These are the Best Ski Resort for Non-Skiers
By Shilo Urban
Photo courtesy of Visit Jackson Hole
So you’re planning a ski getaway, but not everyone in your party is into skiing?
Studies show that most American couples have mismatched drives-ski drives, that is. Perhaps your husband wants to spend all day on the mountain, and you like to make a few runs and then chill. Or you love to ski but he never learned. Maybe you’re just happier sitting by the fireplace with a cup of chai watching the flakes fall outside … or soaking in a hot tub surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
Whatever the case, when a family member or friend isn’t wild about hitting the slopes, planning a winter vacation together can be challenging. But there’s no need for anyone to sit in boredom at the bottom of the hill. Many resorts go above and beyond to cater to non-skiers with dazzling off-mountain diversions, from dogsledding to train rides to multi-course dinners in yurts. Whether you’re a black diamond shredder or bunny slope averse, these ski resorts will give the whole gang a reason to go.
1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
What you’re in for: Wild beauty and pure pampering
Just 20 minutes down the road from the town of Jackson you’ll find the top-rated Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and charming Teton Village. Cradled by some of America’s most extraordinary natural scenery (Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks), this indulgent destination evokes the expansive spirit of the Western wilderness. Relish awe-inspiring mountain vistas from Teton Village’s three luxury spas, each replete with heated pools and hot tubs (indoors and out.)
Detox in the infrared sauna and salt chamber at Spa Terre or drop into Chill Spa for a jade facial and rose petal bath. The Four Seasons Resort Spa provides the plushest treatments, including turquoise sage body rituals and warm river stone massages.
Once you’re glowing and giddy, head out on a winter wildlife safari to look for elk, moose, wolves and bighorn sheep. Dog sledding and horse-drawn sleigh rides are always popular, or you can opt for a snowmobile expedition to the pristine hot springs nearby.
Encircled by sublime canyons and sheer granite cliffs, a soak in the springs is truly something special. Shopping and dining in Teton Village is a delight, and be sure to take the tram up to Corbet’s Cabin and savor a gourmet waffle (in flavors like berry cobbler or peanut butter and bacon) at 10,450 feet.
Best for: Escapists and free spirits
2. Zermatt, Switzerland
What you’re in for: Gorgeous European getaway
Fancy a winter rendezvous in the Swiss Alps? With quaint wooden chalets and a picture-perfect church, this snowy village looks like a fairy tale came to life. No cars are allowed, only horse-drawn carriages and electric vehicles. The iconic peak of the Matterhorn towers over the hamlet’s meandering lanes, rustic restaurants and adorable chocolatiers.
When you tire of strolling around in a real-life storybook, board a cog train and climb 10,170 feet above sea level to Gornergrat, a mountaintop enclave with shops, a chapel and Europe’s highest hotel.
You’ll journey through dreamy forests and cross dramatic bridges along the way (keep your camera ready), and the panorama at the summit is simply spectacular. Want to go even higher? Travel to 12,536 feet on a glass- floor gondola encrusted with Swarovski crystals and visit the Matterhorn Glacier or hop on a helicopter for a flightseeing trip around the majestic Matterhorn itself.
If you prefer keeping your feet on the ground, you can learn about mountaineering history at the Matterhorn Museum or hike to easy-access viewpoints all around town. Watch Bavarian curling at one of the village’s six ice rinks, then try the sport yourself with a private lesson followed by cheese fondue and mulled wine. Satisfy your need for speed on the Rotenboden toboggan run and be sure to sample the world-class spa scene at this enchanting Swiss resort.
Best for: Europhiles and romantic types
3. Park City, Utah
What you’re in for: Uncommon amusements and laid-back allure
Park City may have some of the best skiing on the planet, but it never takes itself too seriously. The off-hill diversions at this renowned ski mecca are just as exceptional as its slopes, with such unique activities as hot air ballooning and an alpine roller coaster.
