Park City, Utah, and Italy’s Dolomites might be best known for their winter attractions—namely, skiing down powdery slopes. But these and many other ski areas are just as much fun to visit in the summer, when warm-weather activities abound. In many cases, hotel rates and airfares are much lower too. Here are our Trusted Travel Experts’ favorite ski areas that make for fun, and family-friendly, summer vacations:
Vail Valley, Colorado
The Area: With nearly 200 runs on Vail Mountain itself and numerous ski areas nearby, the Vail Valley is a Rocky Mountain paradise sitting two hours west of Denver.
Summer Fun: There is a huge array of outdoor activities here during the summer—hiking and biking, plus stand-up paddleboarding at Piney River Ranch, zip-lining, an adventure ropes course, and much more. But you should also take advantage of the cultural offerings, such as free Tuesday-night concerts, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, and the Farmers’ Market & Art Festival on Sundays. In Beaver Creek, the Vilar Performing Arts Center has a fabulous summer lineup and an intimate setting. If you arrive early enough, you can even ski Arapahoe Basin (the closing date is weather-dependent, and is currently scheduled for June 5, 2016).
Where to Stay: The Manor Vail Lodge is an easy walk from Vail Village. The majority of their accommodations have kitchens and fireplaces (which do come in handy on chilly summer evenings), but since each unit is different, it’s key to book through someone who can explain the pros and cons of each. At the Four Seasons, rates are 40 percent off from mid-April through mid-December, and my travelers receive a $100 spa credit, full daily breakfast, and upgrades when available; I always opt for the mountain-view rooms. The hotel’s Remedy Bar is a local hotspot for post-adrenaline cocktails. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is nestled in what I deem the perfect spot, seemingly remote but a short shuttle ride from Beaver Creek, with great hiking right out the front door. My travelers get a fourth night free during the summer, as well as a $100 resort credit and free breakfast.
Insider Intel: The Epic Pass offers unlimited skiing at a number of resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Australia—plus a warm-weather bonus. If you plan to ski at any of these locations even once next winter, buy a 2016/2017 pass and use it for unlimited free rides up the gondola during the summer as well. You can also save a few bucks by perusing the Vail Daily for two-for-one dinner coupons, which are common in summertime.
Park City, Utah
The Area: Thirty miles from Salt Lake City, Park City is home to the Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, as well as the Sundance Film Festival.
Summer Fun: The biking here is very family-friendly: There are flat, paved paths for babies in trailers and toddlers on balance bikes, and a variety of mountain-biking trails accessible from the ski lifts. There’s also the Alpine Slide, the bobsled track, whitewater rafting, and hiking—not to mention great dining and shopping.
Where to Stay: In Deer Valley, the Montage and St. Regis both have rooms for about $300 per night, which is a quarter of what you’d pay in the winter. The Montage is ideal for families (there’s even a bowling alley in the kid’s club), while the St. Regis has a more adult feel. My travelers get upgraded at the time that they book at the Montage, and upon arrival at the St. Regis; at both properties, they receive breakfast and spa credits, plus early check-in and late check-out.
Insider Intel: Even in summer, you should make restaurant reservations before you arrive; tables fill up quickly in Park City.
The Area: Whistler Resort, which is 75 miles north of Vancouver on a scenic highway, joined the world stage when it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010—but there’s actually more to do here during the summer than the winter.
Summer Fun: Whistler has endless options for the adventurer: among them are zip-lining, kayaking, canoeing (on both lakes and rivers), tubing, whitewater rafting, fishing, ATV tours, hiking, bear viewing, mountain biking, and golfing.
Where to Stay: With an indoor/outdoor pool and lots of dining options, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is great for families. Rates are always lower during the summer, and this year the weaker Canadian dollar means an even better value for American visitors.
Insider Intel: If your budget allows, charter a helicopter or small seaplane to access high alpine lakes, glaciers, and hiking trails that you’d never get to on foot.
The Area: This mountain range in northeastern Italy has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning landscapes, with sharp, rocky peaks and deep valleys.
Summer Fun: Amid these photogenic mountains you’ll find hiking and biking options for a variety of fitness levels. And all that outdoor activity will come in handy, as the area is also a foodie heaven, with everything from simple trattorias to Michelin-starred restaurants. There are cultural events all summer long in Cortina D’Ampezzo, a small village completely surrounded by the Dolomites; if you’re visiting in early August, don’t miss performances by pianists Stefano Bollani and Benedetto Lupo at the Dino Ciani Festival.
Where to Stay: Cortina’s Hotel Cristallo has an excellent spa and one of the country’s best golf courses; teeing off with these craggy peaks as your background is an unforgettable experience. I recommend booking a junior suite, which has a terrace with mountain views; in summer, rates for these rooms can be half what they are in winter. (But reserve well in advance, as there are only four of them in the hotel.)
Insider Intel: From August 24–31, mix with the locals at the 38th edition of the Festa delle Bande (the Festival of Local Bands), which attracts musical groups from all over Italy.
The Area: Little known by Americans, Zakopane is a ski town in the High Tatra Mountains. During the summer, it makes for a fun day trip from Krakow, a two-hour drive away.
Summer Fun: Here, it’s all about hiking (on some trails, you can have one foot in Poland and the other in Slovakia) and exploring the town. The gorgeous wooden architecture—reminiscent of alpine chalets but incorporating local traditions and materials—is the perfect break after a city-centric itinerary.
Where to Stay: The hotel options in Zakopane aren’t great, so if you’re not ready to return to the city at the end of the day, head to the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras, just over the border in Slovakia. Here you can go hiking, boating, mountain biking, paragliding, and rock climbing; not far away you’ll find golfing and rafting. If you need a rest, you can explore the little UNESCO-recognized villages nearby, or just indulge in the hotel’s spa (which has an amazing view over Lake Strbske Pleso). My guests get upgraded upon arrival if a room is available.
Insider Intel: Street vendors in Zakopane sell a local and unbelievably delicious smoked cheese called oscypek, often served with cranberry jelly.