Captivating history, luxurious spas, unique fine dining, adventurous winter activities, small-town shopping, and, of course, breathtaking scenery make ski towns a favorite winter destination for skiers and non-skiers alike.
For those opting to skip the slopes, we detailed some of our favorite non-skiing activities in these top skiing destinations.
1. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley Resort has been voted the #1 ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine readers two years running. However, this resort offers so much more than the freshly groomed, uncrowded ski slopes for which it is so well known. From luxury accommodations and delectable cuisine offerings to abundant outdoor activities and a world-class spa, everyone in your group can enjoy a perfect vacation at Sun Valley.
For the non-skier looking for outdoor adventure or the avid skier who needs a day off to rest their legs, Sun Valley offers bountiful winter outdoor activities that don’t involve a chairlift. The Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center is home to some amazing snowshoeing trails that offer panoramic views of Sun Valley’s famous Bald Mountain and, with snowshoe rentals readily available, guests of all ages and abilities can strap in and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Looking to get your heart rate a bit more elevated? Try your hand at Nordic skiing. Sun Valley boasts some of the best-groomed trails in the U.S. and offers lessons taught by world-class instructors, some of whom are former Olympians. If you’re looking for a less taxing way to explore the wilderness, don’t miss the whimsical horse-drawn sleigh ride experience! The serene ride showcases some of the best views of Sun Valley’s signature mountains while you snuggle in and sip some hot cocoa.
Those hoping for a relaxing day in the mountains need to check out The Spa at Sun Valley. Ranked the #1 spa in Idaho (and #39 in the entire country) by Spas of America, the Spa offers myriad options for pampering yourself. Services include facials, a variety of massages to suit your personal preference or body need, and even cupping and acupuncture to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. To truly treat yourself, make an appointment to get your hair or nails spruced up, and finish it off with a professional makeup application before dinner. Before or after your service, make sure to take advantage of the complimentary sauna access, have a soak in the hot tub, or take a dip in the heated pool.
Following a day of luxurious spoiling, join the skiers and snowboarders in your group for a dinner you’ll all be raving about. Sun Valley’s original restaurant, The Ram, has welcomed diners since 1937, just one year after the resort opened its doors to the public in 1936. Although this landmark establishment has received some updates in the decades since its inception, The Ram has retained every ounce of its authentic, elegant ambiance. Indulge in some upscale comfort food classics, like beef tenderloin or their signature Hungarian goulash, and a soul-warming specialty cocktail while listening to the soothing sounds of the baby grand piano. Following dinner, stop by The Chocolate Foundry to satisfy your sweet tooth with some of the world’s finest chocolate-y treats.
2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole has some of the most gorgeous natural scenery we’ve ever experienced. One of the best ways to take in all of nature’s beauty is on the Aerial Tram in Teton Village. The tram takes you from the Mountain Resort to the summit of Rendevous Mountain. The ride offers panoramic views of the Teton Mountains, the town of Jackson, the Snake River Valley, and Grand Teton National Park. Once at the top, stopping at Corbet’s Cabin for a homemade waffle and an Irish coffee is a must.
There is a range of shopping and dining options in downtown Jackson. Walking the town square, you’ll find art galleries, boutiques, western wear shops, and more. Don’t miss the iconic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar where the seats are saddles, and there is often live music on the weekends. In Teton Village, the Mangy Moose has a lively atmosphere perfect for the whole family; or check out Il Villagio Osteria for a more intimate experience.
There are a number of spas and spa services available in downtown Jackson and Teton Village. We loved our massage at SpaTerre in Teton Mountain Lodge. There are a variety of treatments available as well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Don’t miss the incredible rooftop hot tub, with stunning views of the mountain slopes.
3. Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge Ski Resort is one of the most popular ski destinations in Colorado. It’s an easy destination to get to, and the 1,600 acres of groomed ski trails will keep anyone entertained for days. However, for the non-skiers, the town of Breck (as those in the know call it) offers plenty of ways to enjoy the serene winter setting. This charming town has avoided commercialization and managed to keep its original mountain charm.
Whether you’re looking to explore history, enjoy a day of shopping, sip some fresh craft beer, or indulge in fine dining, Breckenridge offers it all. History buffs can deep dive into the gold rush origins of the town by exploring the ten museums and preserved gold mining sites. One of the most popular is a year-round 90-minute walking tour through Breckenridge’s national historic district. Discover the proud mining past that led to the town’s existence and view historic architecture, preserved log cabins, and beautiful Victorian residences. Shoppers looking for a unique keepsake will delight at the quaint storefronts down Main Street, offering everything from stylish boutique clothing, rare books, and local artwork.
