Living in the mountains, it’s not too uncommon to see snowcapped peaks when you wake up in the morning in fall. Footage of ski areas receiving snow has ramped up, and in my home state of Colorado, Arapahoe Basin opened on Oct. 21. Personally, I hope to get a few more hikes and tennis matches in before snapping on skis again, but I’m always ready when there is enough of the white stuff.
However, it’s not all about skiing in U.S. Mountain West and western Canadian ski towns. The range of winter activities available to non-skiers and non-snowboarders continues to expand, so there are plenty of options for attendees of corporate and association meetings and incentive trips. Here’s a sampling.
Tubing and Sledding—Almost anyone can take part in these outings, especially if there is a tow rope or chairlift ride involved. Most ski towns and/or ski resorts have tubing or sledding hills. Wrap up the fun with a hot chocolate or coffee bar and warm up around a fire.
Spa—What better way to warm up and relax on a winter day than heading to the spa? This often can be a swap-out activity for skiing cost wise, and most nice resorts have beautiful spas; some offer classes like yoga and activities such as making customized lotion or bath salts.
Ice Skating—Several ski areas have ice skating right at the base area, and Sun Valley’s is even open in the summer! It’s not an expensive activity, but one that will take people back to their youth and also provide ways to involve families if they are along for the trip. It’s also a good chance to have competitions and team-building activities, even things like curling or broomball that many probably haven’t played.
Dog Sledding—Not many people get the chance to ride or guide a dog sled. Some dog sledding operations include meals or just do quick trips around a short loop so everyone gets time on a sled. One of the neatest operations I’ve seen is Alaska Heli-Mush’s Dog World, offering excursions from May through early September. Groups of up to six ride on an Era Helicopter to the location where around 180 sled dogs live.
Hot Springs—Growing up skiing, we took great delight as kids rolling in the fluffy snow and running to the warm waters of hotel or condominium hot tubs. Even more fun—especially for adults—Is soaking in natural hot springs while flakes are falling. New on the scene is the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop that includes five hot springs destinations in the western part of the state—Chaffee County, Pagosa Springs, Ouray County, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs—and 19 unique facilities.
Winter Biking—There are two types of winter biking: ski bikes and fat bikes. Both are fairly new, with ski bikes being the ones that with skis for wheels and used at ski resorts. Fat bikes are similar to mountain bikes but with huge tires, with local outfitters generally available to get groups out on super scenic trails.
Make sure everyone brings appropriate outdoor winter clothing and footwear and sunglasses because the sun shines more intensely at high elevations. Instead of providing gifts at their gathering, one company that brought people in from all over the world allowed attendees to select a jacket and either a base layer or glove/hat/scarf package from an online menu before arriving in the mountains.
Winter is a great time to gather in the mountains and get creative with activities.