Colorado is known the world over for its incredible ski resorts, but not everyone who visits the state’s iconic ski towns end up grabbing a snowboard or skis in search of snow-packed paradise. Every ski season, friends, coworkers, and family members travel to Colorado’s ski towns and sit on the sidelines while the rest of their groups ski.
Whether its an injury keeping someone off the slopes, or a distinct lack of interest in snow, or even athleticism is to blame, it doesn’t matter because the mountain towns that host Colorado’s world-famous ski resorts have loads of incredible non-skiing activities to offer. If you’re looking for things to do while your companions spend the day skiing, you’ve come to the right place. From stellar music venues and art galleries to historic saloons and terrific shopping, here’s how to make the most of your time in Colorado’s ski towns.
Winter Activities in Colorado That Are Not Skiing
There’s a slew of winter activities to enjoy in Colorado without skiing. Some of the most well known ski towns also make the best vacation destinations for non skiers. You’ll find everything from frozen recreation like tubing and ice skating, to sporadic festivals, and year round fun such as mesmerizing museums and restaurants.
- Cross Country Skiing
- Dog Sledding
- Hot Springs
- Ice Climbing
- Ice Fishing
- Ice Skating
- Colorado Sleigh Rides
- Snow Tubing
Here are the best Colorado winter vacations for non skiers, in no particular order:
Aspen is a place that would be rewarding to visit even if it didn’t host internationally fawned-over skiing. The western Colorado mountain town is a place of great political and cultural importance. It’s home to the Aspen Institute, an international non profit think tank, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Aspen Art Museum, a 33,000-square-foot, four-level building known for showcasing drawings, paintings, sculptures, multimedia installations, and electronic media from pioneering contemporary artists.
For beer-loving non-skiers, Aspen Brewery is a spot that shouldn’t be missed. From delectable seasonal brews to unique barrel-aged selections, you’ll love camping out and knocking a couple back at their tap house. If relaxing at the spa is more your speed than hanging out at a brewery, Aspen’s world-renowned spas will be of interest to you. History buffs will get a kick out of Aspen’s Hotel Jerome, a charming and storied establishment opened in 1889.
Hotel Jerome is home to J-Bar, which serves up a boozy milkshake with a bizarre and unappetizing name. The “Aspen Crud” was a favorite drink among the Tenth Mountain Division soldiers that trained in Aspen during WWII. The Aspen Historical Society currently offers tours of the hotel Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:30pm. And, though shows usually take place during the evening, the Belly Up is a mandatory stop if you’re a music fan.
This sleek venue is relatively small but manages to bring in artists you’d normally see in a sold-out amphitheater. The Belly Up has hosted The Killers, Widespread Panic, The Chainsmokers, Jack White, Lil Wayne, The Avett Brothers, Snoop Dogg, B.B. King, Phoenix, Jimmy Buffet, and many other beloved musical acts since opening its doors back in 2005.
Coloradans and out-of-staters alike enjoy Breckenridge’s fun, historical atmosphere, plentiful bars and restaurants, and its rewarding cultural offerings. Breck has its own Arts District which hosts drop-in classes, musical performances, and events celebrating ceramics, drawing, printmaking, metal-smithing, textiles, and painting.
If you’re looking to sip on something tasty in an iconic, historical Colorado setting, head over to the Gold Pan Restaurant and Bar. This charming spot was established in 1861, the same year America’s Civil War broke out. Cajun food is probably the furthest thing from people’s minds when they head up to a place like Breckenridge, but the Lost Cajun serves up authentic and highly addictive Louisiana cuisine that’s earned a considerable amount of buzz and accolades over the years.
Holding the title for the Western Slope’s oldest year-round theatre company, the Backstage Theatre puts on shows like A Christmas Carol, The Great Gatsby, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and many others. Breckenridge’s Historic District is one of the largest in Colorado, with great offerings like entertaining walking tours and fascinating museums all within view of the astounding Tenmile Range of peaks.
For how small of a town Breckenridge is, it hosts an impressive amount of bars and restaurants, and many feature live music. If you’re dying to explore gorgeous, snowy terrain surrounding Breckenridge but don’t care for skiing, try snowshoeing on one of the many scenic trails surrounding the town. And if you’re lucky enough to be in town during the annual Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships, it’s an event you absolutely have to see. Teams of skilled snow sculptors travel to Breckenridge from around the world every year to create delicate and massive works of art out of snow that will ignite your imagination. If you’re too early for that event, check out Ullr Fest, Breckenridge’s winter festival and one of the rowdiest parties you’ll find in the Rocky Mountains all winter.