After a day’s worth of activities, nothing is better than spending happy hour enjoying a local craft beer. Breckenridge Brewery opened over 30 years ago, and their most popular brews can now be found nationwide. However, the original pub is still located on Main Street, offering freshly brewed pints, tasty food, and tours of the operation. If pub food doesn’t make your mouth water, Aurum Food & Wine Breckenridge is the town’s top fine dining restaurant, located just a block off Main Street. For an extra special evening out, make a reservation to eat in one of their yurts!
4. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
From delicious New Mexican food to unique art and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taos, New Mexico, has plenty to offer travelers. Taos is a haven for artists, and there are endless galleries and museums to delight any art lover. Stroll through the historic Taos Plaza and you’ll find shops filled with handmade art, pottery, jewelry, and more. After all of the shopping, you can refuel on authentic New Mexican fare featuring traditional green chiles and mole — and grab a drink and enjoy live music at Taos Mesa Brewery.
Travelers can experience Taos’ history firsthand during a visit to the Taos Pueblo, an active Native American community and one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the country. Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national historic landmark. It is made of traditional adobe, with no running water or electricity. Another site worth seeking out is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which stretches high above the river. If you’re afraid of heights, it may be better to view the bridge from a distance, but you can walk across it for a breathtaking view of the river far below.
If you happen to plan your visit during the warmer months, the ski valley is also a wonderful place for white-water rafting, biking, and hiking, with the picturesque Williams Lake hiking trail being one of our favorites.
5. Stowe Mountain, Vermont
Known for some of the country’s most beautiful fall foliage and as the “Alpine Ski Capital of the East,” Stowe Mountain Resort attracts the majority of its visitors during fall and winter. The resort and surrounding areas offer plenty of excitement and activities for skiers and non-skiers alike.
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Stowe besides skiing is fatbiking. The wide tires on this bike enable you to easily glide through the snowy, groomed trails. Many area shops offer fatbike rentals and can direct you to one of the many free-to-explore trails.
If you want to explore the scenery but biking seems a bit too ambitious, you must take a Stowe Gondola SkyRide. The gondola showcases the best views of Vermont’s wintery landscape and takes you to the top of Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in the state. At the top, enjoy the views a bit longer stay during lunch at the Cliff House and peruse the Summit Retail Gift Shop.
While the rest of the group skis, head into town and explore the history. The historic Trapp Family Lodge, made famous by The Sound Of Music, is less than 10 miles from the resort. While the lodge is a resort itself, it also provides plenty of activities open to the public. Tour the estate and learn the true story of the family’s history before settling in with some authentic Austrian fare and freshly-brewed beer at the bierhall. If you’re still hungry, the Waterbury Village Historic District is nearby and home to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. The factory has historically offered behind-the-scenes tours (due to COVID, the tours are paused until 2022) and continues to offer walk-up treats from the Scoop Shop.
6. Boyne Mountain, Michigan
Boyne Mountain Resort is the premier resort in northern Michigan, welcoming families for over 65 years. While skiing was the original focus of the resort, they have become so popular thanks to their other activities, including golf, hiking, beach activities, and a calendar full of family events.
Boyne makes full use of the natural surroundings, and regardless of if you’re a skier, you, too, can zip through the trees. The Twin Zip Ride and Zipline Adventure Tour, open year round, takes you down the slopes of Boyne Mountain at speeds up to 25 miles per hour to satisfy your inner thrillseeker. For a more relaxing way to enjoy the resort, check out the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, the largest indoor waterpark in Michigan, conveniently located on the resort property. Soak in one of the hot tubs while the kiddos enjoy over 88,000 square feet of rides and slides.
For a casual and comfortable dinner at the resort, check out the family-friendly Trophy Room Pub & Pizzeria. You’ll receive complimentary popcorn when you sit down, and the pizza to follow is amazing. Forty Acres Tavern, located at the base of the slopes and open for both lunch and dinner, is another excellent pick for winter comfort food. Their loaded grilled cheese is to die for and pairs perfectly with one of the local Michigan beers on tap. Following dinner, Boyne provides nightly bonfires around the resort. They have free s’mores in the evening, plus cold beers or hot chocolate for the littles. At the bottom of the main slope, they also have food trucks, so you can grab some later evening snacks while you enjoy the fire.
Pro Tip: Christmas is an especially magical time of year at Boyne, as the entire place is covered in decorations. They have a ton of daily activities for the kids, and they even offer dinner reservations with Santa on Christmas Eve.
7. Telluride, Colorado
Telluride is a quaint western village tucked in between 13,000- and 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Skiers flock to the Telluride Ski Resort each winter, but the area attracts visitors year round. The town is recognized as a national historic landmark district, so you know it offers plenty of history to explore, along with lots of relaxation and entertainment.
