Visiting a ski resort in the wintertime has been the quintessential family vacation for decades. With the beautiful mountain scenery and the fresh snow, there’s no better way to make memories with your kids than to be somewhere fun and new that is way different than your family’s regular lifestyle.
But what if your family doesn’t ski or snowboard – is there a reason to visit a ski resort in the wintertime? For the families that don’t make it to the slopes, yes – there’s plenty of activities that don’t require skis, a snowboard, or fancy equipment. For non-skiing families, that picturesque family photo with earmuffs, mittens, hot cocoa, and fresh snow is not out of reach. Get ready to pack your winter gear and head to a destination near you for family fun of all ages – but don’t worry about the extra bags of ski gear.
Getting your family out of the usual routine and into a magical wonderland at a ski resort is something the kids will remember. The excitement of arriving at a ski resort with the twinkling lights and mounds of snow is worth every minute of the travel to the destination. Once the kids are bundled up, getting outside and enjoying the fresh mountain air and snowy scenery is a must. You can still have the best family vacation in winter without hitting the slopes with these top activities for non-skiing winter vacations.
Best Non-Ski Activities for Kids and Adults of All Ages
A favorite amongst the adventurous crowd, snow tubing is certainly an activity adults and kids (typically taller than 36”) don’t want to miss. Tubing can be done during the day or early evening, and rates typically include access, tube rental, and lift service. Winter Park’s Coca-Cola® Tube Park features three lanes, exciting curves, and a covered conveyor lift ride back to the top – so no hiking required! Just like what you’d wear sledding, make sure to dress warm and comfortable with gloves/mittens, a hat, snow pants, and winter boots.
For tubers at Palisades Tahoe who want to take it up a notch, Disco Tubing is offered on select dates through March 12. Tube in the dark from 5-8pm next to bright LED lights, tasers, and live music from various DJs.
Channel your inner Olympic dreams and visit an ice rink in the main village of your destination. Outdoor ice skating is the perfect opportunity for kids to learn a new skill while building confidence. Taos Ski Valley offers outdoor ice skating at the Eis Haus Ice Skating Rink in the afternoon and evenings, with a cozy fireplace nearby for family to gather afterwards.
At Blue Mountain, visit the Woodview Mountaintop Skating loop. At over half a mile long, this outdoor loop travels through the woods providing spectacular views during the day, and lighting up the night skies with its thousands of interactive lights for the enjoyment of evening skaters.
A picture-perfect way to get in touch with nature and your surroundings, snowshoeing is a top alternative to skiing or snowboarding. With minimal equipment needed, snowshoeing is a chance to get outside in the snow at your own pace (tip: snowshoeing is even the perfect activity to do with a baby or toddler, as long as you have a suitable hiking carrier!).
For families wanting more of a thrill with their snowshoe hike, Lake Louise Ski Resort offers a variety of snowshoe tours. Take in the incredible views of the Canadian Rockies on one of the four tours offered: the scenic snowshoe tour, wildlife snowshoe tour, winter night tour, or the full-day all mountain snowshoe tour.
Sled Dog Rides
Experience a unique ride unlike anything your family has ever done before with the Sled Dog Rides at Mt. Bachelor. A professional (and ridiculously cute) dog sled teams pulls you and your family through snowy trails surrounded by trees. After the ride, stick around to participate in caring for the furry athletes, included watering and feeding.
Combing luxury and exploration, the Haymaker Sleigh Ride Dinner at Steamboat is a splurge likely to create memories that last a lifetime. Adults will delight with the start of drinks at the Haymaker clubhouse, before a dramatic sleigh ride with two horses and the accompanying mountain scenery. Following the ride, guests feast on a four-course dinner to cap the evening.
For the thrill without the risk, take in a scenic Aerial Tram at Palisades Tahoe. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe, this high-altitude ride climbs over 2,000 feet and lasts 10-minutes. Slow-moving with incredible scenery, grab the grandparents – and your camera – to grab memories that will last a lifetime.
Best Non-Ski Activities for Older Kids
Cross Country Skiing
Moving outside at a slower pace but still increasing that heart rate, cross country skiing with the older kids at Sugarloaf is a great way to get outside and enjoy the solitude of the forest. With 50KM of groomed trails, The Sugarloaf Outdoor Center is the largest Nordic Center in Maine. For an entire day of adventure, check out fat biking, ice skating, and snowshoeing, which are also offered at The Outdoor Center. Rentals are available for kids and adults, so no need to have the gear in advance in order to seize the day.
Winter Off-Road Tour
Find adventure in the backcountry with your kids older than age 12 on a winter off-road tour at Snowshoe. This off-the-beaten-path tour travels throughout the backcountry in a 4-seat, enclosed, and heated Polaris RZR. Keep the kids excited all ride long with a variety of terrain and scenery. Riding along the Cheat Mountain Ridge Trail to the Fire Tower and back, riders will be stoked to see areas of the mountain that are not accessible for regular mountain visitors on skis or a snowboard.
Hit top speeds while sitting down cruising the Rocky Mountain Coaster at Copper Mountain. As one of the longest alpine coasters on the continent, and with views of the Ten Mile Range and lush forests, this exhilarating coaster takes you down 5,800’ feet of track with speeds up to 25 mph.
At Aspen Snowmass, Ullr Nights offers unlimited access to the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster. Riding on a lit-up coaster through a mile of forest at speeds up to 28 mph, kids and adults will have the thrill of their life. Did we mention this was all at night, too?
Adventure in the wintertime is infinite for kids and adults who do not ski or snowboard. Check out your favorite destinations to see what offerings are available for non-skiing activities and start planning the best winter family vacation for this season.