Not everyone loves winter weather. While skiers and boarders may delight in a snow storm and rush out to savor first tracks on the mountain, others prefer to enjoy the season from a cozy spot indoors.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy mountain scenery, resort amenities, and après-ski fun. Activities for nonskiers include slope-side spas, mountaintop dinners, painting classes, swimming in heated pools, even golf. And they just might brave the cold to take sightseeing rides in ski gondolas and snowcats or snuggly tucked under lap robes on a horse-drawn sleigh or dog sled.
In New Hampshire’s White Mountains, guests at Waterville Valley (www.waterville.com) hotels are welcome at the White Mountain Athletic Club’s indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and saunas, or they can skate in the indoor ice arena. Sled dogs take riders to see moonlit mountain vistas, and Percheron horses pull a sleigh for scenic rides along the snow-covered golf course, as riders sip hot cocoa.
Monthly Dark Sky Stargazing Nights are led by New Hampshire Astronomical Society volunteers and the Curious George Cottage hosts children’s story hours, crafts, and science activities on weekends and vacation weeks. Adult events include Saturday literary discussions, watercolor lessons, and films.
The East’s first Ice Castle was built this winter in Lincoln at Loon Mountain (www.loonmtn.com) by Utah artist Brent Christensen. At night, multicolored lights transform its 25-foot frozen walls into a glowing Narnia. The slope-side Mountain Club on Loon houses the three-story Viaggio Spa, complimentary to hotel guests, with an indoor lap and leisure pool, saunas, steam rooms, and a year-round outdoor whirlpool. Racquetball and indoor court basketball are also available, and nonskiers can ride to the summit in enclosed gondola cars.
The full-service spa in the Mount Washington Hotel, opposite Bretton Woods (http://brettonwoods.com) ski area, features panoramic views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, along with massages and facial treatments. In the base lodge the Slopeside Climbing Wall is suitable for all ages. Sleigh rides and dog sled trips begin from the hotel.
Sunday River (www.sundayriver.com), just across the border in Maine, has dog sled rides along with a heated outdoor pool, sauna, and spa at the slope-side Summit Health Club. In a maple grove below the Sundance trail, a sugar house offers demonstrations with free maple candy and syrup samples beginning in late February.
An enclosed Chondola lift ascends to Peak Lodge for Saturday evening wine or beer dinners with a menu using the featured spirit as an ingredient. Occasional family dinners include a buffet with Sunday River mascot Eddy the Yeti and an entertainment series offers weekly family shows with magicians, jugglers, or music.
In central Vermont, Okemo (www.okemo.com) was among the first to expand winter activities to include nonskiers. At the base of Jackson Gore lifts, the Spring House includes state-of-the-art fitness facilities with raquetball courts, sauna, oversized hot tub and swimming pools with slides and fountains. The full-service spa offers hot stone massage and facials (including one using chocolate). Connected indoor and outdoor heated pools are attached to the hotel, with adjoining hot tubs, sauna, and steam room. Golfers can play year-round at Okemo’s 6,000-square-foot Indoor Golf Training Center, with swing stations, a nine-hole putting green, and a simulator that allows them to tee up on some of the best courses.
Each Saturday night guests can board the Grey Goose snowcat to ride up the mountain to Epic Restaurant for a five-course fireside dinner featuring locally sourced specialties. A free winter concert series and nature programs that include a first-hand encounter with live falcons, hawks, and owls fill the agenda in the Roundhouse at the base lodge.
Nearby Killington (www.killington.com) offers dog sledding and early-evening rides in a sleigh pulled along the ski trails by a snowcat. Killington Grand Spa treatments feature their signature Warm Maple Sugar Scrub. Skiers and nonskiers mingle in Killington’s lively après-ski scene.
Stratton Mountain (www.stratton.com) offers fitness classes, a hot tub, swimming pool, and steam room in the Sports Center along with indoor tennis lessons by Cliff Drysdale Tennis School. Ninety-minute dog sled tours feature scenic views and a warm-up stop for fireside hot cocoa and snacks. Weekend events and live entertainment highlights include Taste of Vermont, with samplings from the area’s best restaurants.
Vermont’s southernmost ski resort, Mount Snow (http://mountsnow.com), attracts guests with lively festivals such as the Mardi Gras during Presidents Week. Even without a festival, the Snow Barn is active with live music weekends and during holiday weeks. Mount Snow’s naturespa offers — in addition to snowshoe hikes followed by a massage — a signature Rockin Massage, using local river rocks heated with evergreen oils, accompanied by classic rock music.
Farther north in the Green Mountains, Sugarbush Health & Racquet Club offers massages at Sugarbush Resort (www.sugarbush.com) that include all-day access to the sports center’s pool and hot tub. At the Adventure Zone, kids can enjoy indoor swings, basketball, Ping-Pong, bungee trampoline, and an inflatable bounce house as well as a rock-climbing wall and swimming pool. New England Tennis Holidays oversees year-round tennis instruction. A snowcat takes passengers on Sunset Groomer Rides to the summit of Lincoln Peak, or they can ride the cat to the top of Gadd Peak for candlelight fireside dining at Allyn’s Lodge.
Postcard views of Mount Mansfield highlight the heated outdoor pool, adjacent Jacuzzis, and firepit at the Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge (www.stowe.com). Twilight dogsledding tours on alpine trails, sleigh rides through the woods, music events, and art exhibitions at the new Spruce Peak Arts Center give nonskiers plenty of choices.
At 3,625-feet elevation atop Mount Mansfield, Cliff House Restaurant is reached on enclosed gondola for either lunch with spectacular views or on winter evenings for multicourse Summit Dinners. Winter highlights are the Artisan Cheese Dinner and Vermont Maple Sugarhouse Dinner.
Indoor diversions at nearby Smugglers’ Notch Resort include the indoor pool and hot tub, and climbing inflatables in the FunZone. Teen Alley, a supervised center for youngsters ages 13-15, offers Internet, games, a pool table, Ping-Pong, and music. Artists in the Mountains is a winter series of hands-on workshops where local artists provide instruction and materials for painting, sculpting, wool felting, and other arts.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy New England’s ski resorts without getting cold feet.Barbara Radcliffe Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.