Summer in the mountains is beautiful.
Newly greened meadows, released from the monochromatic white and grey of winter, pop with colorful wildflowers. Creeks and rivers, swollen with snowmelt, rush by reflecting and refracting warm sunlight and lending a melodious rhythm to mountain life.
Temperatures are moderate, cool breezes are many.
If you’re considering a mountain adventure this summer (and you should be!) here are some suggestions to get you started.
In the West, many ski areas are on U.S. Forest Service land where you’ll find plenty of options for hiking, ranging from rustic, leave-no-trace backcountry tracks to lift-assisted jaunts with mountain top views.
Resorts on private land offer great options as well.
One of my favorites is the 2.5-mile Ontario Trail at Deer Valley Resort. This trail winds uphill from Silver Lake Lodge past old silver mines. From the top you can hike back down or enjoy a free chairlift ride (uphill rides require a ticket, downhill rides are free!).
Across the country in Vermont, check out the Healdville Trail at Okemo Mountain Resort. A nearly 6-mile round trip, the trail takes you to the top of 3,340 foot Mount Okemo with sweeping views of the ski area and beyond. When you’re done hiking, cool off in a local swimming hole or SUP and kayak at a nearby state park.
Moving north to Canada, we’re excited to try the via ferrata at Mount Norquay, just above the town of Banff. A Canadian Signature Experience, the via ferrata is a fixed anchoring system of cables, ladders and a suspension bridge. You’re roped in and you go with a guide, so no prior experience is necessary.
Downhill biking has taken ski resorts by storm. A natural fit anywhere there’s a chairlift or tram to take you and your bike up, downhill biking is gravity assisted fun for everyone from beginners to experts.
If you’re in Utah, look for a new Gravity Logic-designed beginner trail at Deer Valley, while just across the state line into Colorado, you’ll find a new bike park at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.
Downhill biking isn’t mountain biking. The technique is different. The gear is different. The trails are different, and the bikes are different. Riding a DH trail on your cross-country bike sort of, kind of, works, but for the most fun, rent some gear and take a lesson.
Kevin Jordan, the Bike School Coordinator at the Snowmass Bike Park in Colorado explains.
“Downhill mountain biking is completely different from road cycling, cross-country mountain biking, or riding your campus cruiser for that matter. Going with a pro increases the fun factor. We can teach you the technique as well as subtle nuances to make it more fun. This helps to increase the ‘Wee!’ factor and lessen the ‘Woah!’ factor.”
If using your own mountain bike on traditional cross-country trails is more to your liking, ski country has you covered for that, too.
As with hiking trails, many cross-country mountain bike trails are on USFS land and are largely unimproved. Other trail systems, like those at Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Boyne Mountain, Michigan, are part of lift served bike parks with trails for all abilities.
You’ll find plenty of options in all regions of the country.
And while some may claim that “dirt is the new snow,” you’ll also find options for skinny tire cycling and relaxed riding along graded and paved trails.
I’m intrigued with the Route of the Hiawatha, a 30-mile converted rail-to-trail experience that begins and ends at Lookout Pass Ski Area in Idaho. While it may seem long, the grade is gentle and the trail includes seven trestle crossings and ten tunnels, the longest of which is 1.66 miles.
Before there was biking at ski resorts, there was golf. Found in every region of the country, mountain courses offer cool air, stunning scenery and a high-altitude assist.
Of note, we hear great things about the Arnold Palmer course at Big Sky Resort in Montana and the beautiful rolling course at Sugarloaf, Maine.
Less of a destination, but still worth checking out, is the 18-hole course at Afton Alps, Minnesota. With views of the St. Croix River, it’s a low-key option for locals and visitors alike.
Afton Alps also has a nine-hole foot golf course. Combining the best of soccer with the best of golf, players kick their way to large 21 inch cups.
Festivals: Music, Food and More
Summer festivals run the gamut from multi-day music extravaganzas with marquee headliners (Pearl Jam at Telluride’s Ride Fest, anyone?) to gourmet food and drink with some of the best chefs in the world.
The Wanderlust Festivals are among the most unique combining yoga, meditation, seminars, outdoor adventure and farm-to-table dining.
Look for Wanderlust at six North American ski resorts this summer: Squaw Valley, California; Aspen Snowmass, Colorado; Stratton, Vermont; Snowshoe, West Virginia; Tremblant, Quebec and Whistler, BC.
Amusement Rides For Kids, Big and Small
While this set of suggestions is geared toward kids and families, the reality is that flying through the air or racing down a mountain appeals to just about everyone.
We’re talking ziplines, ropes courses, mountain coasters, alpine slides and other novelty rides that combine beautiful mountain scenery with adrenaline pumping fun!
Check out the “All Day Activities Pass” at Snowbird and sample their attractions, plus a tram ride to the new Summit Lodge, with 360-degree mountain views. It’s a perfect spot for lunch.
New this summer at Vail and Heavenly, you’ll find Epic Discovery.
A cooperative effort of the US Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy and local partners, Walking Mountains Science Center and the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Epic Discovery combines adventure rides with environmental education.
In addition to summer tubing, zip lines and the like, look for canopy tours hosted by interpretive guides and expanded nature trails where everyone can learn more about the local environment through fun, interactive activities.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t ski. Timberline Lodge, Oregon is famous for year-round skiing and summer camps for junior racers and park specialists. It’s also a training ground for ski teams of all levels.
Woodward Copper is likewise open for freestyle camps and clinics, for kids and adults.
Other options include high-altitude resorts like Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin which is often open into June and sometimes until July 4th.
Portions of this post originally published at the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month website.
More Ideas For Summer Fun at Ski Resorts:
- Keep Looking Ahead: Family Biking at Crested Butte’s Evolution Park, September 3, 2015.
- Downhill Biking for Everyone, August 10, 2015.
- Summer in Steamboat, Part 2: Bike Town, USA, July 10, 2014.
- Plan Now For Summer Family Skiing at Portillo, Chile, October 6, 2014.
- Downhill Biking: Is Dirt the New Snow? August 21, 2013.
- Rip, Wander and Ride at Copper Mountain This Summer, June 24, 2013.
- Pedal, Play, Party: Summer Fun in West Virginia, Idaho and California, June 17, 2013.
- Family Getaway: Mountain Biking at Beaver Creek, Colorado, August 15, 2012.
- Summer in Snowmass, May 29, 2012.
- Learning to Love Gravity at Winter Park’s Trestle Bike Park, July 14, 2011.
- Summer Ski Camp with Ted Ligety. It Was Fun For Our Entire Family, March 23, 2011.
- Woodward Copper: Sign Up Now for the Coolest Summer Camp on Earth, March 2, 2011.
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