To many, Telluride is the ideal mountain town. It’s a gorgeous, charming place with loads to offer, but you won’t spend as much here as you would at a place like Aspen. With stately wood and brick historic buildings lining its streets, Telluride looks and feels authentic, but you’ll also find amenities here that you would in a fancier mountain town such as spas, a thriving night life scene, many excellent restaurants to choose from, and great places to shop. If you’re skipping the slopes and want a bright, fun place to hang out in, consider Black Iron Kitchen and Bar. With a stylish wooden interior in a warm, open setting, this is a solid place to eat a snack and try a Colorado beer you’ve never tasted before.
For those willing to make the 1-hour drive outside of town, the Orvis Hot Springs are well worth the trip. Orvis’ pools reach temperatures of 112 degrees, and they offer access both in and outdoors. If you’re itching to explore your creative side, check out Telluride’s Ah Haa School of the Arts. The school offers an impressive array of classes ranging from writing to cooking to ceramics for adults and kids. Whether you’re in town for two hours or six weeks, Ah Haa can teach you teach something special. If you’re more interested in taking in art than creating it yourself, Gallery 81435 is definitely worth a visit. It showcases work from contemporary artists living in the region.
Telluride has amazing outdoor winter recreation options for non-skiers, including sleigh rides, horseback riding, winter fly fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and fat bike riding (fat bikes have tires thick enough to ride over snow and ice). If you’re feeling adventurous or are in the mood to stand in awe of someone who is, ice climbing at the nearby Bridal Veil Falls will be worth checking out. At 365 feet tall, Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado’s highest free-falling waterfall and one of the most challenging ice climbing routes in all of the US.
Steamboat Springs might call itself “Ski Town USA,” but it offers plenty of memorable things to do aside from skiing. While some perceive some of Colorado’s ski towns are pretentious, Steamboat Springs prides itself on being welcoming and open. Case in point, Steamboat Springs has its own bowling alley, an establishment usually much more associated with working class folks than wealthy jetsetters. The town has its own Restaurant Week, which offers special deals at the best restaurants in Steamboat, which include Italian, Mexican, pizza, and much more.
At a quick 20-minute drive up the mountains from Steamboat Springs, Strawberry Park Hot Springs will give you a unique hot springs experience that you’ll probably never forget. Colorado has loads of hot springs locations to choose from, and some are very beautiful, but Strawberry Park is special. Sitting in a toasty mineral pool surrounded by snow-covered forest is a remarkable experience.
When you’re finished taking in the natural wonders of Strawberry Park, check out Butcherknife Brewing Company. Locals and tourists alike love Butcherknife’s beers, which are served up in cans that feature surreal and sometimes cryptic artwork. If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience and don’t mind getting out in the cold, consider giving dogsledding a try. Yes, you read that right. Grizzle-T is a company that gives people genuine dogsledding experiences. They’ll even teach you to “Mush your own team” of Alaskan Huskies.
For those interested in seeing Steamboat Springs and northern Colorado’s pristine, snow-capped peaks, Wild West Balloon Adventures will give you a thrilling, unforgettable experience. Their prices include continental breakfast, a champagne toast, and flight certificates. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Steamboat Springs during their annual Winter Carnival, you’ll be treated to fireworks, a parade, and “people on shovels being pulled down main street behind horses and skiers jumping through fiery hoops,” according to Steamboat Springs’ website. The event was founded over a century ago as a way for locals to cope with cabin fever during the winter months.
Crested Butte is one of the most scenic spots not just in Colorado, but in all of America’s mountain west. Some Colorado ski towns are frustratingly crowded and exude an inauthentic corporate vibe, but Crested Butte still feels like a quaint mountain town. If you find yourself in Crested Butte with kids who are also not interested in skiing, a whimsical horse-drawn sleigh ride through town will leave you and your family with great memories. Many who visit Crested Butte firmly believe that a trip to this picturesque mountain town isn’t complete without ordering pizza from the Secret Stash. Try Stash’s pizza, and you’ll see why it’s earned a cult following since opening in 2002. If pizza isn’t your thing, you’ll have lots of other restaurants to choose from.
