You love the idea of being at a ski resort -- it's the slippery slope you can do without. You want to indulge in the parts of high-altitude fun that don't involve standing upright on a pair of skis: sitting by a roaring fireplace in a lodge, kicking back in a cute chalet, sipping hot chocolate or hot toddies in a mountainside restaurant, and chilling out in a hot tub. Heck, you're even willing to venture outdoors to try tubing and snowshoeing.
You just don't want to clamp your feet onto a pair of skis. Maybe you're afraid of breaking your leg or another crucial body part as you speed downhill at 95 mph, or of falling flat on your face as you disembark from the ski lift. Whatever your reason, you can still join skiing family members and friends on a ski trip and have a wonderful time off the slopes.
In an effort to attract more customers, area ski resorts are offering an ever-increasing range of activities both indoors and outdoors for nonskiers.
You outdoorsy types can tiptoe through trails on snowshoes as you watch birds perched in leafless trees, or wrap up in a warm blanket while horses pull you on a sleigh through the wintry landscape. And if you can drive a car, you can rent a snowmobile and whiz around snowy trails.
The licensed and unlicensed alike can steer their way down a hill on a snow bike, a nonmotorized vehicle constructed like a road bike, but without the wheels. It moves on a flat base and is propelled by gravity.
Several resorts have joined the latest trend and added tubing parks to their mountain attractions. Tubing offers the same thrill as sledding, but not the dreaded trudge up the hill. Once the tube reaches the end of the chute that it slides down, the rider needs only to hook onto a tug and be pulled back uphill. It's sledding without the exhaustion.
One resort even offers paintball, a combination of tag and hide-and-seek that's popular with action-adventure fans.
If you are determined to stay indoors, you'll be glad to know that some resorts have fitness centers with workout rooms, indoor swimming pools, saunas and hot tubs. Others offer massages and facials. Many have full-service restaurants and one or more fireplaces, beside which guests can cuddle up with a cup of cocoa and a good book, content to enjoy a ski-less ski trip.
The following is a guide to the attractions at area ski resorts that don't require skis. In addition, in some cases, we've included information about things to do nearby the resorts. Note: The time in parentheses is the approximate driving time from Baltimore.
, McHenry (3 hours)
Two bumps on each of its six snow chutes add variety to Wisp's Bear Claw Tubing Park. The Allegheny Mountain resort also offers snowshoe and snow-bike rentals.
For visitors intent on staying warm, Wisp Hotel has an exercise room, indoor heated pool, saunas, handball and racquetball courts and three restaurants with fireplaces.
Call 301-387-4911 or visit www.gcnet.net/wisp.
In McHenry, Garrett 8 Cinemas shows matinees of current movies.
, Blakeslee (3 1/2 hours)
Seven miles apart in the heart of the Poconos, both Big Boulder and Jack Frost have a variety of tubing chutes, and claim to offer the world's biggest snow-tubing facility. Jack Frost also rents snowmobiles to holders of a valid drivers' license.
On Saturday evenings, cover bands play in the Big Boulder lodge. Jack Frost offers daytime entertainment on weekends.
Call 800-468-2442 for both resorts or visit www.big2resorts.com.
In Tannersville, about 15 minutes from the resorts, shoppers can find bargains at Crossings Factory Stores outlets.
, Hidden Valley (3 1/2 hours)
Tucked away in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, this 2,000-acre resort has dug out the longest and steepest tubing run in the state in its new Outback Park. In addition to tubing, Outback Park offers snowshoe rentals, a restaurant, bar, arcade and gift shop.
Behind the tubing park, two teams of privately owned French and Belgium horses pick up passengers for a 30-minute sleigh ride through the Appalachian Mountain landscape. Blankets are provided for the 24 passengers. (For sleigh-ride information, call 814-445-6307.)
Hidden Valley's network of trails connects to Forbes State Forest and Kooser State Park, allowing hikers to walk around lakes and past the resort's native-plant collection.
The resort spa provides guests with a place to warm up, relax or exercise. It has a workout room, racquetball, volleyball and wolleyball courts, an indoor pool, saunas and hot tubs. Its salon offers manicures, pedicures, facials, and massages.
Call 814-443-8000 or visit www.hiddenvalleyresort.com.
For visitors interested in modern American architecture, two Frank Lloyd Wright homes -- Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob -- are just a 45-minute drive from the re?sort.
, Claysburg (2 hours)
Blue Knob has a tubing run that's surrounded by the untamed hardwood forests of the Allegheny Mountains. It's open seven days a week.
Indoor amenities at this rustic resort include fireplaces, a cafeteria and a bar in the lodge. There's live music on the weekends.
Call 814-239-5111 or visit www.blueknob.com.
Several towns within a 10-mile radius offer antiques shops and local history. Hollidaysburg, where the Pennsylvania Canal ended and the Allegheny railroad began, was a major transportation center in the early 19th century. Today its streets are lined with second- and third-generation mom-and-pop stores. Other nearby noteworthy towns include Altoona, Johnstown and Duncansville.
, Hazleton (3 hours)
This relatively new resort has just added a tubing park to its 4,200 acres.
Indoors, guests can dine in the Eagle Rock Restaurant or the Panorama Grill, which offers a panoramic view (what else?) of the Blue Mountains.
Call 888-384-6660 or visit www.eglrock.com.
Outside the resort, visit Eckley Miners' Village in nearby Weatherly, Pa., where history and Hollywood had a brief encounter. Sean Connery spent time here among the 150 historical buildings that were used on the set of the 1970 movie The Molly Maguires.
The coal-mining company was founded in 1854. Today, as part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's Anthracite Museum Complex, the village is open to the public. Call 570-636-2070.
