By Jason Flegel
Everyone knows that the traditional ski destinations of Lake Tahoe and Jackson Hole transform into summer hot-spots when it warms up. They aren’t the only ones, though; the snow may be gone, but quite a few mountain ski resorts offer great summer getaway destinations. I can already hear the cries. “But, Jason…” (hey, that’s me!), “What is there to do in a ski town in August?”
Never fear! Ski towns have grown a culture of blithe elegance, and with that, all of the upscale and modern accoutrement you’d expect. You want world-class restaurants, spas and film festivals? Or how about horseback riding, mountain climbing and kayaking? Stay with us to find your personal ski resort summertime favorite. Here are my five top picks:
5) Aspen, CO
Most of us have heard of this once-quiet-mountain-town-turned-international-celebrity. Yes, Aspen, CO has a reputation, and, yes, it can be expensive. Some might even call it pretentious, but I prefer to appreciate the full spectrum of Aspen’s activities. Aspen manages to make my list for its lesser-known attractions: the Anderson Ranch (a creative space for budding artists and visitors to take workshops and collaborate), the Aspen Institute (which is hosting a week-long security conference this summer, among other things)
Get away from the hubbub of Aspen-proper and take a hike or bike ride through the mountains. The scenery is spectacular and you’ll forget all about the hustle and bustle of the Aspen Music Festival, world-renowned (if you needed reminding), unless you want to get involved (yeah, you probably want to get involved. How often are you at the Aspen Music Festival?).
- Anderson Ranch Annual Art Auction: Aug 13, 2011
- Aspen Security Forum @ Aspen Institute: Jul 27-30, 2011
- Aspen Music Festival: June 29-Aug 21, 2011
4) Mammoth Mountain, CA
With direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco and plenty of free hotel shuttles from the airport, Mammoth makes it easy to love summer in the mountains. Mammoth offers some of the best biking trails in the country. Gondola or shuttle up to the top (bicycles allowed on both) and extreme-sport your way to the bottom. Week-long summer camps make this the perfect getaway for families or anyone who enjoys camping (arranged through Mammoth Mountain Resort). For the adults, winemaker dinners put you in a gondola with a 5-course meal–need I say more? Of course there are music festivals to enjoy, art galleries to peruse, and some of the best Californian cuisine the state has to offer, all up on the mountain. If you want to get closer to nature, this is your ski resort.
- Bluesapalooza: Aug 5-7, 2011
- Mammoth Mud Run: Aug 27, 2011
3) Killington, VT
While Mammoth is all about getting in touch with nature, Killington sees their hiking trails, gondola rides and mountain biking and raises them a restaurant, bar and club scene. It’s no New York City or Boston (both about three hours’ drive), but during the summers, folks from these cities flock to Killington for a mountain break without leaving civilization. The town plays host to a music festival (their Music in the Mountains series), a 3-day wine festival and several competitive racing events. If you want a mountain town that knows how to party, Killington is it!
- Music in the Mountains Series: Jul 23, 30 & Aug 6, 2011
- Cooler in the Mountains Festival: Saturdays Jul 23-Aug 27, 2011
2) Telluride, CO
You’ll want to grab a drink at the Last Dollar Saloon in Telluride; after the adventure you’ve had climbing over treacherous mountain passes to arrive at this insular Shangri-La. You’ll deserve it. The locals’ wary approach to vacationers and their recent celebrity says it all–you’re here, have fun, but be responsible for your impact. The San Miguel, Gunnison and Dolores rivers host all manner of water activity, from fly fishing and swimming to kayaking and rafting. Telluride also hosts a few festivals towards the end of the summer (Jazz Celebration, Film Festival, and Blues and Brews)–it’s the perfect place to plan a last-hurrah summer weekend! Ever wish family dinners could be a bit more exotic? Spice it up with a chuck wagon dinner tour or horseback ride through Telluride basin’s alpine meadows and aspen forests.
- Telluride Jazz Celebration: Aug 5-7, 2011
- Telluride Film Festival: Sept 2-5, 2011
- Telluride Blues and Brews Celebration: Sept 16-18, 2011
1) Park City and Deer Valley, UT
Clearly, I have a crush on the Rocky Mountains; can you blame me? It may, therefore, be no surprise that Park City is my top pick for ski-resort summer fun. A short 30-minute drive from a busy Salt Lake City International Airport lands you smack dab in the middle of four world-class ski resorts, all of which compete for your attention (year round). No longer the obscure winter wonderland it was before the 2002 Winter Olympics, this is Telluride 20 years in the future, all grown up. My favorite in the area is Deer Valley, rated in the top resorts in the country for a good reason. With access to Park City’s restaurants (my favorite, you ask? Definitely The Stein Eriksen Lodge and The Riverhorse, bars, events as well as Deer Valley’s own lodge-restaurants, music festivals (at the awesome outdoor amphitheater!) and outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing, you’ll be hard pressed to run out of things to do.
If you’re like me, you’ve always wondered what what it would be like to actually try bobsledding or ski jumping. Well, Park City has you covered! Head on over to the Olympic Park where you can, among other things, try your hand at a few winter sport favorites. Don’t worry, they’ll help teach you how to do it. Finally, you’ll know the joy of dropping a couple hundred feet into a pool of bubbling water (the ski jump is pretty scary/amazing and both are accessible even in the summer).
- Deer Valley Music Festival: Friday/Saturday evenings, Jul 1- Aug 13, 2011
- Park City Kimball Arts Festival: Aug 5-7, 2011
- Park City Marathon: Aug 20, 2011
- Mountain Town Music Festival: Wednesday nights in August