The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum gives visitors a captivating window into the past. If you’re interested in the history of coal mining, the railroad, or how life used to look for people living in Colorado’s mountain west, this is a can’t-miss destination. Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s colorful main street, is a charming place to shop, check out an art gallery, or take a quiet stroll. It’s also one of 17 Creative Arts Districts in the state that have been designated by the state of Colorado. The Center for the Arts offers an impressive plethora of arts classes ranging from culinary instruction to writing to visual arts. This is a place where you’ll never get bored.
If you’re a voracious reader, Townie Books would love to meet you. This Elk Avenue staple has a deep passion for sharing their love of literature. And if you’re into high quality outdoor gear, Chopwood Mercantile’s plentiful offerings will keep you busy for awhile. Have an early drink while you’re waiting for your group to wrap skiing up for the day, we won’t judge you. The female-founded Montanya Distillers opens at 3PM and dishes out sophisticated rum cocktails and fine food that people have been raving about. Beauty, culture, rum, adventure, and lots of snow. Crested Butte has a lot to offer non-skiing folk.
Vail doesn’t boast the authenticity of some of Colorado’s more historical ski towns, but it’s a beautiful place with plenty to do. If you’re looking for fun and aren’t afraid of the cold, Vail offers outdoor activities that are great for kids and adult thrill-seekers. Adventure Ridge hosts tubing, ski biking, a non-powered winter roller coaster, and scenic gondola rides. Located atop of the Eagle Bahn gondola, Bistro Fourteen gives diners incredible views of Mount of the Holy Cross, a full bar, and both casual and fine dining options. For visitors searching for less crowded adventures, snowshoeing through the wilderness outside of Vail might do the trick.
From cooking classes to huge live concerts, Vail hosts many exciting events throughout the winter season. Revely Vail welcomes winter with ice skating celebrations, a gingerbread contest and tree lighting, and later in the season Snow Days brings in huge free outdoor concerts from large music artists and a wild party. And if you’re not into snowboarding but love watching it, the Burton US Open will give you a front row seat to watch the best snowboarders in the world compete.
Avid shoppers love Vail’s three villages, hundreds of stores, boutiques, and galleries. And if pampering yourself in a chic mountain setting sounds nice, you’ll have loads of spas to choose from. Art enthusiasts have multiple galleries in Vail to check out, with art ranging from paintings and sculptures to contemporary works. If sipping a beer in a cozy spot sounds nice, you’ll probably dig 7 Hermits Brewing Company.
USA Today readers have voted Winter Park America’s Best Ski Resort two years in a row, but you can have plenty of fun here without strapping on a snowboard or skis. If you’re the non-skier adventuring type, scenic snowcat tours through the Arapaho National Forest will deliver a unique winter mountain experience. Snowshoeing tours through the area can also be quite a bit of fun. After you’re through adventuring, take a gondola ride up Winter Park Mountain for lunch, afternoon drinks, and live music. The Sunspot Mountaintop Lounge boasts an elevation of 10,700 ft, and stunning panoramic views of the Continental Divide.
Hideaway Park Brewery has a tap room you’ll enjoy camping out in if you love thoughtfully crafted beer and cozy spaces. If you happen to be in Winter Park during Venture Out Fest, they’ll be plenty of live music, axe throwing, dogsledding, and fireworks to enjoy. For folks with a penchant for bizarre, free activities, snowga will pique your interest. This free event, which is essentially outdoor yoga with snow gear, takes place every Friday during winter. A short trip up the road will lead you to the Cozens Ranch Museum, a spot that explores what pioneer life was like for early homesteaders living in Colorado in the late 1800’s.
Native Winter Parkers and visitors are big fans of Fraser Valley Hot Dog, a local staple specializing in gourmet hot dogs and other meaty delights. If something a bit fancier interests you, try Volario’s, a swanky Italian spot with a large fireplace. And for those interested in making their Winter Park experience as fun as possible, a snowmobiling tour through the area will give you what you need.
Keystone is definitely a place revolved around the universe of skiing and snowboarding, but it’s also in close proximity spots that offer many other exciting activities. Located right at the Keystone resort, the Dercum Ice Skating Rink will make for a fun-filled day if you dig ice skating or hockey. Studio K Fitness & Yoga offers a variety of excellent classes designed to help practitioners meditate, stretch, and strengthen. If you want to reward yourself after a challenging yoga class, check out the Keystone Spa & Salon. You’ll find all the luxurious basics here, including detoxifying scrubs, massages, micro-treatments, and more.
For those willing to make a short drive outside of Keystone, Frisco is an excellent town to check out. The Frisco Adventure Park is opened up to snow tubers every winter, and the town has an excellent brewery, sushi restaurant, and plenty of stores to shop in. If eating at Keystone sounds like a better plan, you’ll have much to choose from, including a fondue restaurant, soup bistro, and a AAA, Four-Diamond fine dining restaurant called the Alpenglow Stube. After lunch, take a scenic sleigh ride through the majestic Soda Creek Valley.
Just because you’re not skiing doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to check out one of the best mountain views in Colorado. Keystone offers scenic gondola rides that will transport you to heights of 11,640 feet. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the snow fort atop Dercum Mountain, and you can enjoy drinks and lunch at the multiple elevated restaurants the area has to offer. And while you’re at it, check out the Family Adventure Tour. You’ll ride in a heated snowcat to the Erickson and Bergman bowls that sit high atop Keystone.
Durango is a half hour’s drive from the Purgatory Ski Resort, but it’s a great place to spend time if your friends and family are away for the day skiing there. Home of Fort Lewis College, Durango is a college town, which is good news if you’re a fan of bars and restaurants that boast a hip, youthful vibe. Beer-lovers from all over flock to Durango to visit Ska Brewing, an internationally beloved brewery that routinely cleans up at the Great American Beer Festival. If you’re a fan of trains and western history, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers stunning excursions through the San Juan Forest. The Southern Ute Museum celebrates the history and modern culture of the Southern Ute people through engaging exhibits.
Durango’s historic downtown will be a spot you’ll love if you’re a fan of America’s old west heritage. Here, you’ll find award-winning restaurants, authentic western boutique hotels, and welcoming shops and bars. Despite being a relatively small place, Durango is home to 30 art galleries. If you love contemporary art, the Durango Arts Center will probably be showing something you’ll be interested in seeing. While your group skis, take advantage of your day by getting a little me time in and check out one of Durango’s spas.
Whether you’re in the mood for a cup of tea while you read a book or a fine dining experience, Durango can accommodate you. B*tchin Cookies is a local favorite that lives up to its namesake, while East By Southwest serves delicious, intricate Japanese dishes that look so ethereal and surreal that they look like they came straight out of a dream. Hailing from Main Street, Diamond Belle Saloon is considerably less ethereal than one of East By Southwest’s dishes, but its gritty, wild west trappings are every bit as surreal. And if you’re in town during Snowdown, a wild winter party filled with costumes, booze, and copious shenanigans awaits you.
Pagosa Springs is a southern Colorado gem and a fantastic placed to be holed up in while your group snowboards or skis to their heart’s content. The town is home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, which reaches depths of over 1002 feet deep. That’s a fun fact, but you’ll undoubtably get much more satisfaction from the hot spring’s warm, relaxing pools and the multiple spa facilities the area offers. You’ll soon discover that Pagosa Springs locals are enthusiastic about the unique geothermal conditions that exist under their town. The Riff Raff Brewing Company prides itself on being the world’s first brewery that’s exclusively powered through natural geothermal heating. They also have tasty beer, which is nice.
This town offers loads of fun year-round activities, from sleigh rides to ice skating to local theatre. If you’re the angling type, you’ll love ice fishing on the frozen lakes around Pagosa. If you don’t have the requisite gear, there are multiple outdoor shops in town to rent or buy from. Winter fly fishing on the San Juan River is also a blast if ice fishing is too much trouble. Pagosa Springs is surrounded by mile after mile of gorgeous hiking trails and pristine Rocky Mountain scenery. Snowshoeing is the only way to access these trails during the winter, but once you get out there, you’ll have a vast winter wilderness all to yourself.
Pagosa Springs is home to some excellent art spaces ranging from hip modern studios to eclectic woodworking galleries. The Pagosa Springs History Museum charges no admission and gives visitors a broad historical context about the town’s history, Colorado railroads, and local wildlife. And if you’re hungry, Pagosa Springs is ready for you with food trucks, Mexican restaurants, delis, brunch joints, and much, much more.
Thanks for checking out our favorite destinations for a Colorado winter without skiing! Drive safe and enjoy your time off the slopes!