The days are gone when one could expect nothing more from ski resorts than winter skiing and riding. In fact, you'd now be hard-pressed to find any major ski resort in the world that doesn't offer an abundance of activities for all seasons.
Photo: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
The boom in four season ski resort development started ten years ago, and has grown substantially in order to help resorts create multiple revenue streams that aren't solely dependent on cold, snowy winters. Besides tubing, dog sledding, and snowshoe tours in winters, guests can now expect activities like hiking, downhill biking, whitewater rafting and much more in the warmer months. Indoor waterparks and "adventure zones" provide the fun fix for families, while swanky golf courses and luxury spas offer down-time for those looking to unwind on their summer and fall mountain vacations.
Why visit mountain towns in summer? For starters, there won't be any waiting in lift lines, nor competing for spots at crowded beaches. Sunny days are paired with cool nights for pleasant getaways from the summer heat, and the abundance of outdoor activities keeps every friend and family member interested and active. Music, food, and street festivals abound. In this short guide, you'll find our top hints for where to go, what to do, and how to make the most of your summer mountain town getaway at these top resorts. Keep reading for our insider guide to the top 5 mountain towns for summer.
Photo: Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler is a fan favorite among big mountain skiers and riders, as well as shoppers, foodies, and those looking for a Euro-style nightclub scene. Voted by SKI Magazine readers as North America's best overall resort for 3 years running, it's famous for its awe-inspiring landscapes as much as its tastefully developed base village, which boasts over 200 shops and restaurants. For those traveling from the States, the US/Canadian dollar exchange continues to work in your favor. Even spending big on a Whistler vacation this summer would mean some saving.
In the Summer: Whistler's summer activities revolve around outdoor adventure, and extreme sports enthusiasts will find themselves especially stoked with some of the area's offerings. At the resort you'll find downhill mountain biking in the Whistler Bike Park, extensive hiking trails linked by the record-breaking Peak-2-Peak Gondola, and helicopter sightseeing tours for a bird's eye view of the stunning British Columbia Rockies. Thrill-seekers can get their fix with Ziptrek eco-tours (zip lines through the rainforest canopy) and bungee jumping off the Whistler Bungee Bridge. For a more relaxed experience of Whistler in summer, opt for strolling around the base village, shopping artisan goods and snacking on fresh Pacific Northwest fare. Cruise along the 40 kilometers of bike paths around the village, and lounge at nearby Lost Lake Park.
Best For: Adventure enthusiasts, families, nightlife
When You Go:
Stay…at Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel for modern artsy rooms and easy access to family outdoor adventures.
Hike…explore mountain vistas and glacial waters on a hike along the Harmony Lake Loop.
Fine Dining…Book a table at Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which serves up fine steaks and seafood sourced sustainably from Pacific Northwest fisheries and farms.
Cheaper Eats…Stop by Dups Burritos after a morning on the trails for hearty, fresh Mexican fare under $10.
Happy Hour...at Merlin's for local beers on draft and live music with fun-loving locals – get there early for a table on the patio.
Shop...for native artwork and jewelry at the Black Tusk Gallery; daily tours of the museum are also available.
Nightlife…Good times in Whistler revolve around a few main clubs once the sun goes down; cut some serious rug at Garfinkel's, which hosts a revolving list of renowned DJ's and theme nights.
Adventure…test your skills in the rapids with a whitewater rafting trip down the Green River.
Photo: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
What started as a little-known destination for serious ski bums in the 1960s has developed over the years into a world-famous resort popular for challenging skiing, stunning natural scenery, and authentic Wild West roots. Jackson Hole is a mecca for sports enthusiasts in winters, but come summer the entire valley lights up with outdoor play, community festivals, a thriving art scene and National Parks excursions.
In the Summer: Over 1 million tourists make their way through the tiny town of Jackson each summer, so note that this will not be the quiet little getaway you'd imagine at some lesser known resorts. But fear not: with a bit of planning and scheduled rest time, you can experience the best of Jackson Hole summers without the overwhelm of peak tourist season. At the resort, you'll find plenty of family activities, including an outdoor climbing wall, downhill bike park, disc golf, horseback riding, and day camp for kids. The Aerial Tram and gondola are open daily and offer hikers a lift to the top of the mountain – from there you'll have access to dozens of trails spanning across the resort's peaks. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are just 20 and 45 minutes away; opt for sunrise wildlife tours for the best chance at seeing elk, bears, and antelope in their natural habitats. In the town of Jackson be sure to stroll historic town square for the Saturday farmer's market, and indulge in boutique shopping for unique clothes and gifts.
Best For: Outdoor adventure, sightseeing, culture and community
When You Go:
Stay…at green-designed Hotel Terra in the heart of Teton Village; eco-modern rooms and luxury spa complement unparalleled mountain views.
Hike…from the top of the Tram down the Cirque Trail to the gondola summit for a beer and valley views on the Deck.
Fine Dining…Book early for a table at the Snake River Grill, Jackson's premiere restaurant featuring gourmet American Western fare.
Cheaper Eats…Opt for a spicy pad kee mao and sake martinis at Teton Thai, a local hot spot in Teton Village.
Happy Hour...Enjoy local craft brews and live bluegrass music on the Deck at the top of Bridger Gondola.
Shop...for handcrafted artisan goods at Made, located inside Hotel Terra and just of Jackson's Town Square.
Nightlife…Be sure to catch authentic two-step and country rock music at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – you can literally saddle up to the historic bar.
Adventure…Don't miss a guided tour of Grand Teton National Park with safari-style wildlife tour.
Photo: Stowe Resort
A classic East Coast ski getaway, Vermont's favorite resort boasts picture-perfect New England charm year-round. In winters, you'll find some of the best skiing in the East, while summers bring a multitude of adventures centered around exploring the Green Mountains and local Vermont culture. Flatlanders from the tristate area who'd like to save on travel costs and time: this is the place to go come summer.
