The 20 best summer destinations in ski country
The snow has melted and the lifts have (mostly) stopped spinning, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t head for the hills this summer. Most North American resorts have a ton to offer during the warmer months, ranging from biking to hiking to fishing to kayaking. We’ve compiled the 20 top resorts to check out this summer…
Prince William Sound is only 25 miles from Alyeska and is the jumping off point for kayak tours of glaciers, waterfalls and Alaskan wildlife. This kind of access to sea kayaking is unrivaled by other North American ski resorts. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy loop while you work off the beers from the previous night or a seven-hour slog (for advanced paddlers), you’re covered. If you do plan to take on the Last Frontier this summer, don’t miss Alyeska’s 10th Annual Blueberry Festival—just don’t try to recreate the memorable scene from Stand By Me during the pie eating contests.
Snowmass is marketed as the resort for families in the Roaring Fork Valley but that’s not what it’s all about, especially in summer. The Snowmass Bike Park has nearly 3,000 vertical feet of purpose-built downhill trails for the most discerning rider. Looking for a more mellow on-mountain experience? Snowmass is the only Colorado resort to feature two 18-hole disc golf courses.
If scenic hikes are your jam, The Maroon Bells are the most photographed place in Colorado and for good reason—the red-striped 14,000-foot peaks reach into the sky and are surrounded by a bevy of beautiful alpine lakes. For a quick hike, take the Maroon Lake Trail. For more of a challenge, the Willow Lake Trail is your spot. No matter which trail you choose, if you go over Labor Day Weekend check out The Roots, Nathaniel Rateliff, Lake Street Dive and more playing at the base of Snowmass for the JAS Labor Day Experience festival.
Dog sledding isn’t just a winter sport at Mt. Bachelor. Four-time Iditarod musher, Rachael Scdoris, leads sled dog rides on comfortable dry-land carts around the resort. Bachelor also features a PDGA listed disc golf course for you to explore, as well as 13 miles of lift-accessed mountain biking trails designed to challenge bikers of all ages and abilities.
Just down the road from Mt. Bachelor sits the kick-ass town of Bend, Oregon. In 2015, the town built the Bend Whitewater Park on the Deschutes River which provides channels for a mellow float down the river or serious whitewater for advanced kayakers, surfers and paddleboarders. Whether you’re floating the passageway channel in an inner tube or challenging Eddy’s Wave on a surfboard, the Old Mill District is just around the corner with plenty of Bend’s fine craft beers to quench your thirst after the water time. Speaking of Bend beer, the best time to visit Mt. Bachelor this summer might just be August 10 when the Bend Brewfest takes over the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Big Sky Resort
Looking to take out some aggression this summer? Head to Big Sky where you can do just that: on a target, a flying disc or on your friends. Big Sky’s archery course offers targets, Genesis compound bows and sick views of Lone Peak. Just around the corner is the resort’s skeet shooting range with the same Lone Peak backdrop. Finally, Big Sky has a badass Outdoor Paintball Arena complete with rental equipment, provided camo outerwear and a ref to make sure you remain boys with your opposition after the helmets come off. One of the best times to visit Big Sky this summer is during the grueling Lone Peaks Revenge Enduro race, when top amateur bikers challenge each other on both Andesite Mountain and Lone Peak.
Breckenridge is sandwiched in the heart of Colorado’s Tenmile Range. These mountains provide excellent skiing for most of the year, but come late summer, the Ten Mile Peak to Peak hike is the name of the game. This technically-advanced hike covers 12.8 miles and over 4,500 feet of elevation gain. Highlights include beautiful wildflowers, several gorgeous lakes and unrivaled views. The best time to tackle the Ten Mile Peak to Peak is August or September, once most of the snow has melted.
Want a less tiring but equally intense Tenmile Range experience this summer? Check out the GoldRunner Alpine Coaster on Breckenridge’s Peak 8. With 2,500 feet of hairpin curves and twists, this coaster is no joke.
If you go in September, try to schedule it around September 9 for the 23rd Annual Breckenridge Oktoberfest complete with street parties, German food and beer plus collectible steins imported from Germany.
While Copper offers plenty of summer activities like mountain biking, disc golf and more, the real draw is on the snow. Despite the warmer temps, Woodward Copper’s Big Island Terrain Park attempts to stay open all summer long (as snow conditions permit). Retro gear is encouraged as you navigate your way through a series of boxes, rails and other terrain park features. Day sessions and Summer Park passes are available online. Fuel your on-snow appetite and visit Copper for either the annual Mac & Cheese Fest on July 29 or the Colorado Burger Summit on August 19, where the state’s best burger will be crowned.
The Gunnison Valley offers over 750 miles of mountain biking and Crested Butte’s Evolution Bike Park has an additional 30 miles of trails. Whether you’re into cross country or downhill, several of the Evolution Bike Park’s 25 trails connect to the legendary rides in and around Crested Butte. If you decide to visit one of the birthplaces of mountain biking, plan your visit around mid-August. Outerbike, one of the largest consumer bike shows hits “CB” from August 18 to 20. From August 19 to 20, the series finals for the Big Mountain Enduro Series descends on Crested Butte.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Jackson Hole is regarded as a world-class fly fishing destination for seasoned anglers from around the globe. With unrivaled access to the Snake River, Green River, the lakes and streams of Grand Teton National Park, and the famous Firehole and other rivers in Yellowstone National Park, it’s not hard to see why it’s achieved legendary status. While wading and shore casting is possible, the best way to fish this area is floating your way down river. All fishing in Jackson Hole is catch and release which helps to maintain a healthy wild trout population in the area. After a day on the water, take in the views from atop the iconic Jackson Hole tram which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until October 8.
If you’d rather stay dry at the mountain, try one of Jackson Hole’s mountain bike tracks created in collaboration with Whistler-based trail building gurus Gravity Logic. Try to time your trip around the 13th Annual Targhee Fest from July 14 to 16, just an hour up the road, and featuring music from Michael Franti, North Mississippi Allstars, Karl Denson and more.
Killington is well known for some of the biggest skiing in the east, but what people don’t know is that “The Beast” goes off in the summer too. In 2016, Killington added three new trails and a new lift to the Ramshead area, including a pro-caliber downhill race trail. This year, two new trails are being built on Ramshead.
Another way to experience the Green Mountain State in all of its glory is via a guided ATV or UTV tour on and around Killington’s peaks. ATVs are one- or two-person four wheelers capable of climbing over almost anything. UTVs are side-by-side two- or four-person enclosed vehicles that drive more like a car but can go just about anywhere an ATV can. Time your trip around August 26 when the Funky Dawgz Brass Band take the stage for a free performance as part of Killington’s “Cooler in the Mountains” concert series.
The scenic beauty in and around Lake Louise during the summer rivals that of the snow-covered peaks and frozen lakes of the winter. The best way to take in the scenery is by kayak. Hit the teal-tinted waters of Lake Louise for a chill paddle and for views of wildlife and the towering mountains that surround the lake. If whitewater is more your steez, try your luck on the Class IV rapids of the Pipestone River. Be sure to check weekly listings for musical performances at the Banff Center for Performing Arts and Creativity, an outdoor amphitheater just 45 minutes from Lake Louise.
Thanks to an epic 2017 ski season, Mammoth will continue to offer skiing every day into August. But, the Mammoth Lakes area is also a playground for water sports enthusiasts. Grab a kayak or canoe and check out the unique Mono Lake. With its salty turquoise water, high-alpine desert climate and otherworldly tufa towers, Mono Lake is also a nesting habitat for 300 bird species. Add in over 65 square miles to paddle, and there is plenty to explore in every direction. With no motorboats allowed on the lake, a chilled-out lake vibe persists. If you make it to Mammoth at the beginning of August, check out acts like Robert Randolph, as well as Vintage Trouble, at the Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza, August 3 through 6.
Mono Lake canoe tours started today! Hop into a canoe with a Mono Lake Committee guide and get a unique look at the ecology and geology of Mono Lake. Discover bubbling springs, alkali flies, brine shrimp, underwater tufa towers, and migrating birds on these hour-long paddling tours. Tours happen every Saturday and Sunday at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00am—make your reservations at monolake.org/canoe. We hope you join us on the water this summer! • #monolake #tufa #tufatowers #canoe #canoeing #paddling #paddle #guidedtour #easternsierra #california #monocounty #sierra #sierranevada #monolakecommittee
Just a short drive from Mount Snow sits Lake Whitingham. With over 2,200 acres to explore, Lake Whitingham is the perfect place to soak in the views of southern Vermont’s rolling hills. Whether by jet ski, pontoon boat, motorboat, water skis, wakeboard or paddle board—there is an abundance of ways to get around the lake, no matter your preference or ability level. Hit up High Country Marine at the lighthouse beside the lake to rent boats and more. Labor Day weekend is a great time to explore Mount Snow and Lake Whitingham because the 23rd Annual Mount Snow Brewers Festival will be popping off with over 50 breweries pouring beer from 100-plus taps.
Park City Mountain
The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) awarded Park City as the world’s first Gold Level Ride Center Destination. With a pedigree like that, mountain biking is the summer activity of choice in Park City. Check out Flying Dog—a IMBA-designated “Epic Ride” perfect for intermediates and experts alike. The fast downhill portions feature a bunch of bridges over ponds and streams. The easiest route is 10 miles and has about 1,500 feet of elevation change, while the most difficult ride is 23 miles and has over 3,000 feet of climbing. Hit Park City during Labor Day weekend for the annual Point 2 Point, an endurance mountain bike race that brings out some of the top riders from Utah and beyond.
