When your friends and family are throwing themselves down double black diamonds and the only throwing down you’re planning is with a hot toddy or hot chocolate by the fire, what is a non-skier to do? You might be surprised at how much you can do at some of the mountains in our area. From lounging at the lodge using Wi-Fi by a fire, to snowshoeing for less intense, though still sweat-inducing, exercise, to catching a live band, non-skiers needn’t fret. So, through around the end of March, wish your more adventurous pals adieu and get your non-skiing, non-boarding self to one of these mountains close-ish to home.
Ski Mount Southington, Southington
The tagline at Ski Mount Southington is “Thrills Made Locally.” That seems to suit them just fine with a low-key ski joint that you can walk up to from the road and enjoy. The signpost seen as you head to one of the trails even directs visitors with a “Smiles” arrow pointing toward the center of the mountain. The red barn visible from the road as you pull in, known as the Red Barn Cafe, still stands as it did when it was part of a dairy farm before the site was converted into a ski resort back in 1964. Don’t expect a luxurious lodge here; the space is clearly used to take a quick rest in and then get back to the mountain. But while non-skiers are waiting for friends, they can kick off their boots, grab a cocoa, and, with the numerous tables and large windows filling the room, and warmth from a faux-fireplace heater, watch pals smiling their way down the mountain. And, if deciding to just hang and spectate, there are numerous demos, races and events happening every week; some are in collaboration with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center or Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations. Hungry from all that non-skiing? There’s a Waffle Haus at the base of the mountain. The Mountain Room hosts live music from local bands and DJs most Friday and Saturday nights through the second week of March. Other highlights include the Cardboard Box Race on Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. and the Vertical Challenge race day on Feb. 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sign up or simply witness the fun and competition.
396 Mount Vernon Road, Plantsville, 860-628-0954, mountsouthington.com
Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort, Middlefield
When pulling up to Powder Ridge, one might never guess that they pack so many activities into one place. Frankly, they are bursting at the seams with things to do for skiers and boarders, yes, but those of the non-winter sports persuasion too. For one, you can go tubing, which is a much more comfortable, yet still thrilling, way to traverse a hill. Then there’s snow biking. It’s a mini mountain bike with skis, and Powder Ridge is one of the only places in New England to offer it. The lodge is massive with two huge stone fireplaces, comfy couches, tables and chairs, Wi-Fi and quick bites such as popcorn, sandwiches and pizza. The upper level of the lodge is where the non-skiers may choose to spend most of their time. Not only is there the Ridgeside Tavern with a full wraparound bar and views of the mountain and plenty of beers on tap, but a stunning restaurant, Fire at the Ridge, in the adjoining room which offers a more dressed-up, but not overly posh, dining experience. The events list boasts live music on the weekends, a mountainside crafts market, the 2019 Connecticut Special Olympics Winter Games on Feb. 24-25, and end-of-season events like the Cardboard Sled Race on March 17, the proceeds from which go to charity.
9 Powder Hill Road, Middlefield, 866-860-0208, powderridgepark.com
Mohawk Mountain Ski Area, Cornwall
Mohawk is the oldest and largest ski mountain in Connecticut, created in 1947 by Walter Schoenknecht, who brought Mount Snow in Vermont to life. So, it makes sense that their offerings for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, as well as non-skiers, are plentiful. If you want to snowshoe alongside your pals as they whip up and down the mountain, Mohawk has a trail map for that purpose. Or, if you prefer to stay inside, the lodge has terrific views of the mountains while you hang out by the fire and spectate. To scratch the historian itch, walk around and look at all the walls which are filled with vintage maps, old winter gear, or an array of ski gear art. The cafeteria in the lodge offers tons of sandwiches, soups, chili, waffles and, of course, hot cocoa. They have the most extensive and, frankly, beautiful retail shop in the area, with racks and racks of fashion-forward winter gear, not to mention handmade winter hats created by local artisans. And, for the first time this year, Mohawk will offer weekly yoga classes. The resort is also quite proud of its family-fun events with numerous activities at the lodge and on the patio by the firepit throughout the season. Highlights include a Super Bowl party and Pirate Day treasure hunt in February and, in March, an International Day buffet and Mohawk Madness, a snow-based beach party to close out the season.
