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Winter Wonderland: Enjoying Ski Resorts Without All That Pesky Skiing

A ski trip without the skiing has much to offer

spinner image a smiling man and woman sit in red chairs and enjoy drinks while sitting beneath a slope at a ski resort
A couple enjoy drinks outside the Lynn Britt cabin in Snowmass, Colorado.
Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass

More than 65 million Americans will hit the ski slopes this winter, and according to the National Ski Areas Association, they will have 480 ski areas to choose from to ply their sport.

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That’s good news for skiers and their snowboarding companions, who number nearly 12 million. But what about the millions of us who don’t ski or snowboard or, for whatever reasons, have retired from the slopes?

Go anyway. The slopes are no longer just for skiers.

Activities vary by location, but a near-universal standard at ski resorts is quality food and beverage. Those of us who enjoy a splendid meal and accompanying libation near a crackling fire can nearly always find fine dining near the slopes. And any ski area, whether a full-service resort or a limited-frills ski mountain, is set up for non-skiing winter visitors. Snowfall and frigid temperatures don’t hinder off-ski activities. They enhance them.

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Many resorts offer snowshoeing, fat-tire bike riding and tubing. Others feature special astronomy night programs for stargazers. Off-the-slope attractions include sleigh rides and snowmobiling, hiking, ziplining, eco-tours and on-site spas.

spinner image an aerial view of brightly lit snowmass village
An aeriel view of Snowmass Village in Aspen, Colorado sparkles after the sun goes down.
Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass

At Aspen Snowmass in Colorado, for example, guests can ride the Alpine Coaster, a mile-long elevated track through the forest with top-end speeds of up to 28 miles per hour. For visitors less inclined to snow biking, snowshoeing, tubing, or other bracing outdoor excitement, indoor activities at many resorts range from trivia night and various games, all with proximity to food, drink, and fireplace in comfortable surroundings.

Non-skiing visitors might also consider locales where off-slope activities of interest to non-skiing visitors are easily accessible but not part of the slope property.

spinner image two people skiing on whiteface mountain on a bright day
Two skiers stop to enjoy the view at the top of Whiteface Mountain in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
Roost/Whiteface

Whiteface Mountain in Upstate New York offers about 300 acres with 94 trails and 25 miles of skiing but little else. Visitors will have to travel a few miles for a full range of amenities, but most won’t mind the short trip to famed Lake Placid or the nearby quaint hamlet of Wilmington.

“I’ve been skiing at Whiteface since I was a kid, and I think of this as a place for those who want to ski by day and enjoy a fun winter community in the afternoon and evening,” said Jennifer Maguire, who grew up in the area. “If you want to take a day off from skiing, there are plenty of options in nearby Lake Placid and also in Wilmington, just a mile or two from the mountain.”

“Wilmington, just two miles from the base of Whiteface, offers quaint accommodations, dining options, and unique retail establishments, perfect for exploring,” said Jane Hooper, communications manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid.

Hooper said Lake Placid, located about nine miles from Whiteface, offers several activities for both skiers and non-skiers.

spinner image a group of sledge dogs pulls a sleight across frozen lake placid under a bright sky
A group of sled dogs pull a sleigh across frozen Lake Placid in New York State.
Shaun Ondak/Lake Placid

Adventures include hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and dog sledding.

“Dining, shopping, visiting Olympic venues and sightseeing ensure that visitors can enjoy the town while learning about the region’s place in winter sport history,” she said.

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Shuttle service is available from the slopes to and from both communities.

Non-skiing visitors to Whiteface are also welcome to ride the gondola to the mountain’s peak to enjoy the view.  

Ski resorts are no longer strictly a winter destination either. Many have summer programs, and, in some areas, warm weather visitors outflank winter ski crowds, but that might shift as winter visitors learn there is more to do at ski areas than ski. According to a 2022 travel study, only about 30 percent of visitors to the Adirondacks ski areas plan trips during the November-April winter season—more than 70 percent of those list “outdoor activities” as a reason for their visit. Skiing only draws a fraction of that interest. Hiking, sightseeing and shopping are the prime activities for most visitors, with about 25 percent arriving for the skiing and snowboarding.  

spinner image a man and a woman wearing coats and snowshoes take a break at a cabin
Two snowshoers stop for a rest on the trail in the Adirondack mountains in New York State.
Eric Adsit /Adirondacks

Since non-skiing activities vary widely via location and facilities, check before you go. Some activities are weather or age-dependent. But the slopes have an undeniable allure, and you might want to pack your skis, just in case.

Share your experience: Do you "après" without the ski? What's your favorite part of going skiing that isn't skiing? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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