Who Needs Skis?
Obviously, the skiing is the star here.
But many Colorado’s 26 incredible ski resorts are worth a visit, even if you don’t want to strap into some skis. In fact, most of the state’s ski towns go out of their way to cater to visitors on and off the slopes.
Ski Magazine readers ranked the top ski resorts for non-skiers and a good number of Colorado destinations made the cut: Beaver Creek, Steamboat, Vail, Telluride, Aspen, Snowmass and Buttermilk.
We agree; those ski resorts are all worth a nod. But we also have a few to add, and we have some Colorado-native, insider tips on how non-skiers can get the most out of these destinations. Here are our favorite ski resorts for non-skiers.
Steamboat Ski Resort is our favorite ski resort getaway that you can completely enjoy without touching a ski pole. Year-round, highlights here are the outdoor Strawberry Park Hot Springs and the nearby Old Town Hot Springs.
While the skiers get frosty toes from the snow, you can bask in the naturally warm, bubbling, mineral-loaded hot springs and melt away your sore muscles and stress under the open sky. Go kayaking down the river, grab dinner on the banks at our favorite restaurant, Aurum, take a gondola to the summit for great views, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride under starlight and dine at Ragnar’s, a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant on the peak of the mountain.
Steamboat has been revamping its downtown area, which is great news for non-skiers. Yampa Street, which runs along the river, has been completely redone; the power lines have been replaced by white party lights, and increasingly more restaurants, shops and breweries are popping up here.
For the best inside info on what to do in Steamboat, reach out to the locally-run luxury vacation operator, Moving Mountains. This reputable company can help you set up your itinerary, connect you with some of the city's best (otherwise inaccessible) vacation property rentals and make recommendations on where to eat, bike, hike, play and shop.
Beaver Creek is so picturesque that it feels like a fairytale town. Stroll through the charming streets and enjoy excellent shopping, or dine at a high-end restaurant, like the Osprey Lounge. Seafood at Hooked is among the best in the state. Catch a show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, mysteriously located beneath the ice-skating rink that marks the heart of downtown.
You can spend a whole weekend exploring the village’s businesses, but Beaver Creek Village is also often the home for family-friendly festivals and even fun events, including free cookies every afternoon. If you want to get your heart rate up, just hop on a snow tube or sign up for a twilight snowshoe tour. Stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, home of the area's only cigar lounge and one of the best spas in Colorado. No ski pass necessary.
If Beaver Creek has good shopping, Vail has even more and even better shopping. Vail has two distinct regions, Vail Village and Lionshead, the latter that feels like you’re walking through a Switzerland Disney World.
Restaurants here are hard to beat (try lunch at Sweet Basil overlooking the river and dinner at La Tour, a French restaurant with a wine cellar to impress). In warmer months, see colorful flowers at the alpine garden and head to the top of the mountain for an amusement park (zip lines, roller coasters, summer tubing) and guided hikes.
Grab a hot chocolate or cocktail at the Remedy Bar at the Four Seasons; snag a seat by the bonfire with a view of the mountain. You can watch the skiers go down the hill while you warm your toes by the fire. The swimming pool and hot tubs below will get your heart pumping without requiring hand-warmers and wool socks.
Wrap up your ski-free vacation with a treatment at the Rock Resort Spa at the luxurious Arrabelle.
It’s a bit of a drive (or better, flight) from Denver, but that means the crowds can be thinner. It’s definitely worth the trek, though. Catch a show at the Sheridan Opera House, browse the shops in downtown and then take the free gondola to Mountain Village for even more shopping.
Foodies especially love Telluride. Whether you love farm-to-table or gourmet, you’ll leave Telluride with your belly full and your taste buds happy. Another must-do in town is the famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
Hike near Aspen if you don’t want to ski it. Or grab a picnic and go for a lovely stroll through stunning the John Denver Sanctuary and memorial gardens, where you will find plenty of hidden nooks for a romantic lunch. Bring a book and read it by the bubbling water, or ice in wintertime. These trails aren't steep so they're appropriate for a stroll all year long.
Downtown Aspen provides heavenly shopping and great art galleries. Art lovers: Don’t miss the Aspen Art Museum. For a day trip, take a short shuttle to Snowmass, a smaller, nearby ski area with some great restaurants.
For a luxurious getaway, stay at the St. Regis in the fall and watch the snow fall from the pool. Stay in bed and enjoy the Bloody Mary cart delivered right to your room. Who needs uncomfortable ski boots?
Breckenridge always seems to have some kind of festival going on. Take a guided tour of the local breweries and award-winning Breckenridge Distillery. The gondola views rival any in the state. Downtown is lined with excellent shops and cute restaurants, too.
In warmer weather, the summer adventure park offers zip lines, roller coasters and mountain slides, a different way to enjoy the mountain.
Best of all, Breck is easy to get around without a car. Take the free bus all over Summit County, including nearby Frisco and Dillon, smaller towns with plenty of hidden gem shops and quieter (and cheaper) restaurants.
Another favorite ski town for non-skiers is Keystone. One of our favorite ways to spend a day off the slopes in Keystone starts with a spa day at the Serenity Spa. Then take the gondola to the top of the mountain for a meal at Alpenglow Stube, one of the best dining experiences you’ll have in Colorado. You’ll need to make reservations. It can be hard to get in.
Even if you can't get into the Stube, make sure you take the gondola to the top of the mountain at sunset for breathtaking views. Bring a camera or a journal and let nature inspire you.
Keystone is also home to some exciting festivals, including the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, where the whole downtown smells like heavenly bacon. Sample different bacon types at booths and wash them down with beer, while you listen to live music. This event is always popular and a fun way to fill up, as long as you aren't a vegetarian.