With the coming of winter — at least in the Northern Hemisphere — there sometimes comes a divide among travelers: Are you taking a warm winter getaway or a snow-filled adventure? What’s a couple to do if one traveler skis and the other half does not? In response to this traveling issue, many ski towns and resorts have made ramping up their activities for non-skiers as big a priority as providing great powder.
In case one member of your party is more bunny slope than snow bunny, the editors and members of VirtualTourist put together the “Top 10 Best Destinations for Skiers & Non-Skiers.”
• Jackson Hole, Wyo. While the most obvious apres-ski destination in the United States is Aspen, VirtualTourist members uniformly recommended the gorgeous vistas and pristine nature of Jackson Hole. In the perfect “out West” setting, Jackson Hole is an ideal spot for the experienced skier and a novice who is only considering lessons. In addition to class and private ski and snowboard lessons, the resort also has a wide variety of camp options, running 3 to 4 days. There are great snowmobile tours, as well as Iditarod Sled Dog tours for a more historical experience.
No trip to Jackson Hole is complete without visiting either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park; both parks offer ranger-guided snowshoe hikes from December through mid-March. Another highly recommended experience is the National Elk Refuge, where visitors can take a sleigh ride through the refuge and into the herd of wild Jackson elk. After exploring the natural surroundings, thirsty travelers can head to one of Jackson’s watering holes, like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which has leather saddles atop the bar stools, or hang out at the base of the mountain for the apres ski scene.
• Verbier, Switzerland. It’s difficult to pick one spot in Switzerland, but historic Verbier has both quality skiing and a full schedule of activities for those who aren’t interested in moguls or powder. For the skiers, Verbier’s off-piste terrain is some of the most challenging in the world. For those sans skis, there are 12.4 miles of marked and prepared winter hiking trails and well-maintained tobogganing slopes.
Verbier is truly the spot to experience the “apres ski” lifestyle, especially this season with the recent opening of The Lodge Verbier, Richard Branson’s private ski resort. Many of the piste restaurants and bars are easily accessible to non-skiers, so you can enjoy a drink on the patio with the exquisite Alps view.
In addition to the usual winter sports and spa treatments, Verbier offers two particular specialties: cheese and puppies. Verbier is actually near the famous St. Bernard pass, the St. Bernard hospice, and of course, the origin of the St. Bernard dog. In both winter and summer, visitors can walk with the dogs or visit the museum dedicated to the breed in nearby Martigny. Verbier is also in the middle of prime cheese country, so visitors must make sure to sample the cheeses and Switzerland’s famous cheese fondue.
• Kitzbuhel, Austria. Kitzbuhel, about two hours from Munich, is an excellent destination for those who are looking for an active stop while exploring Austria. Besides downhill skiing, Kitzbuhel also offers over 75 miles of cross country ski trails and 106 miles of winter hiking trails.