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Slipping the Slopes

A guide to the perfect ski-free ski trip

Author CHRIS WRIGHT

04-stay01

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The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, makes it tempting to spend a day off the mountain

THERE’S GENERALLY one in every ski party: the knock-kneed neophyte whose enthusiasm outstrips his ability, whose signature move turns out to be the Clattering Cartwheel, a rapid descent that elicits gasps, groans and sometimes screams from onlookers. Luckily, the top ski resorts offer a variety of amenities that allow the most hapless among us to enjoy pristine winter wonderlands without risking injury or embarrassment.

Everyone knows you can’t have a ski vacation — whether or not you actually ski — without hot tubs. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, on the slopes of the Colorado Rockies, takes this principle very seriously. In addition to its oversize lazy-river hot tub (located in an atmospheric grotto), there are copper tubs, stargazing tubs, a heated outdoor pool and a “Roaring Rapids” hydrotherapy massage, all of which combine to perish even the most fleeting thought of ice.

Also in Colorado, the town of Breckenridge has no shortage of ways to divert you from the expansive mountain playground that looms above. There’s a lively bar scene (try the margaritas at Mexican eatery Mi Casa), top-notch dining (don’t miss chef-owner Matt Fackler’s Colorado-inspired cuisine at Relish) and lots of outdoor fun to be had (dogsledding, anyone?).

But all that is moot, really, because you won’t actually need to leave the luxurious One Ski Hill Place (which is, incidentally, ski-in/ski-out). There’s a new bar (the T-Bar), two movie lounges, a game room, an aquatics center at the spa and — get this — a two-lane bowling alley made to look like a mine shaft. There’s also a bustling outdoor deck that’s the perfect setting in which to tell your weary friends all about the fun-filled day you just had not endangering yourself and others by tumbling down the slopes.

Meanwhile, the stately Waldorf Astoria in Park City, Utah, has enough rustic trappings to make you feel outdoorsy without having to venture outdoors. Sink into a plush fireside sofa with a psychological thriller and a hot toddy. Try a yam-and-pumpkin enzyme peel at the resort’s Golden Door spa. Then direct your glowing face at a platter of fried dough — the beignets at the restaurant here are second only to those in New Orleans. If you do want to head outdoors, this year the hotel installed a “high-speed advanced zip line circuit” that stretches more than 2,100 feet and offers a treetop ride across a canyon.

At Spanish Peaks in Big Sky, Mont., the slopes can feel like an afterthought. This is especially true during warmer months, when the place abounds with outdoor activities, particularly golf, but Spanish Peaks is also no slouch when it comes to wintertime fun. Have a horse-drawn sleigh take you to dinner or, for the ultimate in relaxation, have the kids demonstrate what they learned in the resort’s “Kids in the Kitchen” program. In case that doesn’t work out the way you hoped, the Clubhouse has excellent Alpine cuisine (as well as a 1,300-bottle wine cellar).

In Vermont, the Topnotch Resort and Spa recognizes that the secret to any successful getaway is keeping the “little people” happy. There’s a Wii-equipped teen center, a tennis academy and a funky hair salon, plus board games, pool tables, pingpong and fireside s’mores. The resort’s Buttertub Bistro offers enough sweet cocktails to ensure that the big people can’t complain either.

The U.S. doesn’t hold a monopoly on the lazy ski trip, of course. In addition to the many outlandish attractions that St. Moritz, the Swiss winter playground of Europe’s elite, has to offer — including the White Turf, a horse race on a frozen lake — there’s Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, which oozes old-time romanticism. Its King’s Club, Switzerland’s oldest discotheque, has catered to actual royalty. If you absolutely demand the sensation of crisp mountain air being blasted into your nostrils, the Haus am Bach in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria, has rides on an Alpine roller coaster. And the Shiga Kogen resort, with more than 100 hotels in Japan’s Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, invites guests to join the snow monkeys frolicking in local hot springs — with nary a ski boot nor snowboard to be seen.

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