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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz