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How to do a ski trip if you don’t ski: Hot tubs, spas and sleigh rides

The slopes aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to be bored inside

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)

Some people thrive on hurtling down a snowy mountain with a couple of long blades strapped to their feet.

Others prefer a less gravity-fueled winter vacation experience — or one that involves proximity to a fireplace. At Ski Trip Advisors, a ski vacation concierge service, clients ask about non-ski activities about 30 percent of the time, said managing partner John Steed.

“We work with a lot of families, and typically there will be some folks who are very enthusiastic and want to ski every single day,” he said. “Oftentimes, there’s a mix where certain people in the party want to ski one or two days but also want to experience additional activities.”

For groups with a mixed interest in skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to be strategic about picking a spot, said Rick Reichsfeld, president of the mountain vacation specialist Alpine Adventures.

“There are certain destinations that are better for that,” he said, highlighting Innsbruck, Austria; Whistler, British Columbia; Aspen, Colo.; Park City, Utah; and Lake Tahoe, which straddles California and Nevada, as good choices. Higher mountain destinations that are more isolated might not be the best choice if someone in the group doesn’t want to ski, he said.

For the ski wallflowers out there, don’t worry the next time you get talked into a vacation on the slopes. We promise there’s no need to be bored.

8 ski vacations that check every travel style

Chase other snowy thrills

Still feel the need for speed? You don’t have to pursue an adrenaline rush on skis or a board.

Some resorts offer a zip line or alpine coaster, giving a real wind-in-your-face feeling without the need to concentrate on staying upright. Snow tubing and dog sledding can also be exhilarating. Steed says snowmobiling is one of the most popular requests from his clients.

“Most resorts and resort towns have learned to really embrace the non-skiers over the years,” he said, “so they’ve learned to offer on-mountain activities for those folks.”

Enjoy the outdoors at your own pace

Slow(ish) and steady more your style? Consider cross-country skiing, which, okay, technically is still skiing, but without the risks of speeding downhill. Cross-country skiers propel themselves across flat or somewhat hilly terrain instead of taking a lift to the top of a slope, then heading down. If skis are absolutely out of the question, snowshoeing might be a more comfortable option.

Sarah Plaskitt, founding director of the specialist ski travel agency Scout, said winter walking in regular snow boots on trails is another good option.

“In some resorts in Europe, you can actually go up walking trails to a mountain restaurant where the skiers can meet them for lunch,” she said. “That’s a really great way for the group to get together in the middle of the day.”

If snow strolling is too slow, ice skating or snow biking might be the right blend of action and control.

Which multi-resort ski pass is best? We compared 4.

Live that spa life

You’ve strapped on the snowshoes, screamed down a coaster and now you need some pampering. This is where the spa day comes in. After a massage, a body wrap and a dip in the hot tub, you might be ready for your next outdoor adventure.

Plaskitt said higher-end resorts, especially in Europe, have leading wellness facilities with swimming pools, hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas, “you name it.” In the United States, Forbes raves about the “fantastic” spa at St. Regis Deer Valley in Utah; the new 20,000-square-foot spa at the Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho; and the “exceptional” spa at the Little Nell in Aspen.

Staying indoors? Reichsfeld said some resorts will offer golf or fly-fishing simulators to hone skills for summertime.

Seek out local sites and culture

Steed recommends that travelers check with the local chamber of commerce for historic and cultural attractions. Destinations that were established before a ski resort opened are typically the best for those kinds of activities, he said.

“A lot of people are surprised: ‘Oh, I didn’t realize there’s an art museum. I didn’t realize there are walking tours, history tours,’” he said. Other tours might include stargazing and wildlife viewing, he said.

Explore the food and drink scenes

Travelers constantly ask about restaurants to check out, and Steed said resort towns cater to foodies. But he cautioned that it’s important to make reservations “well in advance,” because some restaurants can book up months ahead. For a winter spin on the meal, he said, some destinations also offer dinner-and-sleigh-ride combos.

Plaskitt said some mountain restaurants are accessible via gondolas or pedestrian lifts, giving non-skiers a great view on the way to a meal.

Telluride, Colo., and Bend, Ore., are both great ski destinations for beer lovers, Reichsfeld said, while Plaskitt recommended the food scenes in Crested Butte, Colo., and Sun Valley, Idaho.

And Plaskitt said many ski resorts in France have village markets a couple of times a week where a non-skier can while away the hours sampling cheeses, sausages and cakes.

How to ski like a local in a mountain town

Cuddle up by the fire

When all else fails — or, for bookworms, when your dream comes true — prepare to get cozy by a fire and settle in with a good book (or three).

Plaskitt said sometimes a client is set on a particular resort without much to do beyond skiing.

“We’ll say, ‘Make sure your non-skier brings a really good book, and a couple of them,’” she said. “By the time they’ve exhausted the two shops in the village and the ice rink, there’s not a lot of other things to do.”