Last month, I spent a week up in Lake Tahoe with my soon-to-be in-laws. Between my general health condition and the fact that I’d just come from the physically draining Fresh Start cleanse, skiing and snowboarding were out of the question.
So what’s a traveler with pain to do when vacationing at a ski resort when skiing’s not going to work out?
* Sledding, tubing, and saucering.
If you’re feeling well, consider letting your inner 8-year-old out to play. But do it the easy way. Shell out the $15-$20 to play in a snow park that’s got a tow-rope or magic carpet, so that you don’t have to climb the hill each time you want to take a downward slide. That way you’ll conserve energy. BYO snacks and a thermos of hot tea so that you can keep hydrated and properly energized without paying premium prices for weak cocoa and stale donuts.
* Ice Skating
Another activity that’s not quite as aggro as skiing or boarding, skating rinks abound around most major ski resort regions. When I’m feeling perky enough, lacing up a pair of skates and taking a few laps around a rink makes for a nice way to get my exercise for the day. Expect to pay $10-$25 for a skating excursion, including both skate rentals and rink access.
* Sleigh Riding
In Tahoe, once the snow builds up enough, several entrepreneurs offer horse-drawn sleigh rides. From a quick turn around a parking lot area to a real ride out through the trees, different rides suit folks with different abilities to withstand the cold. Bundle up well–don’t forget the scarf and the woolly hat! Many of these sorts of sleigh rides include hot cocoa and snacks. Plan to pay about $50.
* Sightseeing by Gondola
Many of the bigger ski resorts don’t require you to be a skier to take a ride on their gondola cars. On sunny days, a gondola ride can be a great way to get some of the best views of the mountains, ski towns, and the lake (if you’re in Tahoe). At places like Squaw Valley and Heavenly, the gondola takes tourists from the lower village area on up to often fancy mid-level lodges. At the lodge, you can shop for souvenirs, get a meal, and take a seat by a window to watch the skiers and boarders plying the slopes.
* Taking in a Show
Because part of it is in Nevada, Tahoe’s got a decent range of nighttime entertainment. Stand-up comedy, the occasional drag musical revue, third-tier rock and pop concerts, chic night clubs, and casino gambling can all make for a fun, semi-comfortable evening out. Other major ski areas also cater to the apres-ski night life crowd–grab one of the free local tourism or entertainment magazines for information about local shows. Visitors Centers always have the info on the hottest local shows, and often carry coupons to make the cost of a show or the cover for a club less burdensome.
* Getting Your Culture On
Lake Tahoe has a few little museums, plus a free movie depicting the history of the Lake. (Although, weirdly, many of Tahoe’s cultural attractions shut down for the winter. I wish they wouldn’t.) But the Tahoe Queen–an old-school paddle-wheeled steamboat–runs year round, weather permitting. Other major ski areas like Vail, Aspen, Whistler, Jackson Hole…may have museums, films, and other local-interest attractions. These things are often free or super-cheap, and don’t take a lot of time or energy to enjoy thoroughly.
* Playing in the Snow
To the level that your condition will allow, put on your jacket, mittens, and boots, go outside with your travel companions, and throw snowballs at them. Get with your kids and help them build a snowman or entertaining snow-critters. Heck, throw snowballs at your kids! The cool things about playing in the snow are that it’s free, and you can do it for 10 minutes or 3 hours, depending on how you feel that day.
* Lounging by the Fire, Reading a Good Book, Sipping a Delicious Hot Beverage
I forgot to add my own favorite winter travel pass-time! I love looking out a nice picture window at a beautiful snow-kissed landscape from a fire-warmed living room while lying on a cushy couch with a trashy thriller.
Photo (c) Kari_Marie on flickr