How to enjoy a ski resort vacation as a non-skier

Feb 22, 2020

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When I first moved to Colorado, I thought my family and I would somehow magically pick up skiing, hitting the slopes every winter. But as it turns out, skiing is not an easy thing to start up on your own in your 30s.

Between the cost of gear and ski passes, plus a few chronic pain issues, it never really became a hobby for us. Over the years, though, we’ve learned to love our getaways in the snow-capped Rockies. In fact, we’ve even stayed at ski resorts and had a splendid time — no skis required.

Try Alternative Ways To Pump Adrenaline

Many resorts around the country feature adventure parks with fast-paced rides like mountain coasters, which are often open year-round. Hop aboard the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster in New York’s Holiday Valley, or the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster in Aspen Snowmass (which is open for nighttime rides).

The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. (Photo courtesy of UncoverColorado.com)
Take a night ride on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster at Aspen Snowmass. (Photo courtesy of UncoverColorado.com)

Though many places only offer snowmobiling to adults and teens, family-friendly Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah, features mini-snowmobiles for children as young as 4.

Tubing is another family-friendly activity. Head to Oregon’s Mt. Hood Skibowl (where you’ll also find a separate kiddie tube for youngsters plus Cosmic Tubing in the evenings).

Read more: Best credit cards to use on ski trips

… Opt For Something With Less Intensity

For those who prefer less of an adrenaline rush, places like Triple Creek Ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountain Range offer fun, but slower paced, activities like hatchet throwing — excellent for a quirky date experience. Triple Creek also offers activities like fishing, fat-bike riding, or even snowga (an outdoor, snowy yoga experience). If you’d rather stay warm, though, they’ve got regular indoor yoga as well.

I struggle with anything that requires as much balance as skating or skiing, but I’m happy to try activities like snowshoeing. Resorts such as Telluride Ski Resort offer 3.5-hour guided snowshoe tours that’ll show you areas you can’t reach by hiking or skiing. Another activity that has sparked my interest is ski biking — a more accessible alternative to regular skiing (for individuals with mobility or balance issues, or those who want to try something different). Test it yourself at Durango’s Purgatory Resort in Colorado.

Read more: What’s new for this year’s ski season

Explore the Local Culture

Perhaps you prefer arts and culture to snowboarding down a mountain. You could visit the Barney Ford House Museum, in Breckenridge, Colorado, which celebrates the life of the slave-turned-entrepreneur and civil rights leader. There is also the Audain Art Museum which promotes Canada’s First Nations culture in Whistler Blackcomb, or the philosopher’s house, Nietzsche-Haus, in Sils Maria, Switzerland. If you’re in Taos, you can book a culture tour with Heritage Inspirations to visit the Taos Pueblo to learn about the native people of New Mexico.

Audaain Art Museum in Whistler. (Photo courtesy of Patkau.ca)
Audain Art Museum in Whistler. (Photo courtesy of Patkau.ca)

Many resorts are home to some notable festivals. Park City, Utah, hosts the extremely popular Sundance Film Festival every January-February. In Canada, you can head to the always hip Whistler Film Festival in December. There’s plenty of music at Tomorrowland Winter festival at Alpe d’Huez in France.

Read more: 6 epic ski trips you can take with points and miles this winter

Wine, Dine and Everything Else Après Ski

Just because you didn’t hit the slopes, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the food, drink, and occasional debauchery of après ski. Treat yourself (or your significant other) to delightful Austrian-inspired bites at Konditorei in Sun Valley, Idaho. Dining-obsessed couples can go the extra (few thousand) miles to dine in the Michelin-starred establishments found in Courchevel, in the French Alps, at Le Chabichou.

Drinks are part of après ski. Enjoy cocktails at high-end bars like the posh Amangani Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; craft beer at resort area breweries like Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado, and Lone Peak Brewery in Big Sky, Montana, and a great wine selection at Alta Badia Resort in the Dolomites, of course (it’s in Italy, after all). There is also the wine cellar at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, which holds well over 20,000 bottles.

(Photo by Blain Harrington III/Getty Images)
Breckenridge Brewery is one of the top local breweries in Colorado. (Photo by Blain Harrington III/Getty Images)

Read more: Best ski resorts for families in North America

Learn Something New

You’d be surprised at the variety of classes you can take in and around ski resorts. When I stayed at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, Colorado, some years ago, I took my first aerial yoga class — a surprisingly soothing class that left me wanting more. At Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont, you can find classes in making candles and medicinal tonics, as well as paint and sips, and even glass-etching lessons.

… Or Simply Get Pampered

Check into a resort with a spa. Places like the Fairmont Tremblant Hotel in Quebec offer signature facials, manicures and pedicures, an elixir ice cider exfoliation treatment, and a warm and cold basalt rock massage that will leave you feeling right as rain. There’s also plenty to be said about unwinding outdoors at Steamboat Springs’ Strawberry Hot Springs, or Grover Hot Springs near Lake Tahoe.

Read more: 6 mistakes to avoid when planning a ski trip

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

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