Summer on the slopes: Why you should vacation at a ski resort this summer

Jul 5, 2022

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During the winter months, skiers from all over the world flock to northeastern and western resorts to enjoy the knee-deep powder and top-notch ski runs.

Resorts don’t close just because the temperature rises, though. In the summertime, ski areas are places of spectacular natural beauty.

For thousands of acres, streams flow through forested glades and wildflowers bloom on black diamond trails. The scene is pristine and almost magical — and you don’t have to pile on a dozen layers or stuff hand warmers in your pockets to enjoy it. 

Alta ski area, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.
Alta ski area, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. (Photo by Tom Kelly/Getty Images)

Once the snow melts, ski resorts are repurposed with an array of fun-filled activities and outdoor experiences enriched by the mountain setting.

You can also bookend your days with plenty of cultural pursuits in historic mining towns like Park City and Deer Valley, Utah, as well as ritzy Vail, Colorado, with its pleasingly faux Tyrolean village.

Additionally, ski resorts offer characterful slopeside accommodations that make mountain activities all the more accessible, especially if you only have a long weekend to explore.

During the summer, you’ll enjoy lower rates at swanky resorts. If you already have an Ikon pass or an Epic pass for 2022/2023, you’ll receive discounted rates during the summer at several mountain lodges.

Don’t just settle for one season on the mountain: There’s plenty — if not more — to enjoy at ski resorts this summer.

Here’s why you should plan your family’s summer vacation at a ski resort.

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Mammoth Lakes
Summertime at Mammoth Lakes, California. (Photo by Matt Young/Getty Images)

Things to do on the mountain

Gondola and chairlift rides

Many ski resorts operate gondola and chairlift rides in the summer, which offer remarkable mountain panoramas that change dramatically according to the season.

Celebrated super-resorts like Stowe, Vail, Steamboat, Whistler, Mammoth Mountain, Winter Park, Jackson Hole and Telluride feature gondola rides as part of their summer programming.

Most resorts charge between $30-$40 per person, but some charge more. At Whistler, for example, you’ll need to shell out $80 per person.

There are usually discounts for kids, but if you’re vacationing with your family costs can add up quickly. On a tight budget? It’s wise to carefully consider your destination.

Telluride’s gondola is free, so you can enjoy the world from 10,500 feet without pulling out your wallet. The BreckConnect Gondola at Breckenridge is also free. Steamboat also offers unlimited free gondola rides when you book a stay in one of their hotels.

Gondolas are a great multi-generational activity, as it provides more accessibility than a chairlift. Many gondolas, including Telluride, Breckenridge and Jackson Hole, are wheelchair-accessible. It’s a round-trip ticket everyone in your family can enjoy.

Related: Best ski resorts for families in North America 

Chairlifts are often repurposed to transport mountain bikes in the summer. (Photo by Arnold Media/Getty Images)

Zip lining

If a gondola ride isn’t exciting enough for you, opt for a ski resort that offers something a bit more fast-paced. Adrenaline junkies, read on.

Some of the nation’s best ski resorts feature long, fast, incredibly scenic zip lines. Find them at Vail, Aspen Snowmass and Park City. However, you often don’t need to travel too far from home to experience a ski mountain from above.

Jiminy Peak, which is in Western Massachusettes, offers three different zip line courses alongside high ropes courses. At Powder Ridge, in central Connecticut, you can race a friend (or stranger) down the mountain on zip lines.

At Sugarloaf in Maine, you can choose from one of six zip line courses during your stay. And when you stay at Snow King Mountain in Wyoming, you can ride the steepest zip line in North America.

Mountain biking in Whistler, British Columbia.
Mountain biking in Whistler, British Columbia. (Photo by Visual Communications/Getty Images)

Biking and hiking

Much like renting skis or snowboards at ski resorts during the winter, summertime visitors can rent bikes to explore trails in the mountainous wilderness.

A day-long rental of a mountain bike generally costs between $50 and $90 at most resorts. Or you can always BYOB: Bring your own bike.

Many trails are already cleared for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ATVs. As a result, miles of well-maintained routes can accommodate mountain bikers. Trails range from short novice paved trails to more challenging ascents. Most resorts use their gondolas as a convenient bike transport for visitors. 

Mega-resorts like Park City, Mammoth, Heavenly and Vail feature a network of hiking trails that lead directly from lodges at the mountain base. Trails traverse rugged peaks, crystalline lakes, high-alpine tundra and aspen forests.

Ski resorts also offer prime wildlife viewing. It’s not unusual to spot mule deer, marmots and moose on the trails. Cougars, grizzlies, black bears and coyotes tend to be more elusive.

Steamboat, Winter Park, Breckenridge and Smugglers’ Notch offer guided hiking tours that cater to every skill set. At Smugglers’ Notch, visitors can take a ‘wike’ (a workout hike) up the mountain.

If you’re sore after your hike, pop over to the resort spa later for a massage — but more on that later.

 Moose on the trails in Park City, Utah
You’ll often encounter moose on the trails in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Aaron Robison/Getty Images)

You don’t have to be a part of any group or stay at a resort to climb these peaks. The Appalachian Trail crosses through several large ski mountains (like Sunday River, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch and Killington) in the northeast and offers great hiking trails.

