Ask long-time residents how they ended up living in a mountain town - or in just about any ski destination - and this is what youâll hear: âI came here to enjoy the winters, but ended up staying for the summers.â
The smart ones always do.
Ski towns and resorts have noticed, and are actively expanding their operations, rebooting themselves into full four-season destinations. Resort activities now commonly include ziplines, lift-served mountain biking, scenic gondola rides, world-class golf courses, mountain coasters, climbing walls, heli-hiking, water parks, naturalist tours, alpine slides, al fresco dining, white-water rafting, expanded hiking trails, ropes courses, and new mountaintop restaurants.
The non-skiing months on the calendar have long been the best-kept secret in mountain towns. But the secret is out. Here are a few picks to jumpstart your next adventure.
The only thing better than skiing deep powder is skiing deep powder with just a few of your friends. Thatâs the driving philosophy behind the growth of cat skiing, where a small group of skiers and riders pile into a snowcat, leave the liftlines far behind and head up a mountainside to cut fresh tracks all the way down. Again and again. And unlike helicopters, snowcats donât have down days. Cat skiing is becoming available in many of North Americaâs ski towns, with some top operations working out of Aspen, Park City, Crested Butte, Steamboat, Snowbird, and Whistler, to name just a few.
Consider it Hollywood on ice. The annual Sundance Film Festival, co-founded by Robert Redford in 1985, brings in upwards of 40,000 people to the town of Park City each January, with thousands of films screened over 10 days at more than a dozen venues. Itâs the largest independent film festival in the U.S., and just might be the hottest ticket sold in sight of a ski lift each winter. Insider tip: Exit the screening rooms for a day and hit the local resorts. Film-festival patrons take over Park City, leaving the slopes empty.
The ultimate ski experience? Thatâs easy: heli-skiing. If you have powder issues, the only true cure is heli-skiing. And that cure is frequently served with three feet of untracked powder as a chaser. So stop dreaming and move into the dream fulfillment stage. And you no longer have to block off your schedule for a weekâs trip to a remote mountain range. Convenient day trips are now available at major ski resorts such as Snowbird, Sun Valley, Telluride, and Whistler Blackcomb.
Each April, The World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF for short) celebrates adventure sports, music, art, mountain culture, and just about anything else that comes to mind in the high alpine. Itâs simply the largest party on snow in North America. Whistler Blackcomb hosts the action, which includes films, art and photography exhibitions, ski and snowboarding competitions, and arguably the rowdiest aprÃ¨s parties of the season.
Mountains offer miles of gold-medal trout fishing after the lifts stop spinning. From the fabled Big Wood River in Sun Valley to the glacier-fed lakes of Banff, Alberta, thereâs world-class fishing to be found for everyone from the line-tangling first-timer (been there!) to the experienced piscator.
The prestigious Aspen Food & Wine Classic is the Westâs premier culinary event. The three-day event dishes out wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, seminars and panel discussions led by the biggest names in the field. Come and mingle with some of the world's most accomplished celebrity chefs, winemakers, and culinary experts.
Resorts know what skiers like: charging hard downhill, riding a lift back to the summit and then heading down again. Not surprisingly, resorts are expanding their lift-accessed mountain bike trails and parks. Even better, it turns out that mountain biking is a great training tool for skiing, as it increases fitness, improves balance, and sharpens your ability to read changes in terrain. And you end your day telling tales over a cold beer in the base village. Hmm. Does that sound familiar? Head to Vail, Crested Butte, Mammoth, or Killington for killer trails.
Cold temperatures break down leavesâ chlorophyllâthe green pigmentâand reveals a painterâs palette of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows. Fallâs peak foliage season just might be the most beautiful time of the year in the high country. Hiking, biking, and scenic drives are transformative experiences for mountain residents and visitors alike. Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec hosts as many foliage viewers on a peak fall day as skiers during a winter holiday.