As the Winter season comes to a close, many ski areas shift to off-season maintenance and improvement mode. Luckily, for those of us who can’t stand to be away from the mountain, year-round activities and amenities are increasing at ski areas. Visit your favorite resort after the snow has melted and you will probably find a variety of things to do, from zip lines and mountain coasters to weddings and scenic chairlift rides.
Ski areas are interested in growing their Summer industry for several reasons. The non-Winter season represents a significant time period in which to earn revenue. In many parts of the country, the potential number of customers in Summer is far higher than in Winter. The opportunity to employ staff year-round rather than on a seasonal basis is another advantage. From an ROI (return on investment) standpoint, utilizing resort assets during the Summer makes good financial sense.
About three-quarters of all US ski areas have some type of non-Winter activity. Weddings, meetings, conferences, and family reunions are among the most popular activities. Resorts have the infrastructure to host large groups (base lodge, parking, food service) – and what better way to make your Wedding ceremony more special than with a scenic chairlift ride up!
Just recently, the US Forest Service amended its guidelines for the 122 ski areas operating on public land. This new directive will allow these resorts to host additional non-Winter activities, giving them the opportunity to bring visitors to the mountain even when the ski season is over. The hope is to encourage more people to enjoy the National Forests all year round.
Notably, the regulations do not allow “amusement park” type attractions, like “ferris wheels, miniature train rides, and roller coasters,” but focuses more on outdoor recreational activities like mountain bike parks, canopy tours, zip lines, etc.
Indeed, mountain biking (both downhill and cross-country) is one of the most common Summer activities that ski areas offer because they have the terrain, vertical, and scenery that mountain bikers desire.
Festivals, concerts, and adventure races are other popular summer attractions at ski areas. Often, the resort is just the host site for the activity, with an event organizer actually running the show. The variety of festivals offered is impressive: music festivals at Hunter Mountain, the Lake Tahoe Food & Wine Festival and Wanderlust Festival (various locations, including Stratton, Aspen-Snowmass, Squaw Valley, Whistler, and Tremblant) are noteworthy Summer gatherings. Ski areas are great places to host these types of events because of the available parking, terrain, base lodge and other facilities.
Aerial adventure parks and challenge courses are becoming increasingly widespread at many different resorts, including Okemo, Cranmore, Trollhaugen, Gunstock, Holiday Valley, Catamount, and many more. These treetop tours deliver a variety of features and challenges among platforms that are anchored to tree trunks. Visitors are harnessed in and can choose courses with different levels of difficulty, making them popular with families and groups. After a couple of hours up in the trees, you will be ready for a cold adult beverage!
Disc golf, alpine slides, hiking, geocaching, mini golf, Euro-bungee, and, of course, golf are a few more activities that you might find at resorts during the warm months. If you can think of it, there is probably a ski area somewhere that has it.
In the Winter, ski areas are pretty much about one thing: sliding downhill on snow. In the Summer, however, the number and types of activities you can participate in are almost limitless! Check out your favorite hill for a new adventure this Summer!