Skip the slopes and enjoy one of these mountain-free excursions instead.

By Erica Sloan
January 30, 2020
Courtesy of Aspen Snowmass

Gone are the days when the non-skiers on any ski trip were left to spend long, blustery days cooped up inside a lodge with little more than a deck of cards or a board game to stay occupied. Today's resorts—from sprawling complexes to intimate boutique destinations—deliver a full-fledged winter experience, stretching far beyond their rosters of beloved black-diamond and bunny slopes. From exceptional après to thrilling mountain-side adventures, here are nine ski-resort activities that anyone in your group will love (no slalom skills required).

Related: Hike Into Some of These Stunning Ice Caves This Winter

Aspen Snowmass in Snowmass Village, Colorado

Imagine zooming over a pristine, powdery crevasse at up to 28 miles per hour without clicking into a single boot or binding. That's the beauty of the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster at Aspen Snowmass. Each car has its own brakes, so you can carefully finesse hairpin turns and soar down steep drops as you make your way over a mile of forest terrain on an elevated track. On select Fridays throughout the season, at the resort's Ullr Night parties, you can up the thrill factor by taking a ride on the coaster in the dark. Then, keep the adrenaline flowing with a snow-biking adventure along pathways illuminated in bright colors.

Stratton Mountain Resort in Stratton Mountain, Vermont

From the top of southern Vermont's highest peak (3,875 feet), the views of pristine snow-capped mountains include not only a vast swath of Vermont's Green Mountain range, but also the Adirondacks in New York, the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The good news: A scenic gondola ride departing from Stratton Mountain Resort will take you straight to the top, with 360-degree views all along the way ($15 per person in advance or $20 at the gondola). If you're the intrepid type, consider renting snowshoes at First Run in Stratton Village beforehand, and upon arriving at the top, take the 1.1-mile trek to the mountain's historic fire tower to be rewarded with an even loftier vantage point.

Hope Lake Lodge and Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Cortland, New York

Nestled in the wooded Finger Lakes region of central New York, Hope Lake is the prime spot to swap slopes for ropes and take a ride on a 1,300-foot-long zip-line tour ($80 per person). You'll soar over the area's mountains and fly between treetops at speeds up to 40 miles per hour—and with a vantage point of 65 feet in the air, you'll have a true birds'-eye view of the snow-covered setting. (Call that a mountain high!) The two-hour experience is broken up into four zip lines of increasing difficulty, from the Blue Line to the Cloud Splitter, each one longer and with more twists and turns than the last. Gather a group of up to 12 friends or family members and embark on a thrilling race to the finish line.

Keystone Resort in Keystone, Colorado

Long after the final carol has been sung, and every last pine has vacated its prime living-room locale, Keystone Resort channels the hygge spirit of a Hallmark Christmas movie with scenic sleigh rides through spring. You'll board an old-fashioned sleigh powered by a team of Belgian and Percheron draft horses for an hour-long jaunt through the snowy expanse of the Soda Creek Valley. Along your journey, the guide-wrangler leading your trip will tell the story of each horse pulling your wagon and reveal details about the area's roots as a mining community. The trip will end at a historic homestead-era log cabin, where you can warm up with piping-hot cider. Or, book the combination sleigh-ride-plus-meal ticket, and you'll be greeted by a steak, salmon, or chicken dinner, and live country music courtesy of Keystone's cowboy entertainers.

Related: Deep Freeze: Hike Into Some of These Stunning Ice Caves This Winter

Copper Mountain Resort in Copper Mountain, Colorado

For an après-ski experience fit for the whole family (even the furry members), look no further than Downhill Duke's. Named after Duke—a doggo who didn't quite make the cut to become one of Copper Mountain's avalanche rescue dogs—this restaurant sports a canine-friendly patio and an afternoon "yappy" hour with a full menu of shared plates (think chicken-wing lollipops and artichoke flatbread), and of course, ample treats for Fido. Its south-facing view offers a front-row seat to the slopes, great for people-watching with a glass of red in hand.

Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

For a meal that doubles as soul-warming entertainment, book dinner at Deer Valley's Empire Canyon Lodge, a ski day lodge that offers this resort's signature fireside dining experience on Wednesdays through Saturdays ($90 for adults, $30 for children 11 and under). Built in 2002, the lodge has five dramatic floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, three of which are used to melt creamy raclette cheese and cook soups and stews to order. At another fireplace, legs of lamb roast over the hearth; and at the final fireplace—located in prime viewing territory, right by the entryway—warm chocolate and caramel fondue sauces bubble up over open flames. Book in advance to secure your spot, since this is one of the resort's most popular dining experiences.

Four Seasons Jackson Hole in Teton Village, Wyoming

Miles upon miles of undeveloped land make this area stellar for stargazing. In fact, it's one of the largest undeveloped regions in the lower 48 states—meaning there's practically no light pollution to interfere with prime constellation sightings. Schedule a private viewing session with the Four Seasons' staff astronomer to lay eyes on distant nebula (and our companions in the Milky Way galaxy) through the lens of a professional-grade telescope. Afterward, cap off your night with s'mores and hot cocoa.

Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Teton Village, Wyoming

Blanketed in snow, this remote region becomes a stunning canvas for spotting wildlife in the winter. Embark on a safari-style expedition from Hotel Terra to take in the diverse ecosystems of Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Along the journey, local biologists will share information about park features and the animals that thrive there—from moose and bison to sheep, mule deer, foxes, and bald eagles. Each vehicle is equipped with binoculars and spotting scopes, as well as window seating for all passengers, so there's no shortage of optimal views. Make it a full-day adventure on an eight-hour excursion (lunch provided, $215 per person), or choose between dawn and dusk for a four-hour trip (snacks provided, $140 per person).

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in Olympic Valley, California

Snow-tubing—like tubing on water, but instead, down the side of a snow-covered hill—is a family-friendly activity that you'll find at lots of ski resorts. At Squaw Valley, it gets a high-energy, retro twist when the lanes open after dark for Disco Tubing. Every Saturday night throughout the season, you can grab your gang (kids and kids-at-heart alike are welcome) and take a short lift ride up the small tubing hill lit up with neon LED lights and lasers. At the top, while waiting in line, you can jam out to classic 70's hits spun by a local DJ. Then, make your way down the slope in an adrenaline-filled flurry, and crackling fire pits will await, perfect for thawing frozen hands.

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