In winter, Snowbird is a virtual amusement park for skiers and riders with an abundance of steeps, bowls, trees, bumps and cruisers. In summer, the mountain turns into an actual amusement park for warm weather visitors. With a mountain coaster, alpine slide, mountain flyer, vertical drop, climbing wall, bungee trampoline and more—this place is like Walley World but with Little Cottonwood Canyon as the backdrop. If your facial hair game is on point, make sure to visit the Bird on August 12 during their Oktoberfest for the 4th Annual Beard and Moustache Competition. With categories like Whiskerina, Freestyle and Partial Beard, you’ve got time to craft your ‘stache or beard for the big event.
No matter the season, visiting the hot springs in and around Steamboat is a must. However, one thing that’s harder to do in winter is hiking to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Like earning your turns skinning up the mountain in winter, the three-mile trek up Forest Service Trail #1169 has the payoff of soaking in relaxing natural pools at 102 degrees and up. The trail winds its way through evergreens and aspens while following a creek and ending at the springs. If you go, Labor Day Weekend offers a couple of badass events to check out too—the Wild West Air Fest on September 2 and the Rocky Mountain Bull Bash on September 3.
Sunshine Village is one of the top spots in the Canadian Rockies for steep and deep pow throughout the winter. However, it takes on a whole different feel come summertime. Hiking through Sunshine Meadows is an opportunity to see gorgeous alpine lakes and a ton of wildflowers. The Meadows straddle the Continental Divide and provide sick views of the Rockies in Alberta and into British Columbia. If you go to Sunshine Village this summer, definitely try to catch a concert at the Banff Centre—a sweet outdoor music venue just down the road in Banff. Catch electronic act, A Tribe Called Red, there on August 6.
And this is why our heart belongs to the mountains! Did you know that your 2017/18 @sunshinevillage season pass includes a FREE summer pass!!?? Click the link in our bio to buy yours! (📷: @ninosxo) || #sunshinemeadows #explorealberta #canadianrockies #sunshinevillage #mybanff #banffsunshinevillage #summeratsunshine
Taos Ski Valley
New Mexico is an amazing place complete with rushing rivers, enormous rock formations, miles of desert and a sh#tload of green chilies. That being said, much of the state is crazy hot in the summer—not the case in Taos. The higher elevation makes Taos one of the coolest (literally and figuratively) places in the “Land of Enchantment.”
One cool way to explore Taos is the Los Rios Rock & Raft tour. Spend the morning rock climbing in the Rio Grande Gorge and the afternoon rafting down Class III and IV rapids on the Rio Grande. If you go, try to check out the inaugural Bacon & Brew Festival on July 22 at Taos Ski Valley.
Golfing at nearly 9,000 feet is sure to add a few yards to your drive, right? That’s definitely the case at the Telluride Golf Club which features pristine fairways and greens set amongst the San Juan Mountains.
The Telluride area has one of the highest concentrations of 14,000-foot peaks in the world. While peak-bagging 14ers might not be your thing, there are plenty of mellower hikes in the box canyon as well. Some local favorites include the Jud Weibe Loop, Sneffels Highline Trail and the Bear Creek Falls Trail. For one of the most majestic Telluride hikes, check out the Bridal Veil Trail which leads up to the falls on Ajax at the end of the box canyon that can be seen from Main Street. You’re pretty much guaranteed to catch a festival anytime you go to Telluride, since they have one almost every weekend during the summer. However, The Ride Festival on July 8 and 9 should be a good one with Beck and Ben Harper booked as headliners.
Vail has no shortage of on-mountain activities in the summer. Hop on the Eagle Bahn Gondola to be transported to the Epic Discovery zone atop Vail Mountain. The Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster, Eagle’s Nest Summer Tubing and Paramount Peak Climbing Wall will keep you busy for days.
With Gore Creek, the Colorado River and the Eagle River flowing through the Vail Valley, fly fishing in this area is also hugely popular from spring through fall. If you go in the summer, sight casting on the clear waters of Gore Creek net an abundance of rainbow and brown trout. Another favorite is just above Wolcott on the Eagle, where Milk and Akali Creek dump into the river. Finally, fishing Homestake Creek near Camp Hale provides a high-alpine fishing experience that is hard to top.
Try to time your trip with Vail’s Oktoberfest over two weekends in mid-September.
Whistler is one of the top ski resorts in the world and attracts rippers from around the globe each winter when the flakes are flying. The mountain shares the same world-class pedigree when it comes to mountain biking in the summer. With 70 trails, Whistler Mountain Bike Park offers more terrain than any bike park in North America. Just like Whistler’s varied winter terrain, there is something for everyone, from beginners on two wheels to the most-seasoned downhill bikers. One of the best times to go is mid-August for the annual Crankworx Festival. The top pro and amateur bikers will descend on Whistler for Crankworx, each trying to launch the biggest airs or ride longer and faster than the competition.