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While some people prefer to avoid the cold at all costs, others revel in winter’s delights. Destinations that get lots of snow can be a wonderland for outdoor adventures, going well beyond the typical skiing and boarding. While many of these destinations are home to epic slopes, you’ll find plenty of other ways to immerse yourself in a fantasy of white, from unique activities like skijoring to snowshoeing, sledding, and much more.
If you’re looking for a unique activity in the snow, the town of Sundance near Devil’s Tower Monument hosts the Sundance Winter Festival, where visitors can watch competitive skijoring and even try it themselves. The sport involves a person on skis who is pulled by a horse, dog, or motor vehicle. In this case, horses are used. The events take place right on Main Street so you can watch while enjoying a stroll downtown. There are plenty of other winter sports to take part in too, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Downhill skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed at the Terry Peak Ski Area, less than an hour away in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Breckenridge is ideal for a family ski getaway as one of the most picturesque mountain towns in the state. It offers a ski school for those who want to learn along with world-class slopes for the experienced. But there’s a whole lot more here, including free sledding at Carter Park, miles and miles of trails for snowshoeing, and even winter biking. Snowmobiling and ice skating at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena are possible too, and wandering along Historic Main Street is enjoyable anytime with galleries, eclectic boutiques and plenty of après-ski cheer.
Jackson Hole offers extreme slopes for the expert skier, but no matter what snow sport you’re into or would like to try, you’ll probably find it here. Snowshoeing is a great way to get some exercise while exploring the breathtaking scenery in Grand Teton National Park, perhaps watching bison or moose roam through the snow-blanketed landscape. Or head out on a horse-drawn sleigh. Skijoring is possible here too, available with one of the many sled dog guides, while the Jackson Hole Shrine Club hosts an authentic skijoring experience annually in the winter, with the exact period and location depending on the elements.
Stowe is often ranked among the country’s best ski towns, with epic slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort which includes two mountains, Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. The extensive trail system in the area means that Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, and fat biking can all be enjoyed too. There are few things better than a ride driven by Percheron and Belgian draft horses among the breathtaking snowy scenery. Plus, ice climbing and ice skating can be enjoyed too. When hunger pangs hit, the eateries here are renowned for their farm-to-table fare, and you’ll find outstanding craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cider houses too.
A winter wonderland in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics twice and today you can even experience some of what the athletes once did. At Lake Placid Ski Jumps, watch ski jumpers fly the length of a football field and then embark on a heart-pounding thrill on the ziplines located next to the 100-meter ski jump, emulating the rush of ski jumping at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Scenic gondola rides can take you up to the top of Little Whiteface, while the Olympic Speed Skating Oval is a must for ice skaters. Or, how about bobsledding down a chute at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour? You can do that too, and if you’re especially daring, try the skeleton or luge. Of course, you can also ski Whiteface Mountain, with over 288 skiable acres. Afterward, stay in one of the area’s cozy cabin rentals.
Lake Tahoe was the host of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games and it’s long been known as one of the world’s top destinations for winter adventures with just about every snow sport imaginable, from skiing and boarding to ice skating, tubing, and snowmobiling. Heavenly Mountain and Sierra-at-Tahoe resorts offer some of the best sledding and tubing slides, and you can try tobogganing at Hansen’s Mountain too. Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy majestic views in the forest, making it one of the most popular activities here, and after a day of any sport, enjoy a wide range of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, including opportunities for live music, casino gambling, and more.
A world-famous winter playground that attracts all sorts of Hollywood stars, models, and international jet-setters, Aspen has four mountains to choose from, which means you’ll have plenty of room if you want to glide down the legendary slopes. Other activities like snow biking, snowshoeing, and even skate skiing, a form of cross-country skiing, can be enjoyed along with snowmobile tours in the White River National Forest. Afterward, the apres ski scene will be buzzing, and there are countless luxury resorts and vacation rentals to base yourself too.
Park City is renowned for its skiing and boarding, in fact, visitors can even ski with an Olympic snowsport athlete via a program at Deer Valley Resort. There’s a wealth of other things to do as well, including hopping in a bobsled and tubing down a Nordic jump at Utah Olympic Park, where events were hosted during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games. Park City Mountain Resort’s Flying Eagle zipline will bring you soaring above the trees while propelled 110 feet above ski runs at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Or, for a more gentle pursuit, enjoy a ride on an old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh. Rest up for another day of adventure in a hotel near the slopes.
Wisconsin Dells is best known for its water parks, but it offers plenty of activities in the snow during the winter as well. Tubing, sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and skiing are all options here. Cascade Mountain is just 20 minutes away and the place to go for downhill skiing, while Poppy Waterman Ice Arena offers skating and hockey. The Bigfoot Zipline is open year-round, and Vertical Illusions brings guests to ice climb a frozen waterfall. Of course, you can always warm up afterward in one of the many indoor water parks too.
Winter is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone as you’ll avoid the big crowds. Instead, immerse yourself in a tranquil snowy wonderland while enjoying a better chance of spotting bison, elk, and wolves. Explore it on cross-country skis or snowshoes while marveling at sights like brilliantly colored mineral pools, erupting geysers, and frozen falls. Snowmobile tours, ice fishing, and sledding are all possible too. If you’re looking for a relaxed way to experience the park, take the Snowcoach Tour led by professional guides. You’ll stay nice and warm while enjoying the scenery and wildlife from inside through the oversized windows.
While Denali Park Road, the main artery through the park, typically closes at Mile 3 for several months, there is plenty to do in Denali during the winter for those who are prepared for the cold. The days will be short and snow will blanket the ground while temperatures can reach 40 below, but cross-country skiing, winter biking, and snowshoeing, with snowshoes available to borrow from the Winter Visitor Center, are just a few of the ways to enjoy it. This is the “real” Denali few visitors get to experience, ideal for photography thanks to the soft light, and with the lack of light pollution, stargazing is incredible. Orion, the Big Dipper and other constellations are easily spotted now and you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis too.
As the name belies, Sun Valley enjoys frequent sunny skies along with plenty of soft white powder. It’s renowned for a winter escape with activities for everyone. Skiing Mount Baldy is what draws many, but extreme skiers can test their skills by heli-skiing with pick-ups available from the top of Baldy. Backcountry skiing tours are possible from Galena Pass and fat biking is yet another option. One of the more unique activities is will have you soaring like a bird by flying off Mount Baldy with a paragliding guide, the closest thing you’ll probably get to experiencing the exhilarating sensation of free flight. There are year-round ice shows too, and visitors can even skate on the same ice that’s hosted countless Olympians.
Big Sky offers all sorts of winter activities without the big crowds. It gets an average of 40 inches of snowfall annually and it’s home to Big Sky Resort, one of the best in Montana and the largest of its kind in the country. While lots of it is intermediate terrain, there’s plenty for beginners and experts who can ride the Lone Peak Tram all the way to the top to enjoy monster cliff and chute action. Or, hire a guide to help you explore the backcountry on skis or snowshoes.
Crystal Mountain offers jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range along with fantastic skiing, but visitors can also enjoy an unforgettable ride on the Mt. Rainier Gondola while surrounded by the snow-covered peaks. You’ll be whisked nearly 2,500 vertical feet to the summit, where you’ll find the Summit House, the highest-elevation restaurant in Washington State. Snowshoeing is available on a myriad of trails that vary in difficulty, ideal for the whole family. The Paradise Snowplay Area in Mount Rainier National Park offers tubing and sledding, and there are countless places to enjoy old-fashioned fun like building a snowman.