Epic powder-filled trails. Check. Legendary back bowls. Check. Mountain peaks upward of 14,000 feet. Check. For more than 150 days of the year, the dreamy slopes of the Golden State attract skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
Because it’s home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding destinations in North America, choosing Colorado for a group ski trip is a no-brainer. But what if everyone in the group is not super keen on careening down the mountains at full speed? No worries. These ski towns welcome non-skiers with open arms. From snowshoeing in Breckenridge to soaking in the hot springs at Steamboat Springs, there’s plenty to do off the slopes.
With a free bus service and walkable Main Street, Breckenridge is easy to navigate without a car. From the airport, take the Summit Express Shuttle to The Grand Colorado on Peak 8, a slope-side luxury lodge that puts the skiers in your group steps away from the chair lifts. Meanwhile, non-skiers will be pleasantly overwhelmed with other Grand Colorado offerings like snowmobiling, painting classes and sledding. Start the day off with a trip to the Infinity Spa for a Himalayan salt massage or a muscle-relief treatment. Extend the relaxation mode by rotating between the grotto’s hot tubs, cold plunge pool and steam rooms.
When you’re ready to venture away from the hotel, try snowshoeing with Colorado Adventure Guides located in Gravity Haus, a new 60-room hotel complete with a Dryland gym, coffeeshop, spa, restaurant and co-working space. The soft powder of Summit County’s backcountry routes is oh-so-appealing and the guides are super knowledgeable. Choose from a leisurely loop through a pristine mountain meadow or opt for a tricky trek to a snow-covered peak. Either way, the views are insane.
One thing’s for sure: Breckenridge knows how to celebrate. For more than 56 years, it has hosted the Ullr Fest where full-on Viking gear and shot skis are the name of the game. Don’t be surprised if you see hot tubs rolling down the street and mobile ski jumps. Also in December is the Race of the Santas, a holiday dog parade and the lighting of the town tree.
For something a little more tame, head to the Breckenridge Arts District, a string of historic buildings that now serve as an arts campus with workshops and artists in residence. There are plenty of DIY workshops where you can craft jewelry, catch a performance at the 137-seat theater or learn the art of metal-smithing. And don’t forget to visit the 15-foot wooden troll sculpture during your visit. To find him, follow the Trollstigen Trail near the Illinois Gulch.
While snowboarding may not top everyone’s must-do list, watching athletes shred some gnar is definitely a yes. Each January, people flock to Aspen for the X Games, and it is a sight to see. There’s nothing quite like witnessing someone stomp a double cork 1080 in the 22-foot halfpipe or land a backflip while on a snowmobile. The best part is the event is free.
Get indoors for a bit at the Aspen Art Museum. You’ll want to snap some exterior photos; the building itself is a masterpiece. An added bonus: Admission is free. To take in some awesome views, hop aboard the Silver Queen Gondola. At the top you can hear live music, grab a bite on the Sundeck or play golf at the 18-hole disc golf course, one of the highest official courses in the world.
For some downtime, visit the John Denver Sanctuary, near the Forking River in Rio Grande Park, for a mediation class. Try an oxygen facial at the St. Regis or bike-the-trails to catch a grand view of the Maroon Bells, about 10 miles west of Aspen. The 14,000-foot peaks located in a glacial valley should not be missed.
Pro tip: If you’d rather not stuff your suitcase full of bulky jackets and such, consider renting your gear from Kit Lender. They have everything from super warm North Face jackets to base layers to boots. They mail it to your hotel and you mail it back when you’re done. Brilliant!
Enjoy Vail’s outdoor art. There are more than 45 masterpieces on display in Vail Valley, including colorful street murals, a 12-foot kinetic sculpture and a monumental Stickwork installation. During hour-long Wednesday Art Walks, guests learn more about the artists and the history of the area.
Vail is also home to the world’s highest botanical garden where some 3,000 species of alpine and mountain plants grow. At the five-acre Betty Ford Alpine Gardens you can stroll through one of the few cold greenhouses open to the public in North America.
Head to Vail Village for lots of dining options. Sweet Basil, for one, has been going strong since 1977. Marinated lamb shank with a side of eggplant raisin caponata and Colorado potato puree tops the menu. Keep an eye out for A-listers; Clint Eastwood, former first lady Michelle Obama and the Kardashians have all frequented Sweet Basil.
If you prefer to work for your dinner, try snowshoeing to the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center and The Cookhouse. It’s a scenic one-mile trek to a four-course meal inside a solar-powered yurt.
For a good workout while in Telluride and an awesome view of the San Juan Mountains, lace up those skates and whirl around the outdoor rink in Telluride Town Park. There’s a cozy warming hut when you need a breather and an indoor rink, too. For a dose of history, stop by the Telluride Historical Museum for hands-on exhibits about the town’s mining culture and it’s ski and festival history.
For large or small-group accommodations, vacasa.com, a full-service vacation rental management company, is a great option. From 1-bedroom log cabins on the slopes to 6-bedroom mountain retreats, there’s plenty to choose from.
End your day at Altezza at The Peaks Resort & Spa in Mountain Village for an unbelievable view of Telluride. Nosh on fresh herb dijon Skuna Bay Salmon or chickpea penne pasta. Add to that an Alpenglow cocktail, and you’re good to go.
Steamboat is known for its natural hot springs. About 7 miles from downtown, you’ll find Strawberry Park Hot Springs where therapeutic pools range in temperature from 101 to 105 degrees. So whether it’s snowing or not, you’ll be nice and toasty. If you’ve got kids tagging along, perhaps choose Old Town Hot Springs. Youngsters will definitely appreciate the twisting water slides, aquatic rock climbing wall and kiddie pool.
For a different perspective, book a flight with Wild West Ballooning. Dreamy vistas include the Flat Top Mountains and an inactive volcano. If you want breakfast and champagne, book an early-morning flight.
Last but not least, whip up something special at Elkstone Farm’s 2-hour cooking classes. Or take a farm tour to learn about the pond garden, greenhouse and hoop houses (which help protect the plants from wind and rain and keep the soil warm). Afterward, enjoy a farm-to-table lunch and pop over to the Farm Stand for some goodies. Think: cherry jalapeño jam and lavender shortbread cookies.