Dreaming of a bright, white winter wonderland surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks, fresh air and nature everywhere you turn? Not a fan of strapping on a pair of skis? We have good news. Snow holidays don’t have to be exclusive to those who ski or snowboard. There is just as much to do off the slopes as there is on them at these top winter destinations around the globe.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This world-famous ski resort town in the American Midwest is known for its spectacular setting and incredible ski conditions. But it also has plenty to offer those who don’t have a penchant for the piste, making this destination perfect for families who are split on this topic. With more mellow outdoor activities for all ages, it’s easy to fall in love with the winter season here. And the bonus? Because skiing and snowboarding are so popular in the winter, the other activities are not overly crowded. Take for example going to see Old Faithful (a cone geyser in Yellowstone National Park): In the summer, it’s packed but in the winter going via snowmobile or snowcoach is peaceful, breathtaking and perfect. The same goes for the National Elk Refuge sleigh ride. Wrapped under warm blankets and being pulled by horses, you’ll not only come face to face with these majestic animals, you might even see foxes, wolves, eagles, and bison, all the more visible against a clean white backdrop. Or take a dog sled ride up to the Granite Hot Springs, a Depression-era pool, perched above Granite Creek Falls and beneath 11,000-foot mountains that collects hot water flowing out of the surrounding rocks. The 10-mile road to the springs can only be accessed by sled, fat bikes, skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles and is definitely worth the trip!
Where to stay in Jackson Hole
There are some ski resorts that are centered around the sport, and if you’re not planning on partaking, you might as well stay home. Fortunately, Whistler, B.C., Canada’s West Coast winter resort, is definitely not a place that gives non-skiers the cold shoulder. So what makes this resort so inviting? You can easily walk all around Whistler Village on foot, with walkways and sections of The Valley Trail (a scenic footpath that meanders through woods, by lakes, and along the mountainside) connecting everything, making wandering from café to gallery to boutique to restaurant (or bar) extremely accessible—and picturesque! Then there’s the view: not just reserved for those swishing their way down the slopes, Whistler’s PEAK 2 PEAK gondola lets you get to enjoy the full panoramic view. Simply grab a ticket for the Whistler Village gondola and head up to the Roundhouse Lodge on top of the mountain (and even grab a drink or bite to eat!) then jump on the PEAK 2 PEAK and head over to Blackcomb mountaintop and back. There are also plenty of other activities to discover in Whistler including bobsledding, ice fishing and for those thrill seekers, bungee jumping.
Where to stay in Whistler
Chamonix, The French Alps
The French Alps boast some of the highest peaks in Europe and some of the most beautiful natural scenery, but you definitely don’t have to know how to ski or snowboard to have a good time here. Offering plenty of hiking trails, wildlife reserves, and pristine forests, this famous area is a nature lover’s dream and is best celebrated outdoors. An unmistakable highlight of the Chamonix area has to be Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, and a wonder that draws visitors from all over the world. Whether it’s from the window of your bedroom or while shopping in the town center, this mountain peak sweeps the landscape in all its almost 16 000 feet (!) of rock, ice, and snowy glory. Take it all in while ice skating on the Les Houches outdoor rink in the village center, open day and night with ice skate rental included, or hit the slopes on a sled, no extra equipment required, at several locations including Prarion, Les Chavants, and Bois du Bouchet. And if you’re in the need for speed, take a ride on the outdoor roller coaster in the centre of Chamonix. For something a little slower paced, strap on some snowshoes, get in tune with nature and take in your spectacular surroundings. There are plenty of public paths to follow, but if you’re at all unsure, seek out the experienced guides who are always happy to show you their favourite spots.
Where to stay in Chamonix
Zermatt, The Swiss Alps
Think that just because you can’t ski you’re missing out on some magical, snowy secret? Think again! And to prove you wrong, take a winter trip to Zermatt, Switzerland, one of the best ski resorts for non skiers. With its fairytale setting and famous Matterhorn Mountain within view at every vantage point, this well-heeled destination is number one with non-skiers. What started as the base camp for early Matterhorn climbing expeditions (with several local museums dedicated to the sport) has grown into a car-free, idyllic village. And you don’t need special equipment to climb the mountain either—the highest cable car in Europe takes you up the Klein Matterhorn to a viewpoint where you can see for 100 miles (literally).
Views aside, it’s the food here that is a real draw; Zermatt is packed with topnotch restaurants (the highest concentration of gourmet restaurants in the Alps) and lots of contemporary dining options, like the Omnia hotel’s Michelin starred Omnia restaurant perched in the cliff side, or Chalet de la Guiseppe a low-key Italian restaurant with exceptional food. For the best landlocked, high-altitude seafood meal of your life, Michelin-starred Zum See is the place to go but is only open from noon to 5 pm. For something downhome and comforting, Du Pont is one of the town’s oldest restaurants and serves up a mean rosti, fondue, or raclette, or try Sonnmatten, a little, hidden gem (with a well-priced four-course menu and children’s menu to boot) that is so deliciously warm and cozy, it will be hard to leave.
Where to stay in Zermatt