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

Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:22am EST

(Fixes spelling of Kitzbuehel to conform to house style)
    LONDON, Nov 23 (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.
5.  Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
    Many of us have seen photographs of an island with a church
in the middle of a pristine Alpine lake, but few of us are very
familiar with Slovenia. While initial assumptions might suggest
Austria or Germany, this image is in fact Bled in the Gorenjska
region of Northern Slovenia. Bordering Austria and Italy,
Northern Slovenia and the Julian Alps are a growing skiing
destination, but also a great destination for those who simply
appreciate unspoiled nature. Triglav National Park, home to
Mount Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain, is also Slovenia's
only national park and one of the oldest protected parks in
Europe. Hiking is a popular way to explore the park and see Lake
Bohinj, Slovenia's largest glacial lake. To the north of Mount
Triglav, Kranjska Gora provides opportunities for skiing,
hiking, and night tobogganing. In addition to the physical
activities, Kranjska Gora also has a casino and hot springs for
when visitors want to relax. VirtualTourist members also
recommend an excursion to see the country's capital, Ljubljana,
with a walk around the Old Town and a visit to the Ljubljana
Castle. Since the country has historically been controlled by
Italy, the Austrian empire, and was also part of Yugoslavia, the
culture and cuisine are an interesting mix of Central Europe,
Balkan, and Mediterranean traditions.
6.  Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
    Few destinations can say they are both a UNESCO World
Heritage Site and a former Olympic host city, but high in the
Dolomites, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, earns this rare
distinction. While serious skiers will be thrilled to stay on
the Dolomiti Superski, the circuit of resorts in the Dolomites,
there are plenty of activities for non-skiers. In the summer,
Cortina has become quite the mountain biking mecca, and they
continue this in the winter with the K-Track, a special kit that
can transform any mountain bike into a snowbike. Cortina has
multiple schools that teach novices how to "snowkite,"or use the
K-track, during their visit. In tradition with most Italian
destinations, there is also tons of culture to experience in
Cortina. In December, visitors can experience the city's
traditional European Christmas Market, fully equipped with
mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and old-fashioned sweets. In
January, the city hosts the Nordic Skiing World Cup and the
Women's Alpine Ski World Cup, as well as Ice Art, the
International Festival of Snow Sculpture, where artists
transform huge blocks of ice into sculptures along Corso Italia.
7.  Chamonix, France
    Members thought it was tough to only choose one spot in
Switzerland, but then came France! While the French Alps is
dotted with countless great villages, Chamonix is unique in that
it is just as famous for mountaineering. Located at the foot of
Mont Blanc, this spot attracts athletes and daredevils from all
over the world, eager to attempt some experience of the 4,810
meter (15,781 ft.) mountain. From paragliding to mountaineering
courses and glacier walks, visitors do not need skis to
experience this majestic mountain. For those looking to watch
some great athletes, Chamonix hosts the Swatch Freeride World
Tour in the end of January, with skiers and snowboarders
battling it out to be crowned the world's best freerider. And
with adrenaline comes letting off steam, so don't miss some of
Chamonix's famous après ski spots, like Monkey Bar and Le
Privilege. Also, this is the second-most-starred region in
the French Michelin Guide - so prepare to eat well!
8.  Taos, New Mexico
    Park City may have a film festival and Sun Valley may have
celebrities, but no ski town in the Western US has the same
opportunities for non-skiers as Taos, New Mexico. With four
different ski areas, there are plenty of opportunities for
skiers of any level, but non-skiers are not excluded. At Red
River ski area, tubing starts at 4:15 pm, just after the slopes
close, and Angel Fire ski area has the Polar Coaster - 1,000
feet of hills and a lift to take tubers back to the top. Angel
Fire is also well-lit for night tubing. Taos is home to the
Enchanted Forest in the Carson National Forest, which offers
wide, groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
For non-snow activities, Taos is a long-standing center for
wellness treatments and bodywork practitioners. A popular spot
for these practices is the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, where
sulphur-free, geothermal mineral waters flow from a subterranean
volcanic aquifer. For those interested in the cultural history
of the area, the Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American
community designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a
National Historical Landmark. In fact, the multi-storied adobe
buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1000
years. Nearby, the town of Santa Fe provides more artistic and
cultural opportunities, as does Ghost Ranch, the famous ranch
and home of artist Georgia O'Keefe.
9.  Bariloche, Argentina
    Die-hard skiers are always looking for the next hot spot,
but also an off-season gem - and that's where Argentina comes
in. Similar to New Zealand, the ski season in Argentina (and
Chile, another popular destination for skiing in South America)
starts in mid-June, when the Cerro Catedral Mountain is usually
maintaining a cover of snow. While there are 42 miles of trails
with a good mix for beginners and experienced skiers, Bariloche
makes our list because of the Argentine fun quotient. Just as
the nation's capital, Buenos Aires, is famous for wild
nightlife, Bariloche's remote location does not mean it is
without plenty of nightlife. The town has all kinds of evening
spots, from casinos to discos to artisanal beer breweries. 
Lastly, the town is also full of traditional Argentinean
luxuries, like great steaks, red wine, and affordable leather,
so non-skiers will stay plenty busy.
10. Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
    While many skiers will argue that all the great skiing in
North America is in the West, Mont Tremblant has been fighting
for the East's reputation. A short 90-minute flight from
Montreal, Mont Tremblant is also located in Quebec, and with
that, comes all the luxuries of French Canada. In addition to
great skiing, the mountain has 12 hiking trails, ranging from 1
km to 20 km (.62 to 12.4 miles) round trip that also coordinate
with the gondolas. If you're feeling up to it, you can hike up
the mountain to a breathtaking observation spot and then enjoy a
gondola ride down. Mont Tremblant has a very beautiful little
village with adorable architecture and quaint shopping. For
those looking for a bit more excitement, there is now Casino de
Mont-Tremblant that you can ski in and ski out of. For those who
might want to arrive by rail, there is a quick shuttle that runs
between the Casino and the pedestrian village.

 (Editing by Paul Casciato)
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