Earlier this week, Peter Greenberg reported on family-friendly indoor winter activities around the the country. Now, he tells us about all the great outdoor snow activities available at resorts and hotels for folks who don't — or can't — ski:
Each year, almost all ski resorts boast the best powder, the best runs, the infamous black diamonds with thrill-seeking turns and extra-fast downhill speeds. That's great if you're a skier — or you have strange hopes of orthopedic surgery.
But what if you don't ski? What if you like the outdoors, the snow, the general ambience of the ski resorts, but you either don't, or can't, ski? Are you out of luck?
Not anymore. A growing number of ski resorts and hotels have realized there's an important market out there for outdoor winter activities that don't include skiing.
For example, at the lodge in Vail, Colo., the hotel offers dog sledding. And if that's not exciting enough, you can also go tubing — a little bit rougher! Tubing runs $24 per hour or, if you want to ratchet up the thrill-seeking, then try ski biking at $65 per session. There's also snowmobiling for children ($24 per session). Want to combine all the nonskiing activities? The lodge offers a three-night package that combines four winter activities, and also breakfast.
Want to try some cross-country skiing? Then head to Paws Up Ranch, located in the heart of the Blackfoot Valley, 30 miles northeast of Missoula, in Greenough, Mont. The beginning of the ranch dates back to the homesteader days of the late 1800s. It sits on 37,000 acres of untamed Montana wilderness, so you won't be lacking for space or places to go.
Winter rates start at $445 for a Big Timber Home and include three meals per day, airport transfers, and on-property transportation. And, the resort even offers winter paintball (with special guns so that the paint doesn't freeze).
If you want to ice skate, try the resort at Squaw Creek, in Olympic Valley, just minutes from California's North Lake Tahoe. It's also the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and the resort just completed a $53 million renovation. Just $15 rents you a pair of skates.
Looking for something for the kids to do that doesn't involve skiing? Beaver Creek, in Colorado, offers something called “cookie time,” where the chefs get involved with the kids and make cookies. There are even cookie-baking competitions each year. In Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor has a more extensive winter cooking program for children as well. The kids not only learn to cook, but they then cook for their parents.
If you're like me, you might simply enjoy taking the gondola ride. You can do just that at the Heavenly Ski Resort, located on the shores of Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada. At 4,800 acres, it claims to be the largest resort in California. The scenic gondola ride ($28 for adults, $18 for kids) takes you all the way up to a great viewing deck on the mountaintop, and ... then it's all downhill from there: You can snow bike down ($40 for two hours), or head back down for sleigh rides ($20 per person). And coming soon, the resort is constructing a winter zipline, which when finished could be the longest in the continental U.S. at more than 3,000 feet.
At nearby Northstar at Lake Tahoe, the resort offers winter paddle wheel boat rides from the north shore to the south shore of Lake Tahoe between January and April.
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Want to push the envelope? Then try a beginning ice climbing course at the Mt. Washington resort. Located in Bretton Woods, N. H., the resort offers a beginning ice climbing course where you climb a frozen waterfall. This one-day course, taught by the experts from the International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway, is an introduction to waterfall ice climbing and general mountaineering. Best suited for novice winter climbers, this is a fun way to learn the basics without investing a lot of time or money. All technical gear is provided and prices start at $115 per climber.
At Stoweflake in Stowe, Vt., up in the Green Mountains, they get back to basics with a Nordic snowshoeing program — a great outdoor snow activity that works out the entire body. A three-night program that includes breakfasts and dinner, some spa activities and the Nordic walking program, starts at $1,446.
Not last, and not least, Big Sky Montana offers winter fly-fishing, and last and never least, there the ... Zorb... It's offered at a number of ski resorts around the world (and in the U.S., of all places, in the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. My strong recommendation: Do not eat a big meal, or for that matter, any meal before Zorbing. You climb into this large ball, get strapped in and then — they push you down the mountain. To say the least, it's a wild, wild ride, and whether or not you made cookies in Colorado, you could easily blow them in the Zorb! And that experience will set you back about $44, not including cleaning bills for your clothes!
Peter Greenberg is TODAY’s Travel editor. His column appears weekly on TODAYshow.com. Visit his Web site at PeterGreenberg.com.
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