Amazing Mountain Towns to Visit in the Winter
While many people want to hibernate for the winter once cold weather hits, others feel that a sprinkling of snow can make certain travel destinations even more appealing. These mountain towns and cities in particular make for wonderful winter vacations because of their historic charm, outdoor activities and apres-ski culture. These amazing destinations both across the country and around the world are worth braving the cold and snow to visit.
Asheville, North Carolina
The perfect destination for a weekend trip, Asheville is nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you a spectacular, long-range view of the impressive landscape dusted with snow. The road is subject to closures to vehicles due to snow and ice, but visitors can still walk, hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski. To warm up after a day spent exploring, visit the Biltmore Estate, the largest mansion in America, or enjoy shopping and dining in the historic downtown area.
Ashland is an underrated gem in southwest Oregon with an ideal blend of culture and outdoor adventures. Ski, snowshoe, mountaineer or hike along the section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs outside town. Crater Lake National Park is also about a 90-minute drive from Ashland. In town, explore the city’s coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, dispensaries and local wineries.
Banner Elk, North Carolina
This getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains lets you enjoy small-town charm, High Country cuisine and skiing and snowboarding at Sugar Mountain Resort and Beech Mountain Resort. The resorts also offer ice skating, snowtubing and more. Just outside of town, Grandfather Mountain’s mile-high swinging bridge offers one of the most stunning views in the whole state.
One of the most picturesque towns in New England, the mountain village of Bethel is near Sunday River, the most popular resort in the state. After spending a day cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, head into town and stroll along Main Street or grab an apres-ski drink at a cafe or local brewery.
A popular outdoor adventure destination year-round, Bend, Oregon, is especially epic in the winter, with dog sledding, fat biking, ice skating and more with the Central Cascades as the backdrop. Bend’s Mt. Bachelor also has one of the longest ski seasons in the Pacific Northwest and gets an average of 462 inches of fluffy snow a year.
Bisbee is a quaint Victorian mining town that looks like an image in a history book. Sitting at an elevation of 5,300 feet in the Mule Mountains, Bisbee has a colorful collection of historic homes, shops, saloons and restaurants. Tour old mines, take an Old West ghost tour, go on a pub crawl and more.
While temperatures can get frigid during the winter in Bozeman, Montana, it’s worth braving the weather to explore this winter playground. Nearby Hyalite Canyon has the highest concentration of natural ice-climbing routes in North America as well as routes that you can snowshoe on to see majestic frozen waterfalls. Hit the slopes at Bridger Bowl Ski Area or take a short, scenic drive to ski at Big Sky Resort. Then head back to the historic town to warm up at Bozeman Hot Springs.
Breckenridge is a popular skiing destination in the winter that has much more to offer than just amazing skiing. It has miles of trails for snowshoeing, fat-biking and cross-country skiing as well as scenic paths for family sleigh rides. The city’s adorable Main Street is dotted with boutiques, galleries and restaurants. If you’re in need of a sweet treat, stop by the iconic crepe stand, Crepes a la Cart.
Located along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is more than just a college town with one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. After a dusting of snow, its hillsides are perfect for sleds and toboggans. Take a crisp winter hike along the Saunders-Monticello trail or go downhill skiing and snowboarding at Wintergreen Ski Resort. For a different kind of outing, head down the Brew Ridge Trail or the Monticello Wine Trail. A visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is also a must for history buffs.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
The Coeur d’Alene area is surrounded by more than 55 lakes, but Lake Coeur d’Alene itself offers scenic views and plenty of activities. During the holidays, it’s home to one of the most festive Christmas light displays in the country. For a relaxing romantic getaway, stroll on the floating boardwalk, take a winter cruise on the lake, watch the migration of bald eagles and more.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
After hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina D’Ampezzo, known as Cortina for short, became a hotspot for sighting celebrities such as Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn. Although it still attracts jet-setters and thousands of tourists every winter, Cortina remains an idyllic Italian mountain town surrounded by technically challenging runs for skiing and snowboarding.
Located in the Alps near where France, Switzerland and Italy meet, the French village of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc hosted the very first Winter Olympics way back in 1924 and has been world-renowned ever since. The town sits beneath Mont-Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps. In between days of incredible skiing and snowboarding, take the aerial tramway for breathtaking 360-degree views of the mountains.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Walk in the footsteps of Old West legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane while surrounded by the otherworldly scenery of South Dakota’s Black Hills in Deadwood. A film and TV location you can actually visit, Deadwood is near Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a popular American landmark that is much more serene in the winter months. It’s also minutes away from excellent cross country skiing trails and from Deer Mountain Ski Resort.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Its mountain location is part of what makes Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the state’s most romantic destination. It’s also the only entire downtown in the country on the National Register of Historic Places. Take it easy and enjoy shopping, spas and the town’s dining scene or hit the hiking and mountain biking trails around Lake Leatherwood City Park, taking in the scenery of the surrounding Ozark Mountains.
