Mountain ski towns are magical places, especially during the winter months. Far from the one-trick pony type of experience their moniker suggests, modern ski towns are chock full of recreational opportunities that have nothing to do with skiing. Just because you don’t want to ski or snowboard, doesn’t mean you have to sit in the lodge sipping hot coco by the fireplace, although that actually sounds pretty enjoyable. We’ve collected a few examples of the best things to do in our favorite ski towns—that aren’t downhill skiing or snowboarding. It’s worth noting that practically all of these examples are available in every ski town so just because we didn’t mention going for a sleigh ride in all of them doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility.
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Go for a sleigh ride:
Here it is, the quintessential ski town experience that doesn’t have anything to do with skiing. There’s no place in the world better to go for a sleigh ride than Vermont. The old fashioned sleighs, harnessed to sturdy horses jingling along across open meadows. It’s so picturesque that the whole experience feels like a movie filmed in the 50’s. Stowe Mountain Lodge offer a variety of sleigh rides.
Visit a sugar-house via snowshoes:
Winter is a great time to walk amongst the leafless maples and tour one of the areas famous sugar-houses, where maple syrup is collected and processed. One of the most popular snowshoes tours offered by Umiak, is a moonlit walk across the snow covered fields to a hidden sugar-house, where a warm fire, tasty local cheese, hot apple cider and your favorite bottle of wine are waiting for you.
Stay at the original Von Trapp (of Sound of Music Fame) family farm. Now called the Trapp Family Lodge.
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Lake Tahoe, California
There’s one thing the Lake Tahoe area has that no other ski towns do. Casinos. Spend the day at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in South Lake at the tables dancing with lady luck while playing blackjack, rolling dice, playing slots, sucking down free drinks, and generally forgetting entirely about winter.
A number of the Tahoe area’s resorts feature slopes that are machine groomed and maintained specifically for sledding and tubing. Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe is a sled and tubing specific resort. Located on top of Echo Summit with a base elevation of 7,350 feet, it’s a sure bet to have snow.
Lots of options for places to stay but if you’re looking for the best value, stay at The Firelite Lodge. Centrally located, close to the lake and within walking distance of numerous activities, bars and restaurants while still a quick drive from the areas resorts
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Whistler, British Columbia
Go Ice Skating:
Whistler Village’s Olympic Plaza becomes a dream outdoor ice rink during the winter months. Skate beneath the Olympic Rings with views of the mountain during the day or thousands of twinkling lights at night. Admission is free and rental skates only cost $5 so it’s also one of the most affordable things to do in Whistler.
Go on a Bobsled Ride:
Take advantage of the fastest ice track in the world and go for a bobsled ride at The Whistler Sliding Center. Home of the 2010 Olympic Games for bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton competitions, the fastest track in the world is now open to the public. Join an experienced pilot, put on a helmet, and fly down the ice at speeds reaching 75 miles per hour.
Stay in the center of it all at The Carleton Lodge, a residence style hotel in the heart of Whistler Village.
Credit: Photo by Christopher Morris/Corbis via Getty Images
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Go Snow Biking:
Astride a fat tire bike available at the Limelight Hotel, the numerous great trails surrounding Aspen in the summer become just as good for biking during the winter, maybe better as falls into snow are much softer than the dirt and rocks of summertime. Go for a ride on Smuggler Mountain Trail up into Hunter Creek Valley or pedal to Maroon Lake at the base of Aspen’s world famous Maroon Bells.
Learn the techniques and tools used to climb frozen waterfalls from a certified AMGA guide with Aspen Expeditions. The guides have all the necessary equipment and no experience is necessary. By the end of the day you’ll be roped in and climbing a frozen waterfall yourself just a few minutes from downtown Aspen.
Stay at the Limelight Hotel, located right in the heart of Aspen, it’s a local’s favorite for a reason. Fat Bikes are available for guests to use and so is their fleet of brand new Audi’s.
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Take a Snowmobile Safari:
With Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks nearby, any trip to Jackson Hole should include a day snowmobiling through the parks. The roads are closed and all the tourists are gone (or waiting in the tram line), so it’s the ideal time to take snowmobiles deep into the powder filled meadows, timbered valley and dramatic ridgelines of these national parks. Keep your eye out for all the wildlife that call these parks home, they tend to be a lot easier to spot during winter. Scenic Safaris offers a great all-day tour.
Go Dog Sledding:
Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours offers a scenic, warm ride in a modern sled pulled by a team of authentic Alaskan racing sled dogs. The northern huskies pull you and your expert guide/musher smoothly through Wyoming’s spectacular wilderness to the beautiful geothermal Granite Hot Springs for a soak.
Skip the Four Seasons and stay at SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole, an all suite hotel where a hearty free breakfast, craft beer and premium wine offerings in the evening make you feel like a local.
Credit: Kacey Klonsky / Getty
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Sun Valley, Idaho
One of Sun Valley’s hidden treasures is its cross-country skiing. It’s so good that numerous Olympic national teams from around the world come to Sun Valley just to train. While the cross-country skiing around town is phenomenal, the real gem of the area is Galena Lodge. Nestled beneath dramatic peaks north of Sun Valley, the cozy, no frills lodge is surrounded by miles of world-class nordic trails for every ability level. The delicious homemade food and soups at the lodge are a worthy reward after a couple of hours out on the trails and shouldn’t be missed.
Whatever you choose to do during the day, finish it at Zenergy Health Club & Spa. The highlight is a gorgeous outdoor hot tub and salt-water pool with great views overlooking the town and Mt. Baldy. Luxurious facilities offer a top-notch executive workout, alternating between the steam room, sauna, and hot tub, but if you want to sweat the full service gym has all the bells and whistles. There are also a couple of indoor tennis courts and a squash court if you like racquet sports.
For an affordable and social lodging experience, stay at The Hot Water Inn, a funky boutique hotel and hostel that hosts the best live music in town.
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