainscoting milled from native pine, as well as locally hand-forged cast-iron chandeliers. Add to this a newly opened luxury 24-hour spa, a gourmet restaurant and more outdoor sports than an Olympic luger could shake a sled at and you have a Great Camp for the 21st century. And an additional perk? Just like those families in the Gilded Age, guests can own a piece of this well-kept wilderness.

The latest stateside vacation status symbol is something much smarter than merely owning a holiday home: it is fractional ownership. Fractionals, or private residence clubs, represent one of the fastest-growing areas in the holiday-home market. According to CNN, new sales totalled $1.5bn in 2005, up 42 per cent for the year, with dozens more projects in the works.

The idea of fractionals is that you buy into a resort, affording you the luxuries of a high-end holiday home with hotel facilities, at a tenth of the price. The only drawback is that you can go only a limited number of weeks a year. Yet, distinct from the timeshare concept, you don't just buy holiday time but invest in both the property and the business. Fractionals are just appearing this side of the Atlantic, too. One example is 47 Park Street in London. Aimed at people who regularly visit London for business but are fed up with hotels, this property, like the Whiteface Lodge, offers the added possibility of swapping your residence time with affiliated hotels around the world.

So what kind of experience is offered at the Whiteface Lodge, a hotel where partials represent the lion's share of business? During a snowy February weekend I visited with my family. In the manicured grounds a roaring firepit had been lit by the side of the ice rink (open year round) and someone had laid out marshmallows for toasting. Skates and snowshoes were for the taking in a little yurt-style tent under the snow-laden pine trees.

Yet while the lodge was reportedly near capacity, there was not a guest, or staff member, in sight. "That's a key idea of the place," explains chief operating officer Olivier Bottois the next morning over coffee in the grand dining room – which we had to ourselves. "Each of the 94 suites is self-sufficient, just like a family home. You rarely see people roaming around, and if you do there are so many places to go that they rarely get crowded."

Unlike most guests we did roam around, past the 56-seat surround-sound cinema where the latest movies are screened around the clock, patrons or no, the old-fashioned ice cream parlour and family games room (with mini bowling alley). I took a lengthy dip in the linked indoor/outdoor heated pool and saw not another soul. This might have had something to do with the fact that it was freezing outside. More fool the other alleged guests: the view of White Face Mountain, after which the lodge takes its name, was spectacular.

But at night the bar draws people out of their privileged corners. In fact, to secure a place around one of the granite fireplaces, we share a couch with Rob and Alisa, who've been out all day ice climbing in one of the region's many frozen waterfalls. They don't seem to mind sharing their well-earned fireside spot. "This place is very relaxed," says Rob. "A place for families to come and truly kick back."

Case in point, we deposit our offspring with the babysitter and wander over for dinner in Steak and Stinger, the main restaurant. Under 28ft-high timber ceilings we eat hearty dishes cooked up by chef Brian Moyers, formerly of Manhattan's Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Lotus. We conclude, after getting the bill, that if you're prepared to pay Manhattan prices for your piece of carefully tailored wilderness, then this is the holiday home for you.

Compact facts

How to get there:

Sarah Barrell was a guest of British Airways (0870 850 9850; ba.com), which flies from London to New York from £432 return. Her car hire was courtesy of Carrentals (carrentals. co.uk), which offers a week's car hire from £151. She was a guest of the Whiteface Lodge Resort and Spa (001 518 523 0500; thewhiteface lodge.com), which offers suites from $407 (£203) per night, plus a resort fee of $18 per person per day.



Further information:

47 Park Street (020-7950 5528; 47parkstreet.com).

Further reading 'Great Camps of the Adirondacks', by Harvey H Kaiser, (David R Godine) £50

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine