Ski resorts such as Vail and Park City might be best known for their winter attractions—namely, skiing down powdery slopes. But these and many other ski areas are just as much fun to visit in the summer, when warm-weather activities abound. In many cases, hotel rates and airfares are lower too. Here are a few of our favorite ski areas that make for fun, and family-friendly, summer vacations:
Vail Valley, Colorado
The Area: With nearly 200 runs on Vail Mountain itself and numerous ski areas nearby, the Vail Valley is a Rocky Mountain paradise sitting two hours west of Denver.
Summer Fun: There is a huge array of outdoor activities here during the summer—hiking and biking, plus stand-up paddleboarding at Piney River Ranch, zip-lining, an adventure ropes course, and much more. But you should also take advantage of the cultural offerings, such as free Tuesday-night concerts, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, and the Farmers’ Market & Art Festival on Sundays. In Beaver Creek, the Vilar Performing Arts Center has a fabulous summer lineup and an intimate setting. If you arrive early enough, you can even ski Arapahoe Basin.
Where to Stay: The Manor Vail Lodge is an easy walk from Vail Village. The majority of their accommodations have kitchens and fireplaces (which do come in handy on chilly summer evenings), but since each unit is different, it’s key to book through someone who can explain the pros and cons of each. At the Four Seasons, rates are 40 percent off from mid-April through mid-December; opt for the mountain-view rooms. The hotel’s Remedy Bar is a local hotspot for post-adrenaline cocktails. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is nestled in an ideal spot, seemingly remote but a short shuttle ride from Beaver Creek, with great hiking right out the front door.
Insider Intel: The Epic Pass offers unlimited skiing at a number of resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Australia—plus a warm-weather bonus. If you plan to ski at any of these locations even once next winter, buy a pass and use it for unlimited free rides up the gondola during the summer as well. You can also save a few bucks by perusing the Vail Daily for two-for-one dinner coupons, which are common in summertime.
Park City, Utah
The Area: Thirty miles from Salt Lake City, Park City is home to the Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, as well as the Sundance Film Festival.
Summer Fun: The biking here is very family-friendly: There are flat, paved paths for babies in trailers and toddlers on balance bikes, and a variety of mountain-biking trails accessible from the ski lifts. There’s also the Alpine Slide, the bobsled track, whitewater rafting, and hiking—not to mention great dining and shopping.
Where to Stay: In Deer Valley, the Montage and the St. Regis have rooms in summertime for a fraction of what you’d pay in winter. The Montage is ideal for families (there’s even a bowling alley in the kids’ club), while the St. Regis has a more adult feel.
Insider Intel: Even in summer, you should make restaurant reservations before you arrive; tables fill up quickly in Park City.
The Area: Whistler Resort, which is 75 miles north of Vancouver on a scenic highway, joined the world stage when it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010—but there’s actually more to do here during the summer than the winter.
Summer Fun: Whistler has endless options for the adventurer: among them are zip-lining, kayaking, canoeing (on both lakes and rivers), tubing, whitewater rafting, fishing, ATV tours, hiking, bear viewing, mountain biking, and golfing.
Where to Stay: With an indoor/outdoor pool and lots of dining options, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is great for families. Rates are always lower during the summer, and the weaker Canadian dollar often means an even better value for American visitors.
Insider Intel: If your budget allows, charter a helicopter or small seaplane to access high alpine lakes, glaciers, and hiking trails that you’d never get to on foot.