Top 9 Ski Resorts for Non-Skiers
Written by Alexa Owen • Nov 10, 2016
Whether you’re ski resort bound for the Christmas holidays or seeking a winter wonderland getaway from the city on a long weekend, you’ll find plenty of outlets for adventure and entertainment at major resorts across North America. After all, while these ski destinations may have been built with hardcore skiers in mind, they’ve survived on the marketing strategies of industry insiders who know that there’s a lot more to a ski vacation than the actual skiing. From luxury spas to award-winning restaurants to outdoor pursuits and cultural enrichment, you’ll find more than enough at these ski resorts and neighboring towns to fill the days while your family’s hitting the slopes. Read on for our top 9 ski resorts for non-skiers.
Whistler is North America’s mecca for big mountain resort skiing, but also for a swanky food scene, luxury spa hotels, and nightclubs that rival some of the best in the European Alps. Stroll Whistler and Blackcomb Villages, which boast over 200 shops selling everything from fine cashmere sweaters to handcrafted home décor. Be sure to book ahead at one of the award-winning bistros like Bearfoot, where chefs craft delectable Pacific Northwest meals from locally sourced ingredients. In terms of activities, adventure enthusiasts will find thrills in zip-line tours, ice climbing, and a visit to the 2010 Olympic ice luge. If you’re keen to skip the daytime tourist scene, opt for partying into the wee hours at nightclubs like Garfinkel’s, which brings in world-class DJs throughout the season.
At Stowe, visitors can lounge in luxury at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which is situated at the mountain’s base and offers guests spa services, fine dining restaurant and lounge, and a variety of outdoor activities besides skiing. Guided snowshoe and snowmobile tours through the Green Mountain backcountry are popular. The real draw of Stowe as a non-skiing destination is the quaint downtown, which boasts a charm so quintessentially New England you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard. Locally owned shops, cafes, and historic inns line streets. If you’re traveling with kids who need a day off, head to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory in neighboring Waterbury for an unforgettable tour of the famous ice cream brand’s headquarters.
Park City Mountain Resort gets points for its accessibility – at only 40 minute drive from Salt Lake City, one can bask in the feeling of “getting away” without the haul and hassle that accompanies other ski getaways. The resort itself has so much to offer skiers, while downtown Park City is draped in icicle lights and an historic western charm that wins over visitors year after year. Foodies can delight in innovative western fare, and even a food tour of the hottest spots in town. The area is also known for its shopping: find high-end décor and clothing boutiques on every street. Most of the popular après ski spots – like High West Distillery & Saloon – are located downtown rather than on the mountain, making it easy to meet up for afternoon drinks with friends.
Amidst the old time ranchers and affluent art enthusiasts that populate the famous town of Jackson in northwest Wyoming is a solid community of skiers, climbers, yogis and foodies who call Jackson Hole their home. The area was popularized before the ski resort as a destination for passers-by of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and therefore isn’t completely defined by its ski culture. That said, this is still the go-to resort for serious big mountain skiers, and the authenticity of the ski culture itself is exhilarating. For non-skiers, there are countless activities to partake in at the resort: ride the aerial tram for stunning views of the Tetons, indulge in sustainably built day spas, and delight in the rowdy après ski scenes at bars like the Mangy Moose. Be sure to head into downtown Jackson for high end shopping and photo ops at the town square antler arches.
The reputation that precedes Beaver Creek paints a picture of red carpet service, super posh hotels, and swanky restaurants that require reservations weeks in advance. While this may all have some truth to it (did we mention there are free cookies every day at 3 pm?), what most don’t know is that Beaver Creek boasts a surprisingly un-pretentious vibe. This is the place to go for ultimate luxury without all the hype of neighboring Vail. Surprised? Great. Enjoy scoping out the local art scene and catching a performance at Vilar Performing Arts Center, which brings in world-class acts throughout the season. The purpose-built base village is packed with elegant shops, and the resort hosts tons of family-friendly events, like their annual WinterFest bash.
Taos Ski Valley remains a relatively hidden gem in the destination ski resort world, and this won’t last much longer due to massive infrastructure and base village improvements that began last year. Guests have the option of staying at the ski hill itself, or in downtown Taos, which boasts arguably the best arts scene in the Southwest. It’s a magnet for those interested in challenging skiing, delectable Southwest cuisine, and an arts culture of Pueblo Anglo fusion. If skiing isn’t your top priority, plan to spend most your time downtown, with a few excursions to historical sites like the Taos Pueblo.
If we knew exactly where Oprah’s house was, we’d tell you to wave as you skied by. But if you’re not skiing anyway – no matter. Yes, swanky Telluride is (second/third/fourth) home to big time celebrities, and yet without the swanky “scene” of other major destination resorts. Go for the historic watering holes, like the New Sheridan Bar, and super friendly community that may very well coax you to stay longer than your planned vacation week. Be sure to catch a show at the historic Sheridan Opera House, and several gourmet dinners at various farm-to-table fine dining establishments. If you’d like to meet the family for lunch on the hill, take the free gondola from downtown Telluride to Mountain Village, which conveniently runs 7 am – midnight.
Through 50 years of development, Okemo remains one of the precious few New England ski resorts set in a “real town” as opposed to a purpose-built village. This may be a turn-off for those seeking an all-inclusive resort experience, but we give it two thumbs up for its quirky Vermont vibes and strong local following. Downtown Ludlow, located 1 mile from the Okemo access road, boasts artsy shops with handmade goods and quirky clothing. Take a drive just past Main Street in any direction and you’ll pass 19th century farmhouses in original structures. The food scene is understated yet bursting with local flavor: new fine dining establishments like The Downtown Grocery make a statement with gourmet farm-to-table fare. For the resort feel, stay at The Jackson Gore Inn, which boasts a spa, wellness center, and easy access to outdoor excursions like ice skating and snowshoeing at the mountain’s newest developed area.
This list would not be complete without a Lake Tahoe area destination, and Heavenly gets top marks for non-skiers because of its extensive off-hill activities. The resort is split across the California-Nevada state line, which means that one side is bustling with major casinos and high-end resorts, like the reputable Montbleu. If a slightly watered down Las Vegas experience with slope time between slots feeds your fix, this is the place to be. For a more laid-back schedule, opt for enjoying the stunning sights around Lake Tahoe, and even adventures at the lake on particularly sunny California days. We highly recommend spending a day driving around South Lake Tahoe to see the sights; day trips to Reno are also popular.