There’s a chill in the air, the smell of wood fires and the crackle of dead leaves are filling our noses and ears, and we’ve all started to pull out our winter sweaters and boots. Yes, Thanksgiving and Christmas and presents and pie and champagne and all that are afoot, but for die-hard winter sports enthusiasts, these seasonal signals mean only one thing: time to plan a ski trip.
Most people expect to receive at least one invitation to a ski vacation each winter, whether it’s with family or friends, or even a bonding day trip with coworkers. Skiers relish every weekend in the powder, but here’s a dirty little secret: not everyone else does, too. Some people are simply not skiers.
So it can be very frustrating to decline countless invitations to what would probably be fun weekends, just because the chosen resort is concerned only with skiing and snowboarding. Luckily, many winter resorts have gotten into the business of offering a wide variety of winter activities, so that groups of people can all amuse themselves on or off the slopes. Whether you’re planning a girls’ weekend, a quick trip with the kids, or a romantic getaway, these resorts offer winter fun for everyone.
Sun Valley Resort, Sun Valley, Idaho
Located in south-central Idaho, Sun Valley has been a top-ranked skiing destination for seventy-five years, with plentiful trails for advanced and expert skiers, as well as trails and clinics for beginning skiers and snowboarders. Those who prefer not to barrel down a mountain can explore the village of Sun Valley (which includes shopping, a bowling alley, and a first-run movie theater), ice-skate, play hockey, go snowshoeing, or slide down the tubing hill. The Sun Valley resort also features a spa with massage, acupuncture, hot-stone therapy, and a heated outdoor pool. At night, sleigh rides are a great option for families, and older visitors can hang out at one of the many bars and restaurants in the village, offering entertainment such as the Winter Comedy Series, off-Broadway musicals, and live jazz.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Burlington, Vermont
This resort, which boasts Vermont’s second-highest annual snowfall, is brimming with activities that may ostensibly be for kids but that youth-minded adults will likely find stimulating, too. It was rated the number one family resort by IndependentTraveler.com, and besides dozens of skiing and snowboarding options, it features a dizzying array of other winter activities. Visitors can ice-skate, tube, or visit indoor pools and hot tubs, but Smugglers’ Notch also includes unexpected options, like dogsledding, winter hiking, and a year-round zipline tour of the forest canopy. There are also snowmobile tours of the area and an activity called airboarding that’s similar to a cold-weather version of boogie boarding. The resort features an indoor “Fun Zone” where kids of all ages can play miniature golf, frolic on slides and in a bouncy castle, run the forty-five-foot obstacle course, and game in the arcade. Older “kids” can have fun taking a painting, beading, or sculpting class, enjoying a cocktail in one of the resort’s many bars and restaurants, or enjoying the sights in nearby Burlington.
Park City, Utah
This town on the outskirts of Salt Lake City boasts three resorts with Utah’s famed “greatest snow on Earth.” The Canyons Resort offers dogsledding, guided snowshoe tours, winter fly-fishing, trap shooting, and snowmobile tours. Deer Valley Resort offers sleigh and hot-air balloon rides, and the Park City Mountain Resort offers all the usual activities, plus bobsledding, a toboggan-style alpine coaster, and tours of historic Park City, a former mining town turned international skiing destination. In town, the Olympic Park, built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, offers visitors the chance to watch elite winter athletes in training, and gives introductory luge and skeleton classes. Park City itself is also full of museums, galleries, spas, and historical sites, and boasts a legendary nightlife.
Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, Truckee, California
The Lake Tahoe area is legendary for extreme winter sports, but at Northstar, even nonskiers will be overwhelmed with activity options. The resort features not only a nine-thousand-square-foot skating rink, tubing, and snowshoeing, but also bungee trampolining, geocaching, and even classes on biathlon. The resort’s village houses dozens of shops and restaurants, a fitness center with a pool and spa, arts-and-crafts classes, wine tastings, yoga, tai chi, and live music all day on the weekends. Plus, those who want to avoid the outdoors entirely can cross to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe or nearby Reno to visit those areas’ plentiful casinos.
Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Located on the northern border of the state, the Steamboat area is a well-known destination for advanced skiers and snowboarders. The resort features the usual assortment of winter activities—showshoeing, tubing, skating, and sleigh rides—but it also offers some experiences not found at the average ski destination. The resort provides instruction in ice climbing, complete with crampons, harnesses, and ice axes for guests to use. Guests can also take helicopter tours of the resort area of the Rockies, learn how to snow-bike, go on hot-air balloon rides over the Yampa valley, or take classes in nature photography. Steamboat Springs is one of the only resorts to offer winter horseback riding—and don’t forget the famous hot springs the town was named after, which are open to the public for private or guided tours.
A ski weekend doesn’t have to be fun only for people who ski, especially at these five destinations, which offer such a wide variety of activities that even nonskiers will find plenty to do to keep their days full. And if all else fails, there’s always the bar.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons