Friday, June 24, 2016

10 Mountain Resorts for Summer Savings

“I came for the winter and stayed for the summer.” I hear it all the time when I visit North America’s top ski resorts. Mountain townies swear by the cool temperatures, clean air and natural beauty of an environment that changes from the stark white of long winters to the lush greenery of all too brief summers. 

Since travelers find lodging and activity rates at 30% to 50% off the peak winter season at these resorts, summer is a great time to try out the mountain lifestyle yourself.  Here are my 10 picks in alphabetical order, and why I chose them from the 51 summer vacation ideas we put together.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival, c. Jason Dewey,


Aspen, founded in 1880 on the site of a huge silver lode, is the pinnacle of chic mountain resorts, the place where you can join the 1% and play in the fresh air, hike, fish, mountain bike and enjoy the arts. Since 1949, the summertime Aspen Music Festival has brought in more than 300 classical music events (many orchestras are comprised of top students, and there are workshop classes for kids as well.) There are lots of galleries in this pretty Western town, and arts workshops at the celebrated Anderson Ranch for all ages and skill levels – everything from bookmaking to ceramics to furniture making. There’s music at outdoor cafes, lectures and open air concerts; even the produce displayed at the weekly farmer’s market is an aesthetic treasure. Take advantage of the free RFTA transportation between Aspen and Snowmass (6 miles away and itself a famous family ski resort) – especially if you have kids in tow – because there’s another 90 miles of hiking and biking trails, fly-fishing, Class V white-water rafting and kayaking, free Thursday night concerts and special weekend performances. Note that early bookers can score a bargain at the 50 local lodges, where half off winter prices start at $129 per night; rates at Snowmass and outside Aspen village are even more reasonable.

Downtown Breckenridge, photo c. Bob Winsett


Like Aspen, Breckenridge is an authentic Old West town – founded by gold prospectors in 1859 -- that just happens to have world-class slopes looming above Main Street. Given the young population, success of the Vail Resorts-owned mountain, casual boutiques, and farm to fork eateries, summer in Breck is a non-stop party. The town is comprised of low rise condos, fun dining like Giampietro’s where calzones compete with a video game arcade, ice cream shops, craft breweries like Broken Compass, and health food markets. There’s local hiking, fly fishing (Breckenridge Outfitters beat out 524 other shops to become the Orvis Shop of the Year); cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College, and an on-mountain Summer Fun Park with zip lines, a coaster, and Segway tours. The Breckenridge Ski Resort kids summer camp for ages 5-13 runs June 10 - August 19, 2016; Meta Yoga teaches yoga asanas on standup paddleboards all summer long. The Breck Rec Center, where visiting families pay only $38 for four day passes, has a climbing wall, great pool and waterslide, ball courts, classes and much more. New and casual define the entertainment scene:  the Light + Sound + Water multimedia festival and Bike Week take place in June; the Street Arts Festival is over July 4th weekend, there’s the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts in August, and Labor Day brings Rubber Duck Races, more arts, and the Sidewalk Sale Days where summer athletes shed their well-used gear. Best yet, free electric buses loop around town, making cars a luxury rather than a necessity. From July 4- October 1, the large Beaver Run Resort on Peak 9 lets you save 25% off when you stay 3 or 4 nights; some restrictions apply.  Checkout the many deals on Adventure Pass activity booklets and is packed with local insight from the passionate townies.

Omni Mt. Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire


The rugged trails of the Presidential Range -- especially Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast – have lured hikers since the 1800s. Tucked into the dense forest is Bretton Woods, a ski area and mountain resort that has welcomed presidents and dignitaries since its 1902 opening. Today, the Omni Mount Washington Resort maintains that classy mountain experience, with fine service and formal dining awaiting those who hike, fish, mountain bike on the BMX trails, join a guided Polaris Ranger Mountain Tour, golf on the original Donald Ross course, or play on the landscaped grounds. Alternatively, shop in local antique stores, indulge in the new Spa, or partake of afternoon tea and watch brown bears cross the lawn. Saturday afternoons, drop by the hotel’s Prohibition “Tea” Party and learn more about the history of the 19th Amendment; read up on the 1944 Bretton Woods conference and learn how the World Bank was founded. At night there’s live cabaret after supper. Lincoln, New Hampshire, a half hour’s drive in the Western White Mountains, is the place for souvenirs, zip lines, water parks, mini golf and homemade ice cream; pick up a free Basecamp Card for discounts at local attractions. To save on lodging, book the Omni Bretton Arms Inn where a two-night stay earns 15% off the best available rates plus free breakfast. There are also many BnBs and small motels. 

Outdoor dining in view of the Tetons, from Deck @Piste Restaurant, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort


For more than 50 years, a red gondola flying over the Tetons has symbolized the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and some of the best skiing in the world. In summer, the same aerial tram takes mountain bikes, paragliders, rock climbers and hikers up to Rendevous Mountain for unforgettable 360-degree views of the 50 mile-long Jackson Hole valley, Teton Mountain range, Snake River and Grand Teton National Park. Several lifts serve the slopes for hiking, on-mountain dining and sightseeing in Teton Village, the resort base about 12 miles from Jackson. Sunday afternoons, there’s free music near the playground and pop-jet fountain.  Active visitors will want a Grand Adventure Park Pass ($79) to access the aerial tram, ropes course, bike park, bungee, climbing wall, and the Drop Tower’s 30 and 60-foot high platforms (reached by multiple auto-belay and freefall drop options). July 28-30, enroll in Eric Orto’s Mountain Running Academy and train for the Rendevous Hill Climb in August. This is one of the few mountain towns where summer is busier than winter and prices rise. Make a day trip to Yellowstone, and check out the galleries, saloons, Elk Refuge and log cabin lodges around sleepy Jackson for value, and discover that authentic Wild West feel the area is known for.

Swimming in Mirror Lake, Lake Placid, photo: C. Roost


Although Lake Placid is best known for hosting the Winter Olympics at Whiteface Mountain (1932 and 1980), summer is the best time to visit. The bustling commercial Main Street circles Mirror Lake in a village surrounded by waterways and the old growth evergreens of stunning Adirondack Park, established by New York State in 1892 and greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. Get out of town to explore hundreds of hiking trails, ranging from the mild Cobble Hill to the challenging hikes across the 46 High Peaks. Beyond the Cascade Lakes lie the granite walls that draw rock climbers. Dozens of lakes (Lake Placid is actually just north) including Tupper (site of the Tinman Triathlon each June, followed by the Lake Placid Ironman) and Saranac (site of many luxurious Adirondack style estates) are used for canoeing, SUP and whitewater rafting. Golf is popular everywhere, as is fly-fishing on the West Branch of the Ausable River. The whole region is thick with small farm towns, local museums, antique shops selling plaid blankets and plush bears, coffee bars and outdoors outfitters, making Cycle Adirondacks, a weeklong, fully supported bike tour (August 20-27), a great way to see everything. Prefer to relax on a hotel porch in your Adirondack chair? Check out the seasonal specials and pick between free nights or activity packages.

Yoga and Standup Paddleboarding for the ultimate Lake Tahoe workout; photo Chris Bartowski, Tahoe North.


The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe Is nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains on the California / Nevada border. Most of the action is along the north shore, North Lake Tahoe, at 12 mountain resorts, more than 20 beaches and 126 miles of singletrack biking trails, many above 8, 700 feet. The largest resort, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, also called Olympic Valley since hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, is easily accessed from the Reno, Nevada Airport or Sacramento. In fact, the mountain resort famous for its powder skiing and freestyle snowboarding, skate skiing and kiting, has contributed an athlete to every Winter Olympics since 1964. Repeat visitors head to the many small lakefront communities to enjoy weekend athletic events, races and festivals such as Memorial Days “Made in Tahoe” festival celebrating local artisans, to “Tough Mudder” for bikers, the weeklong “Alpenglow Mountain” exhibit of the latest in outdoor gear, and Wanderlust, combining Zen yoga, wellness and music. Other events celebrate boats, beer and dogs; there’s scheduled SUP classes and yoga on paddleboards, swimming in the crystalline green waters, serene places to kayak, boat rentals, fly-fishing, and an Ironman triathlon. In addition to the supervised Squaw Kids club for ages 5-13, families can partake of yoga in Squaw Village each Wednesday and blues concerts on Tuesday, among the many free Tahoe events. First-timers should take advantage of the facilities and bargain accommodations found in the base villages of North Lake Tahoe’s 12 mountain resorts. The pedestrian-only, purpose built Village in Squaw Valley, for example, offers condo studios starting from $160 per night up to three bedroom suites and posh hotels, like the Resort at Squaw Creek or the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe at nearby Northstar California. mountain resort. That’s the launchpad for nightly Tahoe Star Tours, a guided viewing of five planets seen with Celestron telescopes using astro imaging technology – a unique opportunity in an environment free of light pollution.

