Some travelers mark days on their calendars as they eagerly await the start of the ski season. For many others, the idea of racing down a mountain on two sticks isn’t the least bit appealing. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a winter vacation at a ski resort. The best ski towns are about more than just the slopes—they’re home to charming downtown areas, unique activities, and breathtaking views. These destinations are perfect for couples where one party skis and the other doesn’t, or anyone looking for new ways to have fun in the snow.
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The Best Non-Ski Vacation Cities
1. Ketchum, Idaho
Ketchum, Idaho is best known for being home to the beautiful Sun Valley Resort, the nation’s premier resort community. The small town is surrounded by five majestic mountain ranges that offer unparalleled skiing and outdoor recreation. “The area also offers an adventurous winter holiday for those who don’t ski,” he says Sammy Pearsall, a travel and lifestyle blogger at The Rambling Renegade. “There are beautiful snowshoe trails that offer pristine views of the famous Bald Mountain.”
Pearsall also raves about the luxurious spa at Sun Valley Resort, where guests can pamper themselves with a massage followed by a swim in the heated outdoor pool. Downtown Ketchum is quaint and charming with blocks of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries and some of the best consignment shops in the county.
2. Taos, New Mexico
In winter, visitors who flock to Taos Ski Valley’s five ski resorts quickly discover that there’s much more to the area than slopes and powder. The small town of Taos, New Mexico is home to Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of adobe houses that have been continuously occupied by Native Americans for more than 1,000 years.
“This UNESCO World Heritage site is open year-round except for eight ceremonial weekends in the spring,” says Pearsall. “Visitors will have an opportunity to connect with and learn more about Native American heritage.”
Additionally, Taos has been home to a thriving artist community for more than 90 years, and downtown is filled with galleries, studios, and museums.
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3. Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge Ski Resort offers breathtaking views and nearly 3,000 acres of ski terrain spanning five different peaks, but you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy the area.
“Breckenridge offers luxury for those wanting to sample fresh craft beer, spend the day shopping, or dine at one of the state’s finest restaurants. It’s also great for history buffs with numerous museums and gold mines,” it says Larry Snider, VP of Operations at Casago Vacation Rentals. Other activities include sledding, snowmobiling, or riding a fat bike through the snow along the riverbank.
4. Jackson, Wyoming
The Jackson Hole Valley combines outdoor recreation with culinary and cultural activities in beautiful downtown Jackson.
“Nestled in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Jackson offers visitors access to a range of exciting winter adventures, from snowmobiling and dog sledding to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing,” says Steve morning from paddleabout.com. “The city also offers hot springs, quaint cafes, local restaurants, and other amenities to suit all tastes.”
With so many options, even skiers will want to fit an extra day into their itinerary to ensure they have time to explore downtown.
5. Kalispell, Montana
You’ll see the slopes from downtown Kalispell, Montana, but the town is just as popular with non-skiers.
“While Montana offers incredible skiing, there is so much more to do,” he says Courtney Stonea travel expert and former tour guide whose family owns the Park Cabin Co.
Kalispell also has the benefit of being less than an hour’s drive from Glacier National Park, which deserves a spot on your national park bucket list.
6. Slaty Fork, West Virginia
John Denver famously sang that West Virginia is almost heaven, and that definitely feels true in the town of Slaty Fork.
“It’s a quaint little town that feels cut off from the world. Its proximity to excellent ski resorts makes Slaty Fork an excellent place to visit in the winter months,” he says Jon Stephens, Operations Manager, Snowshoe Vacation Rentals. But non-skiers will love exploring the Gauley Mountain Trail, shopping for antiques, and enjoying views of the mountains rising above the Elk River.
7. Park City, Utah
The skiing in Park City, Utah is so good that it is home to some of the training courses for the US Olympic team. Nevertheless, the area is also popular with non-skiers.
“It has a great downtown area in the old town area with lots of shopping and restaurants,” he says Paul Mueller, publisher of Family Skier. “Also, an underappreciated aspect of Park City is that it often doesn’t get as cold as the high elevations of Colorado or the northern resort towns of Wyoming, Montana and Canada, meaning a non-skier might even be able to go on a hike or enjoy.” She’s the city in her fleece, as opposed to a winter coat.”
Park City also hosts the Sundance Film Festival and other cultural events throughout the year.
8. Boyne Falls, Michigan
Who says you can’t go to a water park in the middle of winter? Boyne Falls, Michigan is home to Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park, the state’s largest indoor water park. It’s the perfect place to spend the day while your group skiers hit the slopes at Boyne Mountain Resort.
“The region is also home to numerous delicious restaurants and a wine trail, so it’s easy to enjoy a long weekend at Boyne Mountain without setting foot on the slopes,” he says Pam HowardOwner and author of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere.
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9. Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Lakes, California is nestled amongst the rugged and beautiful mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
“It’s a great option for skiers and non-skiers alike with stunning views and lots of outdoor activities. In the winter, you can explore the slopes at Mammoth Mountain or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at one of the many nearby parks,” says MattJames the travel website Vistingly.
Other popular winter activities include ice skating, tobogganing, snowmobiling, or an exciting sightseeing tour on a snowcat. Mammoth Lakes is known to receive an average of 275 days of sunshine, which makes the view all the more spectacular.
10. Stowe, Vermont
Few cities are as picture perfect as Stowe, Vermont, with its covered bridges, steeples and historic architecture.
“Stowe is a classic New England ski town that offers a range of activities for both skiers and non-skiers,” says James. “In the winter, you can hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at one of the many nearby parks.” Other popular activities include ice skating, sledding, winter ziplining, or pampering at one of the area’s many luxury spas .