By now, you've probably tucked your skis or snowboard away safely after yet another successful season on the slopes. But before you put skiing completely out of your mind until December, consider this: The same resorts you shred at each winter transform into delightful playgrounds every summer.
Wildflowers flourish. Aspen trees leaf out. Flowy mountain bike lanes emerge where ski runs melt away. Instructors lead zen-like mountaintop yoga sessions, and kids squeal gleefully on ropes courses and climbing walls. Hikers trek their way up the mountain to reach scenic restaurant patios for al fresco dining. Après-ski (after-ski) becomes après ... well, mountain biking, river rafting, swimming, fly fishing, and everything in between.
So don't reinvent the wheel: Plan a trip to these popular ski towns that are just as good, if not better, as summer vacation spots.
When snow is on the ground, skiers and riders love to glide through the perfectly spaced trees at Schweitzer, the largest ski resort in Idaho. In the summer, Schweitzer -- and the entire town of Sandpoint -- comes alive with huckleberries, wildflowers, and picture-perfect sunny weather.
In the summer, Schweitzer offers plenty of activities. The resort's chairlifts offer scenic rides over the mountain. On the ground, Schweitzer patrons can take horseback rides, ride a zip line, enjoy a climbing wall, and many other family-friendly activities. We highly recommend the free huckleberry picking, which lasts from July to late August. You can hike just about anywhere in the summer, but picking and eating the official state fruit at a ski resort? That's a unique hike, friends.
Schweitzer also offers the usual resort fare: giant lawn games, a pump track skills course, photo scavenger hunts, and sports courts. But because it can be difficult to book a room during weekends and holidays, you can also stay at Humbird, Schweitzer's brand new boutique hotel that's right on the mountain.
Sandpoint itself offers plenty to do. Lake Pend Oreille is a 43-mile-long body of water that's supposedly home to a Loch Ness-style monster known as the "Paddler." It's Idaho's largest lake, so you know there's plenty to do- visitors to this summer ski resort area can swim, boat, fish, and more on the lake. The Kootenai River is also another option for water-based activities. Abundant mountain biking and hiking trails traverse the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains, and campgrounds like Blue Lake RV Resort make it easy to spend the night under the stars.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Known for its trademarked light and fluffy "champagne powder" snow, Steamboat Springs is also an idyllic summer destination in the Rocky Mountains river valley. Running right through downtown, the Yampa River is popular for all sorts of activities. On any given day, you'll find people paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing down the Yampa. And if you look closely as you hike the paved path along the water, you'll spot nests of sandhill cranes and blue herons or some of the native big game species, like elk or deer.
After a day of hiking or mountain biking Strawberry Park Hot Springs Trail, head to Strawberry Park Hot Springs for an off-the-grid, relaxing soak. Strawberry Park is a truly special getaway experience for any season, and the spring pools and whole facility are built out of the natural valley. Afterwards, cool off in the mists of Fish Creek Falls, a majestic 280-foot Steamboat waterfall just a quick hike from your parking spot. (You can't actually go into the falls to cool off, but when it's roaring, it's pretty cool to look at!)
Then wander among the serene ponds, sculptures, and mountain flowers at the Yampa River Botanic Park. And no visit to Steamboat is complete without a nod to its Wild West roots, so be sure to spend an evening at the Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series while you're at it.
In the winter, Stowe Resort is home to 116 glittering ski and snowboarding trails and 12 lifts serving more than 485 acres of snow (not to mention an impressive snowmaking setup). But in the summer, Vermont's lush, old-growth forests and meandering creeks are ideal for exploring, whether on foot, by bike, boat, or car. And Stowe, in particular, caters to every kind of adventurer.
The area features more than 50 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails that range in difficulty. You can find easier trails to hike in the Kirchner or Wiessner Woods, but if you want a challenge, take on the steep mountain climb up the highest peak in Vermont known as Mount Mansfield. Mountain biking is extremely popular in the state, and you can find well-maintained singletrack trails in Cady Hill Forest, Adams Camp, Sterling Forest, and Trapp Family Lodge. But if you want to take a scenic, leisurely ride with your family, check out the Stowe Recreation Path.
Hitting the water is a must when visiting Stowe in the summer. Go swimming, canoeing, kayaking, or paddle boarding at the Waterbury reservoir or the Lamoille or Winooski Rivers. Fishing is popular in Stowe all year-round and for everyone ranging from seasoned anglers to beginners. Free casting clinics are offered at the Fly Rod Shop where you can learn how to cast, and fly fishing lessons are also available for the whole family. If you need to rent any equipment and/or a guide to help you navigate, book online here.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Home to California's tallest lift-served peak, Mammoth embodies summer mountain vibes. Once the snow melts off the slopes, the ski resort area becomes a summer hotbed for activities on and above the mountain, like biking, hiking, gondola rides, and tackling a Via Ferrata (a challenging protected climbing route). The downhill mountain biking is especially good at the resort, having more than 80 miles of lift-served singletrack trails to explore. While less-rugged cyclists can pedal along the paved Lakes Basin Path, more experienced riders can take on the famous Off the Top Trail, a fun biking path that quickly descends down Mammoth Mountain.
