Ski Resorts For The Non-Skier

If you absolutely must go on holiday to a ski resort, but would prefer not to be stuck on the side of a snowy mountain for ten hours a day, fear not, there are plenty of other activities available. Whether you want to go shopping, partying or hiking, here is a look at ski resorts for the non-skier, helping you go really “off piste”. These five resorts show that there is often far more to a ski resort than just skiing. So put away your skis and snowboard, and prepare to have a great time away from the slopes.

Val d’Isere, Switzerland

Val d'Isere
(Image by Gimli_36 on Flickr)

If you are looking for the best in Apres-Ski entertainment then the first place to look should be the larger European ski resorts. Val d’Isere, high in the French Alps near Mont Blanc, is infamous for its boisterous nightlife. Full of chalet staff, often from Britain and Australia, Val d’Isere is home to numerous pubs, nightclubs and bars, the most famous of which is Dick’s Tea Bar. This cavernous space serves over 1000 boozy party goers every night, while dozens of other options exist for bar hoppers and pub crawlers. Val d’Isere is not all about nightlife, however. Days can be spent recuperating at the spas, cafes and restaurants in the town centre, while husky-drawn sleigh rides can whisk you off into the mountains, without you ever having to put on a pair of skis.

Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada

(Image by andy_c on Flickr)

Across the Atlantic in North America is the famed ski resort of Whistler in British Columbia. Whistler hosted a variety of Alpine ski events during the 2010 Winter Olympics, but is well known for the variety of other activities on offer here. The Whistler-Blackcomb resort, the largest of its kind on the continent, features a summer mountain bike park that is visited by over 100,000 cyclists each and every year. The extensive biking park offers over 250kms of track, with vertical drops, dirt jumps, speed trails and mountain ascents for hard core cyclists. Novice mountain bikers, meanwhile, can ride through evergreen forests on the park’s gentle dirt tracks. If you are interested in biking here, make sure to visit Whistler in the summer, as the park closes in October and only reopens in late May.

Aspen, Colorado, USA

(Image by Dhaval Shreyas on Flickr)

Aspen is possibly the most luxurious Ski Resort in the world, and is where America’s rich and famous go to sample the finest snow and slopes on the continent. Yet this well-to-do Colorado resort also offers a host of diversions for the non-skier, from shopping at exclusive boutiques to frequent festivals and events. Each fall, for instance, the town comes together to showcase the world famous Aspen Film Festival. Held over five days, usually in September, this is a chance to view independent and arthouse movies from around the globe. Aspen is also a delight for shoppers, with the upscale downtown district offering high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada and Gucci, as well as local and independent boutiques. If all that shopping tires you out, your best bet is to recuperate down at one of Aspens many luxury spas, sumptuous retreats offering massages, saunas and relaxing treatments. Perhaps, after all that pampering, you will be ready for a bit of skiing after all.

Hakuba, Japan

(Image by tsuda on Flickr)

Not all non-skiing trips have to be laid back, however. For something a little more taxing, the ski resort of Hakuba near Nagano in Japan offers a superb range of watersports and adventure activities throughout the summer months. Hakuba rose to prominence in 1998 when, as part of the Nagano Winter Olympics, it hosted a variety of sporting events, including a dramatic and highly controversial downhill ski run. The event was postponed for five days due to temperatures reaching almost 20 degrees centigrade, while pre-race favourite Hermann Maier flew off the course in dramatic fashion shortly after setting off. Eventually, the little known Frenchman Jean-Luc Cretier won the race, a win that proved to be his sole career victory. Besides Ski related activities, Hakuba also boasts plenty of summer-time pursuits, including downhill and trail mountain biking at the Evergreen Outdoor Center, as well as paragliding over the surrounding landscapes with Paratopia, the area’s leading paragliding company. To truly get the adrenalin pumping, however, the best option is to indulge in a spot of white-water rafting with the Hakuba Adventure Club. Nights in Hakuba, meanwhile, prove to be much more relaxing. Visitors can dine at dozens of restaurants in the Happo Village area of the resort serving both authentic Japanese and worldwide cuisines.

Zermatt, Switzerland

(Image by CoreForce on Flickr)

If you would prefer to put yourself to the test and sample even more daring activities, why not try your hand at death-defying hiking and climbing? The Swiss ski resort of Zermatt is surrounded by great terrain for climbers and hikers at all levels of expertise, from beginner to veteran. The most well known peak in the vicinity is the treacherous and infamous Matterhorn. This 14,690 foot high mountain is regarded as one of the most difficult climbs in the world, with climbers needing to negotiate steep and jagged cliff faces in order to ascend to the spectacular summit. The Matterhorn was the last great Alpine peak to be successfully climbed in 1865, and over 500 climbers have died attempting to do the same in the years since. Not all climbs and hikes near Zermatt however are quite so extreme. With the Alpine Haute Route to Chamonix passing through the town, great country walks through verdant valleys, over cool glaciers, and across rugged foothills are all within easy access. If you would simply prefer to put your feet up and take in the beautiful wooded scenery, then there is also an impressive cable car that lifts passengers high above the Zermatt valley on the way to Furi. Zermatt town itself, meanwhile, offers charming architecture, warm, cozy restaurants and a vintage Alpine feel that will delight whether you are there to ski or not.

There are plenty of activities available at ski resorts for the non-skier, and let’s face it, if you exhaust all the options listed above, well, there is always time for a snowball fight or two.

Date posted: 15th August, 2011

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