Good morning, everybody! Here's the latest from the world's hotels, national parks, and ski slopes.
* MOST VISITED U.S. NATIONAL PARKS IN A RECORD-SETTING YEAR (CNN)
The National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, and a record number of guests joined the party.
The agency logged 331 million visits at the sites it manages, including 59 national parks as well as hundreds of monuments, memorials, scenic drives, historical landmarks, and nature preserves across the United States. The numbers for 2016 were 7.7% higher than the previous year's figure, which was itself a record.
The park service's centennial was highly touted, with campaigns encouraging everybody to "Find Your Park" and the launching of a program that gives every U.S. fourth grader a one-year parks pass for free. Also creating interest in federally owned lands: former President Barack Obama, who in his last year in office designated 12 new national monuments, for a total of 34 throughout his two terms in office.
The most popular National Park Service site was San Francisco Bay's Golden Gate National Recreation Area (pictured above), which received 15.6 million visits. The Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina and Virginia was close behind with 15.2 million. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains were the most popular of the agency's 59 national parks, logging more than 11 million visits.
* FIRST EVER OVERSEAS COMMERCIAL SKI TRIP TO IRAQ (The Guardian)
Would you go skiing in Iraq?
On the one hand, the northeastern part of the country is home to an imposing mountain range—the Zagros—with elevations reaching more than 14,000 feet. On the other, the U.S. State Department warns against all travel in the war-torn nation due to the threat of violence.
Nevertheless, a U.K.-based adventure travel company called Untamed Borders recently returned from what was possibly the first ever commercially operated overseas ski trip in Iraq, where six travelers skied Mount Halgurd in Iraqi Kurdistan, about 300 miles north of Baghdad. The group stayed with a local family and also attended the annual Snow Festival on Korek Mountain, which has a gondola.
Specializing in trips to uncommon destinations like Afghanistan and Somalia, Untamed Borders partners with local guides and uses GPS technology to avoid especially dangerous areas. But considerable risks remain, including the safety concerns that come with hitting the slopes in remote wilderness.
And needless to say, the après-ski scene doesn't exactly give Vail a run for its money.
If you're still interested, Untamed Borders will soon announce details on its website for a 2018 return trip. The cost of this year's edition was $2,400, not counting airfare.
* BEER HOTEL PLANNED FOR COLUMBUS, OHIO (The Daily Meal)
If Duff devotee Homer Simpson designed a hotel, it might look something like the one that's being planned for Columbus, Ohio by Scottish beer makers BrewDog.
Billed as the world's first beer hotel, the project's crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo promises an IPA hot tub, in-shower mini bars, brews on tap in every guest room, and beer pairings with every meal.
Frankly, we're feeling a little buzzed—and a little bloated—just thinking about it.
Having exceeded their $75,000 fundraising goal, the hotel's developers hope to have the place open sometime in 2018.
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