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Best places for winter fun if you’re not a skier

Skiing tends to dominate all other winter outdoor activities, and why not? The allure of powder-covered mountains, the thrill of speeding down slopes, and the comfort of cozy ski lodges make for a classic winter experience.

However, if you’re afraid of heights, aren’t particularly coordinated, or simply don’t like carrying around all that equipment, skiing may hold less of an appeal. And for penny pinchers, skiing (not exactly known for being affordable) usually is reserved for special occasions.

Here are some great options for those of you snow bunnies who prefer to spend your time off the ski slopes.

NEXT >> Sleigh riding in Connecticut

Sleigh riding in Connecticut

“We were looking for something unique and special, a different kind of getaway that was cold, snowy, and romantic,” says Mary Elizabeth Farrell of Stratford, Connecticut, who recently took advantage of the “Dashing Through the Snow” sleigh-riding package at the Interlaken Resort & Conference Center in Lakeville, Connecticut. “We took off in a downtown setting with quaint little inns and shops, [then] were completely submersed in the land. [It] was woodsy, [with a] big open pasture; there were a few rivers that ran through it.”

The package is available from $299 per night and includes accommodations, a sleigh ride through the countryside, two dinners for the price of one at the hotel restaurant, two tickets to the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum, and breakfast for two.

“The lady who was driving was wonderful,” says Farrell. “If you want to know about the area and interact with her, she would explain, but if you wanted to settle back and relax and snuggle with your partner, she wasn’t overly intrusive.”

Remember to dress appropriately before the excursion. While the sleigh comes with a Victorian blanket for the ride, Farrell recommends a good coat, hat, and socks, and even some face coverings if the day is particularly cold or windy.

For other sleigh-riding possibilities throughout Connecticut, see the listings on About.com.

NEXT >> Snow tubing in Colorado

Snow tubing in Colorado

Zooming down a snowy hill in an inner tube can make any adult feel like a kid again. And better still, many ski resorts have slopes devoted to tubing, so you won’t have to contend with hazards (such as trees, skiers, and the like). Once at the bottom, resorts often provide lifts or pulls back to the peak, so you can take multiple rides without having to lug your tube back up the mountain.

And perhaps best yet, there’s no skill or coordination required. If you can sit in an inner tube, you’re qualified to go.

Colorado has 26 ski resorts scattered throughout the state, and many offer tubing. Several to check out include Copper Mountain, Steamboat, and Telluride. Resorts typically charge $15 to $22 per adult for a tubing session.

For a full listing of Colorado resorts and tubing possibilities, visit ColoradoSki.com.

NEXT >> Dogsledding in Maine

Dogsledding in Maine

Never been dogsledding before? Not to worry. “It’s kind of like beginner downhill skiing, people usually pick it up right away,” says Don Hibbs, co-owner of Maine Dogsledding Adventures in Millinocket, Maine. His company’s “Northern Adventure Trip” takes travelers on a two-day trek in the lakes region near Mount Katahdin. “People drive their own team, they’re not passengers,” says Hibbs. “[There’s] lots of supervised interaction, overseen by me. [It’s] very much hands-on.” Sledders drive a five- or six-dog team, and receive instruction on how to harness and drive the dogs.

Prices are $525 per person, with discounts available for groups of three or more. Expect to experience the full elements of winter in Maine—it’s recommended that travelers bring warm gear, including a hooded parka and sleeping bag. “[Guests] stay in winterized cabins that we run on Nahmakanta Lake, newly restored with stoves for heat and propane gas,” says Hibbs. Cabins do not have electricity, and a sauna and separate shower house are available. “Meals are served in the dining room, a historic old building built in 1872, all-American meat and potatoes kind of fare.” Lunches are typically sandwiches out on the trail. “We build a fire and make tea and coffee,” Hibbs says.

All types of travelers have taken part in dogsledding, from couples to school groups. “[People] are amazed at how vigorous and energetic the dogs are,” says Hibbs. “The dogs are really the stars of the show.”

For additional dogsledding options, see Maine Guides Online.

NEXT >> Snowshoeing in Idaho

Snowshoeing in Idaho

Snowshoeing is an ideal way to take in winter scenery. Lower maintenance (i.e., less equipment and typically lower costs) than either downhill or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing allows you to enjoy the outdoors at a manageable pace. It’s also a good winter alternative for those who like hiking.

The Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center at the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho has more than 25 miles of trails to explore. “Snowshoers can travel out to [the] historic Trail Creek Cabin for lunch, [and see] beautiful views of Bald Mountain,” says Ned Wheeler, director of Sun Valley Nordic. “A climb up to the top of the Gun Club area offers outstanding views of the Sun Valley Lodge and village, Bald Mountain, and the Pioneer Mountains.”

If you don’t have your own snowshoes, Sun Valley will rent them to you for $13 per half day, or $16 for a full day.

“Dress as you would for cross-country skiing or cool-weather running,” says Wheeler. He recommends “a light base and insulating layers with a windproof outer shell, warm winter boots, hat, and gloves.”

For trail and resort information throughout Idaho, visit IdahoWinter.org.

NEXT >> Ice skating in major cities

Ice skating in major cities

From beginners to Michelle Kwan wannabes, everyone can enjoy ice skating in a classic city setting in winter. Here are some of the best options from coast to coast.

  • New York offers ice skating throughout the city, most famously at the Rink at Rockefeller Center. You can also skate at Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink, both in Central Park. Another popular option for skating is the Pond in Bryant Park. Admission prices vary by venue, but expect to pay between $5 to $15 for entrance fees.
  • Chicago has a plethora of skating facilities, with nearly 10 scattered throughout the city. If you only have time to try one, be sure to check out the McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink in Millennium Park, where you can skate with views of the skyscrapers of Michigan Avenue. Admission is free, but you have to pay for skate rentals.
  • Boston welcomes skaters on its Frog Pond, nestled in the heart of Boston Common. Prices are $4 for adults; skate rentals are $8. Across the river in Cambridge, you can also skate at The Rink at The Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. Rates are $5 for adults with a $5 additional skate rental charge. See a complete listing of area rinks on GoCityKids.com.
  • In Washington, D.C., you can skate among beautiful art and world-famous monuments. The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden Ice Rink offers open-air skating with music accompaniment. Rates are $7 for two-hour admission; skate rentals are $3. Or, consider the Pershing Park Ice Rink, just two blocks away from the White House. Prices are $6.50 for admission and $2.50 for skate rentals.
  • San Francisco may not have frosty winter days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go ice skating. Stop by the Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center for a few turns around the ice any time of year. Rates are $8 for adults; skate rentals cost $3.
  • Houston has a variety of indoor skating options, from the Aerodrome Ice Skating Complex to the Polar Ice Galleria and the Memorial City Mall Ice Skate USA facility. Admission and rental prices vary by venue; prices typically range between $7 to $12 for entry fees.

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