When I visited Park City, Utah, a couple of winters ago, the ski life seemed to merge perfectly with the nonski life.
On Main Street, for instance, shoppers filed into shops and galleries while cradling cups of coffee. At the same time, people in ski gear headed to the free buses that would whisk them a short distance to the mountains. No matter what compelled people to go to Park City in the middle of winter, they had something to do.
The "one-size-fits-all" winter vacation has become increasingly popular, according to Dan Sherman of Ski.com, so both skiers and nonskiers have no shortage of options.
"Thirty or even 15 years ago, all you needed for a great ski vacation was a hotel, a chairlift and a bar," Sherman said. "Now there are all sorts of activities for a number of reasons and to appeal to a number of people."
The alternate activities can still be active (ice skating, zip lining, swimming) or high brow (art galleries, spas and world-class food). Here are three particularly ambitious spots picked by a panel of experts and an edited transcript of our conversations:
Dave Fonda, North American Snowsports Journalists Association: "Being married to an avid nonskier, my first recommendation would be historic old Quebec City. It's one of the oldest and most picturesque cities on the continent. Walking through the old or lower part is like walking back in time through the narrow, twisty, cobblestone streets of old Europe circa 1700. Le Relais is a small family hill about 20 minutes from downtown, and Stoneham is just another 10 minutes farther, where you can ski or ride day or night. Stoneham and Le Relais probably have produced more world-class "park-n-pipe" and free skiers and riders than any other two ski areas in the world. Mont-Sainte-Anne is about 40 minutes from downtown Quebec City, and it has some of the best alpine and cross-country skiing available anywhere."
Dan Sherman, Ski.com: "It goes back to the best ski towns, which are towns that were authentic before skiing ever happened there. Aspen and Snowmass come to mind. There are four mountains with terrain from expert to beginner but all sort of activities off the mountain: great food, there's a recreation center with a big swimming pool, no shortage of art galleries and plenty of culture. There are activities all the time, all season long, and it's probably the most accessible Western ski destination. I can't think of an airport closer to the mountains."
Eric Wagnon, freelance ski journalist: "Boyne Mountain in Michigan is one of the few true destination ski resorts in the Midwest. The big attraction for families with nonskiers is the indoor water park right at the base of the ski area. It's connected to the hotel, so you don't even have to go outside. For the more daring who don't necessarily want to ski or snowboard, Boyne also has zip-line tours on the hill."
Other destinations mentioned by the experts: Whistler, British Columbia; Lake Placid, N.Y.; and South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
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