Situated in the Wasatch Mountains, Park City might be the only place where you can ride in a snowcat truck-drawn sleigh up 1,800 feet for a six-course Norwegian dinner in a Viking yurt. Yurts are coveted hangouts in this ski haven, like Après Montage (a fireside caviar and Veuve Clicquot lounge) and the Yurt at Solitude (a Mongolian-style restaurant reached only by guided snowshoe trek).
Explore more than 100 eateries in Park City’s atmospheric old town, along with art galleries, bookstores and boutiques. If you’ve already checked dog sledding and snowmobiling off your bucket list, travel 10 minutes away to Olympic Park and test your mettle on an extreme aerial zip line or a 1,200-foot tubing hill. You can bobsled down the high-speed track used in the 2002 Winter Olympics; a professional driver takes the wheel so you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Ready for more? Stretch out with stand-up paddleboard yoga in a warm geothermal pool or scuba dive at the Homestead Crater, and finish your day at the Spa Montage Deer Valley with a soothing wildflower massage.
Best for: Thrill-seekers and the sophisticated
4. Jay Peak, Vermont
What you’re in for: Fun-filled indoor oasis
Nestled under the Canadian border in the Green Mountains, Jay Peak Resort has an edge-of-the-earth vibe and an impressive annual snowfall of 347 inches-more than any other East Coast resort.
But it’s also known for its massive array of indoor recreation, including a giant water park and an NHL-size skating rink. In fact, you could have a blast without going outside at all. Sip an espresso martini at the draught house cinema or monkey around the ropes course and climbing gym. Treat yourself to a maple foot scrub or lavender scalp massage at Taiga Spa. Kids can go surfing on the FlowRider at Pump House indoor water park, then conquer the spine-tingling slide with a 65-foot drop (parents might prefer the hot tubs and lazy river).
Sign up for skating lessons at the indoor ice rink or join the pick-up hockey games. If you do want to venture outside, you’ll discover 12 miles of trails for fat tire biking and snowshoeing. With two arcades, two childcare centers and convenient on-mountain lodges, Jay Peak Resort is perfect for families and even the pickiest eaters will find something they like at the resort’s 12 restaurants.
Best for: Families and people who hate being cold
5. Breckenridge, Colorado
What you’re in for: Diverse fun and dynamic entertainment
From pottery classes and stage shows to craft brewery tours, this Rocky Mountain retreat appeals to all types. The authentic Gold Rush mining town is home to one of Colorado’s largest historic districts, with 249 buildings preserved from the Victorian era. But “Breck” isn’t a sleepy throwback – it’s an energetic hub with a lively foodie scene and killer nightlife.
Pick your poison at pub crawls, dance clubs and eclectic cocktail bars. Create your own whiskey blend using the snowmelt off the Rockies at Breckenridge Distillery, the highest distillery on the planet. Wander the vibrant Arts District and catch an indie flick at The Eclipse Theater.
Craving adventure? Try your hand at winter fly-fishing or join forces with a blue-eyed crew of huskies on a dog sledding excursion. You can even dash through the snow on a horse-drawn sleigh for a dinner theater experience in an 1800s mining camp. Or give free rein to retail therapy: Breckenridge boasts more than 200 boutiques, all centered around picturesque Main Street.
Best for: Bon vivants and the young at heart
6. Mont Tremblant, Québec
What you’re in for: Naturally sophisticated escape
Reconnect with nature at this Canadian getaway, a mountain playground that rises from Lake Tremblant, about 90 miles northwest of Montreal – right on the edge of a national park.
Attempt classic Canadian sports like ice climbing and ice fishing, or go non-traditional with a falconry lesson and a dune buggy drive on the snowy backroads.
Spend a day with a woodsman to search for animal tracks on snowshoes and share salmon cooked over a wood stove; you’ll also visit sled dog kennels, a bison reserve and a sacred Native American site.
Back in the pedestrian village, revel in the European ambiance and street performers as you stroll between dozens of high-end shops and galleries. There’s a virtual reality arcade for the kids, paintball for teens and a casino for Lady Luck. And when peace and quiet come calling, zone out at the luxe Scandinave Spa. This Nordic-style sanctuary has outdoor thermal baths surrounded by frozen forests and a strict no-talking policy.
Best for: Adventurers and nature lovers