Love the idea of a ski vacation, but not the skiing part? More and more, snowy mountain towns are offering adventures that go beyond the slopes. Forget about hurtling downhill at terrifying speeds—here are ten alternative winter excursions within sight of the slopes.
Jackson Hole, WY
Four Seasons Jackson Hole has its own resident wildlife biologist, Tenley Thompson, who leads cold-weather fauna-spotting excursions through Grand Teton National Park. You’ll be ferried around in a Mercedes SUV that’s equipped with Swarovski spotting scopes, through which you can spy bighorn sheep, bison, moose, gray wolves, and grizzlies. You can even take off on a helicopter flights above the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, with Thompson guiding your gaze to alpine lakes, geysers, and massive waterfalls.
Park City, UT
Here’s a one-of-a-kind experience: paddleboard yoga inside a 10,000-year-old hot-springs crater. A snowshoe trek through a forest of powder-dusted Gambel oaks takes you to the steamy Homestead Crater for an hour of yoga. “It’s like a cave cathedral with the sun filtering in, and blue, 95-degree water year-round,” says fitness guide Julia Geisler, who leads the two-and-a-half-hour experience.
Park City, UT
Looking for a more intense Park City experience? At Utah Olympic Park, you can zip down a full-length bobsled track, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour and five Gs of force. Afterward, you’ll want to high-five Olympic hopefuls who still train at the park (take a tour to watch them practice aerial jumps). Afterwards, head downtown for handcrafted whiskey at High West Distillery & Saloon.
Opened in the summer of 2014, the free, three-story Aspen Art Museum vies for attention, even from avid skiers swooshing through Aspen/Snowmass. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Shigeru Ban and wrapped in a woven paper design, the AAM is focused on new works. Check out the geometric, barely-there paintings of abstract-expressionist Agnes Martin (through Mar 1) and Marcel Broodthaers’s furniture-meets-war series “Décor: A Conquest” (Dec 19–Mar 1).
Camp Hale, CO
Skiers can summit Beaver Creek at 11,440 feet or Vail at 11,570; but in winter, only snowmobilers get to climb to the top the nearly 12,000-foot summit of Resolution Mountain. Nova Guides lead Top of the Rockies tours from their Camp Hale location within the White River National Forest, about 15 miles from both ski resorts. Riding a speedy Ski-Doo, explore the alpine forest and former U.S. Army camp, originally built as a training facility for elite alpine ski corps during World War II. Then, head up to the summit for gorgeous views of the Mount of the Holy Cross, Mount Massive, and Mount Elbert—the highest point in Colorado.
Ski buffs staying at Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan get a complimentary ride to the towering, 15,577-foot-tall Courmayeur Mont Blanc, two hours away on the Italian side of the Alps. Stick around Milan, however, for the hotel’s fashion tour. It features an à la carte assortment of options, including visits to Atelier Versace headquarters, Valentino for a VIP welcome, and Cartier for lunch on the terrace.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
The helicopter tours offered by Four Seasons Whistler and Head-Line Mountain Holidays won’t drop you down a far-flung peak on skies. Instead, you’ll set off with local guides on one of three glacial tours that begin with a helicopter flight over the Pemberton Ice Cap, the largest ice field in British Columbia. From there, land at a remote hot spring for a private yoga and spa session, explore ice caves in a specialty vehicle, or try out snowbiking.
Near the Crystal Mountain ski resort, Northern Michigan’s frozen waters—including 50 inland lakes—teem with burbot and other freshwater fish. Master Fisherman Ben Wolfe of Wolfe Outfitters leads ice-fishing excursions that range in length from five hours to several days, providing transportation from Crystal Mountain, rods and reels, and a heated shanty on a lake. A French Culinary Institute-trained chef, Wolfe also pours his own Deep Blue Coffee and shows guests how to cook their catch.
Lake Tahoe, CA
Gaze at the star-filled sky over the Sierra Nevadas on a nighttime tour with Northstar California Resort’s resident astronomer, Tony Berendsen. Follow Berendsen along a mile of snowshoe trails while he talks about constellations, planets, and current stellar events. Once you reach the resort’s village, take a closer look with the help of Celestron telescopes and a high-powered laser pointer. Afterwards, warm up with wine and s’mores around a fire while Berendsen recites his own celestial-themed poetry.
The hills are alive in Stowe, especially at the Trapp Family Lodge, overseen by the clan of The Sound of Music fame. Skiers here can access cross-country trails, backcountry slopes, and more challenging runs at nearby Stowe Mountain Resort. But it’s worth your while to hang back at the memorabilia-packed lodge that became the Von Trapp’s hilltop home in 1942. Still owned and operated by the family, the lodge offers onsite history tours that share the family story.