- Glow tubing at Smugglers' Notch Resort
Contrary to popular belief, Vermont's snow-capped mountains aren't just for skiing and riding. While many people casually refer to alpine sports centers as "ski areas," that's typically not how these places define — or name — themselves.
They're called resorts, a more accurate word that encompasses the range of attractions these multifaceted mountain enterprises offer. And the variety has picked up in the last decade or so: Today, you can head uphill to enjoy an indoor water park oasis at Jay Peak Resort, a scenic gondola ride at Stowe Mountain Resort or eight pristine lanes of snow tubing at Mount Snow in Dover.
Whether you're a nonskier or simply want to mix it up between runs, we've rounded up five surprising and satisfying resort activities for making the most of your mountain visit.
Movies and Rock Climbing at Jay Peak Resort
- Climbing wall at Jay Peak Resort
Perhaps the ultimate non-ski activity at a ski resort is not an activity at all, because you don't have to move. At least, not once you purchase your beer and popcorn and take a seat in the movie theater at Jay Peak's Clips & Reels Recreational Center.
The Northeast Kingdom resort will present movies Wednesday through Sunday this season, kicking off on December 22 with the holiday-themed films A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Should you want to work up a sweat before retiring to the 142-seat movie theater and lounge, start on the first floor of the same building, which houses 17 rock-climbing walls, a ropes course and an arcade. Head upstairs afterward for free movies on Wednesdays. Thursdays feature "throwback" films, with a $10 admission that includes a drink and popcorn.
When the resort isn't screening movies, visitors can rent the theater and bring their own favorite film.
Glow Tubing at Smugglers' Notch Resort
Skiers and boarders sometimes end up on their butts, so why not start out that way? Ditch the gear and plop onto a snow tube for a joyful slide down the slope.
Smugglers' Notch lights up its tubing trails for "glow tubing" two evenings a week after the sun goes down. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m., kids (and kids at heart) can ride down Sir Henry's Hill and pass under halos of LED lights that illuminate the trail, the night sky and the fun of winter in Vermont.
The cost of tubing varies with age and includes admission to certain indoor activities at the resort — think mini golf, a climbing wall and an arcade.
Tubers should be at least 42 inches tall and able to stop by themselves. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Outdoor Swimming at the Lodge at Spruce Peak
- Outdoor Swimming at the Lodge at Spruce Peak
It's 18 degrees outside, a light snow is falling, and you're swimming laps in the outdoor heated pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak — or just soaking in the luxurious, 84-degree water.
The pool offers views of the ski slopes on Mount Mansfield at nearby Stowe Mountain Resort. Use of the pool is part of the lodge's spa package, which is available to guests and the general public.
Outdoor swimming can be paired with a number of spa activities as part of a day-use pass; the amenities include the fitness center and classes, a locker room, a sauna, a steam room, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs.
"It's awesome," Abby Keller, a spa concierge, said. "It's really fun after you're skiing all day to sit in the hot tub and then jump in the pool."
But you can jump in the pool without skiing, too, and enjoy a high-altitude dip on a chilly winter day or evening. Spruce Peak recommends calling 760-4782 in advance to check on availability, especially during the busy season.
Snowshoeing at Stratton Mountain Resort
- Snowshoeing at Stratton Mountain Resort
At Stratton Mountain in Windham County, people have been snowshoeing on trails for at least 30 years, communications director Myra Foster said.
"If you can walk, you can snowshoe," Foster said, repeating a mantra she heard from Kathy Murphy, a former Tubbs Snowshoes executive.
According to Foster, about 10,000 people visited Stratton's Nordic Center last year, a significant increase over previous years as folks pursued outdoor, distanced activities during the pandemic.
The resort offers a variety of options for snowshoers on its 12 kilometers of groomed trails. You can hike the paths on your own, at a time and pace of your choosing, or join guided sunrise hikes and evening walks on five kilometers of illuminated trail. Those who want a more rigorous workout can snowshoe up and down approved routes on the ski mountain — a round trip of roughly two hours.
Rentals are available for all ages, down to 18-month-old children. Online reservations are recommended for guided tours, though you can also reserve a spot the day of the walk at the Nordic Center.
Cabin Cat Rides at Sugarbush Resort
- Cabin Cat at Sugarbush Resort
To catch the early light of a winter day, or to soak in its fading last rays, ride to the top of a peak at Sugarbush Resort in the passenger cab of a snowcat — one of the rigs used to groom ski trails.
On the 7 a.m. run, Sunrise First Tracks, up to 12 people can ride in the Cabin Cat, chauffeured to the top by a driver. The early morning ascent takes place before Sugarbush opens for the day, giving cat riders a chance to ski on fresh powder once they arrive at the top of the mountain.
Folks can continue skiing down the trail and riding up in the Cabin Cat for another 90 minutes after that — or skip the skiing and simply ride up and down in the rig.
At sundown, a driver transports Cabin Cat passengers to the top of Lincoln Peak — a 2,400-foot climb to an observation area with western views. Watch the sun sink and eat snacks provided by the resort at this little viewing party.
To ride the cat to more elaborate eats at Sugarbush, book a dinner at Allyn's Lodge. A mid-mountain warming lodge by day, at night it becomes the setting for a private, five-course, candlelit dinner by the fireside.
The cat will shuttle your party to the lodge. After the meal, diners can ski down by the light of the moon (with provided headlights) or hitch a ride in the rig to the base.
If you like this, try...
- Fat biking at Stratton Mountain Resort, stratton.com
- Gondola SkyRide at Stowe Mountain Resort, stowe.com
- Outdoor ice skating at the Lodge at Spruce Peak, sprucepeak.com
- Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak Resort, jaypeakresort.com
- Skate & Bike Park at Bolton Valley Resort, boltonvalley.com
- Snowmobile tours at Killington Resort, killington.com
- Snow tubing at Mount Snow, mountsnow.com