Many of the best ski towns aren’t just for the winter ski season. In fact, most ski towns are as good, if not better during the summer months as winter. As the snow melts, the temps rise and the days get longer, it opens up more possibilities in ski towns around North America. Ski slopes turn to mountain biking and hiking trails, while ski resort villages and Main Street areas bustle with unique events, dining experiences, and more.
So while many ski towns look a lot different come summer than winter, they’re no less fun and full of great experiences and activities that aren’t available during the winter months. Below, find our picks for some of the best ski towns in summer across North America.
Top summer fun spots in ski towns
Aspen is no doubt one of North America’s best ski resorts, and ranks near or at the top of many lists of the best ski towns in both winter and summer. Cultural events and festivals are staples come summer in Aspen. Among the headliners is the Aspen Food and Wine Classic each June. The Aspen Music Festival (June through August) brings more than 600 student musicians to Aspen and more than 400 concerts (many that are free) throughout town, many of which take place in the 2,500-seat Benedict Music Tent and the 500-seat Joan and Irving Harris Concert Hall next to it. The historic Victorian Wheeler Opera House is home to a summer opera series and more. Finally, for great Aspen outdoor adventures, ride the Silver Queen Gondola up Aspen Mountain for hiking and mountain biking trails.
Epic Discovery is where the action takes place for families during the summer at Vail Mountain. Open daily from June to September, it features a mountain coaster, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, mini kids tubing hill, kids zipline, and Nature Discovery Center. During the day Vail Village sparkles in the summer sun, while the restaurant and bar scene comes alive in the evenings. Vail’s spectacular outdoor venue, the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater features concerts like the Bravo! Music Festival, Vail Jazz Festival and Hot Summer Nights. Other Vail highlights include the Betty Ford Alpine Garden and the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum. Summer sees some great events, too, including the GoPro Mountain Games and Taste of Vail.
Steamboat, a.k.a. Ski Town USA, is a cowboy town with lots of unique activities come summer, especially for families. Float down the Yampa River before soaking in hot springs like Old Town or Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Great family activities include a number of easy hikes, like the easy and beautiful Fish Creek Falls, and the scenic gondola, which goes to the 10,500-foot summit of Mt. Werner. Steamboat’s Howler Alpine Slide is another fun adventure that the entire family can enjoy. Yampa River Botanic Park, at river’s edge, is a unique ski town park with trails, gardens, and outdoor art.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is arguably one of the most popular summer destinations in North America. Take a hike on any number of trails around the lake, or for a true adventure, explore the Tahoe Rim Trail, or head into Desolation Wilderness. Lake Tahoe itself is your oyster, with activities like fishing charters, boat and jet ski rentals, and kayaking. Or, just find a beach to soak up the sun; there are plenty around the lake. Summer boasts so many great events around Lake Tahoe, including the summer concert series in Stateline at Harvey’s Resort Hotel, which brings in some of the top musicians.
Lots of great events and activities happen at ski resorts, too, including Northstar California, which is home to the largest bike park in Northern California. Northstar also has week-long kids adventure camps. The outdoor adventure theme continues in North Lake Tahoe at Palisades Tahoe, with its stunning aerial tram ride and fun activities like a treetop ropes course and Lake Tahoe’s only Via Ferrata. Palisades Tahoe’s ski season often extends into early summer, too. Scenic lift rides are available at ski resorts throughout the Lake Tahoe area, including Heavenly, which boasts incredible views of Lake Tahoe, and has fun adventure activities like zip lining.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Among the summer highlights at Mammoth is skiing. That’s right, the ski season can continue into July at Mammoth following a great snow season. However, there’s plenty else to experience during the summer, including the Mammoth Bike Park that features world-class cross-country and downhill terrain. Mammoth Adventure Center is the summer headquarters, with activities like a climbing wall, bungee trampoline, ropes course, zip line, and more. While you’re in the area, head to June Lake and ride the scenic chair up to June Mountain Ski Resort.
Mammoth Lakes is home to so many great hikes throughout the region. Check out our list of some of our hiking recommendations around Mammoth Lakes.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, America’s first destination resort, is as magical in summer as it is in winter. Adrenaline junkies can bike on 400 miles of singletrack and 30 miles of paved trails around Sun Valley, while fly fishing, horseback riding and golf are among the activities for those who enjoy a slower summer pace. Summer sees some events and activities you can’t just experience anywhere, like some of the world’s finest figure skaters performing at Sun Valley’s world-renowned ice show, which we named one of the best summer events. Sun Valley also has outdoor ice skating available during the summer. Families enjoy checking out Sun Valley Lodge’s basement, which has been converted into a bowling center and game room.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located just a few miles from Grand Teton National Park, Jackson is your gateway to one of America’s most beautiful national parks. Continue north and make an entire trip of it by visiting Yellowstone, too. You could spend an entire week in both national parks and just scratch the surface. Drive the 42-mile scenic loop in Grand Teton National Park, paddle Jenny Lake, and go whitewater rafting in Yellowstone.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a summer playground, with highlights including the Aerial Tram, Bike Park, miles of hiking trails, Via Ferrata, paragliding, climbing wall, and a lot more. A fun experience is the evening gondola, in which you can cap off a Jackson Hole adventure day by taking the gondola up for a drink at The Deck. Jackson Town Square is lined with great restaurants, breweries, shops, and more.
Park City, Utah
Located 30 miles from Salt Lake City, Park City is a great weekend destination for a summer getaway. Both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley are bustling in the summer, with miles of biking and hiking trails, scenic chairlift rides, horseback riding, great events, and more. Cool off in Weber River and Provo River by rafting, kayaking, or tubing. For a more unique summer experience, go hot air ballooning with one of the local companies that offers hot air balloon rides. After a day of adventures, stroll Main Street and check out any number of Park City’s great food and drink spots.
One of the most iconic New England ski destinations, Stowe, is just as iconic in summer. And what says summer in Vermont like a tour at Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury on your way to Stowe. Take the Gondola Sky Ride up Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest mountain, and take in the views. From the gondola, access a number of hiking trails. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, then treat yourself at Cliff House Restaurant before taking the gondola back down. Stowe is full of some incredible experiences away from the mountain, like the Trapp Family Lodge and the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
One of Canada’s most beautiful ski destinations is just as beautiful in summer. The extraordinary outdoor adventures are endless, from exploring Banff National Park to the Banff Gondola to the Mt. Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift to paddling any number of Banff’s stunning lakes. Banff is one of those destinations where a weekend is just not enough time to explore the bounty of experiences that the region offers. For a real treat, stay at the classic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the “Castle in the Rockies,” which has been pampering guests for 130 years.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Like many of the ski destinations mentioned here, Whistler really opens up during the summer. It features unique experiences you won’t find in just any mountain destination, like the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, seaplane tours and summer bobsledding at the Whistler Sliding Centre. That’s on top of other great activities, including hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, golf and more. Plus, Whistler Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier opens in June for summer skiing. Being just an hour and a half from Vancouver makes Whistler such an easy, yet epic summer getaway, whether for a long weekend or more.
Header image courtesy ©Aspen Music Festival/Carlin-Ma