In the Summer: Head to Stowe for hot days and crisp nights, laid-back outdoor fun and exploring the best of small town Vermont culture. Organized activities like zip line tours, scenic treetop courses, and rock climbing are favorites for families, while the state-of-the-art Adventure Center keeps kids active even on rainy days. Kick back at the luxury spa and wellness center inside Stowe Mountain Lodge, and be sure to catch a show at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. It's best to have a car in Stowe so you can explore the area – especially destinations like the Ben and Jerry's Factory and the Cabot Creamery in Waterbury. Downtown Stowe offers a collection of boutique shops and art galleries, while nearby country inns offer foodies delectable dining experiences in the region that spearheaded the farm-to-table culinary movement.
Best For: New Englanders, foodies, families
When You Go:
Stay…at the Stowe Mountain Lodge for easiest access to resort activities, as well as on-site spa and fine dining.
Hike…the Bingham Falls trail with a naturalist guide for an intimate look into local flora and fauna, as well as Mt. Mansfield history.
Fine Dining…Treat yourself to elegant farm-to-table fare at The Dining Room at Edson Hill.
Cheaper Eats…Grab a hearty breakfast at local favorite McCarthy's; breakfast sandwiches start at $3.99, while the fan favorite steak and eggs is under $13!
Happy Hour...Everyone is welcome at Idletyme Brewing Company – head here around 5pm for small bites and microbrew tastings in the beer garden.
Shop...goods and mountain chic clothes for the whole family at Green Envy.
Nightlife…Dance 'til 2am Friday and Saturday nights at Rimrock's Mountain Tavern; local DJs spin eclectic beats, and bartenders know how to shake a cocktail.
Adventure…Catch your thrills high above the canopy with the ZipTour Adventure course, which offers side-by-side zip lines next to Mt. Mansfield.
Photo: Park City Mountain Resort
If an easily accessible, big mountain resort vacation is what you seek, you best head to Park City this summer. This massive resort – one of the largest in the US – gets big points for its location, diverse activities, and appeal to a wide range of age groups. Winters bring in everyone from big mountain skiers to art and film enthusiasts, while summers draw laid-back families and couples with varied interests. If your group includes shoppers, foodies, spa-goers and adventurers, Park City can please all.
In the Summer: The resort itself offers the bulk of organized events, while further adventures await outside resort boundaries. Park City appeals to families with kids of all ages: head to the main base area for access to zip lines, alpine coaster, miniature golf, bungee trampolines, adventure zone, and more. Additional favorite activities include extensive hiking and horseback riding. Downtown you'll find hundreds of unique shops and restaurants, while many hotels boast outdoor pools for lounging and luxury spas for relaxing. One of our favorite aspects of Park City in summer is the festival scene: the 4th of July celebration includes free concerts and rodeo, while the Park City Food and Wine Classic offers visitors a taste of the fabulous Park City culinary scene.
Best For: food and arts, families, accessibility
When You Go:
Stay…at the Hyatt Centric Park City for best access to mountain biking trails and downtown.
Hike…the challenging 6 mile Fantasy Ridge trail for panoramic views of the Unita Mountains.
Fine Dining…Enjoy creative American fare and fine wines inside Riverhorse on Main.
Cheaper Eats…Take the family to Davanza's for the town's favorite pizzas and cheesesteaks – this place is always packed, so get there early!
Happy Hour...Legends Bar & Grill offers great happy hour specials and people watching from the deck at the resort base.
Shop...for authentic Western wear at Burns Cowboy Shop – a Park City mainstay since 1876.
Nightlife…Stay out late at the historic No Name Saloon, the local go-to bar for fine whiskeys and raucous parties.
Adventure…Get geared up for downhill biking at the Canyons Village Bike Park.
Photo: Northstar California
When it comes to Tahoe resorts, few can go wrong with a destination vacation to Northstar California. While Squaw Valley has more history and Heavenly boasts an impressive nightclub scene, Northstar's recent remodels and luxury additions place it on the map as a top Tahoe destination. Hike in the mornings, SUP in the afternoons, and enjoy the legendary Tahoe scenery this summer.
In the Summer: We love Northstar California for incorporating fun historic and cultural activities into its summer line-up. Kids enjoy the usual pastimes like miniature golf and rock wall climbing in their village Kids Zone, while bonus activities like gem panning and candle making offer a unique twist. Parents can enjoy the Village Wine Walks every final Saturday of the month. The Northstar Golf Course offers players great views of the Sierras and well-mapped 18 holes through Martis Valley. Outside the resort, the greater Tahoe area offers more adventure – most specifically at Lake Tahoe itself. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle-boarding before heading back to the resort village for happy hour and healthy California eats.
Best For: nature enthusiasts, families, golf
When You Go:
Stay…mid-mountain at the Ritz-Carlton; retreat-style rooms offer mountain and valley views – there's also an on-site spa.
Hike…the Lookout trail for panoramic views of the Pacific Crest and Martis Valley.
Fine Dining…Lounge in rustic elegance at Manzanita and indulge in their eclectic menu of American and international cuisine.
Cheaper Eats…Enjoy fresh, authentic Mexican fare at local favorite Tacos Jalisco, which serves up small plates and family favorite entrees.
Happy Hour...Grab farm-to-fork seasonal fare and a local brew at Tavern 6330', located at the resort base.
Shop...for high quality outdoor clothes and accessories at True North in the Village.
Nightlife…The resort stays mellow after sun-down, but if you're looking to dance head into downtown Truckee – Moody's has live music on weekends.
Adventure…Head to the lake for an afternoon of kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding – you can also splurge on a tour.
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