5 Off-Slope Adventures in America's Best Ski Towns
Transform your next winter trip with these spectacular non-ski adventures.
After long lift lines, repeats on favorite runs, and après-ski schmoozing, there may not be much time for off-slope adventures on a weekend ski trip. Still, these five towns make a strong case for mixing up your mountain game and reveling in some hidden pleasures of the season.
Make the most of your next winter getaway by adding one of these non-ski adventures to your weekend on the mountain.
Cycle Through Telluride, Colorado
Situated in a remote corner of southwest Colorado, Telluride has long been known as a ski lover’s paradise, a place brimming with wild beauty amidst the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks in the country. With the recent development of a 25-mile fat-tire trail system, this world-class ski destination has also become a winter haven for cyclists.
Ride the free gondola from the landmarked historic district to Mountain Village then cruise downhill, away from the crowded slopes, over miles of fast snowy single-track terrain toward the Telluride Valley Floor. As your rented Salsa Mukluk’s five-inch-wide tires roll over hard-packed snow through spruce-fir-scented air, you’ll cross stunning views of the box canyon and Rocky Mountains beyond. On the final three-mile stretch along the San Miguel River back to BootDoctors & Paragon Outdoors (which offers a guided Bike & Bevies Tour in addition to rentals), stop to refuel with a Face Down Brown Ale at Telluride Brewing Company.
Hitch a Ride in Stowe, Vermont
When in Stowe, one must ski, drink craft beer, and yell, Mush! Not far from the slopes of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, Eden Dog Sledding, offers one of the most exhilarating yet peaceful ways to unplug in the wintertime. Book a 50-minute trail run with a team of Alaskan Huskies that will whisk you through a pristine 140-acre dog sanctuary. After learning about this age-old North American tradition, including how to harness, hitch, and drive the sled, mushers are invited to warm up by a wood stove with hot chocolate and new furry friends.
A winter trip to Stowe isn’t complete without getting a taste of Vermont’s epic cross-country tracks. Head to the Trapp Family Lodge, one of the first Nordic skiing centers in the United States, where you’ll find that roaming their 37 miles of groomed trails and 62 miles of backcountry trails pairs well with the Helles golden lager at newly opened Austrian-style von Trapp Brewing Bierhall.
Go on Safari in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder,” said Ansel Adams, who famously photographed “The Tetons and the Snake River” in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park in 1942. On an excursion with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, it’ll be hard not to experience that same profound feeling.
During the full day tour, an expert guide leads guests to the best photography spots in Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll capture the diverse wintering wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, fox, coyote, bald eagle, trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and, if you’re lucky, howling wolves. Following a long morning in the snowy fields and a visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, you’ll hop on a horse-drawn sleigh to ride through the National Elk Refuge just north of Jackson, where 7,000 migrating elk hunker down in the winter. Lingering in the middle of one of the largest wild elk herds in the world, the piercing beauty of the Teton Range in full view, you’ll feel as vulnerable and alive as the American wilderness.
Become an Olympian in Lake Placid, New York
Nestled up against Mirror Lake, surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains and hallowed Olympic grounds (from the 1932 and 1980 winter games), Lake Placid, New York, is a timeless winter utopia and one of the few places that continues to host Olympic-level winter sports. With a deeply eco-conscious community—the town is chock-full of farm-to-table restaurants, green hotels, and over six million acres of protected Adirondack Park lands—Lake Placid has one foot in the future and another planted in the past.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Since 1904, when America’s first winter resort opened at the Lake Placid Club, this quintessential ski village has lured outdoor enthusiasts and athletic chameleons set on pushing themselves to new physical and mental heights. After carving down Whiteface Mountain, go to Lake Placid Olympic Center for bobsledding, biathlon lessons, speed skating, and the chance to watch pros fly off a 400-foot ski jump. Beyond Olympic pursuits, there’s backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, pond hockey, dogsledding, ice fishing, and a 30-foot high toboggan slide that launches riders across 1,000 feet of ice on Mirror Lake.
Discover Nordic Skiing in Ogden, Utah
Tucked into the lower Wasatch Range, just 40 miles north of Salt Lake City airport, Ogden is a mind-boggling escape. The world-class slopes at Snowbasin and Powder Mountain are uncrowded, there’s a charming hustle-bustle to historic 25th Street (with its underground speakeasies in former 1920s brothels), and the Salomon Center hosts indoor skydiving, climbing, and surfing. There are no lift lines and no wait at killer food spots. You might start to wonder what’s the story behind this seemingly secret winter destination. However, it’s better not to question this emerging ski town and just enjoy Utah’s quirky, cool side—anyone for some social axe throwing?
Ogden’s 2,400-acre North Fork Park is a dreamscape for Nordic skiers. If you’ve come out West for downhill skiing, this is the perfect pairing. From an elevation of 5,800 feet, explore 12 miles of cross-country ski trails with consistently groomed loops and out-and-back sections. And don’t be alarmed by the pure white noise—interrupted only by an occasional moose crunching through the snow.