No Skis Needed for These Fun Winter Activities at New England Resorts

Don't feel left out in the cold because you don't ski. You'll find plenty of ways to work up a sweat in the snow.

Brrr, it’s cold outside—and that’s just the way we like it.

When winter arrives, we don our warmest L.L. Bean parkas and head to the mountains. Sometimes, we ski. But often, we spend more time off the slopes than on. Today, New England’s ski resorts offer a variety of non-skiing activities, from snowshoe treks to coaster rides to dog sledding. Here are six top resorts where you’ll find winter fun aplenty—no lift tickets required.

Ziplining

Vermont

1. Smugglers’ Notch: Smuggs' folks know how to keep your entire brood entertained with scavenger hunts, bonfires, fireworks, torchlight parades, and arts and crafts. The resort’s self-contained village has an indoor pool complex, massage center, restaurants, outdoor ice-skating rink, tubing and airboarding hills, snowshoeing trails, and a zip-line canopy course (pictured above). Don’t miss a guided snowmobile ride through the spectacular notch. The staff will also arrange off-site dogsled adventures and ice-fishing tours. There’s hardly time for skiing. 802-332-6854; smuggs.com.

Okemo Mountain Resort
2. Okemo Mountain Resort: Riding shotgun in a monstrous snowcat as it claws its way up a steep slope, turning rough snow into corduroy carpets, offers a different perspective of the mountain. That’s just one of the thrills you can find at Okemo. Sign up for the Snowcat Dining Adventure and you’ll get a cat ride and a gourmet, five-course meal. Remove your ski boots and board the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, a roller coaster–like ride that reaches speeds of up to 28 mph as it zigzags through the woods, making corkscrew turns and loops (pictured above). While your adrenaline is still pumping, rent fat-tire bikes to careen up and down slippery, snowy trails. Any duffers in your group? They can brush up on their golf game at the indoor training center. 800-786-5366; okemo.com.
Stowe
3. Stowe Mountain Resort: If your idea of a winter vacation includes fine dining, shopping, top-notch live entertainment, and luxury spa treatments, head to this see-and-be-seen ski resort. It’s in the picturesque town of Stowe, which has more than 45 restaurants, the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, and shopping at some 75 boutiques. Outdoor enthusiasts have some of the best trails in the East at their doorstep, and local guides offer a variety of hiking and snowshoe excursions into the scenic Green Mountains. Near the resort, try mushing a team of sled dogs through Little River State Park or take a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride on the grounds of the Trapp Family Lodge. Still have energy? The Adventure Center has ice-skating and indoor rock climbing (pictured above). When your legs say no more, indulge in a massage at Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa. 802-253-3000; stowe.com.
Gunstock resort bikers

New Hampshire

4. Gunstock Mountain Resort: Even your furry, four-legged family members can get in on the fun here. Take Fido to the Nordic Center for skijoring. Never done it? No worries; with a quick lesson, your dog will learn to work with you on cross-country skis, pulling you over the hills and through the woods. For more thrills and chills, take a ride on the recently opened mountain coaster or burn some serious calories pedaling fat-tire snow bikes over winter mountain terrain (pictured above). For something a little less heart pounding, join a guided, moonlit snowshoe walk. You’ll take a chairlift up for a hike across the ridge of Gunstock Mountain, before snowshoeing down to the Nordic Center for hot chocolate. 603-293-4341; gunstock.com.

5. Omni Mount Washington Resort: You could sit in the conservatory at this grand, historic hotel, which is AAA Diamond-rated, and gaze at the snowcapped Presidential Mountains (pictured at top), cozy up next to the massive lobby fireplace, or have dinner in the domed main dining room. But you’d miss out on some fun. Take the shuttle bus to the Bretton Woods ski area, just up the road, for ice-skating, tubing, and kids’ snowmobile park, where little ones can ride their own machines. If you’re up for an adventure, get a bird’s-eye view of the mountains on the longest zip-line tour in New England, dropping 1,000 feet in elevation. Or join an ice-climbing excursion to the famed Frankenstein Cliff in nearby Crawford Notch; beginners welcome. 603-278-1000; tinyurl.com/lcv5b4q.

Sunday River

Maine

6. Sunday River: Something special is bound to happen here on any winter weekend. Sunday River is home to the Black Diamond Entertainment Series, bringing in family-friendly performers throughout the season, including magicians, jugglers, and comics (pictured above). The resort also hosts a slew of winter concerts and festivals, such as its ultra-popular Spring Festival, Winterfest, and Children’s Festival Week. When the sun sets, take a ride on the Chondola to Peak Lodge to enjoy a gourmet dinner and views of the Mahoosuc Mountains. Ready to head outdoors? There’s ice-skating, tubing, and snowshoeing along the banks of the Androscoggin River. Local guides also offer dogsledding and snowmobiling excursions. 800-543-2754; sundayriver.com.

Photos, from top to bottom: Dawna Moore / Alamy Stock Photo; Stowe Mountain Resort; Okemo Mountain Resort; Stowe Mountain Resort; Gunstock Mountain Resort