Top 10 destinations for skiers and non-skiers alike
With the coming of winter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), there sometimes comes a divide amongst travelers: Are you taking a warm winter getaway or a snow-filled adventure? What's a couple to do if one traveler skis and the other half does not? In response to this traveling issue, many ski towns and resorts have made ramping up their activities for non-skiers as big a priority as providing great powder. In case one member of your party is more bunny slope than snow bunny, the editors and members of VirtualTourist put together the "Top 10 Best Destinations for Skiers & Non-Skiers." --MCT
10. Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada: While many skiers will argue that all the great skiing in North America is in the West, Mont Tremblant has been single-handedly fighting for the East’s reputation. A 90-minute flight from Montreal, Mont Tremblant is also located in Quebec, and with that comes all the luxuries of French Canada. In addition to great skiing, the mountain has 12 hiking trails, ranging from .62 to more than 12 miles (round-trip) that also coordinate with the gondolas. If you’re feeling up to it, you can hike up the mountain to a breathtaking observation spot and then enjoy a gondola ride down. Mont Tremblant has a very beautiful little village with adorable architecture and quaint shopping. For those looking for a bit more excitement, there is now Casino de Mont-Tremblant, which is even ski-in/ski-out for the skiers among us. For those who might want to arrive by rail, there is a quick shuttle that runs between the Casino and the pedestrian village.
9. Bariloche, Argentina: Die-hard skiers are always looking for the next hot spot, but also an off-season gem -- and that’s where Argentina comes in. Similar to New Zealand, the ski season in Argentina (and Chile, another popular destination for skiing in South America) starts in mid-June, when the Cerro Catedral Mountain is usually maintaining a cover of snow. While there are 42 miles of trails with a good mix for beginners and experienced skiers, Bariloche makes the list because of the Argentine fun quotient. Just as the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, is famous for wild nightlife, Bariloche’s remote location does not mean it is without plenty of nightlife. The town has all kinds of evening spots, from casinos to discos to artisanal beer breweries. Lastly, the town is also full of traditional Argentine luxuries, like great steaks, red wine, and affordable leather, so non-skiers will stay plenty busy. (Sept. 21, 2012)
8. Taos, New Mexico: Park City may have a film festival and Sun Valley may have celebrities, but no ski town in the Western U.S. has the same opportunities for non-skiers as Taos. With four different ski areas, there are plenty of opportunities for skiers of any level, but non-skiers are not excluded. At Red River ski area, tubing starts at 4:15 p.m., just after the slopes close, and Angel Fire ski area has the Polar Coaster -- 1,000 feet of hills and a lift to take tubers back to the top. Angel Fire is also well-lit for night tubing. Taos is home to the Enchanted Forest in the Carson National Forest, which offers wide, groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. For non-snow activities, Taos is a long-standing center for wellness treatments and bodywork practitioners. A popular spot for these practices is the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, where sulphur-free, geothermal mineral waters flow from a subterranean volcanic aquifer. For cultural history of the area, the Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historical Landmark. Nearby, the town of Santa Fe provides more artistic and cultural opportunities, as does Ghost Ranch, the famous ranch and home of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
7. Chamonix, France: Members thought it was tough to choose only one spot in Switzerland, but then came France! While the French Alps is dotted with countless great villages, Chamonix is unique in that it is more famous for mountaineering than skiing. Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, this spot attracts athletes and daredevils from all over the world, eager to attempt some experience of the 15,781-foot mountain. From paragliding to mountaineering courses and glacier walks, visitors do not need skis to experience this majestic mountain. For those looking to watch some great athletes, Chamonix hosts the Swatch Freeride World Tour in the end of January, with skiers and snowboarders battling it out to be crowned the world’s best freerider. And with adrenaline comes letting off steam, so don’t miss some of Chamonix’s famous après ski spots, like Monkey Bar and Le Privilege. Also, this is the second-most-starred region in the French Michelin Guide -- so prepare to eat well!
6. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy: Few destinations can say they are both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a former Olympic host city, but high in the Dolomite Alps, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, earns this rare distinction. While serious skiers will be thrilled to stay on the Dolomiti Superski, the circuit of resorts in the Dolomites, there are plenty of activities for non-skiers. In the summer, Cortina has become quite the mountain biking mecca, and they continue this in the winter with the K-Track, a special kit that can transform any mountain bike into a snowbike. Cortina has multiple schools that teach novices how to “snowkite,”or use the K-track, during their visit. As with most Italian destinations, there is much culture to experience in Cortina. In December, visitors can experience the city’s traditional European Christmas Market, fully equipped with mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and old-fashioned sweets. In January, the city hosts the Nordic Skiing World Cup and the Women’s Alpine Ski World Cup, as well as Ice Art, the International Festival of Snow Sculpture, where artists transform huge blocks of ice into sculptures along Corso Italia.
5. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia: Bordering Austria and Italy, Northern Slovenia and the Julian Alps are a growing skiing destination, but also a great destination for those who simply appreciate unspoiled nature. Triglav National Park, home to Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain, is also Slovenia’s only national park and one of the oldest protected parks in Europe. Hiking is a popular way to explore the park and see Lake Bohinj, Slovenia’s largest glacial lake. To the north of Mount Triglav, Kranjska Gora provides opportunities for skiing, hiking, and night tobogganing. In addition to the physical activities, Kranjska Gora also has a casino and hot springs for when visitors want to relax. VirtualTourist members also recommend an excursion to see the country’s capital, Ljubljana, with a walk around the Old Town and a visit to the Ljubljana Castle. Since the country has historically been controlled by Italy, the Austrian empire, and was also part of Yugoslavia, the culture and cuisine are an interesting mix of Central Europe, Balkan, and Mediterranean traditions.
4. Queenstown, New Zealand: These are the top 10 destinations for skiers and non-skiers, but we didn’t say that right now must be the time to ski them! While you’ll have to wait about six or seven months to hit the slopes, Queenstown, New Zealand, is a great spot for skiing as well as a variety of other adrenaline-inducing sports. Once a tiny gold-mining settlement, this town has evolved to become a world-class sport mecca. As long as you aren’t afraid of heights, you’ll have plenty of activities to keep yourself busy. After taking the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak, you can luge down concrete tracks, hike the mountaintop trails, or jump from the Ledge Urban Bungy, which has a ‘runway’ so you can gain a bit of speed as well as a unique harness that allows you to do flips, twists, and other such stunts. Queenstown is also home to another famous bungy jump, the Nevis Highwire Bungy. The Nevis drops 440 feet into a riverbed, so it’s not for the faint of heart. In addition to getting your heart pumping, Queenstown is home to Lake Wakatipu, where visitors can go boating or simply enjoy a picnic. (Sept. 14, 2011)
3. Kitzbühel, Austria: About two hours from Munich, Kitzbühel is an excellent destination for those looking for an active stop while exploring Austria. (King Leopold III of the Belgium, left, did so in 1938.) Besides downhill skiing, Kitzbühel also offers more than 75 miles of cross-country ski trails and 106 miles of winter hiking trails. Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 26, visitors can enjoy the Kitzbühler Christmas Market, complete with gingerbread, glühwein (a German spiced mulled wine), handicrafts, and even a petting zoo for children. In late January, the area hosts Hahnenkamm Race week, one of Austria’s premier downhill slalom events where travelers can watch competitors fly by at an average of 64 miles per hour. Kitzbühel is also quite close to Innsbruck (59 miles), a charming alpine town with a city center that is over 800 years old, and Salzburg (50 miles), the birthplace of two musical legacies: Mozart and “The Sound of Music.”
2. Verbier, Switzerland : It’s difficult to pick one spot in Switzerland, but historic Verbier has both quality skiing and a full schedule of activities for those who aren’t interested in moguls or powder. For the skiers, Verbier’s off-piste (backcountry and/or non-groomed) terrain is some of the most challenging in the world. For those sans skis, there are more than 12 miles of marked and prepared winter hiking trails and well-maintained tobogganing slopes. Verbier is truly the spot to experience the “après ski” lifestyle, especially this season with the recent opening of The Lodge Verbier, Richard Branson’s private ski resort. Many of the piste restaurants and bars are easily accessible to non-skiers, so you can enjoy a drink on the patio with the exquisite Alps view. In addition to the usual winter sports and spa treatments, Verbier offers two particular specialties: cheese and puppies. Verbier is actually located near the famous St. Bernard pass, the St. Bernard hospice, and of course, the origin of the St. Bernard dog. In both winter and summer, visitors can walk with the dogs or visit the museum dedicated to the breed in nearby Martigny. Verbier is also in the middle of prime cheese country, so visitors must make sure to sample the cheeses and Switzerland’s famous cheese fondue.
1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming: In the perfect “out West” setting, Jackson Hole is an ideal spot for the experienced skier and a novice who is only considering lessons. In addition to class and private ski and snowboard lessons, the resort also has a wide variety of camp options, running three to four days, to take skiers and snowboarders of all ages to the next level. If skiing or boarding isn’t on the agenda, you can still explore the terrain without much exertion -- there are great snowmobile tours, as well as Iditarod Sled Dog tours for a more historical experience. No trip to Jackson Hole is complete without visiting either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park; both parks offer ranger-guided snowshoe hikes from December through mid-March. Another recommended experience is the National Elk Refuge, where visitors can take a sleigh ride through the refuge and into the herd of wild Jackson elk. After exploring the natural surroundings, thirsty travelers can head to one of Jackson’s watering holes, like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which has leather saddles atop the bar stools, or hang out at the base of the mountain for the après ski scene. (March 12, 2009)