How to make the most of the slopes when you’re not skiing
The reason is not that important but the good thing to know is that are plenty of other things to do at most resorts when not riding the lifts or carving up the piste.
Easy to master, riding a snow mobile is a great way to explore the countryside. Unlike skiing, going up is just as easy as coming down. Going out on a tour with a group can be great fun provided you are wearing the correct thermal clothing to protect against wind chill. American ski resorts such as Snowshoe in West Virginia, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California and Stratton Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont offer a variety of snowmobile tours. Val Thorens in the French Three Valleys also offers a thrilling snowmobile tour at night.
A resort such as Zermatt in Switzerland can be enjoyed for its chocolate-box beauty, enhanced by horse-drawn sleigh rides from which visitors can admire the incredible silhouette of the Matterhorn. Some resorts, such as Breckenridge in Colorado, offer hot air balloon rides, or how about getting out and about on a dog sled? A husky safari is exciting but travels slowly enough to allow appreciation of the environment, with the dogs seeming to love the exercise. There are great excursions at Breuil-Cervinia in Italy, such as visiting the highest European ice caves; taking a cable car to Chamois, an ancient village not accessible by road; and lunching on a glacier.
Many resorts, especially those in Germany and Austria, offer hotels with spa complexes. While the skiers are outside dealing with blizzards and ice, the spa goer can enjoy hydrotherapy, massage and relaxing in a serene, warm environment. Despite being a spa town since the Roman times, the Italian resort of Bagni di Bormio has hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships twice. The Grand Bagni Nuovi hotel opened in 1836 and its five-star wellness experience includes bathing in thermal waters, a Turkish bath, 11 outdoor baths, sauna, Jacuzzi, and a huge spa menu of treatments including a thermal mud facial. In Austria, the chic Hotel Aurelio Lech in Lech am Arlberg offers an enormous holistic spa with herbal saunas and a snow atrium. Avoriaz in France has a very popular water park, which is not strictly a spa but is heated to a constant 29°C and offers a hot tub, pools, a waterfall, slides and other features.
Many resorts offer a range of hiking experiences during the summer and there is no reason walking enthusiasts can't tramp over the snow during the ski season, perhaps aided by snow shoes and sturdy boots. Many resorts offer guides - take a packed lunch and a thermos of something warm and you are ready for a different kind of discovery of alpine terrain. Many mountains have loads of huts and kiosks and generally there will be plenty of opportunities for other types of refreshment and breaks to enjoy the scenery.
Sledding and tobogganing
This is likely to suit many people, as you can traverse a slope while sitting or lying down. Visitors to La Plagne in France can try out an Olympic-level bobsleigh run. There is a choice of sleighs, with one reaching a speed of up to 100km an hour! Ellmau in Austria offers a range of activities for non-skiers including 11km of tobogganing. This is floodlit at night, provides wonderful views over the nearby valley and concludes in the village, where there are plenty of bars to talk about the wonderful experience.