LONDON: What’s a couple to do if one skis and the other half does not? Many resorts have made activities for non-skiers as big a priority as providing great powder to serve you both.
To help you carve through a few of the options, the editors and members of travel adviser VirtualTourist.com have put together a top 10 destinations for skiers and non-skiers.
1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
In the perfect “out west” setting, Jackson Hole is an ideal spot for both the experienced skier and novice alike.
In addition to class and private ski and snowboard lessons, the resort also has a wide variety of camp options 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 highly 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.
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 terrain is some of the most challenging in the world. For those sans skis, there are 20 km of marked and prepared winter hiking trails and well-maintained tobogganing slopes.
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.
3. Kitzbuehel, Austria
Conveniently located about two hours from Munich, Kitzbuehel is an excellent destination for those who are looking for an active stop while exploring Austria.
Besides downhill skiing, Kitzbuehel also offers over 120 km of cross-country ski trails and 170 km of winter hiking trails.
Until Dec. 26, visitors can enjoy the Kitzbueheler Christmas Market, complete with gingerbread, gluehwein (a German spiced mulled wine), handicrafts and even a petting zoo for children.
Kitzbuehel is also quite close to Innsbruck and Salzburg, meaning visitors can easily explore these other Austrian towns.
Innsbruck is a charming alpine town with a city center that is over 800 years old, while Salzburg is the birthplace of two musical legacies: Mozart and The Sound of Music. Both of these cities also host notable Christmas markets during the Advent season.
4. Queenstown, New Zealand
While you’ll have to wait about six or seven months to hit the slopes, many say that Queenstown, New Zealand is a great spot for skiing, as well as other adrenaline sports. Once a tiny gold-mining settlement, this town has evolved to become a world-class sport mecca.
As long as visitors aren’t afraid of heights, you’ll have plenty of activities to keep you busy outside skiing and snow sports. After taking the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak, you can luge down concrete tracks, hike the mountain-top 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 jumpers to do flips, twists and other such stunts.
Queenstown is also home to another famous bungee jump, the Nevis Highwire Bungee. The Nevis drops 134 meters straight into a riverbed, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
5. Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
Many of us have seen photographs of an island with a church in the middle of a pristine Alpine lake, but few may be very familiar with Slovenia.
While initial assumptions might suggest Austria or Germany, this image is in fact Bled in the Gorenjska region of Northern 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.
A visit to Ljubljana, the country’s capital is well worth the effort, 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 make for an interesting mix of Central Europe, Balkan and Mediterranean traditions.
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 Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, earns this rare distinction.
While serious skiers will be thrilled to stay on the Dolomiti Superski, 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.
In tradition with most Italian destinations, there is tons of 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.
7. Chamonix, France
While the French Alps is dotted with countless great villages, Chamonix is unique in that it is just as famous for mountaineering.
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 4,810-meter mountain.
From paragliding to mountaineering courses and glacier walks, visitors don’t need skis to experience this majestic mountain. For those looking to watch great athletes, Chamonix hosts the Swatch Freeride World Tour at the end of January, with skiers and snowboarders battling it out to be crowned the world’s best freerider.
With adrenaline comes letting off steam, so don’t miss some of Chamonix’s famous apres 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!
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, New Mexico.
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 sulfur-free, geothermal mineral waters flow from a subterranean volcanic aquifer.
For those interested in the 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.
9. Bariloche, Argentina
Die-hard skiers are always looking for the next hot spot, but also an offseason gem – and that’s where Argentina comes in.
Similar to New Zealand, the ski season in Argentina starts in mid-June, when the Cerro Catedral Mountain is usually maintaining a cover of snow.
While there are 68 kilometers of trails with a good mix for beginners and experienced skiers, Bariloche makes our list because of the Argentine fun quotient.
The town has all kinds of evening spots, from casinos to discos to artisanal beer breweries.
And lastly, Bariloche is also full of traditional Argentinean luxuries, such as great steaks, red wine and affordable leather, so non-skiers will stay plenty busy.
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 fighting for the East’s reputation.
A short 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 here, the mountain has 12 hiking trails, ranging from 1 km to 20 km round trips 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.