From the July/August 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler
Warm-weather getaways at ski resorts can cost a fraction of the peak season price, with lodging discounted by 50 percent or more in some areas. Even without snow, families will find plenty to do, from rafting trips and cattle drives to open-air concerts and festivals.
Join a ranger-led hike, boat cruise, or campfire talk in Grand Teton National Park or hop on a horse-drawn wagon and ride to Bar T 5’s chuck wagon suppers, where entertainment by a cowboy band accompanies the barbecue. At Teton Science Schools, the Wildlife Discovery Expedition takes families on a daylong search for wolves, bison, and elk, while a tech-enhanced version of the tour uses iPads to track wildlife. Monday evening programs start with a GPS-guided scavenger hunt and end with s’mores around a campfire.
At the Snowmass Rodeo each Wednesday night in summer, kids can test their mettle on a mechanical bull before the professionals ride broncos. On the slopes, Shaun White wannabes can try mountain boarding—think snowboards on wheels—with lessons, rentals, and a kid-friendly course in Snowmass Village. At the village mall, the new Ice Age Discovery Center showcases mastodon and mammoth fossils unearthed last year. Just down the road in Aspen, novice skateboarders are welcome at the Rio Grande Skateboard Park, while adventurers of all ages can explore a silver mining ghost town during a tour with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Warm weather doesn’t stop the Alaskan huskies of Eden Dog Sledding from mushing: Dog carting in wheeled sleds gives families the thrill of the Iditarod without the subzero temperatures. The area’s newest addition, ArborTrek Canopy Adventures, combines treetop zip lines with suspension bridges and rappelling stations for a high-flying ride. Guests at the 1,200-acre Smugglers’ Notch resort have access to eight pools and four waterslides. The resort’s popular Via Ferrata—a sport combining climbing, hiking, and scrambling over boulders—lets parents and kids climb waterfalls and navigate a high-ropes course with a guide.
When the snow recedes, wildflowers cover Crystal Mountain, as do mountain bike trails: Beginner routes wind past lakes and an old mining camp. The Mount Rainier gondola runs daily with lofty views of the surrounding peaks, and at Mount Rainier National Park, just six miles away, even the youngest travelers can hit one of the stroller-friendly trails. No roads traverse the alpine meadows of the Norse Peak Wilderness, but with Crystal Mountain Outfitters, families (including kids five years and older) can explore the area on horseback.