In the summer, you’ll run into thru-hikers in the process of completing the 2,000-mile trail. If you’re a social person who loves to meet people from all over the world, day hikes on the Appalachian trail are the way to go.

A mountain is a mountain regardless of whether you traverse it in skis or in sneakers – and mountains are for everyone. Just follow the leave no trace rule, slather on some sunscreen and fill up your favorite water bottle.

Hiking in Park City, Utah.
Hiking in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Aaron Hawkins/Getty Images)

Related: 7 overlooked ski resorts you should visit this season

Rock climbing

At many ski resorts, like Whistler, Winter Park, and Tremblant, visitors can belay off the sides of large rock faces and defy the forces of gravity.

These resorts offer routes for both first-time climbers and experienced climbers. In addition to outdoor rock climbing, lots of ski resorts offer indoor climbing wall options. At Jay Peak, visitors can scale a massive rock gym and a climbing wall that towers over a deep-water pool at the center of a giant indoor waterpark.

Olympic legacy

Check out the Olympic facilities from Winter Olympics past at Park City, Whistler and Lake Placid.

All three locations offer bobsledding down a repurposed Olympic course. Visit Utah’s Olympic Park in Park City for extreme tubing that involves tubing at 50 mph down a ski jump built for the 2002 Olympics.

During weekends, marvel at Park City’s Olympian skiers and snowboarders as they hone their freestyle skills by ‘water ramping’ into an aerial freestyle pool — all while fastened into their skis or snowboards.

 

Mirror Lake and the Olympic village at Lake Placid.
Mirror Lake and the Olympic village at Lake Placid. (Photo by Matt Champlin/Getty Images)

Festivals and events

Even though there’s no skiing involved, you can still get in your aprés-ski fix.

Mountain towns are idyllic in the summer months and host an impressive line-up of outdoor concerts and theater performances, as well as art shows, food and wine festivals, farmers’ markets and other family-oriented events.

Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, New York. (Photo courtesy of Walter Bibikow/ Getty Images)

Park City and Solitude both host a free summer concert series. The events run throughout the summer and feature local and big-name musicians.

Stowe, Jackson Hole, Breckenridge, Whistler and Vail all host bustling farmers’ markets each week.

Park City’s beautifully preserved Main Street is closed to traffic every Sunday and becomes a stage for local vendors and performers. The farmers’ market in Vail doubles as a local art show.

After a day out hiking, biking or even just lounging at the resort pool, head into town for a glass of wine or a bite to eat.  It’s much easier to secure reservations at the most coveted fine dining spots – unlike peak ski season.

Lodging

When you visit a ski resort in the summertime, you can still indulge in all the creature comforts associated with those cozy, winter-themed lodges.

Upscale ski resorts, such as the Four Seasons Jackson Hole and Waldorf Astoria Park City offer luxurious rooms, a spa, swimming pools, gourmet restaurants and all the high-end amenities you’d expect, but at a much cheaper rate than during the peak ski season. 

Related: Book this, not that: Ski hotels edition

Want to skip the traditional hotel setting? Opt for a more down-to-earth experience – camping.

If you camp on a ski mountain during the off-season (late spring or early fall) you’ll often hike for miles without seeing another soul.

While the Appalachian Trail, for example, has many designated tent spots, you can pretty much pitch one anywhere when no one is around.

 

Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Luxe ski lodges are just as enticing in the summer. (Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons Jackson Hole)

 

Ikon and Epic summer deals

Ikon and Epic passes offer access to some of the best and largest ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada.

With the price of a daily lift ticket now averaging over $150 per day at big-name resorts, if you plan to ski or snowboard more than four or five days during the ski season, passes are invariably worth it.

A season pass also avails you of a world of discounts all summer long.

Ikon Pass

The best deals are at SugarbushTremblant, Mammoth Mountain, Winter Park, and Solitude, where pass holders receive up to 30% off lodging. Other perks include free gondola rides, discounts on dining, bike rentals and golf lessons.

Ikon Pass holders also have access to the scenic gondola and chairlift rides at 14 resorts.

Best lodging deals:

Epic Pass

Epic pass holders can enjoy 20% off on the following:

Special offers — Epic, Ikon and independent resorts

Telluride, Solitude and Copper Mountain all offer a great deal: If you stay for more than three nights, the fourth is free.

Copper Mountain discounts 50% of the price on your second night if you just stay for two nights. Staying for three nights? Your third night is free.

Get 25% off at Mammoth Mountain when you stay more than three nights – even if you don’t have an Ikon pass. Vail (park of Epic) offers 10% off when guests stay for five or more nights. Save 30% at Whistler (also part of Epic) when you stay for a week or longer.

Colorado's Copper Mountain
There are plenty of great deals at Colorado’s Copper Mountain in the summer. (Photo by skibreck/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Ski resorts are an exhilarating place to vacation in the summer, especially if you’re looking for a family-fun getaway.

The plusher resorts are hardly cheap. When you take advantage of season pass discounts and special offers — and seek out free attractions and entertainment — it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Camping has its own merits, too. You’ll have the freedom to explore backcountry terrain on your own terms, without a set itinerary, and escape the crowds.

No matter how you do it, there are many ways to enjoy U.S. ski resorts laid bare of their blanket of snow of ice. 

Featured photo by raclro/Getty Images.

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