Original 548834f0c6cec937312816baa4ff44e1.jpg?1475104925?ixlib=rails 0.3

5 Ways to Find Your Winter Wonderland

There’s a great big world of new experiences right in our North American backyard (and you don’t even have to like skiing to enjoy them).

From Whistler's lesser-known neighbor and new lodges for every type of traveler to a spa that's worth staying in for, there's a winter escape for everyone—whether or not you ski.

1. Explore Whistler’s Next-Door Neighbor
The booming enclave of Squamish is close to the action but feels a world away.

Whistler dominates the ski scene of British Columbia, and for good reason. But ask the locals where they hang out when they’re not on the slopes, and they’ll tell you about the town of Squamish.

It sits on the edge of Howe Sound Fjord, 36 miles south of—and downhill from—Whistler Village. Mild daytime temperatures hover around 40 degrees, perfect for hiking the surrounding Squamish Valley or rafting the Squamish River, which flows lazily this time of year. You might even spot bald eagles in the trees that line its banks. The Sea to Sky Gondola leaves from just south of town and carries passengers up into the mountains, where a network of snowshoe trails awaits. 

Settle into hearty après-adventure meals—gumbo with locally sourced chicken and house made andouille sausage, for instance—at Copper Coil Grill, where Chef Wes Levesque puts a Pacific Northwest spin on Cajun-style food. Then top off your day down the street at Howe Sound Brewing. The spicy bite of ginger in the Father John’s Winters Ale will warm you up for the trip back up to Whistler. —Sarah Purkrabek

2. Jackson Hole Is More Than Its Powder
Your before-and-after-the-slopes checklist.

Persephone, serving mochas made with TCHO chocolate and drip coffee brewed from Intelligentsia beans, is the place in town for your morning cup. Don’t miss the perfectly flaky croissants. 

Instead of the cheesy magnets and made-in-China souvenirs you tend to find in ski-town shops, Made sells gemstone drop earrings and hand-sewn leather footballs with soul.

In Trio, grab a seat at the bar to watch the chefs—one a grad of the Culinary Institute of America—slide pizzas made with goat cheese and wild mushrooms into the wood-fired oven.

Dornan’s Spur Bar is nothing complicated: a friendly, small-town watering hole where you can enjoy beer while staring out huge windows at the mountains you just conquered.

The rooms at the cozy Rusty Parrot Lodge have fireplaces, whirlpools, and handsome leather chairs—everything you crave after a long day of skiing. –Andrew Richdale

3. Give a New Lodge a Try
There are fresh options for any taste.

Coachman Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, California
Minimalist Design; Easy on the Wallet; A Party Scene

A former Ace Hotel creative designed the Coachman’s slick rooms and bar. It’s situated blocks from the lifts (and the casinos, if that’s your thing).

On the River Inn, Woodstock, Vermont
Chill Vibes; Foodie Magnet; Couples Retreat

You book this resort for the quintessential small-town New England setting and the kitchen’s delightfully simple food, made with ingredients from Vermont farmland.

Madeline Telluride, Telluride, Colorado
Family-friendly; Cushy Elegance; Ski-In, Ski-Out

The newly renovated Madeline Telluride has on-the-slopes ski valets, a movie lounge for the kids, and a restaurant with epic views of the San Juan mountains. —Andrew Richdale

4. Go to Park City. Reserve a Day for This Spa.

After you’ve spent the day skiing some of Deer Valley’s legendary black diamonds, spend a day not doing that, as I did on a recent trip to Montage’s spa—a 35,000-square-foot labyrinth full of saunas, hot tubs, and serene nooks with views of snow-capped peaks. I booked the Timeless Swiss Skincare Facial. My treatment specialist slathered my face with cleansers and plant stem cell-fortified moisturizers, sloughed away dead skin, and applied toners that . . . honestly, I’m not sure what those did, but whatever it was, it worked. After an hour in the chair, my skin felt noticeably tighter, more hydrated, and ready to face the harsh elements all over again. —Sarah Purkrabek

5. Cuddle Up to This Film, (Then Plan a Trip to the French Alps.)

In the beginning of the startlingly gorgeous film Force Majeure, an avalanche comes tumbling toward a restaurant at the French ski resort Les Arcs. A frightened man bolts from his table to safety. Two problems: he left his wife and two kids behind; and the whole thing was a false alarm, just a fierce hiccup of snow. The aftermath of this blunder is a sophisticated, honest, and hilarious deconstruction of modern gender roles that will also make you book a ski vacation. Streaming on Netflix. —Andrew Richdale

>>Next: The AFAR Guide to Winter Travel