Friends and family are clamoring to hit the slopes. You, on the other hand, are not. What’s a nonskier to do? Happily, there are plenty of destinations with compelling trails for skiers and other pleasures — soaking in hot springs, snowshoeing, sleigh riding, bowling, gambling, shopping, ghost tours, yoga, massage, movies, nature hikes, cocktails — for you. Here are a few ideas that might leave even the most ski-averse travelers longing for a snowy getaway.
The first rule of thumb is to opt for ski towns with a range of off-the-slope offerings. Take Park City, Utah, where about a half-hour from Main Street, Park City Yoga Adventures will teach you how to twist and bend not in a yoga studio but, rather, within a vast crater. As if that were not enough, the instructor demonstrates these poses from a dock while you, aspiring yogi, execute them atop a paddleboard floating in a 10,000-year-old hot spring. From $65 a person for groups of five or six. Information: parkcityyogaadventures.com.
Those who would like to visit the crater but skip the yoga can take a self-guided tour, swim, scuba dive, snorkel or simply soak in the mineral-rich waters. Information: Homesteadresort.com/utah-resort-activities/the-crater.
At Utah Olympic Park, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, you can go bobsledding with a professional (Utaholympiclegacy.com/park; $185 a person), and while at Park City Mountain Resort, you can take a free guided history tour, ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, or climb aboard the Alpine Coaster and zoom down Wasatch mountain. Information: parkcitymountain.com/site/index.html.
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At Park City’s Washington School House, a former 1889 school turned boutique hotel, there’s a “skip the slopes” package. A three-night stay includes a massage for one at Zante Spa, snowshoeing for two, a $100 gift card for lunch or shopping on Main Street, a guide to Park City’s boutiques and restaurants, and free daily breakfast as well as après-ski drinks. Rates from $742 a night based on double occupancy. Information: washingtonschoolhouse.com.
Places like Stowe, Vermont; Lake Tahoe, California; Aspen, Colorado; and Whistler, British Columbia, have quaint streets lined with boutiques and galleries that will keep nonskiers occupied for hours. In Breckenridge, Colorado, visitors can try panning for gold at the Country Boy Mine, ride the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, go dogsledding, get a massage, or take a walking tour of the historic district. (Ghost hunters: check out the “haunted tour.”)
Or consider Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where you can take an Iditarod sled dog tour, enjoy a tram ride, shop, snow bike, or join a safari to spot moose and bald eagles. There’s also Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the National Elk Refuge, where you’ll find one of the most impressive elk herds in the world.
At Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, an eco-minded boutique hotel in Teton Village, a naturalist takes guests on wildlife and photo safaris ($130 to $195 for adults; $95 to $165 for 12 and under) and, in the evening, they can attend talks about astronomy while stargazing ($65 for adults; $50 for 12 and under; free for ages 4 and younger). Information: hotelterrajacksonhole.com.
At Mont Tremblant in Quebec, guests can enjoy dog sledding, ice-climbing or snowmobiling as well as helicopter tours and a “snowshoe and fondue” tour (a guided walk followed by fondue beside a fireplace in a log cabin; adults from $81.99). You can test your luck at Casino de Mont-Tremblant, or settle in for a film at Cinéma Mont-Tremblant.
Tourism boards in popular ski destinations know that not everyone loves to ski, which is why it’s easy to check out alternative itineraries in some places.
The Colorado Tourism Office, for instance, has a Web page devoted to “winter in Colorado ski towns for nonskiers.” Ideas include soaking in mineral-rich, naturally heated pools at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa (hotsulphursprings.com) and joining a free snowshoe tour with a naturalist from the Nature Discovery Center on Vail Mountain; and ice skating at Black Family Ice Rink in Beaver Creek. Don’t skate? You can relax by an outdoor fireplace and sip hot cocoa. More suggestions are at Colorado.com.
Vail Resorts, which operates ski resorts in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Lake Tahoe and elsewhere, suggests an array of things to do in Vail other than skiing, including outlet shopping, zip-lining, tubing, ice skating, unwinding at a spa, or trying a snowmobile or dog-sledding tour. The complete list is at blog.vail.com.
Ski NH, an association representing more than 30 ski resorts in New Hampshire, offers suggestions for zip-line canopy tours in several resort areas at skinh.com/resort-activities/nonskiingactivities.aspx.
The options for nonskiers nowadays are, in a word, plentiful. Yet sometimes, the best activity involves a book or stack of magazines you’ve been meaning to thumb through. While everyone else is zigzagging over mountains, you can lean back in an Adirondack chair, wrap your hands around a warm cup of tea and be grateful for the opportunity to do nothing at all.