Some travelers check off days in their calendars eagerly anticipating the beginning of ski season. For plenty of others, the idea of careening down a mountain on a pair of sticks isn't the least bit appealing. That doesn't mean they can't enjoy a winter getaway in a ski town, however. The best ski towns are about more than hitting the slopes—they're home to charming downtowns, unique activities, and dazzling views. These destinations are perfect for couples where one of the parties skis and the other doesn't or for anyone looking for new ways to have fun in the snow.
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The Best Non-Ski Vacation Towns
1. Ketchum, Idaho
Ketchum, Idaho is best known as the home of the beautiful Sun Valley Resort, the first destination resort in the country. The small town is surrounded by five majestic mountain ranges offering unparalleled opportunities for skiing and outdoor recreation. "The area offers those who may not ski an adventurous winter escape just the same," says Sammie Pearsall, a travel and lifestyle blogger at The Rambling Renegade. "There are beautiful snowshoeing trails that offer unadulterated views of the famous Bald Mountain."
Pearsall also raves about the luxurious spa at Sun Valley Resort where guests can pamper themselves with a massage followed by a swim in the outdoor heated pool. Downtown Ketchum is quaint and charming with blocks of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries, and some of the best consignment shops in the county.
2. Taos, New Mexico
In winter, visitors who flock to the five ski resorts of Taos Ski Valley quickly discover there is much more to the area than slopes and powder. The tiny town of Taos, New Mexico is home to Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO world heritage site comprised of adobe dwellings that have been continuously occupied by Native Americans for more than 1000 years.
"This UNESCO heritage site is open throughout the year except for eight weekends through the spring for ceremonial purposes," says Pearsall. "Visitors have the opportunity to be connected to and learn about Native American heritage."
In addition, Taos has been home to a thriving community of artists for more than 90 years, and downtown is filled with galleries, studios, and museums.
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3. Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge Ski Resort is home to breathtaking views and almost 3,000 acres of ski terrain spread across five different peaks, but you don't have to be a skier to enjoy the area.
"Breckenridge offers luxuries to those wanting to sample some fresh craft beer, spend the day shopping, or dine in at some of the finest restaurants in the state. It's also great for history buffs with numerous museums and gold mines," says Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals. Other activities include sledding, snowmobiling, or riding a fat tire bike through the snow along the riverwalk.
4. Jackson, Wyoming
The Jackson Hole Valley combines outdoor recreation with culinary and cultural activities in beautiful downtown Jackson.
"Nestled in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Jackson offers visitors access to an array of exhilarating winter adventures, from snowmobiling and dog sledding to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing," says Steve Morrow of paddleabout.com. "The town also boasts hot springs, quaint coffee shops, local eateries, and other amenities to suit every taste."
With so many options, even skiers will want to build in an extra day into their itinerary to make sure they have time to explore downtown.
5. Kalispell, Montana
You see the slopes from downtown Kalispell, Montana, but the town is just as popular with non-skiers, too.
"While Montana has incredible skiing, there is so much to do beyond that," says Courtney Stone, a travel expert and former guide whose family owns Park Cabin Co. "Snowshoeing, kayaking the bays of Flathead Lake (yes, this can be done in winter!), and then enjoying all downtown Kalispell has to offer."
Kalispell also has the benefit of being less than an hour's drive from Glacier National Park, which deserves a spot on your National Park bucket list.
6. Slaty Fork, West Virginia
John Denver famously sang that West Virginia was almost heaven, and that definitely feels true in the town of Slaty Fork.
"It's a quaint little town that feels tucked away from the world. Because of its close proximity to excellent skiing, Slaty Fork is an excellent place to visit during the winter months," says Jon Stephens, director of operations, Snowshoe Vacation Rentals. But non-skiers will love exploring the Gauley Mountain Trail, shopping for antiques, and soaking in the view of the mountains rising above the Elk River.
7. Park City, Utah
The skiing is so good in Park City, Utah, that it's home to some of the training courses for the U.S. Olympic team. Despite this, the area is just as popular with non-skiers.
"It has a great downtown area in the Old Town section, with plenty of shopping and restaurants," says Paul Miller, editor of Family Skier. "Plus, an underrated aspect of Park City is that it often doesn't get as cold as the high elevations of Colorado or the northern resorts in Wyoming, Montana, and Canada, meaning that a non-skier might even be able to go on a hike or enjoy the town in their fleece, versus a winter coat."
Park City is also home to the Sundance Film Festival and other cultural events throughout the year.
8. Boyne Falls, Michigan
Who says you can't go to a waterpark in the middle of winter? Boyne Falls, Michigan is home to Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park, the largest indoor water park in the state. It's the perfect place to spend the day while the skiers in your group hit the slopes at Boyne Mountain Resort.
"The region is also home to numerous delicious restaurants and a wine trail so it's easy to enjoy a long weekend at Boyne Mountain without setting a foot on the ski slope," says Pam Howard, owner, and author of the Our Adventure is Everywhere travel blog.
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9. Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Lakes, California is located within the rugged and beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains.
"It is a great option for skiers and non-skiers alike with stunning views and plenty of outdoor activities. In the winter, you can hit the slopes at Mammoth Mountain, or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in one of the many nearby parks, " says Matt James of the travel website Vistingly.
Other popular winter activities include ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, or taking an exhilarating sightseeing tour on a snow cat. Mammoth Lakes famously receives an average of 275 days of sunshine, which makes the vistas all the more spectacular.
10. Stowe, Vermont
Few towns are as picture-perfect as Stowe, Vermont with its covered bridges, steepled churches, and historic architecture.
"Stowe is a classic New England ski town, offering a range of activities for both skiers and non-skiers," says James. "In the winter, you can hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in one of the many nearby parks." Other popular activities include ice skating, sleigh rides, winter zipline, or indulging yourself in one of the area's many luxurious spas.