5 mountain towns worth visiting in the summertime

5 mountain towns worth visiting in the summertime

by Chloe Mulliner, Expedia.com contributor

If you’re hoping that the adrenaline rush from your last ski run will see you through to the next winter season, it’s high time you tapped into some different thrills on the slopes this summer. We’ve rounded up a handful of resort towns where you’ll find heart-racing excursions and après-adventure activities galore, even in the warm months. Because if you can’t have the powdery white, the brown pow ain’t half bad.

Whistler, British Columbia

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On top of the world. Photo by Robin O’Neill, courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb

You know Whistler Blackcomb as North America’s largest ski resort and FREESKIER’s #1 Overall Resort for 10 years running, but there’s more to it than its epic skiing terrain. Located 75 miles north of Vancouver, the two neighboring mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb) offer challenging hikes, hair-raising ATV adventures and world-class mountain biking. Regarding the biking scene, Creekside Gondola will spin for bike upload this summer, matching the Garbanzo lift operating times of 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from June 18 until September 5, and then weekends only from September 6 to 18. Raven’s Nest, the restaurant perched at the top of the Creekside Gondola, will be open during the summer season, providing a new food and beverage option for two-wheelers ripping in the Creek Zone. Care to witness some of the most insane mountain bikers in the world throw down? Be there amid Crankworx, August 12-21.

Aside from the biking, for a wild and somewhat unusual experience, cruise the backcountry in a 4×4 on a bear viewing tour. It doesn’t involve much physical activity (prime morning-after pursuit), but trust it’ll get your heart pumping when you come eye to eye with a hefty-sized black bear. Oh, and there’s even a 160-foot bungee jump over the Cheakamus River, if you’re feeling the stomach-in-your-mouth vibes. Of course, if you’re overcome by the urge to ditch the bikes and the hiking shoes and strap back into your sticks, you can ski upon the Horstman Glacier, home to world-renowned summer-ski camps like Momentum and Camp of Champions. Glacier skiing runs from June 11 to July 17 this year.

Cap it all off with Whistler Blackcomb’s signature Mountain Top BBQ Series, returning this summer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at the Roundhouse Lodge (see here for dates). Guests ride up the Whistler Village Gondola to enjoy a mouth-watering BBQ buffet at 6,000 feet while listening to live music and soaking in breathtaking mountain views. Life is good, eh?

Jackson, Wyoming

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Gettin’ it in. Big Red in the distance. Courtesy of JHMR

There are countless ways to get your adrenaline kicks in Jackson, which sits between the Gros Ventre Range and Teton Mountains. Mountain bikers with a need for speed will find their fill on the lift-accessible downhill trails at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) or the network of trails up on Teton Pass. You’ll find stellar hiking trails aplenty in the region and JHMR also boasts the Grand Adventure Park where you can show off on the Aerial Adventure Course, get some air on bungee trampolines, or freefall (i.e. bungee jump) from an 80-foot-high structure dubbed the “Drop Tower.” New this year: The Grand Adventure Pass ($79) provides bangin’ value and a simple solution to a full day of outdoor adventure in the Park. Think: Unlimited one-day access to the ropes course, bike park, climbing wall, the bungee tramps, the Drop Tower and the Aerial Tram.

Speaking of the famed Aerial Tram, no venture to Jackson would be complete without a trip to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in “Big Red.” Boasting the longest continual vertical rise of any lift in North America, she whisks you up to 360 degree views of the Snake River Valley, Grand Teton National Park and the Gros Ventre Range. One final option for your time in WYO: Spread your wings and paraglide off the top of Curtis Canyon. Too damn fun. Pro tip: Spectacular fireworks and free outdoor music will be served up on July 3 and 4, ’cause ‘Merica!

Aspen, Colorado

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The hiking here does not suck. Courtesy of Aspen Skiing Co.

Aspen draws us back time and time again. It’s our go-to spot for our annual ski test, but winter ain’t the only time we’re having an epic time in Aspen. Summertime options for ya’: Take the speedometer down a few notches and soak up the sights with a scenic ride on the Silver Queen Gondola; rising 3,267 vertical feet, it’s the longest single-stage gondola in the world. Glide up to the 11,212-foot mountain summit and toss around some Frisbees at North America’s highest disc golf course. Later, give downhill mountain biking a go at Aspen’s Snowmass Mountain. Trails in the Snowmass Bike Park weave their way from the top of the Elk Camp Chairlift down to the Snowmass Village base—that’s 2,893 feet of bliss. That’s all complemented by 50 miles of cross-country trails in Snowmass. Bonus: The Bike Park stays open until dusk every Tuesday from July 19 through August 23, too, so you can shred ’til the cows come home.

If you’re looking to explore the sublime peaks of the surrounding Elk Mountains during your romp in Central Colorado, test your endurance on the 8.5-mile hike through the Conundrum Springs or step to one of the popular “fourteeners” in the area: Castle Peak (moderate), Snowmass Peak (difficult) or Capitol Peak, Pyramid Peak or the Maroon Bells (most difficult). Be sure to do your homework before embarking on those high-altitude missions. Or, simply plop your line in one of the many top-notch fishing holes along the Roaring Fork River. Round out your day with some cougar hunting in town. The game is plentiful.

Things to keep an eye out for: Sunday, August 28 plays host to Red Bull Rise, for those interested in endurance running and/or sipping champagne whilst watching absolute beasts of humans run up and down Aspen Mountain over and over again. Two more grueling competitions: The Audi Power of Four Mountain Bike Race (August 6) and the Audi Power of Four Trail Run Race (August 6 & 7). Think you’re fit? Power of Four is where you prove it.

[Update: Aspen Mountain will open 120 acres of terrain for skiing and riding when it opens for scheduled summer operations over Memorial Day weekend. Skiing will be off the Ajax Express chair on the upper part of the mountain, with uploading and downloading on the Silver Queen Gondola. Skiing will be open from 9 to 2, May 28-30, with sightseeing open until 4 p.m. and the Sundeck will be open for food and beverage service. More info and pricing via 970-923-1227 or visit the Aspen Mountain Ticket Office this weekend.]

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Hiking on Wheeler Peak Trail above Williams Lake, Wheeler Peak Wilderness, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Nexico, model released

Wheeler Peak Trail, above Williams Lake. Courtesy of Taos Ski Valley

When it comes to exploring northern New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley, take your pick: Horseback riding or llama trekking. OK, ok, those aren’t the only ways to witness the aspen groves and breathtaking mountain landscapes that rise above the arid desert, but hiking is a whole lot more fun with a four-legged companion in tow. Trust us. Llama pics can’t hurt the Instagram game, either. Summer in this high-desert region serves up all sorts of excursions: Taos Ski Valley offers some of the best mountain biking in the southwest. The Northside trail system features 1,200 acres of excellent singletrack through aspen groves, mountain meadows and above-treeline terrain. Whitewater raft along the Rio Grande and take a full moon hike around Williams Lake, located at 11,040-feet in elevation. Ready to view the valley from a different vantage point? Float away in the basket of a printed hot air balloon above the Rio Grande Gorge with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in your wake. As we’ve said before, there’s a certain mystique associated with Taos Ski Valley—an allure it shares with its home state of New Mexico, itself known as “The Land of Enchantment.” Find out for yourself what it’s all about.

Banff, Alberta

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To the left and down the valley, you can just make out the town of Banff. Courtesy of SkiBig3

Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine, known as SkiBig3, is comprised of the three resorts that call Alberta’s Banff National Park home: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay. Rev up your sense of adventure along Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata. This climbing trek, rigged with cables and ladders, lets you live life on the edge—literally. Enjoy a hike around Sunshine Meadows at Sunshine Village, one of the most stunning alpine settings in the Canadian Rockies. Might we suggest a guided tour? For those who prefer to get down and dirty, go caving at Rat’s Nest Cave in nearby Canmore, where you can crawl and wiggle your way around stalactites and stalagmites. Add in a canoe session down Bow River and a fishing outing along Lake Minnewanka for a well-balanced trip in the wilderness. Note: The U.S. versus Canadian dollar exchange rate is insane right now (in the Americans’ favor) — head north!

Related: A virtual 3D tour of Chamonix’s most coveted line, The Mallory

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