There’s nothing like a gnarly lift line to put the kibosh on a bluebird ski day. Now, we all have that friend who would hock a kidney for a perfect powder day, crowds or not. But if that’s not you, there are LOTS of ways to enjoy that chilly white stuff without making an advance organ donation…orrrrrr coughing up quite so much chedda. Here are our favorite alternative ski resort activities—the kinds of winter activities that involve at least a bump of our favorite substance: adrenaline.
1. GO FLAT.
Turns out, you can ski almost anywhere there’s snow…no mountain required! It’s called Nordic skiing—that’s “cross-country skiing” to you folks who have only seen it on the Olympics, and in addition to being one of the greatest beginner-friendly alternative ski resort activities, it’s also one of the best cardio workouts on the planet (about 600 calories an hour, give or take). If you’re in a place with reliable snowfall and a range of outdoor winter activities, chances are, there’s a place nearby that offers Nordic ski rental packages. Give it a whirl!
HOT TIP: If you’re an absolute beginner to Nordic skiing, it’s really nothing like downhill. Take your rentals to a local park the first time.
2. SKIN IT.
With a few equipment adjustments, you can enjoy a thrilling day of alpine skiing without a lift ticket. Uphill skiing—also known as “skinning,” “alpine touring” and “ski mountaineering” involves what devotees call “earning your turns” by actually hiking up the mountain wearing your skis before schussing your way back down.
Thanks to hybrid bindings, your heel is free for the hike up and clipped in for skiing mode. PLUS mohair “grip strips” allow you to move forward without sliding back. You can skip the lines and take your own self to the top! The sport is gaining traction (pun intended). Many states have yet to develop a fee system for uphillers—all $$$ you can spend on gear.
HOT TIP: If you’re intrigued, check out this Colorado.com article to see if this winter activity might be your new jam. It’s got important safety recs and deets on all the best skin spots.
3. GET TUBED.
This will come as a surprise to many Coloradoans (including most of us Kelty staffers) but you don’t actually have to strap sticks to your feet to enjoy the rush of flying down an icy incline. Snow tubing is one of the most low-key alternative ski resort activities we know, and we have yet to find a person capable of doing it without an idiotic grin on their mug. Many major ski resorts have a tubing park on-site, and there are also dedicated tubing hills in mountain towns all across this great country of ours. Even better: if you find yourself with a wide-open day…any old snowy hill will suffice.
HOT TIP: If you’re gonna DIY it, don’t waste your day tryna duct tape a crappy tube! Here’s a great roundup of tubes at all price ranges—plus tips for protecting against leaks.
4. PACK IN.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Colorado, the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association runs backcountry huts for skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, cyclists and hikers. While not the adrenaline rush that some of these other options are, hut trips are a winning combo. You get to play in the snow AND relax in a cozy cabin for a night or two. It’s up to you to pack in what you’ll need for food and pack out your trash, but hey…split it up with your pals and you’ll be good to go. Adult beverages are part of the hut trip fun: we highly recommend bringing ingredients for margaritas using Skratch Labs lemon and lime hydration mix.
HOT TIP: This adventure takes a little extra planning due to the lottery system to secure space in huts. But it never hurts to take a peek at the calendar to see if dates become available!
5. MUSH IT.
If we’re being honest, most Keltyans like dogs more than people—so it really should come as no surprise that dog sledding is our VERY favorite of all alternative ski resort activities. It’s also a winter activity that might not immediately come to mind, especially if you don’t spend the rest of your year surrounded by mountain culture (or dog people, for that matter). But, like The Boss, sled dogs were literally born to run, and their happiness as they haul blanket-bundled humans through the snow is 100% contagious.
HOT TIP: If you’re wondering about the adrenaline factor we mentioned, don’t. Though you’ll barely top 20 mph, the cold wind and your HUGE grin make it seem waaaaay faster.