Tourists might not be aware that over 70% of Japan is covered in mountains, and Hokkaido, one of Japan’s four main islands, is known around the world as a skiing and snowboarding mecca. Furano is a small city at the center of the island and offers access to world-class downhill and cross-country skiing as well ice fishing, snowmobile touring, snowshoeing and more. Other wintery highlights include an ice bar, illuminated snow tubing course, star-gazing tours and winter hot air balloon rides.
This famed Alaskan mountain town is home to Alyeska Resort, the biggest ski resort in the state. Just 40 miles south of Anchorage along the scenic Seward Highway, Girdwood is located in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains and offers plenty of outdoor winter adventures including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice climbing and more.
With its colorful 16th-century houses and stunning surroundings, Hallstatt, Austria, is the ultimate charming Alpine village. This lake town is one of the oldest still-inhabited settlements in Europe, so it’s Old World charm is wholly authentic. During the winter months, crowds thin out, the town is dusted with snow, and there are activities galore, including Alpine and cross-country skiing, horse-drawn carriage rides and dog sledding. To warm up afterward, head to a local steam room or sauna.
Perhaps the most famous mountains in China are the Huangshan Mountains, or Yellow Mountains. The mountains are located in the Anhui Province of eastern China. Their striking rock formations, twisting pine trees and sky-piercing peaks were frequently depicted in traditional Chinese paintings. Located in the mist-shrouded foothills, Hongcun is filled with historic Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture and makes a great base camp for exploring the mountain.
Hood River, Oregon
Just about an hour outside Portland near the majestic Mount Hood, Oregon’s Hood River is the perfect charming winter getaway. Work up an appetite skiing, snowshoeing or hiking to the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge before enjoying the rich local dining scene.
This mountain town attracts visitors year-round, but vacationers flock to the area during the winter to ski and snowboard at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort and Snow King Resort. Other thrilling winter activities available include dog sledding, snowmobiling, hiking and even embarking on a wildlife safari in nearby Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park or the National Elk refuge to see elk and moose.
Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho
Ketchum and its sister city of Sun Valley are famous among skiers for being home to the first American destination ski resort. On top of access to world-class Alpine skiing and snowboarding slopes along the Rocky Mountains, Ketchum and Sun Valley have access to Nordic skiing trails, ice skating and tubing as well as darling downtown areas with shopping, spas and restaurants.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Under a dusting of snow, Bled, Slovenia, looks like a winter scene from a fairy tale. Situated in the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike but it is much less crowded in the colder months. The majestic, medieval Bled Castle stands on a cliff above a blue glacial lake below. To stretch your legs, take a tour of the castle, go ice skating on the frozen lake, snowshoe in nearby Triglav National Park and hike or cross-country ski along the area’s trails.
Lake Placid, New York
Located in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York, Lake Placid famously hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics and remains a sportsman’s playground to this day. Ski down the slopes of Whiteface Mountain, try your hand at ice fishing on a frozen lake or strap on some snowshoes or cross-country skis. Skate outside on the Olympic Skating Oval or ride with a professional down one of America’s only Olympic bobsled tracks.
Leavenworth, Washington, is one of the most magical Christmas towns in America in part because of its Currier and Ives postcard charm. The village has Bavarian architecture with a stunning backdrop of the Cascade Mountains. Even after the holidays, Leavenworth offers tubing, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, ice climbing, dog-sled rides and more ways to enjoy this winter wonderland.
Lewisburg, West Virginia
Nestled in the Greenbrier River Valley of West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, Lewisburg has a walkable, quaint downtown and historic buildings and museums. The town is surrounded by Greenbrier State Forest, which has miles of trails for hiking and biking. Explore local caves and caverns or relax at a local brewery or distillery.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Lakes is one of the most popular ski resorts in America for good reason. Mammoth’s high elevation means superior snow conditions for skiing and snowboarding. Visitors can sled, tube, ride snowmobiles, take a Snowcat tour and more. Visit in December for the Night of Lights event, which kicks off the holiday season, or in late January and early February for the U.S. Freeski & Snowboard Grand Prix.
North Conway, New Hampshire
Located in the heart of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley, North Conway is a mecca for outdoor recreation with a quaint downtown village. In fact, there are 13 ski resorts within a 30-minute drive of town. Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park has a mountain coaster, zip line and giant swing. The Conway Scenic Railroad offers old-fashioned rides aboard vintage trains with panoramic views.
Park City, Utah
Famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival and the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City, Utah, makes visitors feel like VIPs on vacation as well as true winter athletes. The town has one-of-a-kind après-ski culture with museums, galleries, spas, restaurants and more. On top of skiing or snowboarding on “the Greatest Snow on Earth,” vacationers in Park City can go tubing, dog sledding, fat-tire biking and more.
