Ski season isn't all about the powder. Sure, I like a day on the moguls as much as any other Type-A skier, but it's the other stuff -- the big dinners, the lunches, the après-ski activities -- I like most. So call me frivolous if you want. I'll be in the spa or in the bar.
But which bar and what spa treatment? And where to dine après that? Here's a roundup of some of the newest off-mountain things to do, experience, eat and drink this ski season. Bottoms up!
SANTA FE AND TAOS, N.M.
Santa Fe's most historic hotel, La Fonda on the Plaza, has just undergone a face-lift, giving a new look to its 164 guest rooms and suites. Actually, the makeover is a throwback, with original painted concrete floors, folk- art headboards and hand-carved furniture by local artists, some dating to 1922, when the hotel was built.
The Bell Tower Bar has had a makeover, too, with more seating and a kitchen, in case you're in the mood for, say, a few green chili cheeseburger sliders. The fifth-story Bell Tower overlooks the city and faces west for a perfect sunset view. We suggest the bell ringer margarita, with Tanteo jalapeño-infused tequila, jalapeño juice, Patron Citronge liqueur, and lemon and lime juice. It's served in a salted-rim glass with a slice of jalapeño.
About an hour from Santa Fe or Taos, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is celebrating its 145th year with a special "Ski & Soak" package for lift ticket and season pass holders from any New Mexico ski resort. For $18 weekdays and $28 weekends and holidays (that's 20 percent off), skiers can dip into any one of Ojo's 10 geothermal mineral pools.
Plus, there's the messy, must-do mud pool, along with steam and sauna. Deemed sacred by the northern New Mexico American Indians, Ojo is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the United States, with a range of American Indian and East Indian-inspired therapies. Blue corn and prickly pear salt scrub, anyone?
JACKSON HOLE, WYO.
For those with over-the-top expectations of a ski vacation, enter the Clear Creek Group's Elite Winter Escape ($5,800 per person for activities). Clear Creek Group has more than 50 luxury properties in the area.
Interested? Pack light. On the first day, you're fitted for a pair of custom, handmade wood-core powder skis. On the second day, there's an in-home tasting from Wyoming Whiskey, a smooth local bourbon whiskey. Day three: Early-access backcountry skiing with a private guide. Four: bring your camera for an exclusive snowmobile tour in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, and snap bighorn sheep, elk, moose and deer.
Afterward, take in an around-the-fire beer tasting with a local expert from Snake River Brewing, which still brews every batch by hand -- and mixes it up with a canoe paddle.
Five: Hit the slopes. Then dream of doing it all again.
Because a day on the slopes can work up an appetite, Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail has introduced the TJW (That's Just Wrong) Dog, a hot dog made of 100 percent Kobe beef, with house-cured apple wood bacon, blue cheese coleslaw and house-made ketchup on a locally baked soft roll. Wrong? What's wrong about that? For those who can't leave the mountain for a minute, not even to eat, they can "ski with the chef," who'll ski along, then set up an outdoor grill for lunch. We're talking dry-aged Colorado lamb sliders, Wagyu beef over white cheddar mac and cheese with black pepper relish, and elk bratwurst. Sounds better than that granola bar in your pocket, doesn't it?
Yes, yes, you can ski in and out of Vail's newest boutique hotel, The Sebastian-Vail, but we love its Bloom Spa, where two new après-ski therapies are on the menu this season: the Bio-Freeze, which will help ease tired and painful ski-weary muscles, and the Hot & Cold Stone Massage, which uses heated stones plus essential oils to warm muscles and cold stones to improve blood flow.
All of which is designed to ready you for another day filled with steep, satisfying runs on the mountain.
Got kids? The resort now has a Tykes Room, where toddlers to 4-year-olds can draw on the chalkboard wall, play karaoke or settle in for a movie with their parents on movie night, complete with popcorn, drinks and Milk Duds.
BEAVER CREEK, COLO.
Because kids need something to do après-ski, too, so parents can relax, this year Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is offering a "s'mores nanny," who takes the kids to the s'mores happy hour while the big people go to the slope-side bar. 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill (it overlooks the Beaver Creek slopes) offers a beer float made with high-end, locally sourced Colorado craft beer and house-made ice cream.
Also new this year is Allegria Spa's Slumber Massage, a Swedish massage plus soothing lavender oils and hot stones to calm the body, with sleep-inducing background sounds to create brain- wave patterns that support deep sleep.
Hotel Jerome, the iconic Aspen landmark that opened in 1889, is brushing off the dust from its 41/2-month renovation and has a new, very vintage look.
New, too, is a private bath service. A personal therapist comes to your room and draws a bath according to your whim and wishes. Which of three therapeutic bath salts will you choose? Or will you simply go with argan oil? Nibble on fruit and sip Champagne as you soak.
Another après-ski option is Hotel Jerome's new Living Room, an open, comfy space for relaxing at the end of a hard day on the mountain. Order up something from the hot chocolate menu, such as a mug of Bellagio hot chocolate with house-made raspberry marshmallows. Or for something stronger, J-Bar's famous Aspen crud cocktail: French vanilla ice cream and three shots of bourbon.
PARK CITY, UTAH
If a morning and afternoon's worth of skiing isn't enough to chill your bones, the coolest après-ski watering hole will definitely shiver your timbers. Waldorf Astoria Park City's Powder Champagne Ice Lounge is a 14-foot bar made of carved ice, with sculpted ice furniture.
So have a seat and grab a fur blanket. Be sure to order up a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which you may garnish with raspberries, strawberries, olives and juices. Or ask for the Ice Bar's new winter cocktail, maple spiced Manhattan -- High West Rendezvous Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, maple syrup and spices. Clink.