It used to be that ski areas were virtual ghost towns in the summer: weed-covered slopes and forlorn lifts waiting sadly for snow.
No more! Now, many areas are offering summer activities and events for the Active Outdoors crowd. In fact, many ski areas are almost as much fun in the summer as they are in the winter. Sorry, that's an exaggeration ... we all know that nothing is as much fun as playing on snow, but there's still a lot of good outdoor fun to be had at ski resorts until the world turns white again.
Some resorts become summer camps for kids and families. Smugglers Notch (www.smuggs.com) in Jeffersonville, Vt. was one of the pioneers and they are still going strong with a new canopy tour and loads of guided hikes, canoe and kayak paddles, a climbing wall, etc. Whaleback (www.whaleback.com) in Enfield, NH, offers its "Zero Gravity kids camps for skateboarders and summer terrain park snowboarding. Great way to keep kids active.
Some ski resorts like Attitash (www.attitash.com) in Bartlett, N.H., Bromley Mountain (www.bromley.com) in Peru, Vt., Cranmore Mountain Resort (www.cranmore.com) in North Conway, N.H., Jiminy Peak (www.jiminypeak.com) in Hancock, Mass., Wildcat (href='http://www.skiwildcat.com'>www.skiwildcat.com) in Pinkham Notch, N.H. become virtual amusement parks in summer with Alpine Slides, Mountain Coasters and ziplines.
Whiteface (www.whiteface.com) has the Olympic Bobsled facility with summer rides near Lake Placid, New York. These aren't a challenge, or even exercise, but they sure are fun.
Even ski hills that don't offer any formal activities, are wonderful places to hike in summer. The slopes and trails provide open views as you climb and invite cool summer breezes.
You can make a hike at a ski area (comparatively) easy by walking up the service road that reaches the summit lift terminals, or more difficult by scrambling up the black diamond trails. You won't believe how steep some of the stuff you ski down in the winter really is until you climb it in the summer.
Some areas offer summer chairlift rides so you can walk down without having to climb, which is a great option for people just getting into mountain hiking.
Ski hills and mountain biking are a natural fit. Some hills make a huge deal of mountain biking. Burke Mountain (www.skiburke.com) in East Burke, Vermont has joined forces with Kingdom Trails (www.kingdomtrails.com) to offer both lift-serviced downhill mountain biking and cross-country biking this summer.
Mount Snow (www.mountsnow.com) in Dover, Vt. and Jiminy Peak both offer regular lift-serviced downhill biking. Sunday River (www.sundayriver.com) in Newry, Maine has opened a new "Bike Park," lift-serviced downhill biking and miles of new cross-country biking trails for this summer.
Bretton Woods (www.brettonwoods.com) in Bretton Woods, N.H has both lift-serviced mountain biking on their cross-country trail network and downhill biking on their slopes.
Cannon Mountain (www.cannonmt.com) in Franconia, N.H. now rents bikes for riding on the recreation path through Franconia Notch.
Even cross-country ski resorts get into mountain biking. Trapp Family Lodge (802-253-8511; www.trappfamily.com ) in Stowe, Vt. has created miles and miles of wonderful mountain bike trails for riders of all ability levels.
This is not a complete listing, just a sampling of some of the excuses you have to get to a ski resort this summer and have fun. No sense in moping around waiting for winter. Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
Canopy adventure tours are suddenly all the rage at ski resorts here in the Northeast. Unlike a zipline, which is essentially a passive activity (get a ride to the top of a slopes, sit in a chair or harness and slide down a cable), a canopy tour requires you to climb, walk, balance, swing and slide through the trees. Much more active, much more fun.
The first canopy adventure tours around here were in Quebec and they are a thrilling and enjoyable experience. Tenney Mountain (www.tenneymtn.com) in Plymouth, N.H, had, I believe, the first in New England, but it may be closed now.
There's a big one at Zoar Outdoor near Berkshire East (413-339-6617; www.berkshireeast.com ) in Charlemont, Mass. Smugglers Notch and Bretton Woods have canopy tours while Sunday River has an elaborate zipline setup.
Gunstock (www.gunstock.com) in Gilford, N.H. recently raised the bar with what they are calling "New England's Largest Aerial Obstacle course," which opened Memorial Day Weekend. They'll be adding a big zipline facility by July 4th weekend.
I haven't been there yet, but you can bet it's on my must-do list. I'm told this whole setup is patterned after the big aerial adventures in Canada, where you are taught what you need to do to keep yourself safe, then are turned loose to do it. Most others take you through in a group with a guide shadowing your every move.
As far as I'm concerned that's the way all outdoor recreation should be handled. There's always risk, but you should be able to negotiate it on your own without having to have your hand held. Of course, starving lawyers might see it differently.
In any case I can't wait to get up and try the new course at Gunstock.
Pats Peak MTB Festival (www.patspeak.com) in Henniker, N.H. will host the 10th Annual Pats Peak Mountain Bike Festival with 24-, 12-, and 6-Hour Mountain Bike races, a X-Country Challenge, Downhill races, and a Kid's Race on both Saturday and Sunday. Riders will be competing either solo or in 2-, 4- or 5-person teams. There's also a Downhill race with riders transported to the top of the hill by ski lift, fastest time down wins. Scary.
For those of us who don't like to compete, the course is open to everyone except during the race. But the event itself is a big party with lots of very active, very muddy people enjoying themselves.
Tim Jones writes about outdoor sports and travel.