Travel Picks: Top 10 destinations for skiers and non-skiers

Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:42pm EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - What's a couple to do if one skis and the other half does not? Many resorts have made activities for non-skiers as big a priority as providing great powder to serve you both. To help you carve through a few of the options, the editors and members of online travel advisor VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) have put together a Top 10 Destinations for Skiers & Non-Skiers. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

In the perfect "out west" setting, Jackson Hole is an ideal spot for the experienced skier and a novice who is only considering lessons. In addition to class and private ski and snowboard lessons, the resort also has a wide variety of camp options to take skiers and snowboarders of all ages to the next level. If skiing or boarding isn't on the agenda, you can still explore the terrain without much exertion - there are great snowmobile tours, as well as Iditarod Sled Dog tours for a more historical experience. No trip to Jackson Hole is complete without visiting either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park; both parks offer ranger-guided snowshoe hikes from December through mid-March. Another highly recommended experience is the National Elk Refuge, where visitors can take a sleigh ride through the refuge and into the herd of wild Jackson elk. After exploring the natural surroundings, thirsty travelers can head to one of Jackson's watering holes, like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which has leather saddles atop the bar stools, or hangout at the base of the mountain for the après ski scene.

2. Verbier, Switzerland

It's difficult to pick one spot in Switzerland, but historic Verbier has both quality skiing and a full schedule of activities for those who aren't interested in moguls or powder. For the skiers, Verbier's off-piste (backcountry and/or non-groomed) terrain is some of the most challenging in the world. For those sans skis, there are 20 km (12.4 miles) of marked and prepared winter hiking trails and well-maintained tobogganing slopes. Verbier is truly the spot to experience the "après ski" lifestyle, especially this season with the recent opening of The Lodge Verbier, Richard Branson's private ski resort. Many of the piste restaurants and bars are easily accessible to non-skiers, so you can enjoy a drink on the patio with the exquisite Alps view. In addition to the usual winter sports and spa treatments, Verbier offers two particular specialties: cheese and puppies. Verbier is actually located near the famous St. Bernard pass, the St. Bernard hospice, and of course, the origin of the St. Bernard dog. In both winter and summer, visitors can walk with the dogs or visit the museum dedicated to the breed in nearby Martigny. Verbier is also in the middle of prime cheese country, so visitors must make sure to sample the cheeses and Switzerland's famous cheese fondue.

3. Kitzbuehel, Austria

Conveniently located about 2 hours from Munich, Kitzbuehel is an excellent destination for those who are looking for an active stop while exploring Austria. Besides downhill skiing, Kitzbuehel also offers over 120 km (75 miles) of cross country ski trails and 170 km (106 miles) of winter hiking trails. Between November 30 and December 26, visitors can enjoy the Kitzbueheler Christmas Market, complete with gingerbread, gluehwein (a German spiced mulled wine), handicrafts, and even a petting zoo for children. In late January, the area hosts Hahnenkamm Race week, one of Austria's premier downhill slalom events where travelers can watch competitors fly by at an average of 103 km per hour (64 mph). Kitzbuehel is also quite close to Innsbruck (95km /59miles) and Salzburg (80km/50 miles), meaning visitors can easily explore these other Austrian towns. Innsbruck is a charming alpine town with a city center that is over 800 years old, while Salzburg is the birthplace of two musical legacies: Mozart and The Sound of Music. Both of these cities also host notable Christmas markets during the Advent season. For those who love dance music, nearby Saalbach will host the 4-day "Rave on Snow," an electronic music festival, in mid-December.

4. Queenstown, New Zealand

These are the top 10 destinations for skiers and non-skiers, but we didn't say right now must be the time to ski them! While you'll have to wait about 6 or 7 months to hit the slopes, multiple VirtualTourist members report that Queenstown, New Zealand is a great spot for skiing, as well as a variety of other adrenaline sports. Once a tiny gold-mining settlement, this town has evolved to become a world-class sport mecca. As long as visitors aren't afraid of heights, you'll have plenty of activities to keep you busy outside skiing and snow sports. After taking the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob's Peak, you can luge down concrete tracks, hike the mountain-top trails, or jump from the Ledge Urban Bungy, which has a ‘runway' so you can gain a bit of speed as well as a unique harness that allows jumpers to do flips, twists, and other such stunts. Queenstown is also home to another famous bungy jump, the Nevis Highwire Bungy. The Nevis drops 134 meters (440 feet) straight into a riverbed, so it's not for the faint of heart. In addition to getting your heart pumping, Queenstown is home to Lake Wakatipu, where visitors can go boating or simply enjoy a picnic.   Continued...

 
A view of the ski fields in Kitzbuehel, Austria in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Austrian Tourist Office/Handout