There’s plenty to love about downhill skiing—catching the first chair, gliding through knee-deep powder, swapping stories during a lively après-ski gathering. But the sport also comes with myriad annoyances: the long chairlift lines, the outrageous prices, the cumbersome gear.
If you’re the kind of vacationer who typically prefers the lodge to the lift—or you just want to give your quads a break for a day—this is for you. We’ve rounded up our top winter activities for the non-skier in four of our favorite mountain towns.
Dog-Sledding in Vail, Colorado
As you weave quietly through the aspen groves and pine forests of Vail Valley on a dog sled, the only sounds you’ll hear are the rhythmic footfall of the team of huskies before you. On two-hour guided tours with Mountain Musher Dog Sled Rides, traverse peaceful, snowy terrain on a six-mile private trail where no snowmobilers or cross-country skiers are allowed. Be sure to keep an eye out for the elk, fox, coyote, and deer that also call the valley home. Warm up with hot cocoa and homemade pumpkin bread on the trail before heading back.
Snowshoeing in Stowe, Vermont
Stowe’s pastoral New England scenery makes the perfect backdrop for snowshoeing excursions. Set off on guided treks through woodland paths and across snowy meadows or rent your own snowshoes for an independent adventure. Explore 25 miles of backcountry trails (many of which begin out the back door of Stowe Mountain Resort) or hike along the 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path, which winds past a few restaurants and cafes—ideal for warming up with a cup of hot cocoa. The Trapp Family Lodge (a charming Bavarian-style inn once owned by the real-life Maria Von Trapp of “Sound of Music” fame) is another popular snowshoe destination, with more than 60 miles of trails begging to be explored.
Sleigh Rides in Jackson, Wyoming
Every winter, thousands of elk migrate to the National Elk Refuge outside Jackson, Wyoming, to spend the colder months grazing in this wide-open meadow tucked in the shadows of the majestic, snow-covered Tetons. Part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the refuge also serves as a home to bison, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional wolf. For a unique wildlife-viewing experience, set off on a 45- to 60-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride through the refuge, snapping incredible photos of the wild elk herd along the way.
Bobsledding in Park City, Utah
When Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, many of the actual Olympic events took place in and around the nearby ski town of Park City. Nestled in the Wasatch Mountains just north of Park City, the Utah Olympic Park (built especially for the Winter Games) hosted the bobsled, luge, and skeleton events. Today, you can leave skiers and snowboarders in the dust as you zip around the banked curves of the bobsled track at up to 70 miles per hour during a guided bobsled experience. You’ll ride with up to two other passengers and a professional pilot down the same track as the 2002 Olympic athletes.