Widows of the slopes: Best Ski Resorts for Non Skiers

Just because you can't ski it doesn't mean you can't aprés ski. Some people like to hurtle down hills, the wind in their hair, and some people prefer to appreciate said hills from a distance, with maybe some glass and a warming beverage between them and the hill's white coating. 

Rating ski resorts for non skiers might seem like a challenge, but there are people who can't or wont ski, and not all ski resorts leave them cold. Assuming the ski widow/ widower is going to have several hours a day to themselves - and that they aren't the type who looks forward to long hours of solitary reading - then the resorts that are going to do the best job of keeping everyone happy and entertained are those with vibrant aprés ski life and added extras.

You like powder on the bottom of your skis, I like it on my doughnut

There's nothing like coming in off the cold slopes after a day of action and finding a feast awaiting you. After skiing you've earned it, and some ski resorts respond to that need well by putting world famous chefs in charge of their restaurants, and maybe even encouraging them to give lessons, which could be something to keep non skiers gainfully employed.

Apparently 30% of Courchevel's winter visitors have no intention of skiing, and while some of them fill their time taking Porsches out for a spin on the ice, getting fitted for a fur coat, quad biking, snow rafting or skijoring (being towed behind a horse while wearing skis), some of them take cooking class with Michelin-rated chef Michel Rochedy. Still in France, La Clusaz is also known by gourmets. Its also only 50kms from Geneva, with an atmosphere frequently referred to as charming, and something called a pedestrian pass, which allows non skiers to use the lifts. There's also a nice market selling local treats: Reblochon, Savoy ham and Aravis liquer.

Aspen attracts more than just celebrities and celebrity spotters, it also attracts all the people who are required to keep the celebrities happy, and their number includes world class chefs, who also give lessons, mostly run though the hotels. As well as the food being good, the shopping is good and the spas are suitably luxurious. Non skiing celebs and their cohorts can also fill their hours taking sleigh rides or trips up in hot air balloons, go dog sledding, fly-fishing, visit one of more than 30 art galleries, mess about on the water slide and hang out 'being seen' at the Aspen Club and Spa.

Location, location, location

One of you wants a city break and the other wants to go skiing? Not a problem if you opt for Mont Sainte Anne, just 30 minutes from QuebecWhistler, which is only 90 minutes travel from Vancouver, with an atmosphere in its pedestrianised village that is appealing in itself, or Seefeld, a convenient 40 minutes from Innsbruck via train. Seefeld is quite a stylish Tyrolean town into the bargain, known for its medieval architecture complete with frescos, as well as for skiing.

You may not have heard of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, but if you've heard of Ljubijana then this town is only an hour away.  It's also only an hour and a half from here to Lake Bled - and inexpensive and family friendly.

But Granada is probably going to be the easiest sell, only 38kms from Spain's main ski resort, Sierra Nevada, and 124kms from Malaga on the coast.

Aprés what?

The Austrians pretty much invented aprés ski – the bit about going skiing that happens after the skiing bit.  It includes a range of things, one of them is spending time in a spa, a la Bad Gastein, best known for the 23 million litres of hot spring water that bubbles out of its pools every day and for its old, and Bond-worthy casino.

Switzerland does aprés ski well, cosmopolitan enough to serve you one, and you know you're going to find a decent hot chocolate. Try Grindelwald for the spas and Davos for the shopping, and Europe's largest natural ice rink.

I prefer to watch

There are some ski slopes more worthy of being gazed upon than others, and if your plan is to set up a deckchair on the snow, or your hotel terrace, while people bring hot drinks at appropriate intervals, then Chamonix, with a view of Mont Blanc actually used on the lid of chocolate boxes, an alpine museum, and plenty of shopping and hiking, is a good place to set up camp. From there Geneva is just a day trip away and you can pop under the mountain to Courmayer or Turin.  Zermatt  has a similarly gaze worthy backdrop, but for Mont Blanc insert the Matterhorn. It's also got a glacier palace an igloo village and a car free centre of town, so you have to rely on horse drawn sleighs.

Italy's Cortina d’Ampezzo benefits from the Dolomites surrounding it, though it also benefits from the good taste of the visitors from Rome and Milan, who keep up the quality of the shopping and food, especially pizza. And Venice is only a couple of hours away. While Zell am See is all about lakeside charm rimmed by mountains and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, and a medieval and pedestrianised town centre.

Just because I don't ski doesn't mean I don't do sport

Lots of resorts have more than skiing on offer as far as winter sports go, but for those looking for a bit more than snow shoeing, snow-mobiling and dog sledding try La Plagne for the Olympic bobsleigh, ice climbing, skidooing and hang gliding – and link to Les Arcs by the double decker cable car, or ex Olympic Lillehammer for the luge track, bobsleigh and option to go on a moose safari.

St.Moritz is on all the lists of ski resorts for non-skiers, The glitz and glamour are cited, manifest as great shopping and lux restaurants, as is the lovely lakeside location, but when the lake freezes it makes way for a range of cool and unusual winter sports, including ice hockey, ice polo, ice cricket and ice golf – played with red balls.  St.Moritz even has its own horse race, the White Turf.

That's unusual for a ski resort...

How about a world class jazz venue like Club Les Cinq Rues to keep you entertained off the slopes? That's the added extra Megeve is offering, in addition to nice restaurants around a pretty main square, luxury shopping and an Olympic size ice skating rink that has ice-bumper cars.   So that's two unique added extras then.

Gstaad has a tennis centre and a pool complex, right beside its beautiful fairytale castle, now a hotel, and Jackson Hole has a wild west theme, so you can do things like taking a four wheel drive safari to spot bears, antelope, deer, mountain goat, wolves and eagles. It's also close enough to Yellowstone to drop in on Old Faithful. Ex-mining town, Breckenridge is something similar, with almost as many restaurants – they're boasting 75.

Igluski is a good place to start looking for more information on which ski resorts are best for non-skiers, they know about good deals in many different resorts.

Or let WR's Wintersports Specialists inspire you.

Comments, questions and reviews by other travellers

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