It’s easy to get down when the snow melts and the chairlifts stop turning. For those of us that plan our adventures around powder forecasts and après-ski scenes, the summer can feel like a bit of a letdown. But we at Skis.com are here to help you look on the bright side. On top of backyard cookouts, enjoying the water in its non-frozen forms, and the simple pleasure of wearing short sleeves, we’ve got some summer adventure ideas that will help the snow birds out there enjoy the wait until winter comes again.
Ok, that’s pretty good advice during ski season, too, but I’m talking specifically about visiting America’s western National Parks. Every region of the US has an incredible beauty all its own, but there’s no denying the expansive and superlative views you’ll get at the National Parks out west. From the towering waterfalls in Yosemite to the mind-bending red rock formations in Arches National Park, it’d be impossible to make a wrong choice when picking a destination.
Thanks to how they are spaced out around the west, and how each one is laid out, the National Parks make for perfect road trip destinations. And thanks to cheap gateway motels at the park entrances, campgrounds, and the always affordable backcountry, they make for especially perfect road trip destinations for the true ski bum who can pack their whole life into a Subaru. String together a handful of parks and see countless famous natural wonders all in the course of a week.
Here are some very basic sample itineraries…
- Start in Las Vegas and visit Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks.
- Start in Seattle and visit Olympic, North Cascades, Mt Rainier, and Glacier National Parks.
- Start in San Francisco and visit Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Death Valley National Parks.
Check out this map to help plan the trip that’s perfect for you.
Maybe your days of truly bumming are behind you and a week in your car or in a tent just doesn’t sound like your idea of a dream vacation. Well, how about a luxury twist on a National Parks tour? Visit one (or all) of the grandest National Park lodges. Enjoy 5-star comfort while surrounded by 5-star views and outdoor recreation. Not every park has a grand lodge, but luckily, the most beautiful and historic lodges happen to be located in some of the most spectacular parks in the system. Here are my favorites: El Tovar in Grand Canyon National Park, The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park, Paradise Inn in Mt. Rainier National Park, Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park, Many Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park, and Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. You’re probably sensing a theme, but there are no bad choices. So get out and enjoy this beautiful country, even if it isn’t draped in fresh snow.
Get Off the Beaten Path
For those that can’t go a full summer without their downhill fix, mountain biking in Davis, West Virginia or Copper Harbor, Michigan is perfect. These towns may be a few hours past out there, but being skiers, you’re used to earning your thrills, right?
Davis, West Virginia is a picturesque and quirky little town on the banks of the Blackwater River located about 3 hours south of Pittsburgh, PA. Despite its size, the town’s got delicious food (Hellbender Burritos), a blossoming microbrewery scene (Blackwater Brewery), and an annual mountain biking festival. Of course, the real reason you go there is riding and there are miles of biking trails in the surrounding hills of the Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls State Park.
Copper Harbor is as far north as you can get on Michigan’s upper peninsula. And believe me, it’s way up there. In fact, the closest major city is Minneapolis, some 7 hours to the west. But if you’re lucky enough to visit, you’ll quickly realize that that seclusion may be the best part of this beautiful corner of the country. Flanked on one side by thick green forests and surprisingly steep bluffs, and on the other by the expansive, blue (and chilly!) waters of Lake Superior, Copper Harbor offers a collection of quaint lodging and a brand new brewery. When you aren’t enjoying the lake or the town, check out the Copper Harbor Trail System, or head a few miles south to Mt. Bohemia for some beautiful, and challenging riding.
If all else fails while you’re out in one of these beautiful backwaters, you can always pick up a ski map at Mt. Bohemia near Copper Harbor, and Canaan Valley Ski Resort or Timberline Four Seasons Resort near Davis. After all, it’s never too early to start planning your winter travel…
Just Keep Skiing
The Cascades in the Pacific Northwest collected record amounts of snow this past winter. It’s melting now, but it’s so deep that it might just last all summer. You’ll find year-round backcountry lines on Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams outside Seattle. But head to Oregon to access snow late into the summer on Mt. Hood. It may not be the most challenging terrain you’ll ever come across, but who can complain about carving turns in a T-shirt in early August? As a bonus, Portland is less than 2 hours away, and if Portland isn’t the perfect city for an off-season ski bum, then I don’t think such a thing exists. Portland is home to more breweries than any other city in the United States, it has plenty of public outdoor spaces, and is a prime destination for foodies. Plus, beyond the skiing, there is easy access to incredible hiking, boating, water sports, and all manner of other summer activities. If you’re worried about that gloomy Oregon weather you’ve always heard about, don’t be. That doesn’t apply in the summer months.
Time flies when you’re having fun, so get out there and enjoy yourself this summer. Before you know it, it will be snowing again.