Ride a Bobsled in summer at Utah Olympic Park; courtesy Park City Chamber


Park City is home to the newly combined Canyons and Park City Mountain Resorts, now the largest skiable acreage in the U.S. Summer, however, kicks off June 18 on Main Street in this historic Western town, when every restaurant sets it tables outdoors so that 1,500 can celebrate the season’s bounty with locally sourced, gourmet cuisine at the Savor the Summit festival. In addition to 400 miles of trails maintained for hiking and mountain biking, visitors come to fly over a curved mountain track at 60 mph on the Utah Olympic Park’s signature feature, the Comet Bobsled ride – trained pilot included. Park City lodging ranges from the Sundance crowd’s glamor hotels to bargain condos in town that rent for 40% less than in ski season. Don’t miss the weekly Park Silly Sunday Market where live bands and costumed street buskers entertain chefs, food vendors, craftsmen and tourists. The St. Regis Big Stars Bright Nights concert series featuring Emmylou Harris and Jewel this summer, takes place outdoors at Deer Valley’s amphitheater, where picnics are welcome.

Ziplining at Stowe, Vermont. Photo: Greg Petrics, c. Spruce Peak Realty


Stowe is a Vermont favorite for its hip, picturesque town and topnotch ski resort blanketing Spruce Peak and Mt. Mansfield (the highest in the Green Mountains). Hike spectacular views off the unpaved Mt. Mansfield Auto Toll Road, as others have done for the past 150 years. With successful ski, snowboard and leaf peeping seasons, the Stowe Mountain Resort has invested $80 million dollars in summer. Welcome to the Adventure Center and Stowe Rocks climbing gym which add a ZipTour (served by the Skyride Gondola) and a very fun TreeTop Adventure Course (divided into six ability levels) to the activities available at the kids camp, open daily except Sunday for ages 3 to 12. Around town there’s the posh Stoweflake Spa, and small crafts places, markets, pubs and local eateries. Within a 20-minue drive on picture-perfect New England lanes is little Waterbury, home to antiques shops, the Vermont Annex cheddar cheese and maple products store, and small BnBs. Head over to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory for 20-minute tours and tastings that are well worth the stop, and pay your respects at the Flavor Graveyard where unsuccessful flavors have been laid to rest. Bikers use the lifts at nearby Sugarbush; hikers of all abilities enjoy the scenic 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path where there’s room for biking and in-line skating. The region has golf at an altitude of 1,800 feet and minigolf, tennis, an Alpine slide and more to keep everyone busy.

Le Fete de la Musique, Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Photo courtesy


May is start of summer at Tremblant, the stylish resort at the foot of Mont-Tremblant voted #1 Ski Resort in Eastern North America by Ski magazine readers for 18 years in a row. Low rise townhouses with 1,900 units, chic bistros and patisseries, outfitters, an indoor pool complex and casino circle Place Saint-Bernard, the heart of this French Canadian pedestrian village built to serve the ski resort. Outdoor barbecues, live music, and friendly bilingual counselors toting campers to the lake for swim class are typical summer scenes; when it rains, visitors head to Mission Liberte, an escape game with three themed rooms. Tremblant draws weekend crowds to its Gourmand food and wine celebration, Ironman race, Wanderlust concerts and International Blues Festival. From July 22-31, Rythmes Tremblant brings in live rock, country, disco and Latino music. Because it’s located just 90 minutes from Montreal, you’ll save on Tremblant hotels booked weekdays and, if you buy before June 21, take 30% off lodgings, plus unlimited free access to the scenic gondola, at participating establishments. Canada prices have fallen 30% against the American dollar so Tremblant is currently a great value. Another bonus: resort guests will be able to observe the Perseid meteor shower August 12-13 from the village gondola.

Stopping for ice cream at Whistler. Photo c. Mike Crane, Tourism Whistler


Canada’s Olympic mountain provides the trails, slopes and gear for hiking, mountain biking, zip lining, canoeing, fishing, and golf on one of four championship courses (pick between greens designed by Robert Cupp, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer). What visitors love about Whistler is the cobblestoned car-free, base village packed with comfortable condos and luxury hotels, hip bars and elegant shops. Not sure where to dine, join a Whistler Tasting Tour for stops at four popular eateries. Spa Scandinave combines traditional sweat lodges with frozen plunge pools to kickstart your circulation, likely not needed after your float plane trip, bungee jump, jet boat ride, tree trek or side by side ATV jaunt. Families love the safety of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for bear-spotting, plus sweeping views of the resort’s lakes and sand beaches. Count on live music nightly, a weekly Farmers Market, and huge events that range from Tough Mudder (June) to Ironman Canada (July) and Cranxworx (August) for freestyle mountain bikers. Take kids to the arts workshops and multimedia performances during Children’s Festival, July 8 – 10. Through October, visitors who stay four nights can save 40% on their condo or hotel (more if they commit to some activities and buy in advance) so, with the 30% discount Americans already enjoy thanks to the strong dollar, this place is an adventurers’ bargain.

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