Sleigh rides and snowball fights: Top 8 ski resorts for people who don't like to ski
Skiing isn't for everyone.
For example, my first ski trip was rife with mishaps. When I tumbled down the beginner hill, my skis flew in opposite directions, and I had to clamber through the snow to collect them. When I clicked my skis together on the ski lift to shake the snow off (picture a much less graceful Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz"), one went flying down to the ground. Let's just say my attempt to exit the ski lift with only one ski was unsuccessful.
It should come as no surprise that my ski career began and ended there. On the rare occasion that I do find myself at a ski resort, I gravitate toward sitting by the fireplace with a hot toddy or exploring the area by bike.
If you, too, are a member of the nonskiers club, check out one of the eight resorts on this list. They all have plenty of fun activities for visitors who prefer to keep their feet ski-free while their friends and family hit the slopes.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, located in Teton Village, Wyoming, is one of the country's premier ski resorts. Plus, its proximity to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks makes it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk. If you are more comfortable on ice skates or a snowmobile, there are opportunities for both. Or, if you prefer to sit back and let someone (or something) else do the work, you can book a dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh ride, the latter of which travels through the nearby National Elk Refuge.
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While everyone else skis the day away, you can stroll through the shops and restaurants in Teton Village. You can also "chill" at slope-side lodgings like the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole (the resort's only ski-in/ski-out hotel) or the Snake River Lodge & Spa. Both properties have heated pools and hot tubs where you can stay warm without having to bundle up.
Park City Mountain Resort
Park City Mountain Resort is a 7,300-acre ski resort located in the upscale-yet-charming town of Park City, Utah. Although the resort played host to the 2002 Winter Olympics, there are so many other things to do that I won't hold it against you if you don't want to hit the same slopes as literal Olympians.
Related: How to ski and stay in Park City with points and miles
You can still get a taste of the Olympic athlete life by touring the Alf Engen Ski Museum or the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum at Olympic Park. While there, tube down a 1,200-foot sliding hill or go for a thrilling (and professionally-piloted) bobsled ride on the same track that was used for bobsled, skeleton and luge events during the Olympics.
Breckenridge Ski Resort
I know it sounds cliche, but Breckenridge Ski Resort (or "Breck" as it is often called) in Breckenridge, Colorado really does have something for everyone — even those too clumsy to don a pair of skis. Founded in 1859, the Old West ambiance of this former gold-mining town remains palpable today when you visit the shops, restaurants, breweries and distilleries along the town's historic Main Street.
Related: 6 of the best Colorado ski towns
Nonskiers can go sledding or tubing in the area or opt for a two-wheel ride on a fat bike. If you are looking for accommodations close enough to the slopes for skiers in your group to have easy mountain access, check out Marriott's Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge or One Ski Hill Place. Both properties boast great views for nonskiers to enjoy from the hot tub.
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley, Idaho, is less crowded than some of the other resorts on this list, but it's similarly scenic. Plus, it has just as many amenities for nonskiers as it does for skiers. Unique experiences include a mountaintop dining experience reachable by gondola and horse-drawn sleigh rides through the mountains.
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Sun Valley Resort is home to a full-service spa where you can spend the day getting pampered with massages, nail treatments or a sauna steam session. Guests of the resort also have access to a glass-enclosed outdoor pool and hot tub as well as the Poolside Cafe.
Whistler is located just north of Vancouver, British Columbia, and it's one of the largest ski resorts in North America. It's also one of the best ski resorts for nightlife, family-friendly apres ski events and other activities for ski-averse visitors, most of which can be found at the base of the mountain in Whistler Village.
Related: Planning a Winter Ski Trip to Whistler Using Miles and Points
Whistler Village is a pedestrian-only area, making it a prime spot for afternoon shopping and evening strolls. In the heart of Whistler Village, you'll find Whistler Olympic Plaza — a venue designed for the 2010 Winter Olympics. During the winter months, the plaza is transformed into a large ice skating rink and adjacent snow zone for sledding and snowball fights.
Aspen, Colorado is basically synonymous with skiing (and snowboarding). However, you won't be left out of the excitement if you choose not to partake, especially if you visit during one of Aspen's many annual special events. If possible, plan your visit around:
- Wintersköl, Aspen's official toast to winter.
- Aspen Gay Ski Week.
- Après Ski Cocktail Classic.
- X Games Aspen.
- Ullr Nights.
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Other activities include rides on the 28-mile-per-hour Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, tubing and snowcat rides. You can also take a sightseeing gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain to enjoy a scenic lunch — then take the easy way back down the mountain with a return ride on the gondola.
Zermatt Ski Resort
Situated near the base of the famed Matterhorn mountain, the picture-perfect, snow-covered Swiss ski village of Zermatt looks like something out of a Christmas movie. The entire town is walkable, evidenced by the fact that cars are not allowed in town (other than the electric buses and taxis that can shuttle you around).
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When you're not strolling through this Christmas card of a town, you can visit the Matterhorn Museum for a lesson in Zermatt and Matterhorn history, including the many quests to conquer the mountain. You can also take the Gornergrat Railway for panoramic views of the Matterhorn and the surrounding area. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can cruise down the Rotenboden toboggan run.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort in northern Vermont can hold its own against resorts in the Alps or Rockies. Many of the resort's more than 100 ski runs are located on Mount Mansfield — the highest peak in the state. It can also hold its own against other resorts thanks to the many activities that don't require skis or poles to enjoy.
Spruce Peak Village at the base of the resort offers opportunities for shopping and dining as well as an outdoor skating rink and a playground and green space called the Enchanted Forest. If you venture a bit farther out of town, you can tour the original Ben & Jerry's Factory, visit the Trapp Family Lodge — made famous by the "Sound of Music" Von Trapps — or imbibe at Stowe Mountain's most popular apres ski bar, aptly named the Matterhorn.
Who knows, I may decide to give skiing another try at some point. Until then, I know there are ski resorts around the world where I can have a good time without ever stepping my feet into a pair of ski boots.