Sometimes you want to experience the winter beauty of a ski resort -- the quiet, snow-topped mountains and brisk air, especially -- but don’t have a desire to ski. You might be amazed at how much there is to do without actually skiing.
I had stopped in a ski village on a trip through Colorado. When asked if I wanted to ski, I replied that I didn’t know how and didn’t have time to learn. I worried there wouldn’t be much else to do in a ski village, but the representative didn’t miss a beat before offering a slew of other activities from snow tubing to riding in a snowcat. In addition to invigorating outdoor activities for every skill level, there are also plenty of ways to stay warm and toasty indoors, whether you’re enjoying a hot cocoa by the fire, shopping, or getting a spa treatment. There’s so much more to do that you may want to plan a visit to one of these 11 ski destinations -- even if you don’t ski.
Editor’s Note: If you do want to ski, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our Skiing category.
Omni Mount Washington Resort
Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire
Mt. Washington Valley consists of 27 towns and villages -- Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, among them. Conde Nast Traveler named Omni Mount Washington Resort, located in Bretton Woods, as the #1 Best Ski Resort on the East Coast, and it’s easy to see why. This gorgeous luxury resort in the New Hampshire mountains has housed celebrities and presidents. Located in New Hampshire’s largest ski area, there’s plenty to do for the skier and non-skier alike. At the resort, relax in the spa, play a round at the Donald Ross–designed golf course, take to the trees on the zipline, or enjoy a fine dinner at the resort.
Sports adventures abound in the nearby Mt. Washington Valley as well. To take in the picturesque views and scenic vistas without putting on skis, try snowmobiling some of the 600 miles of trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Northern Extremes Snowmobiling, an outfitter in Bretton Woods, has snowmobile tours designed for all ages and levels of physical ability.
For the really adventurous, try ice climbing. Mt. Washington Valley is known for having some of the best waterfall ice climbing in the world, and you can hone your ice climbing skills by booking a guide. Since you’ll be climbing Mt. Washington, the tallest peak, you’ll be able to experience the views from a different perspective. There are even options for beginners.
For more outdoor experiences, consider ice fishing, a snowcoach tour up Mount Washington, tubing, and even a mountain coaster.
When you’re ready for some indoor fun, head to one of the more than 200 retail shops, boutiques, and stores in Mt. Washington Valley for tax-free shopping. New Hampshire doesn’t charge sales tax, so the price on the tag is the price you’ll pay.
Grand Geneva Resort And Spa
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
The Midwest ski destination Grand Geneva Resort & Spa has plenty of opportunities for those who don’t ski. There are winter activities such as sledding and ice skating, or you can step indoors for a treatment at the full-service spa, take a class in the fitness center, climb a rock wall, or spend playtime at the indoor water park. Or simply sit with a cocktail or hot beverage and watch the slopes from a seat by the fire at Leinenkugel’s. There are even private igloos in which to order light bites and a cocktail. Situated on 1,300 acres, this AAA Four-Diamond resort offers plenty of indoor and outdoor fun.
Inn On The Alameda
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The ski area is just 16 miles from the Santa Fe, offering an ideal chance to stay at a hotel in the city center yet be near the slopes for anyone who does want to ski. The Inn on the Alameda is centrally located to enjoy the arts, museums, and food of Santa Fe.
Skiers will enjoy the family-friendly ski destination, but there’s a plethora of activities for everyone else. You can fill your days with walking around this historic city, visiting art galleries, museums, and churches, shopping, or taking in the dynamic performing arts scene that includes ballet, theatrical productions, concerts, and even slam poetry competitions.
The healing waters of the hot springs and the restorative facet of the area are well known. Renew yourself with a soak in the hot springs at Ten Thousand Waves, then treat yourself to a massage or spa treatment.
Or spend the entire visit sampling some of the best New Mexican cuisine. Want to know the best places to eat in Santa Fe? Check out this article.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada and California
When many think of a ski destination for those who prefer other winter sports, Lake Tahoe often comes to mind due to its abundance of outdoor activities. Straddling both California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe, with its turquoise waters, is the second-deepest lake in the U.S.
