Skiing in comfort Take a look around your living room...

TRAVEL SMARTS

March 18, 2001

Skiing in comfort

Take a look around your living room and zero in on that piece of furniture left over from college or inherited from your colorblind aunt. Would you like to launch it down the side of a mountain? If so, head for Montana.

Every year, Big Mountain Ski and Summer Resort in Whitefish, Mont., holds its Annual Furniture Race on the Saturday of its closing ski weekend. This year's events are set for April 7, when participants hurl themselves and their furniture down the slopes on skis.

"The definition of furniture is certainly loose," says Becky Lomax, Big Mountain events manager. "We've had toilets, bathtubs and even a coffin on the course."

The tradition began in 1970 when bored employees decided to nail some skis to an old couch to see what would happen. Now, the popular annual event awards its winner (judged on speed, ability to stop, the furniture piece and costume) a $500 recliner and lots of attention from hundreds of spectators. For more information about Big Mountain and the Furniture Race, go to www.bigmtn.com or call 406-862-2911.

Native American journey

The tour group Journeys Into American Indian Territory is offering trips this summer designed to let you experience Native American life and customs firsthand.

The programs, held in Oklahoma and New York and led by an anthropologist and American Indians, immerse guests in the lifestyles -- old and new -- of the country's only true natives.

Participants, who have a choice between modern and tepee accommodations, will take part in ceremonies, eat traditional foods, learn religious beliefs and tribal dances from people of many tribes, including Cheyenne, Apache, Mohawk, Kiowa and Arapaho.

Guests can also choose to be matched with a host family, from whom they can learn about the daily activities and customs of tribe members.

The trips generally last from three to nine days and cost from $340 to $875. For information, call 800-458-2632 or go to www.indianjourneys.com.

McDonald's adds sleep to the menu

When you think of McDonald's, a good night's sleep doesn't usually come to mind. But if the fast-food chain has its way, rest and relaxation may soon be synonymous with the golden arches. Today, the first of the company's Golden Arch Hotels opens in Switzerland, which already has 116 restaurants in the country, most near the Zurich airport. A second hotel is scheduled to open nearby.

The new McHotel has 211 rooms and claims to be in the four-star range, offering high-speed Internet access, online booking and a $100 per night price. The hotel caters mainly to business professionals and families, with an emphasis on kids. A playroom and children's center with baby-sitters are available. Oh, and the entire McDonald's menu is offered at the hotel's restaurant.

For more information, go to www.goldenarchhotel.com.

Wet and wild West

If being thrown about like clothes in a washing machine is your idea of a good time, then Western River Expeditions probably has the perfect vacation for you. The company's 2001 guide, "The Best Rafting Vacations in the West," lists more than a dozen river itineraries that all share one thing: wet and wild rides.

Participants on giant rafts get tossed about by the Colorado, Green and Salmon rivers and camp overnight for the full nature experience. Trip selection is designed to accommodate all skill levels, from beginner to pro, and to maximize adventure.

To get a free guide, call 800-453-7450 or go online to the Web site www. westernriver.com.

-- Tricia Bishop

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