9 ways to enjoy a ski resort vacation without hitting the slopes

Dec 27, 2020

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Many people will assume that, if you’re visiting ski country, you must be a skier.

But packing up your skis and hitting the slopes every winter might not always be in the cards, especially when you consider the cost of gear and ski passes. And, if skiing and snowboarding simply aren’t for you, that’s OK too.

Although my family loves to ski, we always look for other ways to enjoy the snow-capped mountains when we visit ski towns. During a recent trip to Stowe, Vermont, the mountain conditions weren’t great one day, so we hung up our skis and still found plenty of fun activities at the resort.

If you want to spend winter in the mountains but skiing isn’t your jam, know that there are so many other reasons to book a ski-resort getaway. Just keep in mind that, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some activities and services aren’t open or running this year.

Related: Ski season has begun — here’s what it’s like to hit the slopes in a pandemic

Go tubing

Tubing at Keystone, Colorado (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Even if you aren’t strapping on ski boots, you can still have fun in the snow by tubing down the mountain. Some tubing hills even require you to take a lift (or magic carpet ride) up to the top of the slope.

And tubing isn’t just for children, either. Whether you’re 6 or 60, you can always feel like a kid when you’re tubing down the mountain.

Well-known tubing mountains include Camelback Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania; Keystone Resort in Colorado; Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire; and Killington Mountain in Vermont. Some places even offer Cosmic Tubing in the evenings, such as Oregon’s Mount Hood Skibowl.

Take a sleigh ride

sleigh ride Stockbridge, Massachusetts Berkshires
(Photo by James Kirkikis/Shutterstock)

Sleigh rides are also a great way to enjoy the winter — especially with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. In Stowe, Vermont — just down the street from the base of the mountain — you can have your pick of sleigh or carriage rides. And with COVID-19 restrictions in place, your family can count on a private ride.

Strap on the snowshoes

Snowshoeing in Banff comes with snowy views all around (Photo by Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images)

If you want more exercise without any vertical drop, strap on snowshoes and start exploring. You might even find a resort or hotel that offers snowshoe tours, which are the perfect way to get comfortable with the sport. Spruce Peak — the village at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort — offers tours throughout the week right from the village.

Related: What’s new for this year’s ski season

Spend the day snowmobiling

(Photo by Per Breiehagen/Getty Images)

Consider a day spent snowmobiling. In Stowe, you can experience a 25-mile adventurous journey through Mount Mansfield State Forest. You have the option to ride on a single or double snowmobile, or even with a guide if you’re feeling a little nervous.

And though many places only offer snowmobiling to adults and teens, the family-friendly Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah, has mini snowmobiles for young children, too.

Related: Best credit cards to use on ski trips

Explore the ice

The Kids Climbing Park in Ouray, CO is a good place for little ones to put their ice pick skills to work on a wall just for them (Ouray Tourism Office)

Get your ice axe, harness, rope and crampons and you’re ready to try ice climbing. While experienced climbers might be able to simply venture into the mountains, many ski towns offer an “Ice Climbing 101” course to guide you along the way with all equipment provided. Best of all, you don’t need any climbing expertise to try this sport.

You can even find a climbing park for kids in Ouray, Colorado which is about an hour from both Telluride and Silverton Mountain.

Bike on the snow

fat biking Alaska
Fat biking on Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. (Photo by Jody O. / Salmon Berry Tours)

While Stowe Mountain Resort might be well known for its ski slopes, it also offer some of the best mountain biking trails in the country. Rent a fat tire bike, which will allow you to enjoy some of the same trails, but on the snow. Take the bikes around the mountain and even into the village.

Explore the village

Ice skating at Spruce Peak — the village at the bottom of Stowe Resort Mountain. (Photo by Jennifer Yellin for The Points Guy)

With mountain towns getting more and more popular these days, you’ll find that formerly rugged mountains are now built up with amazing villages filled with restaurants and shops. But others really go above and beyond, with everything from ice skating to fireworks and even live performances.

At Stowe Mountain Resort, you’ll find that, in the middle of the Spruce Peak Village, there’s a fun ice skating rink that offers complimentary ice skating, a candy store for the kids (and, of course, adults) and a huge adventure center with rock climbing.

Of course, Stowe isn’t the only ski resort to offer these amenities. You’ll find other great villages at Beaver Creek and Keystone, in Colorado, and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, among others.

Head into town

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket/Getty Images)

While Spruce Peak Village at Stowe has a ton to offer, not too far down the road you can visit the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory and numerous Maple Sugaring Farms. Here, you can arrange a tour based on your interests and, let’s be honest, what’s a trip to Vermont without bringing home some local syrup?

At Smugglers’ Notch also in Vermont, you can find classes where you make your own candles, medicinal tonics and you can even learn to etch glass.

These charming mountain towns are filled with activities and cultural attractions you might not find at home, so be sure to explore beyond the mountain if you’re traveling to a ski town.

Related: How to plan your ski trip with points and miles

Indulge in après ski

Après skiing at Spruce Peak Village (Photo by Jennifer Yellin for The Points Guy)

You can indulge in the food, drinks and camaraderie of après ski even if you didn’t hit the slopes.

With the ongoing pandemic, things look different this year, but you can still enjoy the après ski experience. Many mountains have set up great outdoor options with more seating, heat lamps and even fire pits. During our trip to Stowe, we were able to sit outside in Spruce Peak Village with heat lamps to keep us cozy. This was the perfect spot for lunch and a late afternoon hot chocolate break.

Related: 6 mistakes to avoid when planning a ski trip

Bottom Line

No matter where your interest lies, ski resorts offer something for everyone — both on and off the mountain. So, if you’re not a skier, you can still enjoy the ambiance of the mountains with amazing ski resorts and alpine activities to keep you busy without ever hitting the slopes.

Featured photo by Lasting Image by Pedro Lastra/Getty Images.

Additional reporting by Priscilla Blossom. 

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