Off the Beaten Path: The Best Ski, Skate, and Winter Activities

The winter months mean shorter days, freezing temperatures, and packing on the layers before we can even think about stepping foot outdoors. If you’re anything like the rest of us, then you’re probably fleeing to warmer climates as we speak. But, have you ever stopped to think, that maybe you haven’t given Jack Frost enough credit? The United States is home to many breathtaking winter beauties that are waiting to be explored. Whether you have a passion for powder or are adamantly opposed to wintry weather, we’ve pulled together a list of destinations that are guaranteed to please everyone’s needs.

Missoula, Montana

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or casual explorer, Missoula’s got you covered. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and trek through the wintry wonders of local spots like Pattee Canyon Recreation Area and Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. Those looking to escape the cold, channel your inner sommelier with a visit to the Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery. Enjoy a glass of your favorite vino and listen to live music happening every Friday evening from November through March. Need a place to warm-up and let some steam off? Then take a trip to Jerry Johnson or Weir hot springs just an hour and a half outside of Missoula.

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Lake Vermilion, Minnesota

Known for its scenic beauty, Lake Vermilion stretches 37 miles across northeastern Minnesota making it the largest of 10,000 lakes. So, what does that mean for visitors? Activities galore! If you’re feeling adventurous, take the snowmobile out and explore the 1000 miles of interconnected Minnesota snowmobile trails. Or, cast your line through 3 feet of ice and see if you can catch some Minnesota staples like winter walleye, perch, northern, or bluegill. For those who like alpine skiing and snowboarding, Giants Ridge offers 34 downhill runs for the entire family.

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Olympic Peninsula, Washington

A few hours outside of Seattle will land you in what seems as though you’ve walked straight into a postcard. From the snow-capped mountains to the bald eagles soaring over rushing rapids, and the evergreens dripping with fresh rain, the Olympic Peninsula boasts an incredible landscape with plenty to see and do during the winter months. If you’re looking for some classic winter activities, then make a trip to Hurricane Ridge where snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, and tubing await you. You can also take your travels to the Pacific coast where winter swells crash in fury along the jagged coast, or on a walk through the lush rainforest for the perfect scenic hike. After a day filled with activities, cozy up at the beautiful Lake Quinault Lodge. Located near the Quinault Rain Forest, this resort is equipped with a lobby (large fireplace included!), heated swimming pool, sauna, and fine dining with a spectacular view.

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Wyoming is like a winter playground that the whole family can enjoy. Live up to the Christmas spirit and literally dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh. For the seasoned thrill seekers, try out heli-skiing, where a guide will drop you off at the best bowls, chutes, and glades via helicopter. Looking for something slower paced? Find peace in the beauties of Wyoming wildlife with a guided tour led by a trained biologist. From moose to bald eagles, expect to see majestic creatures of all shapes and sizes.

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Lake Placid, New York

If you’re seeking an unforgettable experience, then a dogsledding adventure is your answer. Head to Lake Placid and mush your way across gleaming white landscapes with your new team of powerful huskies. Play a game of pick-up hockey or simply skate solo on Mirror Lake. Here, visitors can enjoy free access and a gorgeous outdoor view. Home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, explore the history of those games at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. For those of us who will sadly never ski in the Olympic games, you can still participate in good fun at Whiteface Mountain. Experts can test their skills on the longest vertical drop of any ski mountain on the East Coast, while beginners can appreciate gentle slopes and mild terrain. End your day (or start your night) at the Top of the Park for some pre-dinner drinks and tapas-style plates.

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