Telluride is big on gathering the crowds, and festival lovers will delight at the event schedule. The town is home to multiple annual events, including the Telluride Film Festival for movie junkies; bluegrass, jazz, and blues fests for music enthusiasts; brews festivals for the beer-drinkers; and the Telluride yoga and balloon festivals, which promise fun for people of all ages.
Those looking to get away from it all know Colorado is one of the best states to unwind. Telluride is offering several hot springs nearby, allowing you to soak in nature’s mineral path while taking in the stunning mountain scenery. Many of the hot springs destinations have spas on site for the ultimate relaxing experience. We recommend The Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs, about 40 minutes from the resort. It’s one of the best in the area, affordable, and has an Adults Only Sanctuary (clothing required) plus a couple of outdoor soaking tubs.
8. Park City, Utah
Park City was a hidden ski gem before the Salt Lake City area burst onto the world stage with the 2002 Winter Olympics. Fans flock to the former silver mining town for the famous powder, but no skiing is required.
Utah Olympic Park is the perfect first stop on any non-skiing adventure. The site hosted the bobsled, skeleton, and ski jumps in 2002. If you’re so inclined, you can try out the bobsled track for yourself. In and around Park City, all of the favorite winter pastimes await. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, dog sledding — there’s something for everyone who wants a taste of winter off the slopes.
At the heart of Park City is Main Street. Lined with shops, restaurants, and art galleries, the uphill (or downhill) stroll is worth a few hours of your time. While on Main Street, grab a bite at Riverhorse On Main or the No Name Saloon. Off Main, Squatters and Burgers and Bourbon are great choices for casual fare. High West Distillery north of town serves excellent spirits and a tasty brunch. Two unique dining experiences: head to Fireside Dining at Deer Valley Resort, which moves guests from station to station for a taste of the Alps, or take a sleigh up to The Viking Yurt on Park City Mountain for a multi-course dinner.
Looking for a unique way to warm up, the Homestead Crater about 25 minutes south of the city is the perfect place for a soak or swim. The geothermal spring will keep you warm with its consistent 90-96 degrees while your friends enjoy the chilly slopes.
Finally, pure relaxation can be realized at many of the amazing spas. When money is no object, try The St. Regis Deer Valley.
9. Aspen, Colorado
The picturesque town of Aspen is the ideal destination for both skiers and non-skiers looking for a luxury winter getaway. Whether you choose to stay on the Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort property or explore the town, we guarantee you’ll never run out of things to do.
While the resort offers plenty of on-mountain activities, Aspen Snowmass is truly known for its après ski. “Après ski involves more than something to do after skiing, it’s a lifestyle,” they boast. A perfect example of this lifestyle can be found at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, where the cork pops each day at 1 p.m., and the bubbly flows abundantly. If you prefer a cozy space to snuggle in, the Limelight Lounge embodies living room-esque vibes situated around the fireplace. To take in the views, make the Wet Deck your happy hour destination — it offers 8,000 square feet of open-air rooftop dining and drinking space.
During your stay, don’t forget to venture off the resort properly to explore the town. The shopping district is world-renowned for encompassing the Colorado/Western feel meshed with glitz and glam. Many top designers, including Gucci, Prada, and Ralph Lauren, pinpointed Aspen as their ideal store location. Whether you’re a designer brand shopper or not, these shops are worth a visit. Of course, if you’re budgeting, it’s always fun shopping for a hidden gem at The Aspen Thrift Shop or Susie’s Limited Consignments.
10. Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire
Nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire, Cranmore Resort is known for its family friendly atmosphere and easy to manage size with about 50 runs for all levels. However, the biggest draw may be North Conway, an idyllic New England town perfect in all seasons, but extra charming with a fresh layer of snow. It’s an amazing weekend getaway even if you have no plans to enjoy the slopes.
Looming large over the area is Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. About 25 minutes north of North Conway, enjoy a unique snowcoach tour up the mountain or stay at the base and burn through a weekend’s worth of calories by snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
On the more relaxing end of the spectrum, a beloved activity for visitors to North Conway is the Conway Scenic Railroad. While the vintage trains are most popular during the fall for leaf peeping, there is some availability in December and February.
If you’re a fan of covered bridges, the area is home to six. All were originally built in the 1800s and perfect for a nice drive and photo ops!
Finally, visiting a few shops and restaurants is a must. Grab a cup of coffee and stroll through Zeb’s General Store and other quaint shops for a wonderful afternoon. When you’re hungry, Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Company has been delighting diners for more than twenty years. Enjoy a beer or two, or stay for dinner. Next door, Table + Tonic is a great option for breakfast and lunch. Part of a small grocery store, the owners produce much of what they serve on their farm.
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