Sitting more than a mile high in elevation, the town of Prescott is surrounded by the Prescott National Forest, which has more than 400 miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. The six-mile round-trip hike to the top of Spruce Mountain offers amazing panoramic views. Outdoor adventure is possible year-round here thanks to Prescott’s sunny, mild weather. The historic downtown of this former frontier town has more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the most picturesque towns in Alaska, Seward is a coastal city that will please skiers and non-skiers alike during the winter. Known as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is nestled between Resurrection Bay and staggering, snow-capped mountains. Take a boat tour along Alaska’s rugged coast or visit Exit Glacier via cross-country skis, winter bikes, snowshoes or snowmobiles. Resurrection Bay doesn’t freeze during the winter so you can still see marine wildlife and stroll on the beach. And of course, tackle the Last Frontier by cross-country skiing, skijoring or heli-skiing.
Stowe is a small New England ski town nestled next to the state’s highest peak. On top of being home to the Vermont Ski Museum, Stowe also has the Trapp Family Lodge and other alpine-inspired chalets. Though many visitors come here for scenic walks and drives to see the changing leaves in autumn, it’s a snowy wonderland in the winter with plenty of art, dining, spas and more for after your outdoor adventures.
Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
Sugar Hill is a small town nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with a population of less than 600 people, making for a wonderful, relaxing retreat. Get your heart racing with downhill skiing and snowboarding at nearby Cannon Mountain, Bretton Woods or Loon Mountain. Take a tour of the seven covered bridges in the local area or cruise along the White Mountains Trail, designated a National Scenic Byway.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico, is one of the prettiest towns in America, and winter only enhances its beauty. Taos is a ski destination known for its steep slopes and ideal conditions. On top of that, visitors can go snowshoeing on canyon trails and soak in the area’s natural hot springs. Taos Pueblo, a 1,000-year-old Native American village, is also located about a mile outside Taos.
Telluride is a charming ski village tucked in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It was formerly a Victorian mining town. In the wintertime, the city looks like a scene from a snowglobe. The ski resort is one of the top skiing vacation destinations in the country and hosts one of the most magical holiday season celebrations. It also offers opportunities to winter fly-fish, ice climb, ride snowmobiles and more.
Villa La Angostura, Argentina
A lakeside Alpine village in the heart of Argentina’s Patagonia region, Villa La Angostura is a great place to relax during a vacation full of outdoor adventures in Patagonia. The town has access to skiing at nearby Cerro Bayo ski resort and hiking in Los Arrayanes Forest.
Wanaka, New Zealand
Located on New Zealand’s South Island, the resort town of Wanaka sits between its namesake lake and the island’s Southern Alps. Because it’s located in the Southern Hemisphere, Wanaka’s peak winter season runs from June to August with plenty of fluffy snow for cross-country skiing, tubing, tobogganing, fat-biking, dog sledding, ice driving and more. Wanaka is also near Mount Aspiring National Park, which is popular with hikers and mountaineers.
One of the most famous ski destinations in Canada and the largest in the world, Whistler is located in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. The town itself is still charming thanks to its beautiful, Alpine-style buildings. Take the winter gondola or a zip line for amazing views of the mountains. As the site of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler also has a bobsled and skeleton track.
Whitefish serves as the gateway to one of the country’s more underrated national parks, Glacier National Park, and also offers access to skiing and snowboarding at Whitefish Mountain Resort. It’s a paradise for outdoor adventure in the wintertime thanks to numerous snowshoe and cross-country trails as well as fat tire bike trails. Portions of the famed scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road are still open based on snowfall. Visitors can also take in gorgeous mountain views from the Summit House at Whitefish Mountain Resort or enjoy the shopping, craft breweries and local cuisine in town.
Woodstock is picturesque with lovely landscapes and historic buildings, as well as the serene Ottauquechee River running through it. It’s especially charming during the holiday season but is a great place to visit all winter long. Take in the village itself on a horse-drawn sleigh ride or visit the state’s only national park site, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Winding in and around the city are trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. Woodstock is also a close drive to multiple top Vermont ski resorts, including some of the most popular ski resorts in America.
Zermatt is a storybook town that sits below the iconic Matterhorn peak in the Swiss Alps. The highest ski resort in Europe, Zermatt is the endpoint of the Glacier Express, a scenic train ride with unrivaled views of the majestic mountains. Cars aren’t allowed in town, so horse-drawn sleighs, buses and electric taxis are the only methods of transit. And with more than 188 miles of marked ski trails, you can still find a serene slice of paradise away from other people. The Matterhorn is just one of many majestic mountains you need to see in your lifetime.
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