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5 Top Winter Vacations That Don't Involve Skiing

Rethink a traditional ski getaway, and enjoy cold-weather activities away from the slopes.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Top Winter Vacations That Don't Involve Skiing

Couple with ice skates hugging below snowy mountain.

From wildlife spotting to sleigh riding to ice skating, these snowy retreats offer outdoor pursuits catering to avid powder hounds and ski-averse visitors, alike. (Getty Images)

Not everyone is meant to be a skier, though many of us do enjoy a cold-weather winter vacation. Fortunately, there are a lot of great options for winter-loving non-skiers, even at ski resorts, which are going all out these days to cater to ski-averse guests. Why not go dog sledding, seek out wildlife in national parks or try out snowshoeing this season? For those who really like cold-weather getaways, you can even book a stay in an ice hotel. Without further ado, take a look at five winter vacations that are ideal for a ski-averse crew.

Stay in an Ice Hotel

Head north to Quebec City for a stay at the Hotel de Glace, a 44-room hotel made of ice and snow. Even the beds and furniture are made of ice. The hotel is rebuilt each winter and is open from January to March, enabling the curious to snuggle up in a Nordic sleeping bag when it's time for bed. By day, you can go snow tubing, splash at the indoor water park or indulge at one of five on-site restaurants. You may also want to sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour to learn how the hotel was built and how it's maintained throughout the season. The tour caps off with a cocktail in – you guessed it – a glass made of ice.

Explore a National Park

There's nothing like an adventure in one of our national parks, and there are some parks, such as Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon National Park, that may be even better in the cooler months. Outfitter Austin Adventures offers several itineraries, including the Yellowstone Winter Adventure, which allows you to see the park by snow coach, snowshoe or even on cross-country skis in search of wildlife sightings in the snowy months. Meanwhile, at Grand Teton National Park, you can go snow tubing or ride in a sleigh while watching thousands of elk graze across the snow-covered countryside. As part of Austin's Yellowstone-Tetons Winter Vacation package, guests can go on a showshoe trek out to a private teepee camp for lunch.

Go on a Dog Sledding Trip

Mush a team of dogs or ride in a sled at Nature's Kennel, a dog sledding destination in McMillan, Michigan. Kids as young as 10 and up can drive a team of sled dogs as part of a 10-mile sledding trip into the forest. Book an overnight adventure and kids can help feed and care for the sled dogs. If you can, pair dog sledding with witnessing a sled dog race like the UP200, a 250-mile sled dog race from Marquette to Grand Marais, Michigan, from Feb. 17-19. Or, try Arctic Paws Dog Sled Tours, which runs sled dogs in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Ride or mush a group of huskies along the dog sled trails out to the Indian Ladder Waterfall.

Head to the Hills

Just because you don't ski (or don't want to ski) doesn't mean you should avoid the ski resorts in the mountains. Today's ski resorts, such as Keystone in Colorado and Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands, will keep you busy even if you never strap on a set of skis. Look for snowcat rides, snowmobiling trails, nature walks and sleigh rides. Keystone even has an ice rink and a snow fort with slides and mazes. Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont is another fantastic destination for non-skiers. Smugglers' extensive list of activities is practically endless, with cold-weather pursuits such as tubing and ice fishing, along with snowman-painting classes, a daily bonfire and a weekly winter carnival.

Go on an Adventure by Snowshoe

It can be a lot of fun (and a very good workout) to trek through knee-deep snow in snowshoes. Go with a guide who can point out various animal tracks and different types of trees, and maybe even a frozen waterfall. In Vermont, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory offers a guided 45-minute snowshoe tour through the flavor graveyard behind their factory to help you work up an appetite before settling in for a cone at the Scoop Shop. In Steamboat, Colorado, you can partake in a wide variety of snowshoeing tours, including a guided moonlit tour with a dinner and a gourmet snowshoe expedition with lunch. If you're traveling with powder hounds, look for free daily guided snowshoe tours (just show your lift ticket) for pristine views of the Yampa Valley.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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