46 Great Hollow Road, Cornwall, 860-672-6100, mohawkmtn.com
Beyond our borders
Hunter Mountain, Hunter, New York
In the beautiful Catskill Mountains, the winter views of Hunter Mountain are breathtaking. But, what to do when not skiing? There’s snow tubing, lots of places to eat, year-round ziplining, tons of races to watch including the Bumps & BBQ moguls competition on March 23, live music on the weekends, and the end-of-season Pond Skimming Beach Bash and Cardboard Box Derby on April 6.
Coolest non-ski option: On Friday and Saturday nights, you can ride shotgun on a SnowCat tour and see what it takes to groom and prepare the trails under the lights.
Where to stay: The Kaatskill Mountain Club hotel has liftside condos and midweek “ski & stay” packages starting at $119.
64 Klein Ave., Hunter, New York, 518-263-4223, huntermtn.com
Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Hancock, Massachusetts
As the largest ski and snowboard resort in Southern New England, nestled within the popular year-round destination of the Berkshires, it’s no surprise that JP has a long line of exciting options for skiers, boarders and non-skiers alike. They have numerous events at their Fire and Fun Zone for kids and adults, including roasting s’mores around the fire pit, music and outdoor games like cornhole, Jenga and Yard Yahtzee; and snowshoeing through the tranquil woods.
Coolest non-ski option: A 3,600-foot, twisting and turning Mountain Coaster through the snowy woods.
Where to stay: Jiminy Peak offers lodging at a variety of vacation homes on the property, and the Country Inn with its one-bedroom suites and a short walk from the main resort attractions. Midweek stays at the Country Inn start at $249, which includes two adult lift passes.
37 Corey Road, Hancock, Massachusetts, 413-738-550, jiminypeak.com
Ski Butternut, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Also located in the Berkshires, this mid-size mountain has 110 acres of possibilities and is known for its family fun and top-notch staff. Non-skiers can linger in the rustic lodges, listen to live music (every Saturday), or watch the many races or demos on one of four huge decks overlooking the trails. When you get really hungry, you can create your own super bite at the burrito bar in the Upper Lodge’s food court and pair it with wine, beer or a Bloody Mary. There are also Feb-Brew-ery beer-tasting events every Saturday this month.
Coolest non-ski option: Eight lanes of snow-tubing action, with a Magic Carpet and full snow-making coverage throughout the season.
Where to stay: While there is no on-the-mountain lodging, there are dealsto be scored at a variety of local inns and hotels within 2-15 miles of the mountain. Most have midweek Ski & Stay packages.
380 State Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 413-738-550, skibutternut.com
It’s hard to top the winter offerings happening all over Vermont. When discussing winter getaways, the state is often judged Best in Show (or would it be Best in Snow?). The lodge at Stratton is stunning yet cozy, and has what you need for a relaxing day off the hill. But don’t miss the many other things to do while your friends and family are zigzagging their way down one of Stratton’s 99 trails (that’s right). By sheer size, Stratton is a winter village. From year-round music, shopping, a variety of family events, a day spa and fitness center, to a special Valentine’s dinner at Table 43.1 (so named for the restaurant’s latitude and focus on local sourcing) at the Black Bear Lodge or a beer pairing at Grizzly’s bar, the list is endless. Of particular interest to non-skiers, beyond the many options above, are film series in February and March, featuring the climbing-focused Reel Rock 13 on Feb. 23 and the Wild & Scenic Film Series on March 16.
Coolest non-ski option: A Full Moon Snowshoe Hike under the stars, complete with an 1½-hour tour ending with hot cocoa and a campfire.
Where to stay: On-the-mountain lodging and inns in and around Stratton Village abound, with rates starting around $159.
5 Village Lodge Road, Stratton Mountain, Vermont, 802-297-4000, stratton.com