6 amazing US winter resorts that offer more than just skiing

Mountain spas. Dog-sledding. Hot springs. Mulled wine by a roaring fire. Many ski resorts offer much more than just skiing. If you’re looking for a winter weekend break filled with fun and cozy activities, you don’t need to hit the slopes to enjoy the charms of a ski resort.

Sure, you can also throw yourself down the side of a snow-capped mountain with nothing for support but two sticks. That might be fun for some people, but if it’s not your thing, you don’t have to miss out on a fantastic winter vacation. While your friends or family conquer the slopes, you can create your own adventure.

There are numerous fantastic ski towns in the USA that offer a lot more than just skiing. Whether you’re seeking no-ski activities or a unique ski town experience, these six ski towns brimming with charm and adventure in the US are worth a visit this winter.

A woman tourist taking pictures of Alta Lakes in springtime, San Juan National Forest, Colorado
An early winter hiker near Telluride, Colorado © YayaErnst / Getty Images

1. Telluride, Colorado

Nestled in the southwest corner of Colorado, Telluride looks and feels like a proper Swiss winter mountain resort. The Rocky Mountain town is renowned for its ski resorts – and over the years it has developed a variety of activities for non-skiers to enjoy in winter, too, with opportunities for snowshoeing, ice-skating, dog-sledding and more. You can even soak in a natural hot spring in the 19th-century revamped ghost town of Dunton Hot Springs, just across the mountain from Telluride. For something more adventurous, rent fat-tire bikes from San Juan Outdoor Adventures to cycle steadily across the snow.

If you want to escape the winter chill, duck into the Telluride Historical Museum or one of the town’s many independent shops and boutiques. You’ll find a dizzying number of breweries and distilleries to enjoy, too, with something for all tastes. Most breweries, including the Telluride Brewing Company and Smugglers Brew Pub, have cozy on-site restaurants where you can tuck into plates of comfort food that will warm you up instantly. The ski town has lots of evening entertainment too.

Telluride is also known for its film festival, which takes place in September. Yet even during a winter break, you can soak up some movie magic. Located in the former Old First National Bank Building, the historic Nugget Theater offers the charm of an old-school cinema.

A man, seen from behind, rides a fat-tire bike through a snowy forest on a winter day
Fat-tire snow cycling offers an exciting way to get a winter sports fix – no skis required © Predrag Vuckovic / Getty Images

2. Sun Valley, Idaho

If alpine skiing isn’t your jam, try Nordic skiing (cross-country skiing). In the glorious mountains of Idaho, Sun Valley Nordic Center has almost 125 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, in addition to snowshoeing and fat biking among its winter activities. If a motorized adventure is more appealing, take a guided tour on a snow machine at Smiley Creek Lodge in Sawtooth City. Sun Valley has hundreds of miles of groomed trails as well as backcountry bowls that are open to snowmobiles.

If you’d rather watch than participate in winter sports, get into the spirit and join local fans to cheer on the Sun Valley Suns hockey team, which goes head-to-head with other teams from the surrounding mountain towns at Campion Ice House in neighboring Hailey. Sun Valley is also one of America’s top towns for culture and filled with local galleries featuring Western and contemporary art. And the Spa at Sun Valley Lodge offers a relaxing oasis for massages, body rituals like Ayurvedic balancing treatments, and other spa-style wellness and healing modalities.

A family rides down a single car on a roller coaster through a snowy landscape
The aptly named Breathtaker Alpine Coaster © Courtesy Snowmass / Dan Bayer

3. Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado

The towering Rocky Mountains aren’t the only thing that will take your breath away when you visit Aspen/Snowmass. Take the Elk Camp Gondola to the top of Snowmass to board the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, which soars through the Snowmass wilderness and over the ski runs at up to 28 miles per hour. (This winter fun will thrill the kids.) Or sign up for Ullr Nights, select Friday nights that offer coaster rides, tubing, s’mores, music, dinner and other fun things non-skiers will love.

For a more laid-back no ski vacation, hop aboard the Aspen Mountain gondola for a 15-minute ride that takes you up 3200ft to lunch on the sundeck. There’s also free ice skating in the Snowmass Base Village and complimentary snow tubing at the Snowmass Limelight Hotel.

Two women eating inside a restaurant with large windows
A meal with a view at Cliff House © Courtesy Go Stowe / Sarah Peet Photography

4. Stowe, Vermont

This classic New England destination is scenic, inviting and neighborly – it’s also one of the best winter resorts for non-skiers. Since the locavore movement (eating sustainably grown local goods) started in Vermont, Stowe’s dining scene is a celebration of locally sourced ingredients served with a creative twist. Take the Mansfield Gondola to grab a farm-to-table lunch at Cliff House at the top of Vermont’s highest peak. Then browse the town’s 50 unique boutiques, country stores, galleries, specialty markets, sporting goods stores and other retailers.

No skiing? No problem. Make a stop at the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum to learn the history of skiing and riding in the Green Mountain State. Then lace up your ice skates for a glide around the outdoor rink in the shadow of Mt Mansfield at the Lodge at Spruce Peak before grabbing a drink in the lobby of Spruce Peak and watching the snow fall through floor-to-ceiling windows.

A herd of elk on a snowy horizon
Elk spotting near Jackson Hole © Courtesy Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

One of the best ski towns in the US, Wyoming’s famous vacation destination isn’t just for well-to-do skiers: there’s plenty to do on and off the mountains. First, take the legendary Jackson Hole Aerial Tram: in nine minutes, you’ll ascend 4139ft as you enjoy 360-degree mountain views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole valley. At the top, grab a waffle at Corbet’s Cabin.

Down below, between the ski shops, there’s plenty of shopping in Teton Village, as well as in the historic town of Jackson (easy to access via public bus), whether you’re looking for handmade knives, locally distilled spirits or trendy apparel. If you’re in the mood for a different kind of winter adventure, arrange for a sleigh ride, dog sledding, snowmobiling or snow-coach tour through the National Elk Refuge. At Astoria Hot Springs Park on the banks of the Snake River, you can soak your cares away in the shadow of the Tetons surrounded by a 95-acre park.

A man laughing while snow tubing
Snow tubing at Woodward Park City © Courtesy of Park City

6. Park City, Utah

Non-skiers will find plenty to explore in Park City, Utah. History buffs will love the town’s idyllic Main St, with its 47 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Wander through this ‘Western Saloon Town’ and you’ll find an abundance of boutique shops, restaurants and galleries to explore.

If you still want to get outside, Escape Room Park City lets you challenge yourself with an outdoor scavenger hunt. For exercise, consider stand-up paddleboard yoga in a geothermal crater with Park City Yoga Adventures, or snow-season fly fishing in blue-ribbon-awarded riverways through Park City Fly Fishing Guides. Ever wondered what it feels like to soar down a bobsled course? Wonder no more. At Utah Olympic Park you can race down the same track used in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

Stellar food and drink options abound in Park City. Prefer to stay in? Order up The Bartender’s Box, an at-home (or at-hotel) delivery that comes with all the makings of a delicious cocktail. (You supply the booze.) The Viking Yurt welcomes guests by sleigh ride to an elaborate, Norwegian-inspired tent. And the trip up to Rime Seafood & Raw Bar at Deer Valley Resort, via the Jordanelle Gondola, is almost as satisfying as the menu of decadent oysters, clams, shellfish and other delicacies. Who says you need to ski to get the most out of the best winter resorts in the US?

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