10 Ski Towns to Visit Even If You Don't Ski
So, you're not a two-planker or a snowboard shredder. You'd rather not rip down triple black diamonds or gear up for a day in the park. And god forbid you have to ride up a chairlift. And you know what? That's OK. There's still plenty of fun to be had in the snow, especially at these mountains sprinkled across the United States that equally cater to skiers, riders, and those looking to just have fun in the winter too.
Windham, New York
Up for snowshoeing, winter hiking, and sipping superb vino? Off to the Great Northern Catskills you go. Power up with s'mores pancakes or the Catskill omelet with herbs fresh from the garden at the Catskill Mountain Country Store before hiking or cross-country skiing (if you're cool with skis in non-downhill contexts) in Elm Ridge Wild Forest. For something a little more low-key, try a stroll along the Windham Path for awe-inspiring views of the spectacular peaks. There's also snow tubing at Windham Mountain if you're open to zooming down the hill too.
Next, treat yourself to a massage or facial at Alpine Spa before heading to dinner at beloved haunts like The Windham Local Public House and Millrock Restaurant. For a tipple, head to Ze Windham Wine Bar or The Vineyard at Windham to end the day right.
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
This year is shaping up to be a big one for the Colorado mountain town, and not just because Aspen Snowmass is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Two popular sister hotels, Viewline Resort Snowmass, Autograph Collection, and Wildwood Snowmass, are reopening following multi-million dollar renovations, each focusing on wellness and culinary fronts.
At Viewline, indulge in some pampering at Lupine Spa, an Ayurvedic sanctuary in partnership with Sundari, or pump up the adrenaline with snow bike lessons or snowshoeing. At Wildwood, opt for snow tubing or snowmobiling, followed by whetting your barbecue whistle at nearby Slow Groovin' BBQ. (Insider tip: There are s'mores carts that look like giant marshmallows that serve free marshmallow delights at 3:30 p.m. at Snowmass Base Village and on Snowmass Mall.)
Thrill-seekers should be sure to hop aboard the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, which winds through the snowy forest at speeds of up to 35 mph. Riders control the brakes, so you could also take a leisurely, scenic ride if that's more your speed. For a more relaxing adventure, plop down in Limelight Snowmass' massive hot tub that faces the Snowmass Base Village and let the stress melt away.
In adjacent Aspen, The Gant Aspen, is fêting the milestone anniversary with a seasonal pop-up, the "Diamond Dome." The venue is exclusive to resort guests and sits on the property's rooftop terrace overlooking Aspen's Silver Queen Gondola. Snag a reservation via the concierge in three-hour increments at 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. with a $250 food and drink minimum.
Beech Mountain, North Carolina
Let's get the main attraction out of the way first. You're going to want to stop at Fred's General Mercantile for its much-prized pastries (our vote: the cinnamon roll). Most accommodations in this region are condo rentals, so pick up some firewood for your stay while you're here.
There's much to savor in the highest town in the Eastern U.S. If snow tubing or snowshoeing and a frosty jaunt through Beech Mountain's 30 miles of town-maintained trails aren't for you, post up at Beech Mountain Brewing Co. instead. Or, drive around town on the Avery County Barn Quilt Trail for a taste of Appalachian culture through painted or metal quilt squares installed in Beech Mountain and its environs.
Ski-free winter activities run the gamut in Breckenridge. From sleigh rides, dog sledding, fat tire snow biking, winter fly-fishing, wandering down a snow-laden historic Main Street, and more, this town has something for everyone. And cyclists, take note: within the last year, Gold Run Nordic Center has doubled its fat bike rental fleet as the town has also expanded its already expansive groomed trails network.
Broken Compass Brewing Company is also marking its first winter on Main Street with a new taproom, and the Breckenridge Distillery has just unveiled an interactive spirits lab. For a few bites to go with your suds, the recently opened Tin Plate and attached Dynamite Cookies specialize in beer pairing with sourdough pizza and homemade cookies. Another solid choice is the Gravity Haus Snow Cabanas, which doles out hits from Cabin Juice like pan-seared diver scallops, a winter squash salad, and cookies-and-cream cheesecake in modernized igloos with room for eight. All this good cuisine pairs well with a movie night, and newcomer Eclipse Theater is just the spot to watch Blockbuster and Indie films.
Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
Visitors to New Hampshire can find snowshoeing, fat tire biking, snow tubing, and more, all at their fingertips. In Waterville Valley, travelers can also test their mental fortitude with an escape room challenge at Legends Escapes. For a more relaxing experience, book a day at the White Mountain Athletic Club, which is perfect for an afternoon massage, a set of tennis, or a sauna session.
Don't skip town without venturing to the nearby hamlet of North Woodstock for Ice Castles, which comes with horse-drawn sleigh rides, a forest light walk, ice slides and tunnels, frozen fountains, and ice thrones that would make the Night King swoon.
Montana is a winter wonderland wherever you go, but there's no better place to experience its magic sans-skiing than in Kalispell. As a gateway town to Glacier National Park, it's the ideal place to find a little excitement and to see the alpenglow — an optical phenomenon that creates a peach-purple hue illuminating the horizon and mountains at sunset — in real life. Check out Lake McDonald or Kalispell's own Lone Pine State Park for the best view.
Travelers looking for a little more action can also head to the nearby Flathead Lake to try their hand at winter kayaking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling. And, no winter visit to Kalispell is complete without a post-trek spread at Bonelli's Bistro, where the Eggplant Parmigiana Palermo is pure amore.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe makes for an ideal hub for skiers and snow bunnies alike. There are 14 museums in the city for the culture hounds in your group, including The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the contemporary space SITE Santa Fe, the Museum Of International Folk Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Be sure to check out some of the 250 art galleries, too.
Make sure to also venture to the "House of Eternal Return" from Meow Wolf Art Collective. Another must-visit is the Sky Railway, which follows the historic ride between Santa Fe and Lamy, with entertainment, music, and food and beverages aboard.
Davis and Thomas, West Virginia
The neighboring towns of Davis and Thomas offer everything travelers desire for a slopeside adventure without the need to rent any skis. In Davis, visitors can shop in eclectic boutiques like The Wandering Caravan and Wild Ginger & Spice. Next up, try Stumptown Ales for hop-forward, handcrafted brews, or head a few miles up the road to the town of Thomas to visit the Mountain State Brewing Company, one of the state's oldest distributing microbreweries. Before leaving Thomas, stop by the hybrid café-bar-music venue, Purple Fiddle.
For fresh air enthusiasts, there's Blackwater Falls State Park, which offers breathtaking views of frozen waterfalls and endless vistas. This state park is also home to the East Coast's longest sled run, as well as 20 miles of well-groomed trails, a lodge, cabins, and campsite options. Davis's White Grass Ski Touring Center is a superb pit-stop if you're looking to get outfitted with cross-country ski gear, and the natural food cafe there will give you the energy boost you need for your Mountain State exploits.
Yes, Jackson Hole is home to one of the best ski resorts on earth, but it's also home to Bridger-Teton National Forest, which offers plenty of alternative winter fun. At the national forest, you can take a dip in the natural hot springs, which also boast awe-inspiring views of the surrounding granite cliffs and giant canyons. Note: the hot springs are only accessible by snowmobile, dog sled, or snow bike, so book the Granite Hot Springs Snowmobile Tour with Jackson's Teton Tour Co. to get there safely.
After a day-long adventure, check into the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole. The resort offers sleigh rides to the National Elk Refuge, snowshoeing, wildlife safaris, ice skating, dog sledding, snow tubing, stargazing, spa treatments, and is even home to a year-round, outdoor heated pool. Or, retreat to the only hotel on Jackson's Town Square, The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection hotel. The hotel's concierges (known as The Pathfinders) can also set you up with an action-packed winter wildlife safari, snowmobiling, fat tire biking, dog sledding, and other outings.
Big Sky, Montana
Whether you spend your time in Big Sky snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, on snowmobiles, or even trying a horse-drawn sleigh ride, you're sure to have a blast in the white wilderness of rural Montana. Stay on the outskirts of Yellowstone Park at Lone Mountain Ranch, which dates back to 1915. Dog sledding is on offer here, with a team of friendly huskies who will take you on the adventure of a lifetime on the forest's snow-blanketed floor.
Don't forget to add the Crail Ranch Homestead Museum to your to-do list in Big Sky. The museum tells the story of Big Sky's first ranching family, which worked the land for half a century before T.V. News Anchor Chet Huntley purchased the ranch and began what would become Big Sky. You'll go home with plenty of interesting factoids for trivia night.
Perri Ormont Blumberg is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. She's based in New York City, but is always dreaming of the Catskill mountains. Follow her on Twitter @66PerriStreet.