Best Ski Resorts for Non-Skiers
May 12, 2020
Thanks to world-class facilities across the major ski resorts, there are plenty of activities to keep the non-skier happy on a family ski vacation. Whether you are a fair-weather skier on a whiteout day, a first-timer wanting a day off, or a non-skier simply joining the family on a holiday, there is always something to do to keep yourself entertained. Here is a list of Scout's best ski resorts for the non-skier, with the biggest list of things to do.
Out of all the Japanese ski resorts on offer, Scout's top pick for the non-skier in the family is Nozawa Onsen. The ski resort is renowned for its natural hot springs (onsen), and you can spend a whole day onsen-hopping around some of the most beautiful spots in Nozawa. The famous Snow Monkey Park is located nearby and an easy afternoon day trip to take, or you can team it up with a tour to Nagano and the incredible Zenkoji Temple. If you time your ski vacation perfectly, you can also experience some wonderful festivals that make Nozawa Onsen one of the hotspots to visit in Japan, including the Smile Winter Festival, the Winter Light Festival, or the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival (one of the biggest fire festivals held in Japan!).
Non-snow activities are also a highlight for families at Aspen Snowmass. The village base area has become a family hot-spot, with tubing, snowbiking, bonfires, live music, and even s'mores roasting. The Alpine Coaster provides a thrilling downhill ride through the forest, especially memorable at night. The town of Aspen itself is also a main attraction, as there are hundreds of fantastic shops and galleries among meandering streets and pedestrian malls. There are other activities such as snowshoeing, ice-skating, hot air ballooning, day spas and hot springs that are sure to please any non-skier. Aspen also has some wonderful cultural activities, including the new Aspen Art Museum, the Wheeler Opera House, the Aspen Historical Society, Belly Up Live Music venue and more.
Being a world-class purpose-built resort in Colorado, Vail caters perfectly to non-skiers. Without a doubt the main attraction other than skiing is Vail Village itself. There is so much to do from shopping, drinking and dining, to ice-skating, bowls, movie theaters, day spas, galleries and a fascinating ski history museum. Plus, there’s sleigh rides, tubing, kids snowmobile, and endless mountain dining (hello après!). Phew, so many things to do on a down-day!
Main Street is renowned for endless window shopping, however, there’s a ton of other activities at Park City for non-skiers. From hot-air ballooning to winter fishing, sleigh rides or a mountain railroad adventure - there’s something for everyone. Park City also has a stack of non-snow activities to keep the kids entertained, including the Alpine Coaster, and snow tubing at Gorgoza Park. The Utah Olympic Park has tubing, zip-lining, and museum tours, sure to fill a spare afternoon.
So many extra activities are offered in Whistler Blackcomb beyond skiing, you could fill a week just doing those and still have things left over. A visit to Scandinave Spa is a must (adults only!), and kids will love the tubing hill and the opportunity to go dog sledding. The Olympic offers the chance to try bobsleigh and skeleton, or you can sign up for a snowmobiling tour or zip-lining via The Adventure Group. For kids, the adventure playland areas of Magic Castle on Blackcomb and Tree Fort on Whistler are a fun change from the slopes. There are also several Nintendo Gaming Lounges, for those who truly want some non-snow action.
Telluride is one of our top picks for non-skiers. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy throughout your trip - from snowshoeing and snowmobiling, to the crazy-looking snowbiking, and adrenaline-pumping ice-climbing. If relaxing is your thing, options include several day spas or some retail therapy in town. Downtown Telluride offers a good range of bars to explore for après, including the cool Telluride Brewing Co. (hello tasting room!). Or grab a coffee from local favourite, The Butcher & Baker Cafe, and explore the fantastic boutiques; a good spot to pick up a locally made souvenir. Of course, you can always simply sit back with a good book by the fireplace or enjoy the stunning San Juan mountains.
Besides offering some of the best skiing in Alberta, Banff boasts plenty of activities to make the non-skier happy. Keep the kids entertained with some ice skating or tubing (particularly at Mt Norquay), or head out for a nature tour of the surrounding National Parks. Ice walks are a popular choice, as well as the nearby Banff Hot Springs. The town of Banff offers endless window shopping, and the change to sample some of the best local delicacies including Beaver Tails and melt-in-your-mouth fudge.
Megève is the perfect ski resort for non-skiers. The old town itself is a wonderful place to wander, with a ton of upmarket shops for window shopping (or splurging in!) as well as some great restaurants, bars and cafes. Megève also offers endless activities for kids (big and small) including ice-skating, an indoor sports centre, hot air ballooning, dog sledding, luge and tobogganing, and snowshoeing. For lovers of French delicacies, visits to local farms and produce markets are a must. Taking a day trip to Chamonix or Courmayeur is also quite popular via the interconnecting cable cars. Lastly, for those who love day spas, Megève has some of the best in Europe (Scout’s favourite being at Les Fermes de Marie).
Staying in France, Chamonix is another top pick for a ski resort for non-skiers. There are plenty of exhilarating activities for the more adventurous: from paragliding and snow-kiting, to dog sledding, and ice climbing. There are also some fun tourist attractions, such as catching the Montenvers Mer de Glace railway (built in 1908), the associated ‘Glaciorium’, igloo village and glacier tours (where you’ll see the full effect of global warming), and the “step into the void” platform at the top of Aiguille Du Midi. Kid will love to spend an afternoon ice skating, or some down time at the local pools or cinema. There really is something for everyone in Chamonix.
Besides simply staring at the incredible beauty of the Matterhorn, there are plenty of non-snow activities for non-skiers in Zermatt. Taking a helicopter trip around the Matterhorn is a bucket-list worthy adventure, or you can spend your day with some snowshoeing, ice-climbing, or paragliding. Kids will love the fast and furious toboggan ride (called sledging) from Rotenboden to Riffelberg, and while it only takes 10 minutes from top to bottom, we're sure they'll want to spend all day riding it! Right in the centre of town there’s a big curling arena and ice-skating rink, plus of course, there are some wonderful shops to explore and cafes to relax in.
Rounding out our list of the top ski resort for non-skiers in Queenstown. Queenstown has more activities (other than skiing) than any other ski resort in the world. From the classic and exhilarating bungy jumping to a more sedate but equally spectacular gondola ride up to the Skyline restaurant and visitor complex, there’s something for everyone. These activities tend to be a little quieter in winter so there’s no need to book ahead. The town itself is lots of fun to simply wander and explore, with plenty of places to shop up a storm, and cafes and restaurants to suit those wanting to experience the best local cuisine (a visit to Fergberger and Cookie Time is a must!).