With unpredictable snowfall totals and dwindling visitor numbers amongst skiers and snowboarders, ski resorts across the country are recognizing that they need to do more than just offer wintertime activities to stay afloat. Many resorts were limited in what they could do by a 1980s law prohibiting ski areas on Forest Service land from offering any recreation besides skiing.
But in 2011, President Obama signed a bill that amended that law, called the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which enabled resorts to expand summer features like mountain bike parks, zip lines, and ropes courses, as long as they didn’t disturb the natural environment. Plus, resorts are beefing up summer events with concert series, food and wine festivals, and more. So when the snow melts this spring, don’t forget about ski resorts. Here are five spots worth checking out when winter ends.
Vermont in the spring and summer is a magical place—lakes, trails, sugaring maple trees. Head to Killington for ample on-mountain activities. The resort has been investing millions of dollars into its summer offerings, including additional mountain bike trails, an alpine coaster, a 5,000-square-foot maze, a four-story ropes course, a summer concert series, and more. Alternatively, head out for a hike on Vermont’s Long Trail, a paddleboard on various lakes and ponds, or sign up for a running race to the top of Vermont’s second-highest peak, Equinox.
Vail is debuting a new program this summer called Epic Discovery that will include heaps of additional on-mountain summer activities, like more biking and hiking trails and interpretative centers with information on forest ecology and local wildlife. In the very spots where skiers hunt for powder stashes in the winter, you can now zipline through pine forests, climb rope ladders and aerial bridges in a treetop ropes course, zoom down a mountain coaster, and ride a scenic gondola to a mountaintop lunch. Elsewhere in Vail, you’ll find river rafting, fishing, hiking, outdoor concerts, and much more.
STEVENS PASS, WASHINGTON
If you’re a downhill mountain biker—or you’re looking to break into the full-throttle sport—Stevens Pass should be on your list. You can rent a DH bike (plus a full-face helmet and elbow and knee pads), sign up for a gravity clinic with pros like National Champion Jill Kintner, then head out on dozens of purpose-built mountain bike trails designed for all abilities. Not up for plunging down a mountainside in body armor? At Stevens Pass, you can also take a scenic lift ride, a mountaintop outdoor yoga class, play a round of disc golf, or hike along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.
At Snowbird, you can spend $48—considerably less than a lift ticket mid-winter—and get access to all of the mountain’s summer activities, including an alpine slide, ropes course, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, and picturesque tram rides. You can go gemstone mining, soak up views of the Wasatch on endless mountain biking and hiking trails, or climb the new Vertical Drop tower to experience nine feet of gut-wrenching freefall. Don’t miss Snowbird’s annual Brewfest each June, with tastings from over a dozen local breweries, plus live music and food and craft booths.
For starters, there’s Lake Tahoe, the jewel of the Sierra Nevada, with its endless array of summertime activities, from stand-up paddleboarding to wakesurfing to parasailing. But at Heavenly, on the southern end of Lake Tahoe and straddling the California and Nevada border, the entertainment hardly ends there. You can ride Heavenly’s gondola 2.4 miles up the mountain for stunning vistas of the lake’s turquoise waters, soar 50 mph on a 3,300-foot-long zip line, tube down a snow-less hill, or scale a vertical face on the outdoor climbing wall. At night, catch live shows, play roulette, or dine at a 24-hour oyster bar at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.