8 U.S. Ski Towns Worth an Off-Season Visit
April 26, 2019
You probably think that your favorite ski towns turn into ghost towns as temperatures rise, but that’s definitely not the case for every winter destination in the United States. Some of the country’s top ski resorts are equally fantastic options for a summer getaway, offering the same jaw-dropping landscapes, swanky accommodations, and outdoor adventures you love during the winter—with more sunshine and smaller crowds! If you’re planning a vacation in the coming months, trade your skis for sunglasses and check out these eight ski towns that heat up as summer gets underway.
There’s no town in the United States more synonymous with skiing than Aspen, but this Rocky Mountain destination is perfect for a summertime visit, too. As winter snow and the corresponding crowds recede, Aspen transforms into a paradise for art lovers, outdoorsy types, and those in search of luxurious digs with an unbeatable view.
Aspen is a celebrity hotspot during peak season, and the prices at most hotels reflect the town’s star-studded clientele. Summer offers up some sweet deals at five-star spots like The Little Nell; pair your stay with a spa retreat at the Aspen Club for a luxe weekend getaway. When you’re ready for something a bit more rugged, head for a hike in Maroon Bells to find spectacular mountain views. Art lovers can also mark their calendars for the Aspen Arts Festival and ArtCrush, both held at the height of summer.
Lake Placid, NY
As the host of not one but two Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980), Lake Placid has certainly earned its reputation as a snowy sports mecca. Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, this quaint ski town is equally charming in summer, when you can explore its Olympic heritage along with some spectacular scenery.
Sports fans will enjoy a visit to the Olympic Sports Complex and Lake Placid Olympic Museum, where you can see the rink that hosted 1980’s landmark “Miracle on Ice” hockey game, towering ski jumps, and more. Warm weather also creates the perfect conditions for an abundance of outdoor activities in the serene Adirondack Mountains, ranging from hiking and fishing to canoeing and rock climbing. Truly ambitious hikers can join the Adirondack 46ers by summiting all 46 high peaks in the region—though that feat may take a few summers to accomplish.
We’ve already highlighted Jackson’s après ski offerings, but this quintessential cowboy town is equally charming during the warmer months. First off, Jackson is the perfect launching pad for visits to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. (Pro tip: plan your trip during the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall to enjoy mild temperatures and avoid the high summer crowds.)
Once you’ve had your fill of incredible vistas, the town of Jackson itself boasts a booming restaurant scene with options for every palate and price point. Before you settle in for a steak, saddle up at one of the many nearby ranches and earn your cowboy credentials. Last but not least, snap a picture under the town’s famous antler arch before you bid Jackson farewell.
Lake Tahoe, CA
With “Lake” front and center in its name, it’s no surprise that this California town transforms into a mecca for watersports when temperatures rise. Boating, kayaking, jet skiing, paddleboarding, or just diving off the dock—Lake Tahoe is the place to go if you’re looking to make a splash this summer.
When you’re ready for a break from the water, gain some altitude with a ride on the Heavenly Mountain Gondola, which offers panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Hiking trails are also abundant, so consider trekking to one of the region’s many waterfalls; Eagle Falls and Horsetail Falls are two local favorites. For something a bit quirkier, take a tour of historic Vikingsholm Castle, considered one of America’s finest examples of Scandinavian architecture.
Park City, UT
Another heavy hitter among Rocky Mountain ski towns, Park City is an ideal destination for thrillseekers in the off-season, too. The surrounding Wasatch Range offers ample opportunities to get your adrenaline pumping; rent a mountain bike and explore an extensive network of rugged trails, or soar above the craggy terrain on the Flying Eagle Zipline.
If you’re more in the mood for a relaxing summer getaway, Park City has you covered, too. Summer brings the Kimball Arts Festival to town, along with al fresco dinner party Savor the Summit. Snag a low season rate at the swanky, chalet-inspired Waldorf Astoria to see Park City in style.
Big Sky, MT
The perfect balance of breathtaking scenery and Wild West adventure makes this Montana ski town one of our favorite summer destinations. Big Sky Resort is the ideal home base for an adventurous trip, offering up rock climbing, fly fishing, zipline courses, and lots more for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
Big Sky is also the perfect home base for those who want to explore Yellowstone without roughing it by camping inside the park. The town is just a short drive from the West Entrance, allowing you to easily explore Yellowstone’s famous geysers, hot springs, and herds of roaming bison. You’ll likely fly into Bozeman on your way to Big Sky; set aside a few hours to check out the incredible T. rex specimens at the Museum of the Rockies.
Take advantage of Maine’s all-too-brief summer with a warm weather weekend in Newry. This tiny Maine town is home to Sunday River, a ski resort that transforms into a destination for outdoor adventurers once the snow has melted. The resort partners with L.L. Bean to offer a summer series of Outdoor Discovery Schools, where you can hone your skills at archery, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and more.
Once you’re ready for your own wilderness excursion, dive into one of the region’s many hidden swimming holes, or spend an afternoon whitewater rafting on the Androscoggin River. Looking for something a bit more sedate? Get in 18 holes—plus views of the Mahoosuc Mountains—at the Sunday River Country Club.
From biking to beer, there’s something for everyone during summertime in Stowe. Hikers can explore sections of the nearby Long Trail, which winds through the dense forests and rocky outcroppings of the Green Mountains. (Really ambitious trekkers can follow it all the way to Canada!) Reach new heights with ziplining, aerial courses, and gondola rides at Stowe Mountain Resort, or climb all the way to 4,395 feet with a drive up Mount Mansfield.
After an adventurous day, treat yourself to some of Vermont’s finest artisanal food and drink. Stowe is surrounded by craft breweries and distilleries. Stop into your favorite for a few bottles, and then head to the Stowe Farmer’s Market for local baked goods, cheese, and veggies—you’ve got the makings of a perfect summer picnic.
Written by Caroline Lees for Knockaround.