Via Ferrata means "iron path" and refers to the guided climbing routes that take you across suspended bridges and up iron rungs up the mountain. There are several routes on Mammoth Mountain that range in difficulty, and a guide will help you figure out which route is the best for you and your group to tackle. Opening up on June 24th, this alpine activity is great to reserve in the summer for the whole family.
Beyond the slopes, explore the Eastern Sierra while kayaking at salty Mono Lake or golfing at Sierra Star Golf Course, just to name a few. We recommend making the Westin Monache Resort your home base so you can easily stroll over to the firepits and diverse al fresco dining options at the Village at Mammoth. The resort lies minutes from most of the hiking trails and outdoor activities at Mammoth Lakes.
Sun Valley & Ketchum, Idaho
Sun Valley invented the world's first chairlift, so it's no surprise that it's a serious skiing powerhouse. Situated in central Idaho, the resorts--and nearby town of Ketchum--also has a thriving, warm-weather scene. When you're not attending a concert or local festival, you can trek into the mountains for biking, hiking, outdoor yoga, or gondola rides. Come back into town for sumptuous summer dining.
Fun fact: Sun Valley is home to the longest purpose-built downhill mountain biking trail in the United States. The Osberg Ridgeline Trail drops more than 3,300 feet, leading some to call it a "never-ending descent back into Ketchum." Riders have called its views "show-stopping", and the trail doesn't seem as torturous as its elevation drop might imply!
The warmer months also make for an ideal time to go stargazing in the Wood River Valley: Ketchum is located within the nation's first "Gold Tier" Dark Sky Reserve, the 1,416-square-mile Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. Colorful flowers are also popping at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, and there are plenty of big, beautiful trout to hook in Silver Creek, the Big Wood River, the Salmon River, and other flows.
Also add to your calendar: the Sun Valley Music Festival, one of the best classical music festivals in the country, and the Sun Valley Tour de Force, where car lovers can watch drivers take advantage of the "no speed limit" high-speed runs on the highway.
Vail attracts skiers and snowboards from all over the world, thanks to its legendary back-bowls and sprawling acreage. But a summer in Vail provides a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sip margaritas and people-watch on the patio of El Segundo or pedal along the paved path running next to Gore Creek. Unwind with outdoor concerts at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (known locally as "The Amp") or indulge in a spa day at the Sonnenalp, the charming Bavarian-inspired hotel that's been a Vail staple for more than 40 years.
Vail Ski Resort offers a slew of activities and events, ranging from doing mountain top yoga to riding an alpine coaster called the Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster. Hiking and mountain biking trails start with gondola rides up the mountain in Gondola One or Eagle Bahn (#19), which are open daily from June to September. Mountain bikes are also loaded onto the gondolas, and if you need to rent one, you can add a four-hour or eight-hour rental to your gondola ticket.
If riding the Forest Flying Mountain Coaster 3,400 feet around the mountain is too thrilling, you can still get your adrenaline going by grabbing a tube and sliding down the 550-foot long tubing hill. There's even a smaller tubing hill made for the kids so they can participate too.
Park City, Utah
Home to both Park City Mountain Resort and nearby Deer Valley Resort, Park City offers a lot of bang for your buck if you love traveling somewhere with tons of diverse terrain to ski. Summers here are no different, thanks to abundant trails, lakes, rivers, and golf courses to explore. You can hike and mountain bike at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley, or go "off-piste" and check out the more than 400 miles of public trails.
Take in views of the city by going on a hot air balloon ride over Kamas Valley and the Wasatch Mountains. When the weather gets warmer, the snow melts into the rivers of the Wasatch Range, where blue ribbon and still water fly fishing are popular. Destination Sports and Adventure is known for their summer fly fishing tours and also horseback riding adventures. Go horseback riding anywhere from an hour and a half to four hours, enjoying the views of aspen leaves, wildflowers, and mountain peaks.
And if you're an adrenaline junkie, check out the Comet Bobsled at the Utah Olympic Park where you can feel like an Olympian. The ride takes your down the same track that the bobsled, luge, and skeleton events of the 2002 Winter Olympics were held.
Sarah Kuta is a writer and editor based in Longmont, Colorado. When she's not writing about travel, food and drink, history, and other topics, you'll find her road-tripping in her converted camper van, hiking with her Rhodesian ridgeback Daisy, sipping whiskey, and making sourdough bread. She's also a big fan of downhill and cross-country skiing, museums, mountain biking, shopping at thrift stores, and playing board games. Instagram: @kutasarah
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