Tis the season for seemingly everyone to take ski and snowboard trips — and countless mountain snapshots popping up on your Instagram feed. If you’re not into either sport, the FOMO can be real when you see your friends jet off for weekends of #FreshPowder and #ApresLife while you’re home grocery shopping and Netflix binging for another winter weekend. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you have zero interest in skiing or snowboarding, you can still join those trips and have a blast while everyone else is on the slopes. Here’s how:
Try a new or unique sport
Skiing and snowboarding are far from the only sports available to active mountain visitors — especially if you head somewhere that was previously home to Olympic events, like Park City, Utah or Whistler, Canada. “Family-friendly tobogganing is available in most resorts, [while] the Winter Olympics has also opened up the possibility of turning your hand to some of these sports in the host town and cities,” said Sunil Metcalfe, travel expert at luxury travel operator Black Tomato.” You can get adrenaline pumping on a luge or skeleton run or slow it right down as you give curling a go — it’s actually really fun.”
Metcalfe added you may also be able to try out-of-the-box sports like fat biking (riding through the snow and other winter terrain on a bike with extra-wide tires) in Telluride, Colorado; or watch athletes partake in unique competitions like ice cricket in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Take in the views from above
One of the best things about skiing is the views from the mountain — but you can also experience those in more relaxing ways. “It cannot be denied that winter mountain scenery is breathtakingly spectacular – no matter what angle it is seen from – and many resorts offer ample opportunity for non-skiers to get closer to the mountains,” Metcalfe said. Look for mountains, like Vail in Colorado, with gondolas that not only transport skiers to the top but also offer a la carte scenic rides to passengers without lift tickets.
If you’re heading to Europe, Metcalfe recommended Zermatt, Switzerland. “You can...take the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car [which is] suspended 4,000 meters [13,000 feet] above sea level...with views of the mighty Matterhorn,” he said. “This is a must.”
Other destinations, like Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, offer helicopter tours so you can take in the views from even higher up.
Traverse the snow on snowshoes or cross-country skis
While your friends are careening down the mountain on skis, you can experience the outdoors (and get in a good workout) in a different way. “If you’re looking to get out and explore the scenery a bit more, snowshoeing is a great option,” Metcalfe said. “Though, heads up, it’s a lot more work than it sounds.”
Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are two activities that tend to be widely available at ski resorts and winter destinations; and you can rent the gear you need to do so.
Coast down the mountain in a different way
You may not be interested in downhill skiing; but if you’re up for an adrenaline rush, there are plenty of other ways to get it. “We have a mountain coaster at the base of our resort — The Outlaw Mountain Coaster — [which] is really fun,” said Maren Franciosi, digital communications manager at Colorado’s Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation. Steamboat’s coaster, which allows guests to cruise along more than 6,280 feet of track right on the mountain, is the longest in North America — but mountain coasters are also offered at other mountains, like Vermont’s Okemo.
And if you want to be even closer to the snow, you can look for snow tubing — it may not be on the same mountain where your travel companions are skiing, but many winter destinations, like Steamboat, have tubing hills nearby.
Relax at spas and hot springs
Ski trips offer the perfect opportunity to unwind, whether by reading a book in front of the fire or indulging in spa treatments. “Ski resorts often go hand in hand with a leading spa culture,” Metcalfe said. Atop his list of spa destinations are Aspen, Colorado (“The St. Regis...has an incredible spa where treatments are followed by oxygen and champagne”) and resorts throughout Japan. “While the Japanese resorts are renowned for their ‘powder-hound’ appeal, they also are rich in hot-springs with the ritual of onsen [a Japanese bathing ritual] that promise health benefits well beyond that of just resting a tired body.”
In the U.S., Steamboat is known for its hot springs as well. “We have two places you can go soak in the hot springs,” Franciosi said. “One of them, [Strawberry Park], is outside of town...and it’s very rustic and scenic. And then our health and recreation center downtown, [Old Town Hot Springs] is a great place for families and just very easily accessible. It’s right on the bus line, so it’s a great option for people who may have traveled here without a car.”
Explore the entertainment and culture offerings
Mountain towns are often home to incredible shopping, delicious restaurants, live music and a wide range of events and festivals — so chances are you’ll always be able to find something to see or do wherever you go. That said, if you want to maximize your options, “a good rule of thumb is to opt for established alpine towns, or resorts that have...played host to Winter Olympics,” Metcalfe said. “The former offer culture and charm in spades, with horse-drawn sleighs and quaint chalet-style architecture; while the latter have a little bit of everything to ensure that you’re never left wondering when your family and friends will be back from their day on the piste.”
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