Instead of skiing, take an exhilarating snowmobile ride through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, go sledding, snowshoeing, and even snow tubing with Lake Tahoe Adventures.
In addition to Lake Tahoe, nearby recreation opportunities abound in the area. California travel blogger Allison Green, of California Crossroads, recommends Donner Lake, Donner Memorial State Park, and Emigrant Trail Museum, where they tell the Donner Party story.
If you're looking for something more active, Allison suggests taking a hike to Eagle Falls with its sweeping views over Emerald Bay. Then walk to Vikingsholm to tour a Scandinavian-inspired castle near the shores of Lake Tahoe.
For visitors who like the outdoors, “There are winter hikes along lovely Lake Tahoe, snowshoeing tours, and ice skating at the base of Heavenly Resort,” says Carol Guttery, blogger at California Crossings. “And visitors to Tahoe can take the scenic 73-mile drive around the lake at any time of year.” Guttery also recommends the many casinos for anyone not wanting to ski.
Pro Tip: If you want to eat like a local, take a look at these restaurants.
Snow King Resort
For fun both on and off the slopes, Snow King Resort is within a mile of the famed and historic Town Square in Jackson with its elk arches, restaurants, and boutique shopping. The resort recently received a $6 million remodel of all 203 rooms.
A few of the other activities to participate in include dog sledding to Hot Springs, snowmobiling to Yellowstone National Park, taking an Elk Refuge sleigh ride, fishing, fat biking, and more.
Jordan Brady, an avid skier and founder of Journey Bound Travel Co., says the best part of Jackson Hole, the region where Jackson is located, “is its proximity to two amazing National Parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Talk about things to do for non-skiers! These parks are year-round destinations and are a sight to be seen in the winter! Wildlife enthusiasts, people in search of epic scenery, and those who salivate over natural wonders will love having direct access to these two parks at their fingertips.”
St. Regis Aspen Resort
Colorado is perfect for not just those who love to hit the slopes, but for anyone who enjoys exploring the mountains sans skis. The St. Regis Aspen Resort offers snowboarding, dog sledding, winter fly fishing, ice skating, and more. Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, enjoy the resort and its amenities, plus its convenient proximity to Aspen’s many shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
Pro Tip: While you're at it, consider these things to do in Aspen as well.
Nestled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at 2,922 feet of elevation, Massanutten Resort is home to the most vertical drop in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In addition to skiing, there are plenty of fun activities, both indoors and out. There’s an indoor/outdoor water park, two golf courses, ice skating, a day spa, shopping, and even farm-to-table dining at the resort.
For something really different, the resort has a brand-new Northern Lights Tubing activity that sends thrillseekers barreling down a hill on a snow tube, dropping 120 feet while at the same time enjoying the glow of neon lights and music all around.
My aim with this article was to provide ski resorts -- with unique non-skiing activities -- spread throughout the U.S. While I couldn’t mention them all in the length of this piece, here’s one more you might want to consider: Smugglers' Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont.
Family travel blogger Keri Baugh says it is a great place for multigenerational families, in particular, with plenty of activities that would appeal to travelers over age 50 who may not ski. Activities such as a "Taste of Vermont Tour," candle making, and seminars on herbal healing make this a great destination for all members of the family.
“As a full-service resort where you never have to leave, non-skiers can also enjoy indoor swimming, water aerobics, hot tubs, and family events like family bingo and game nights,” Baugh says. “There are numerous dining options on-site, including a fine-dining experience at the Hearth and Kettle RestaurantBut one of the most unique experiences (that does require some exertion) is the candlelight snowshoe dinner at the top of the mountain.”
“Most, if not all, of the condos on property, also have full-service kitchens and fireplaces,” Baugh continues. “Non-skiing members of the family can also enjoy a good book indoors and watch the skiers come down the mountain.”
“After riding on the chairlift to a warming hut at the top of one of the peaks, guests enjoy a catered candle-lit dinner and then enjoy a nighttime snowshoe walk under the stars down the mountain. It is truly a unique and special experience!”
Skier or not.