Top Ten Things to do at a Ski Resort (Besides Ski)
|Get active off the slopes on a pair of snowshoes (Kennan Harvey/Getty)|
There are plenty of reasons to look for non-skiing activities at a ski resort. For some people, it's a chance to try something new, others are looking to save a little money, rest an injured limb, or entertain kiddos too young to be on the hill. Fortunately, ski resorts have been working hard to make sure guests are happy and entertained no matter how much time they spend on the slopes. Gone are the days of having nothing better to do than sit in the lodge and plow through the latest Grisham novel while your spouse/kids/friends take "a few more runs." Now you can go snowshoeing or dog sledding, shopping or wine tasting, even check in at the office or catch a show, all within easy reach of the lifts. Options vary from resort to resort, of course, but here are some popular alternatives to consider for your next trip to the great snowy outdoors.
10. Cross-Country Skiing
Yes, yes, cross-country is skiing, but you can bet most downhillers have never considered snapping into a pair of skinny skis. That despite the fact that many popular alpine ski resorts have first-rate cross-country facilities: think Sun Valley, Squaw Valley, and Tremblant. There also are many independent XC resorts located in the heart of ski country, like Devil's Thumb Ranch in Colorado and Royal Gorge (the country's largest nordic resort) in the Lake Tahoe area. The tranquility of cross-country skiing is its main appeal, of course, but many nordic centers also cater to the younger crowd, with terrain parks, banked turns, and jumps (for what's being dubbed "nordic jibbing"), even surface lifts to avoid tough climbs. If nothing else, cross-country skiing will save you a bundle: At Sun Valley, an adult lift ticket costs $83, while the nordic center charges just $20.
Snowshoes have come a long way from the inverted tennis rackets used by spruce gummers and frostbitten soldiers of the French and Indian War. Today's shoes are made of lightweight aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic (including itty-bitty ones for kids) and are surprisingly easy to use, even for first-timers. Resorts often combine their cross-country skiing and snowshoeing facilities, so you can start out on machine-groomed trails before venturing into thicker, deeper snow. Snowshoeing is especially well-suited for nature and wildlife hikes, now available at many resorts. You're likely to see plenty of birds and animal tracks, and possibly deer, coyote, rabbits or ermine. Some snowshoeing tours start from the top of the ski resort's main tram or gondola, allowing for easy access to remote high-mountain wilderness (and a fun ride, besides).
8. Office Work
It's not the sexiest of off-piste activities, but let's face it: Ski vacations ain't cheap, and being able to get some work done can go a long way in making the week's bill more palatable. If your job lends itself to remote participation, you may be surprised at how easy it is to stay connected. There's hardly a ski lodge nowadays without free wireless internet access, nor a chair lift or mid-mountain warming hut where you can't make or receive a cell phone call. Most resort hotels have internet access throughout the property, and some have full-service business centers, including computers, copiers, color printers, and even shipping and notary service. The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird, in Utah, has all of the above, and is ski-in ski-out to boot. You can literally review a report and sign a deal between runs.
Sledding is the quintessential winter thrill—just you, the sled, and a long slippery slope. Purists bemoan the advent of sledding parks, with their runs, rules, and even rope-tows and chair lifts. But parks have made sledding and tubing more accessible and significantly safer; no more colliding with trees or sliding over snowbanks into the road. And as such parks get larger and more adventuresome, they've become a legitimate attraction for kids of all ages, including adults; some even have night tubing. Admission varies widely, from free to $25-plus depending on the location and facilities. Some ski areas have multiple sledding areas, so it pays to do a bit of research to find the one that's best for your family's needs.
6. Ice Skating
Ice skating has remained comfortingly unchanged over the years, with little of the rapid-fire changes in gear and techniques swirling around skiing and boarding. Resorts were surprisingly slow to install rinks, but now pretty much every resort has one or more places to skate, complete with rentals and even lessons, all at reasonable prices. The skating rink at Squaw Valley, California, is legendary, located at the resort's upper mountain lodge with stunning views of Lake Tahoe. Skating a great daytime alternative for kids and non-skiers, and a fun nighttime outing for couples and families alike. Remember if you skate on a natural lake or river—popular at some resorts, especially in the east—always follow posted signs to avoid unsafe areas.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication