Ultimate Guide to the Wellness Ski Vacation

Written by Alexa Owen • Aug 01, 2016

There are lots of ways to take the ultimate ski vacation: custom-building it for wellness is one of them.

We use the term wellness here to encompass all strategies within the ski vacation that can be used to rejuvenate mind, body, and soul. After all, when upper middle class tourists from major European cities originally started flocking to the Alps for ski getaways 150 years ago, they did it for the purposes of personal health and wellness. Hiking up alpine slopes for thrilling descents, drinking fresh spring water, relaxing on the sunny decks of mountainside chalets and eating the freshest foods from local farms were all part of the original wellness ski vacation.

Since then, ski resorts have stepped it up a notch. You’ll find 20,000 square foot spas dripping in luxury in St Moritz, world-renowned chefs crafting nutritarian dishes in Aspen, and backcountry guides willing to take you far into the mountains of Jackson Hole. You can get fit, get healthy, and get totally rejuvenated at the top ski destinations for wellness. This guide will tell you where to go, stay, dine, and ski; we’ll clue you in on the best yoga classes, spa treatments, and après spots. We’ll also share our best insider tips for ultimate ease with travel, gear, and what to do with your kids. Interested? We thought so! Read on for the ultimate guide to the wellness ski vacation.

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley pioneered bringing recreational skiing to North America; it was founded over sixty years ago with the intent of making the mountainous Tahoe region joyfully accessible for winter outdoor pursuits. After hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, the resort landed itself an iconic spot in skiing’s history. Squaw is Lake Tahoe’s original winter playground, and the resort caters to outdoor enthusiasts seeking long days on the slopes, but also in the luxury spas. You’ll still pass by plenty of locals lining up for first chair and kicking back with $2 après drafts at day’s end.

Best For: Group getaways; soaking up sun on the slopes in laid-back California style.

Cheat Sheet:

Stay…at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which boasts an array of accommodation options and full spa and fitness services.

Dine…at the PlumpJack Café for award-winning cuisine sourced from regional farms and served with hip California flair.

Yoga... drop into a yoga class at Wanderlust Yoga; vinyasa and traditional hatha classes are offered daily, as well as specialty classes that get yogis out on the slopes.

Après...at Le Chamois & Loft Bar; sometimes all you need is a good laugh over an even better craft beer.

Spa...Squaw Valley is one home of Trilogy Spa, which boasts unique detox and massage treatments like full body cocoon wraps.

Off The Slopes…slow things down with a snowshoe stroll through the miles of maintained trails at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

 

Terrain

An annual average snowfall of 450+ inches (and upwards of 600 inches in El Níno years) makes Squaw a powder skier’s dream. When it’s not snowing, expect brilliant California sunshine. The resort’s 3,600 acres span across 6 peaks and include a whopping 16 bowls that cater best to advanced and expert skiers. We also love Squaw for its beginner learning area, which is sectioned off at the top of the mountain, offering new skiers the same panoramic views as the rest of us.

Lodging

Squaw specializes in resort-style lodging with full range of spa services, which can get pricey; indulge in luxury digs or consider suites that sleep several if traveling with family and friends.

Luxury

Indulge in a penthouse suite at the Resort at Squaw Creek; the wellness services include options for the whole family, including a Kids Chillax Spa.

Mid-Range

The studio suites at The Village at Squaw Valley offer extra space at reasonable prices; we love the heated slate floors of the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as the on-site spa.

Value

Book a condominium at the Squaw Valley Lodge if traveling as a family or with friends; the spacious condo suites sleep up to 10 guests and offer ski-in/ski out locations, with walking distance from downtown and spa amenities.

Dining

The Lake Tahoe region falls in line with the California trend of fresh, regionally sourced food; restaurant menus change seasonally (and sometimes daily!) based on available ingredients. Enjoy the spontaneity.

Dine at the Six Peaks Grille for meat and seafood specialties like 21-day aged rib-eye and Columbia River steelhead trout; the bar is also known for its killer martinis.

The award-winning PlumpJack Café pairs fine wines with creative local cuisine to serve up some of the most popular eats in the Olympic Valley; book early, and save room for dessert.

For a casual bite, head to Soupa, where you’ll find a huge selection of fresh (and totally organic) soups and sandwiches.

 

Spa

Ski in the morning, spa in the afternoon (or indulge in a full day of luxury treatments). These spas offer everything from goat milk facials to full body Ayurvedic massages.

We recommend the deep tissue massage at Trilogy Spa for sore skiing muscles; opt for a Noni seaweed detox wrap to jump start full body purification.

Conde Nast Traveler rated the Spa at Squaw Creek one of the Top 5 Resort Spas; relax in an interior alive with river rocks, Aspen trees, and running water and a full array of spa and fitness services.

The health club at Squaw Valley Lodge boasts a full range of indoor fitness equipment for exercise buffs; kick back in the sauna for a post-ski sweat.

 

Activities

Squaw Valley and the greater Lake Tahoe region is home to outdoor fun for all tastes; in winter, specialty yoga classes and other indoor activities are also favorites.

Visit the Wanderlust Yoga studio (home base of the international Wanderlust festival) for a drop-in class that starts with asana and ends with a ski on the slopes.

Enjoy daily snowshoeing through the trails at the Resort at Squaw Creek; The Nordic Center also offers cross-country skiing.

Spend an afternoon roped in at the indoor climbing wall in the Aerial Tram building; beginners and kids are welcome.

Tips

Squaw’s high elevation and strong sunshine make for strong UV exposure; protect your face with a high SPF natural sunscreen to avoid skin damage.

The snow on the slopes is susceptible to freeze-thaw cycles, which means it may not soften up until mid-morning after sub-freezing nights; “follow the sun” across the resort throughout the day for the best conditions.

Aspen

The eco-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, health-conscious Aspen just keeps getting better, and we couldn’t be happier about it. The award-winning resort boasts green buildings, organic cafes, mountaintop yoga classes, and a variety of activities to get your entire family out the door and playing in the Rocky Mountain air. It’s a wellness enthusiast’s ideal ski resort in that fitness, relaxation, and connection with the natural environment are woven seamlessly into the local routine. Did we mention there’s an entire nutritarian restaurant?

Best For: Natural foodie buffs; a healthy ski vacation made easy.

Cheat Sheet:

Stay…at Aspen Square condominiums for ideal downtown location and a fitness-forward wellness center.

Dine…at Pyramid Bistro for meticulously crafted cuisine that maintains the highest standard of micronutrient density (it’s also tastes really, really good).

Yoga... attend the resort-run mountaintop yoga class Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at the Sundeck at the top of the gondola.

Après...lounge at the Lynn Britt Cabin at Snowmass on blue sky days; choose from the extensive wine list or indulge in drink specials from local Woody Creek Distillers.

Spa...adjust to the altitude in the oxygen lounge at Reméde Spa.

Off The Slopes…drink in the crisp mountain air with tandem paragliding flights high above the mountainscape.

 

Terrain

Aspen – officially Aspen Snowmass – actually boasts 4 separate ski areas connected by a free shuttle. You can ski them all in one day. For any 80’s movie buffs, you’ll know from Aspen Extreme that Aspen mountain offers advanced skiers plenty of bumps, chutes, and steeps. Nearby Snowmass caters to families and new learners. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk mountains are best for skiers seeking smaller, low-key resort experiences. The bustling hub for all is downtown Aspen.

 

Lodging

Aspen prides itself on eco-friendly and sustainably-minded lodging; expect non-toxic products in the high end hotels and holistic health centers.

Luxury

Expect the ultimate 5-star treatment at The Little Nell, including a small but elegant and exclusive health center with fundamental fitness equipment, spa menu, and personal trainers on staff.

Mid-Range

The downtown condominiums at the Aspen Square boast plenty of lounge space for relaxing after a day on the slopes; the fitness-forward health center on the ground floor invites guests to keep up with their daily workouts.

Value

The Mountain Chalet features rooms and apartments located right next to the Ski & Snowboard School; the hot tub, sauna and steam room are basic but perfect for winding down after a day on the slopes.

Dining

Aspen foodies tend to be health nuts, locavores, or simply in love with high-quality eats, which makes this town a destination for food lovers of all kinds.

Named the first official nutritarian restaurant, Pyramid Bistro prepares all its health-conscious dishes in a way that maximizes micronutrients per calorie intake; try the roasted sweet potato & stuffed cremini mushrooms in cashew creamed kale – it will turn you nutritarian, too.

Head to Piñons for familiar favorites with a twist, like the parmesan crusted veal chop or espresso seared buffalo tenderloin; vibe is Aspen casual – nice jeans and your cowboy boots.

Spring Café is the Aspen go-to for 100% organic food and juices; breakfast (with local eggs) and lunch are served daily and prepared in a toxin-free kitchen.

 

Spa

From Swedish massages to exfoliating treatments, Aspen spas offer anything a hard-working healthy human could want for relaxation and rejuvenation; the most difficult decision will be which treatments to choose, and how to fit them all in.

Don’t miss the Reméde Spa at the St. Regis; steam caves, cold plunges, and an oxygen lounge helped make this the number one ranked spa in the world by Travel + Leisure.

At the Snowmass Club, you’ll find state-of-the-art fitness equipment and day spa offerings to aid in acclimatization and soothing the system after time in the dry Rocky Mountain air; try the sea salt body buffing followed by hot stone therapy.

For a boutique experience, head to Heaven On Earth, a day spa run by holistic massage therapist Pila, who incorporates traditions of Hawaii, Thailand, Japan and the West.

 

Activities

Aspen locals offer a myriad of guided activities to show you the best of what the Rockies have to offer; 300 days of annual sunshine guarantee clear skies and great views.

Drop in to a mountaintop yoga class at 11,000 feet to start the morning with energizing asana and stunning views.

Daily snowshoe tours guided by local naturalists offer adults and kids an opportunity to experience some of the more remote areas around Aspen and Snowmass.

For a one-of-a-kind flight through the Rocky Mountain air, book a tandem paragliding session with Aspen Paragliding.

Tips

If you plan to shop (it is Aspen, after all), stick to local businesses and their beautiful selections of handmade goods; this falls in line with the town’s community-minded ethics.

The road from I-70 to Aspen can be treacherous (or closed) in inclement weather; consider flying directly into Aspen Airport to save time during short getaways.

Stowe

The ever-growing Stowe continues to up its ante as a destination resort with luxury hotels, specialty restaurants, and investments in on-mountain infrastructure. Part of why we love it is that the quintessential Vermont town still maintains its roots in local community. As a wellness destination, Stowe offers serenity and easy access to the Green Mountains; both the town and the ski resort offer guests all the professionalism and amenities of a major ski destination without the “scene.” Rock a flannel button-down and alpaca wool hat and you’ll fit right in.

Best For: New Englanders seeking a local skiing getaway; the understated spa resort vacation.

Cheat Sheet

Stay…at Stowe Mountain Lodge for the ultimate ski and spa 5-star experience.

Dine…at ultra-hip Flannel for tasty cuisine sourced from local artisan farms.

Yoga...Take a morning to warm and stretch with invigorating vinyasa classes at The Yoga Barn.

Après...Sip local brews and enjoy community chatter post slopes at The Matterhorn, an iconic New England ski bar on Mountain Road.

Spa...Slip into a mineral pool after a therapeutic deep tissue massage at the spa at Topnotch Resort.

Off The Slopes…Cozy up under blankets as you see the softer Stowe sights via horse drawn sleigh ride.

 

Terrain

For an east coast resort, Stowe has a lot to offer. With 485 skiable acres and over 2,000 feet of vertical, it’s one of the top destinations in New England for varied terrain. As with most Vermont ski resorts, intermediates will find the most trail options; advanced skiers can find decent powder stashes in the glades. The resort marks 15% of its terrain as beginner, but some of the intermediate slopes offer good options for progressing skiers.

 

Lodging

For a quaint New England town, Stowe offers premiere lodging options; most are located a short drive from the ski resort with close proximity to walking trails and outdoor pursuits.

Luxury

The 5-star Stowe Mountain Lodge at the base of Spruce Peak boasts an elegant Green Mountain décor throughout its 300 rooms; it’s not uncommon for vacationers to retreat here just for the 21,000 square foot spa facilities.

Mid-Range

Nestled on 60 acres of land a short shuttle ride away from the ski resort, Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa boasts quaint but upscale accommodation and a full-service wellness center.

Value

For budget-minded couples and families, the Mountaineer Inn offer comfortable rooms with private decks, as well as shared indoor heated pool, hot tub, and sauna.

Dining

Vermont chefs pride themselves on using simple, fresh foods to craft beautiful dishes; count on classic Vermont ingredients like maple syrup and aged cheeses to flavor the menus.

The local artisan-inspired menu at Solstice shifts with the seasons to continually offer fresh, often organic ingredients; start with a cheese charcuterie board featuring cheeses from Vermont family farms, the favorite lobster & truffle risotto.

Flannel not only offers guests some of the best views of Mt. Mansfield, but delectable local eats in a dining room dressed in mountain elegance; try the Misty Knoll chicken with baby potato-leek puree and Zaatar-mint pesto or the duck confit with ricotta gnocchi and sage butter.

For a casual option, stop by Green Goddess Café for breakfast and lunch favorites; the bakery boasts wholesome breads and treats.

 

Spa

For ease, stay at one of the hotels with on-site spa services; if you’re visiting for a week or more, indulge in at least one day trip to another location.

At Stowe Mountain Lodge, the spa menu not only includes traditional massage treatments, but – get this – uniquely Vermont offerings like the Stowe Cider Uber Scrub and Rock Art Sacred Brew-ty; kids 6 and up can get treatments in the Kids Spa.

The award-winning spa at Topnotch Resort not only boasts weekly spa events and tailor-made services, but a fitness center, salon, and family-friendly areas; great for a multi-day stay or afternoon retreat.

At the Stoweflake, you’ll choose from a whopping 120 spa treatments and packages, including Ayurvedic therapies; return in summer for a stroll around the meditative garden and Zen Labyrinth.

 

Activities

One of the perks of visiting Stowe (as opposed to the other resorts on this list) is that there is no need to acclimatize – which means you can hit the ground running (or – well – snowshoeing) without skipping a beat.

For a small town studio, The Yoga Barn offers a variety of classes, including Ashtanga based flow, gentle yoga, and “hour of power”; ask about new student specials.

Join Umiak’s Moonlight Snowshoe Tour for a starry stroll through the woods; the destination is a remote sugar house with warming fire, local snacks and cider.

Indulge in an almost-too-cutesy sleigh ride with your love through some of Stowe’s picturesque meadows for a relaxing way to enjoy the crisp winter air.

Tips

Stowe caters well to couples, but also families; consider pre-arranged resort activities to entice the kids away from technology.

Having your own car in Stowe is useful to get from spa hotels to the resort, and downtown; if you’re flying into Burlington, consider renting.

St Moritz

The original European ski destination, St Moritz continues to attract jet setters from across the globe. What most visitors don’t know is that the ritzy resort town nestled in the Alps also originated as a wellness destination: a place where city slickers from London and Paris would get away to recharge with saunas and natural spring water. Today, you’ll find the most luxurious ski spas in the world here; spend a week at St Moritz and you’ll likely come out rejuvenated, refreshed, and inspired to stay healthy.

Best For: Luxury spa enthusiasts; the ultimate ski-spa wellness vacation.

Cheat Sheet

Stay…at the 150 year St. Moritz mainstay, the Kulm Hotel, for the five-star ski and spa getaway.

Dine…at Chesa Veglia for classic Swiss cuisine served in an elegantly remodeled farmhouse.

Yoga...Pause for an asana and presence practice during a guided ski-yoga lesson at Corviglia.

Après...Drop by the Cascade bar mid-afternoon for a stiff cocktail on the sun-washed deck.

Spa...Sip fresh spring water while detoxing in one of the Engadin wood crafted saunas at The Kempinski.

Off The Slopes…thrill-seekers can hop on one of the advanced tobogganing trails.

 

Terrain

The St Moritz area is known as the best destination in Switzerland for intermediates; 350 km of marked piste serviced by 58 lifts offers ample space to explore and delightfully lose oneself in the dizzying panoramic alpine views. The resort’s location in the Engadin Valley and elevation of 3,305 meters ensures good snow reliability, while 300 + days of sunshine per year offer pleasant and clear days on the slopes.

 

Lodging

St Moritz is the ideal resort to indulge in a 5-star experience, and there’s no shortage of luxury hotels; mid-range and value options are comfortable and often family-run – usually a short walk to the nearest lift.

Luxury

For the ultimate St Moritz experience, book a room at the Kulm Hotel; views of Lake St Moritz, elegant European décor, several restaurants and a 2000 square meter spa offer guests top-notch service and experience.

Mid-Range

Step outside the Randolins Hotel onto the slopes of Corviglia, and ski home at day’s end to a heated relaxation room with floor-to-ceiling alpine views; the hotel offers various room sizes, suites, and studios.

Value

With 50 beds, Hotel Corvatsch boasts a cozy lounge and fireplace within 5 minutes walk of the Bad SMBB furnicular; there’s no spa, but the price is right and the restaurant now offers vegan dishes!

Dining

Fine dining is as much a part of ski culture in the Alps as cruising the several kilometers long slopes; French and Italian influence complement the Swiss standard of high quality, fresh ingredients.

Da Vittorio inside the Carlton Hotel boasts fresh Italian cuisine from 3 star Michelin chefs Enrico and Roberto Cerea; expect mains that source from seasonal market ingredients like Venison filet with Jerusalem artichokes or sole with lemongrass and caviar.

When skiing Corviglia, don’t miss lunch at La Marmite; chef-owner Reto Mathis is known for adding a touch (or more) of truffles to most dishes, and international influence shows in dishes like the ahi tuna steak with wasabi mashed potatoes.

Inside an historic Engadin farmhouse at Badrutt’s Palace you’ll find Chesa Veglia, a long time favorite of VIP guests seeking cozy atmosphere and diverse menu; the classic Swiss fare is as enticing as the 17th century dining room.

 

Spa

Healing spring water and pristine alpine air put St Moritz on the map as a wellness destination over 150 years ago; today, the various luxury spas offer not only detox and relaxation, but healing therapies for chronic ailments.

The spa at The Carlton boasts internationally renowned massage therapy, and caldarium, and the not-to-be-missed “experience shower” – all spanning 3 stories with mountain views.

At The Kempinski, guests enjoy humidity controlled saunas, weight loss and detox therapy treatments, and drinking water from the famous Mauritius Spring.

Step into an effervescent whirlpool or The Kulm’s infrared cabin to boost blood circulation and jump-start the body’s detoxification; there are also various swimming pools, including one just for kids.

 

Activities

The Alps are the ideal playground for outdoor winter activity; get your heart pumping with alpine hikes, sled rides, ski-yoga, and more.

Behold: the uniquely St Moritz craft of ski-yoga – join an instructor from the snowsports school at Corviglia for a morning of skiing paused with slopeside asana practice.

The Engadin area boasts 150 km of winter hiking trails; trek across frozen lakes, through snowy forests and into panoramic mountain views between spa and slope days.

Don’t miss the classic European pastime of tobogganing – trails range from short and mellow to steep and borderline scary; enjoy the rush!

Tips

St Moritz is swanky, but also family friendly; five-star hotels often have specialty kids entertainment rooms, childcare options, and even spa offerings.

Because of the extensive shopping, activity, and wellness options, this is an ideal destination for groups traveling with non-skiers.

Jackson Hole

One thing you’ll notice when you fly into Jackson Hole is the healthy glow of the people who call the place their home. Fit, happy, and full of mountain town energy, Jacksonites shape their lives around playing in the mountains. You, too, can get that healthy high altitude glow with a Jackson Hole getaway chock full of leg-burning tram laps, detoxifying spa treatments, and adventures in the beautiful natural surroundings. Drop into local life for a week – you won’t regret it.

Best For: The active ski vacation; vacationers seeking the ultimate adventures in the mountains.

Cheat Sheet

Stay…at the Four Seasons at the base of the gondola for five-star slopeside accommodation.

Dine…at the Snake River Grill, which serves up gourmet Western fare with town square views.

Yoga...Unwind with post-ski vinyasa flow at Teton Yoga Shala in the Aspens Village.

Après...in the cozy bar of the Alpenhof with a spiked hot chocolate and classic Swiss treats.

Spa...Cleanse with a sauna sweat and refreshing rinse under one of the indoor waterfalls at Snake River Lodge & Spa.

Off The Slopes…go with the wind (and a professional guide) on a tandem paragliding flight over the Snake River Valley.

 

Terrain

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts long runs and challenging terrain, leaving little for beginners to choose from. Last year the resort opened the Teton Lift, which services newly cut intermediate trails mid-mountain. At 2,500 acres in-bounds terrain spread across 133 marked trails, the mountain is expansive but not overwhelming; all runs eventually funnel into one base area. Intermediates, check the grooming map daily to find the best corduroy. Experts, stick with north facing slopes for the best powder.

 

Lodging

For best accessibility to the slopes, stay in Teton Village (at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort); you’ll find more affordable options in downtown Jackson.

Luxury

Rooms outfitted with fireplaces and western décor, private yoga instructors, outdoor heated pool, ski valet: book at the Four Seasons for slopeside luxury.

Mid-Range

Health and eco-minded visitors love Hotel Terra; enjoy organic bed spreads and rooftop hot tub with slopeside views.

Value

Two blocks from downtown Jackson, The Lexington boasts modern décor and staff that help with everything from dinner plans to tips on finding the best powder stashes on a Saturday afternoon.

Dining

Jackson Hole has been compared to San Francisco for its wholesome and creative foodie scene; for a small mountain town, it boasts an impressive spread of cuisine – much of which is health and sustainability minded.

Reserve early for the Snake River Grill, which serves up American west favorites like the crispy pork shank with red chili sauce and pan roasted Alaskan halibut with pear couscous and preserved lemon.

Indulge in fine Italian food (of modest, healthy portions) at Osteria; the short rib ravioli with sun dried tomato and beurre blanc is a must eat.

For organic fare, head to Lotus Café, whose extensive menu offers diners everything from macrobiotic bowls with local greens to gluten-free pizza topped with bison and sharp cheddar.

 

Spa

When the slopes get crowded (or your legs just can’t handle any more tram laps), retreat to one of the Teton Village spas; all are located within the major hotels.

Lounge on plush sofas at the Snake River River Lodge Spa before a deep tissue massage or splash in one of the indoor waterfalls.

Check into the day spa at eco-conscious Hotel Terra for specialty treatments like an organic blueberry body wrap or spiced cocoa berry facial.

The Four Seasons boasts 16 treatment rooms, 2 private spa suites, and an eclectic treatment menu that includes Moroccan oil scalp massage, and native stone treatment with essential oil for sore post-skiing joints.

 

Activities

The Tetons are a mountain enthusiast's ultimate playground; you'll find plenty of adrenaline pumping options. We suggest living like a local -- balance the outdoor adventures with indoor stretching and relaxation.

Drop into a class with Yoga Today founder Adi Amar at Teton Yoga Shala; the therapeutic ropes classes are particularly effective for decompressing the spine after a day on the slopes.

For a few thrills and a bird’s eye view of the Snake River Valley, book a tandem paragliding flight with JH Paragliding.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts some of the best backcountry skiing access in North America; consider booking a backcountry guide to take you adventuring outside resort boundaries (note – you’ll likely work up a sweat!)

Tips

If part of your "wellness" is getting away from the kids for a night, consider booking a babysitter through the hotel concierge or Jackson Hole Babysitting.

Skip the stress of lines at the lift ticket windows and reload your "J Card" online; once you purchase and pick up the original pass, you can buy more days through the online site.