Luxury ski resorts and mountain towns have a magical ability to make anybody fall in love with snow all over again and stir childhood memories of wintertime fun. If everybody in the family knows how to ski, there’s nothing closer to paradise. On the other hand, if there are travelers in the group not into or able to schuss down the mountains or even the bunny hill, that big, lofty resort can feel empty.
Thankfully, those sparkling, snowcapped utopias upped the ante in expanding their scope to ensure all visitors can walk in a winter wonderland and enjoy the great outdoors and local culture even if it is not necessarily on a pair of skis or a snowboard. Aspen, Telluride, and Park City, quickly come to mind thanks to “main streets” with an avalanche of restaurants at every price point, art galleries and, of course, lavish-yet-family-friendly resorts offering practically everything else, from spas and cooking classes to photography, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Though Aspen is best known for its sophisticated art galleries and restaurants, there is plenty of all-out fun for kids and kids-at-heart. A family can enjoy a DIY pizza night at Brunelleschi’s or take a full-on cooking lesson at The Cooking School of Aspen. Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), Aspen Historical Society and Aspen Art Museum all offer spirited winter programming for children getting them outside and beyond the slopes. Telluride boasts the Telluride Historical Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, as well as Town Park where local children take a variety of classes and workshops taking advantage of the great outdoors year-round.
Everybody, including non-skiers, knows Park City for the star-studded Sundance Film Festival. However, after the last limos and private jets have pulled away, families can either enjoy peaceful days on the slopes or explore interesting local history at the Alf Engen Ski Museum, the Park City History Museum and Utah Olympic Park just beyond Park City. With Winter Olympics fever in full swing, an Olympic bobsled experience on the track may be the next best thing to being in PyeongChang, South Korea. The Snowcat Sleigh Ride provides a more leisurely winter adventure that recalls a more innocent era.
Taos, N.M., home to Taos Ski Valley, considered a relatively hidden gem in the ski world, also has a rich Native American history which informs several of the fun activities off the slopes, including Taos Pueblo’s vibrant arts scene without the crowds of Santa Fe as well as the Kit Carson Museum, documenting the exploits of the Wild West legend, as well as The Taos Historic Museums complex.
The hills on the Eastern Seaboard are also alive, not only with its own expanse of ski resorts and towns, but also a blizzard of interesting alternatives. Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Cortland, N.Y., offers some refreshing ways to course through the snow and winter breezes. Adventure seekers can float over snow-packed trails on 4-inch Fat Bikes at the Greek Peak Nordic Center, choosing from multiple pump track trails suited for all ability levels. The Nor’easter Mountain Coaster delivers a ski jump inspired adrenaline rush with a 4,300-foot gravitational hybrid of an alpine slide and a roller coaster, scaling every peak, dip, vertical drop and turn the mountain has to offer.
Bristol Mountain Resort in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes, known for its 1,200-foot vertical peak, is generating a buzz and a few adrenaline rushes with its year-round seven zipline Canopy Tour. The 5,000-foot course and its panoramic vistas of Bristol Valley is open through the winter.
While the stars of Vermont’s ski universe are the resorts at Killington and Burlington, Jay Peak Resort, 90 minutes north east of Burlington, is a true all-access winter getaway with a massive indoor water park and the resort’s new NHL-sized ice skating rink with free skating, pick-up hockey games and complimentary skating lessons. Just across the Canadian border near Burlington, and 90 minutes from Montreal, Manoir Hovey, modeled after President Washington’s Mount Vernon, has more than a colorful history and easy access to French Canadian culture going for it. It recently rolled out a new dog sledding package part of the resort’s Winter Your Way program, incorporating accommodations and meals.