As an avid skier who has a few bones to pick with the sport (frozen toes, long lift lines, increasingly high prices), I’ve long since discovered the perks of visiting ski resorts in the offseason.
How ski resorts are creating a second season in summer
Marion McDonald, an independent adviser with Brownell Travel, said her clients are increasingly interested in traveling to ski towns outside of winter. “They offer so much more in the summer,” McDonald said, adding that mountainous regions are great options for multigenerational travelers, because “there’s something for everyone.”
For a fun alternative to the classic beach vacation — and traditional ski trip — consider one of these U.S. or Canadian ski towns.
Utah has long been on many summer travelers’ lists, thanks to a stellar lineup of national parks, such as Bryce Canyon, Arches and Zion, but travelers seeking more of a full-service experience will find it in Park City proper. Perhaps Utah’s best-known ski resort, Park City is arguably a more enjoyable place to visit outside of winter, when fewer crowds often translate to paying less for accommodations (Pendry Park City is the newest game in town, but Deer Valley’s Stein Eriksen has kitchen-equipped suites) and the ability to get restaurant reservations before 9:30 p.m. at popular spots such as Apex or Tupelo.
Celebrating its 53rd year, the open-air Kimball Arts Festival takes over Main Street for a few days in August, and this is also where visitors can shop for high-quality leather items, such as cowboy boots at Burns Cowboy Shop, or for a book from Dolly’s Bookstore to bring along on a mountainside picnic — accessed by bike or on foot.
Idaho’s largest ski resort has a full slate of summer activities, but the biggest draw is probably the area’s more than 40 miles of mountain bike trails. Three new trails were added recently, and if you’re new to mountain biking or just to the region itself, you can opt for a two-hour hosted e-bike tour for $55 per person. (Riders must be 5 feet tall.) For more relaxed outdoor play, a disc golf course is an option, as is the picturesque ride to the summit via the Great Escape Quad.
Huckleberry picking — the berry is the state’s official fruit — typically starts in July and goes through September, and the leisurely activity can be part of a day involving hiking or horseback riding, followed by dinner at Crow’s Bench, located at the new Humbird Hotel. Fall Fest is a bit of a misnomer, because the four-day beer-tasting and live music event actually takes place in early September; the final day bids Schweitzer’s summer adieu.
Montreal often steals the Quebec spotlight, but Mont-Tremblant deserves attention, too, particularly in summer, when milder temperatures encourage visitors to lap up the great outdoors. Whether you’re dining on A Mano Trattoria’s patio or chilling at the beach along Lake Tremblant, the city can hold its own when it comes to summer shenanigans.
The requisite second-season ski resort activity, mountain biking, shines brightest in late August, when Ironman descends on the town, and participants take to 112 miles of challenging terrain. You need not be an accomplished athlete to enjoy Tonga Lumina, about a one-mile illuminated nighttime walk through a forest accessed via chairlift, or for an adrenaline-inducing zip line adventure at Ziptrek Ecotours. For a unique visit and stargazing, stay overnight in Bel Air Tremblant hotel’s glamping domes or tiny cottages.
Come to this part of Colorado for the Aspen Music Festival (its more than 400-concert series begins in June and runs through late August), and stay long enough to visit the Aspen Art Museum or catch one of the Aspen Institute’s talks. (Recent speakers include author Jamaica Baldwin and New Yorker cartoon editor Emma Allen.) Theatre Aspen features musicals and performances, some of which take place outdoors.
In addition to the variety of culture on display in the summer, there is, of course, ample opportunity to break a sweat via the usual suspects (hiking, biking, trail running) and the less ubiquitous (rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing). Sore muscles could find worse places to unwind than at the Spa at Viceroy Snowmass, where the CBD massage takes you from beat to Zen in a flash. The city’s artsy heritage is on full display at the Aspen Saturday Market (mid-June to early October), where local artisans and farmers come together.
It’s not surprising that Canada’s biggest ski resort is full of appealing options for summer visitors. Soak up the sunshine — and British Columbia’s vast terrain — with a local Whistler beer or a margarita at the Umbrella Bar, located at 6,069 feet. A highlight of Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights is Whistler Blackcomb’s Mountain Top Summer Feast, which includes live music and, as the name implies, a feast — all of it at 6,000 feet.
Also on the culinary front is the weeks-long ticketed dinner event Alta and Audain. Billed as a fine-dining art experience, the four-course dinner includes an intimate guided tour of Audain Art Museum and runs through early September. This summer marks the eighth Flag Stop Theatre and Arts Festival, dishing up dinner, dancing and comedy. Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for stunning mountain views or at the boutique Nita Lake Lodge for glassy-lake ones.
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton, home of southern Vermont’s highest peak, is downright bustling in summer with dog-friendly outdoor movie nights (admission is free); live music along the pedestrian-only, brick-lined streets of the village; mountaintop yoga; and junior tennis camps. Take a scenic lift ride on the gondola (also dog-friendly) or get the blood pumping with a trek uphill, followed by a free gondola ride back to the base.
Village-area restaurants have various options, such as classic pub fare at Bar 802 and brunch staples at Benedicts, but for a real treat, drive to nearby Honeypie for the fast-casual restaurant’s riff on a banh mi. Whether you’re staying at one of Stratton’s mountain lodges or an independent vacation rental, a quintessential Vermont trip mandates a stop at a general store, where you can pick up local cheese and some of New England’s finest IPAs.
Banff & Lake Louise
This scenic Canadian ski town’s prime location in Alberta’s Banff National Park has summer activities such as park trail exploration, guided or not, and a half-day tour of the lakes, where you can see a glacier and visit Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. The action outside the park is on Bear Street, where patio dining and imbibing at Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant is as much a sport as stocking up on cold-weather items from Rocky Mountain Flannel Company.
Explore this stretch of the Rockies from a vintage-inspired automobile via Open Top Touring, but ditch the vehicle for a bike anytime in September, when roughly 10 miles of the Bow Valley Parkway closes to public traffic. And if your quads are screaming after conquering the road’s undulating hills, head to Cedar & Sage Co. for a massage, or opt for R&R at the area’s first boutique motel, the Dorothy, where nature is the backdrop.
Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health notice webpage.