, Bernville (2 1/2 hours)
With four tube runs, including the Kinder Tube for children and the Winding Wolverine, an "extreme" run with curves and jumps, Blue Marsh claims to be a "snow tubing capital." All tube chutes are well lighted for evening runs.
The southeastern Pennsylvania resort offers guests rest by a fireplace and repast in its lodge restaurant.
Call 610-488-6399 or visit www.skibluemarsh.com.
If you want to hit the shops after tubing, a 20-minute drive will take you to another "capital." Reading, a mill town in the 1920s that now claims to be the "outlet capital of the world," is home to the hugely popular Vanity Fair Factory Outlet as well as many other stores.
, Macungie (2 hours)
Last year, Bear Creek's new owners renovated the resort's lodge, added new lighting to the slopes and doubled the size of the tube park, bringing the number of chutes up to eight.
Winter guests interested in a warm environment can snuggle up next to one of the many fireplaces in the main lodge or veg out in front of the lodge's large-screen television.
There are live-music performances Friday and Saturday nights.
Call 610-682-7100 or visit www.skibearcreek.com.
, Shawnee-on-Delaware (4 hours)
In the way of outdoor activities, this Pocono Mountain Resort offers its nonskiing guests a tubing park.
Five minutes down the road is the Shawnee Inn Ice Arena, which has an NHL-sized public rink, heated stands surrounding the rink, and a snack bar. For skate-rental information, call 570-424-5225.
For resort information, call 570-421-7231 or visit www.shawneevillage.com.
, , Lewisberry (1 hour)
These sister resorts are just over the Maryland line, and Liberty Mountain (formerly Ski Liberty) is only eight miles from Gettysburg, where Civil War history was made.
At the base of Liberty's ski slopes is the resort's lodge, with a barbecue grill on its deck and a restaurant and tavern inside. Employees say the restaurant and tavern are packed on weekends.
Two lifts at Ski Roundtop carry tube passengers up to the top of the resort's newly groomed tubing runs.
Roundtop also offers Revolution Paintball, which it claims is the most complete paintball operation in the region. There are six paintball fields -- three lighted -- and participants are provided with goggles, masks and washable paint.
Roundtop's lodge has fireplaces inside and a slope-side barbecue grill outside on its deck.
For Liberty Mountain, call 717-642-8282 or visit www.skiliberty.com. For Ski Roundtop, call 717-432-9631 or visit www.skiroundtop.com.
, Palmerton (3 1/2 hours )
Blue Mountain claims ownership of Pennsylvania longest vertical drop -- 1,082 feet.
For those who wouldn't touch that dizzying height with a 10-foot ski pole, there's a tubing park, open seven days a week. It offers single tubes as well as family-sized tubes.
From video screens inside the lodge, visitors can watch ski and snow-bike races taking place on the mountain.
Blue Mountain has a cocktail lounge and two full-service restaurants.
Call 610-826-7700 or visit www.skibluemt.com.
In the nearby town of Jim Thorpe (known in the 1800s as "the Switzerland of America"), attractions include antiques shops, galleries, churches, public buildings and historic homes (some built as summer retreats by millionaires).
, Scranton (3 1/2 hours)
This mountain resort offers separate snow-tubing areas for children and adults. Super Snowtubing, for ages 5 and up, has 10 chutes, each 800 feet long. Kiddie Snowtubing has five chutes custom-sized for children ages 3 and up.
A pavilion with picnic tables, hot chocolate and a bonfire connects the two tubing areas. Call 570-969-7669 or visit www.skimontage.com.
Down the road from Montage Mountain, the town of Scranton turns a baseball field into an outdoor ice rink during the winter months. Also in Scranton, the Steamtown National Historic Site, formerly the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad yard, exhibits the remains of a historical switchyard, rail-yard buildings, and steam locomotives. Seventy-eight passenger, freight and work cars have been restored to re-create a monument to 20th-century railroading in America.
For more information about Steamtown, call 888-693-9391.
, Champion (3 1/2 hours)
Rated one of the top five mountain resorts in the East by Ski magazine, Seven Springs provides a wealth of both indoor and outdoor activities for nonskiers.
Outside, the resort provides several tubing chutes and sleigh rides. Inside, visitors can bowl, roller skate, work out in the fitness room, or play racquetball, handball or miniature golf. There's also entertainment just for children.
Water aerobics and swimming lessons are available in the resort's indoor swimming pool, and hot tubs and massages are available to help guests relax.
Seven Springs also has gift shops, a sporting-goods shop and a hair salon, which offers pedicures and manicures.
Live music is performed in the evenings in one of the resort's lounges.
Call 800-452-2223 or visit www.7springs.com.
, Davis (4 hours)
Located on the northern edge of Monongahela National Forest, this 6,000-acre resort has five tubing lanes, each 850 feet long, and an outdoor lighted ice-skating rink. There's also scheduled entertainment in the newly renovated Bear Paw Lodge, and a health club that features an indoor heated pool with a lap lane, a whirlpool and saunas.
Call 800-622-4121 or visit www.canaanresort.com.
Nearby, Blackwater Falls State Park offers hiking, sledding and other recreational activities.
For more information on the park, call 800-CALLWVA.
, Snowshoe (7 hours)
West Virginia's largest ski resort, Snowshoe sits on 11,000 acres in the Allegheny Mountains. The alternatives to skiing are numerous here: guided snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, nightclubs, a comedy club, pubs, more than a half-dozen restaurants, nearly 20 shops in the Village at Snowshoe, a heated indoor-outdoor pool with water slides, two hot tubs, a sauna and a heated patio.
Call 304-572-4636 or visit www.snowshoemtn.com.