Winters aren't what they used to be. As you may likely discover this season, just because you've booked a ski vacation doesn't mean there'll be snow — or at least ideal conditions — when you get there. While losing time on the slopes is a bummer, there are plenty of ways you can still make the most of your getaway. Besides cozying up by a roaring fire with a single-malt scotch like Nick Offerman, consider these adventurous activities you can find in every ski town.
For many skiers, the next best thing to kicking up powder is knocking back a pint, so you can count on just about every ski town in the country having a solid brewery scene. Getting sidelined by lame weather is a great opportunity to brush up on your mastery of beer with tours and tastings. Take a newly launched guided tour at Wasatch brewery, the first brewery in Utah, then order a pint of Polygamy Porter. Nearby Uinta Brewing Co. in Salt Lake City offers 20 different beers, a solar- and wind-powered setup and free guided tours. When in Jackson, Wyoming, stop by the Snake River Brewery for a tour and $16 flight of eight five-ounce beers like the Snow King Pale Ale and Triple Black Diamond, and make sure to take some cans of their $1.50 microbrews to go for later. A Breckenridge ski trip isn't complete without a visit to Breck Brewery for the Avalanche Ale and 45-minute tour of the operation, which donates a portion of the $3 tour fee to local charities.
While Vermont is home to 20 ski areas and the most beer makers per capita in the United States, the best Green Mountain State breweries are worth a quick drive. Enjoy a free guided tour and tastings at the "Artifactory” at Magic Hat Brewing near Bolton Valley and Smuggler's Notch or order a flight of beer served on old skis at The Shed near Sugarbush. Long Trail, located 20 minutes from Killington, provides educational self-guided brewery tours and the seasonal Sick Day brown ale with caramel malts and a nice hoppy finish that will melt your winter woes away. If you'd prefer someone else take the wheel, VT Brew Tours offers a Stowe Beer Tour that includes transportation to four popular local under-the-radar breweries. (Tap tip: to find more local breweries throughout the country, use craftbeer.com's handy brewery locator.)
Relax Like You Mean It
Between hitting the slopes and après-ski, there usually aren't enough breaks on ski vacations to truly relax. This winter, take advantage of that extra down time by indulging in rejuvenating spa treatments and wellness adventures you wouldn't otherwise think twice about. Waldorf Astoria Park City gives soaking in a hot tub a whole new meaning by offering guests a tub-side feast of oysters, steamed pork buns, and chocolate-covered strawberries along with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Four Seasons Whistler's Wilderness Wellness Hot Springs Experience whisks guests away on a helicopter ride over the Pemberton Ice Cap before landing at a remote natural hot spring, where a master yoga instructor, therapist, and Chef-de-Cuisine will be waiting. Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort's Bourbon Cowboy pedicure comes with a coconut cream milk bath, a Kentucky whiskey exfoliation, and a leg and foot massage — all had while sipping bourbon, of course. Post-pedicure, swing by Power 8 Kitchen and Tap's new biergarten at the base of the Centennial Lift for some homemade artisan sausages and Avery Brewing's White Rascal. Book The Outdoorsman Facial at Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, for a deep antioxidant-rich cleanse meant to soothe, protect, and revitalize skin that's been overexposed to the elements. Wherever you're heading this winter, you'll find most ski resorts have a spa with a wide range of experiential services tailored to the outdoor enthusiast.
Get Wild Where the Snow Should Be
Just because snow is sparse doesn't mean the mountains should stop calling. Lace up your boots and join the Trapp Family Lodge's Off Trail Hike: Animal Tracks through the 1,100-acre Trapp Forest in Stowe, Vermont. The hour-long complimentary tour leads guests in hot pursuit of wildlife like the rare Canada lynx, foxes, badgers, black bears, and bobcats. Take to the air on a helicopter safari hosted by Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which will arrange for the three-hour private flight over the Grand Tetons, alpine lakes, geysers, and some of the world's largest waterfalls. The resort's in-house wildlife biologist will provide fascinating commentary on the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and wildlife below, like elk, moose, bison, and mountain goats. If you'd feel more comfortable on solid ground, the Four Seasons also offers a sleigh ride to a National Elk Refuge and a tour through the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
A few miles from Big Sky Resort, Jake's Horses offers trail rides through Montana's winter wonderland in Gallatin National Forest or take a three-hour Snowmass snowshoe (or hike) tour with a naturalist from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. While your hotel concierge should be able to provide activity ideas, the American Outdoors Association Outfitter Search tool is a great resource for wintry fun in the wild.
Trade Your Snowpants for a Chef's Knife
Roll up your sleeves and throw on an apron at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, where Game Night entails a chef-led class on preparing local game meats like elk and bison, followed by a lavish gourmet meal. Viceroy Snowmass recently launched a Range & Vine Cooking Series featuring butchery lessons, wine tastings, and culinary techniques from Eight K. Nolan restaurant's executive chef Will Nolan, as well as an insightful conversation about animal farming with a local Colorado farmer. A 40-minte drive from Stowe, you'll find weekly culinary classes at The Essex's Cook Academy, ranging from French classics like French onion soup, steak with red wine shallot sauce, and crème brûlée to cooking with Vermont beer to a Winter BBQ class on grilling indoors.