Ultimate Ski Bucket List – Best Non-Skiing Mountain Activities

The Mont 4 Zipline in Verbier, one of the best winter activities in the mountains There’s so much more to do on a luxury ski holiday than just skiing. Ski resorts and their surrounding areas are home to an abundance of different winter activities in the mountains. From exhilarating experiences to unique activities, there’s plenty of things to do for non-skiers or those wanting to try something a bit different. Continuing the Ultimate Bucket List this week, following on from the Best Après Bars in Ski Resorts, we turn our attention to the best non-skiing activities.

This list covers a wide variety of different mountain activities. Some are unique to specific ski resorts while others can be enjoyed across the Alps. Each one is a rare and exciting experience that will guarantee a memory you will cherish for years to come. These are the ultimate winter activities in the mountains that should be at the top of your bucket list…


#75: Aiguille du Midi (Chamonix)

The Aiguille du Midi Cable Car above the clouds in Chamonix.Chamonix is certainly one of the best ski resorts for non-skiers. It started life as a mountain village, long before skiing was first invented. The ski area eventually built up around it, but it still remains a charming town with lots of options for winter activities in the mountains.

A special highlight of the area is the Aiguille du Midi. The Aiguille du Midi is a 3,842m mountain peak, with the highest cable car in France. Taking the cable car to the top alone is worth it. You can admire incredible panoramas of the Chamonix valley, and a close-up view of the majestic Mont Blanc. Once up the top, there are lots more things to do for non-skiers besides the incredible views. You can learn more about the history of the cable car and mountaineering at the Museum of Alpinism. If you’re brave enough, take the risk and Step Into The Void. And most unmissable of all, the Panoramic Mont-Blanc cable car across to Italy is an essential bucket list activity.

The Aiguille du Midi cable car is also your route to the Vallée Blanche. The Vallée Blanche was one of our top 5 off-piste experiences in a previous entry to the Ultimate Bucket List series. It’s an equally unmissable experience in summer too; our sister brand has previously highlighted it as part of our French Alps Summer Holiday Bucket List, and among our Top Reasons to visit Chamonix in Summer.


#74: Cresta Run (St Moritz)

While tobogganing and sledding are enjoyable winter activities in the mountains, the skeleton really ramps the action up a gear. Perhaps one of the most death-defying winter sports there is, the skeleton has you hurtling down an icy track similar to the bobsleigh. Except instead of sitting in a sled, you are going head first on a tiny tray with skates. And where better to try out this thrilling activity than at the Cresta Run in St Moritz?

The Cresta Run was first built in 1884 and is considered the birthplace of modern day skeleton. The track was made famous for its inclusion in the Winter Olympics in St Moritz in 1928 and 1948. It is only since 2002 that the skeleton has become a permanent fixture of the Winter Olympics. You can try out this activity when on a luxury ski holiday in St Moritz. Open throughout the season, the Cresta Run allows amateurs to try their hand at this exciting winter sport. There are two starting points, although if you are a first timer you begin slightly lower down this 3/4 mile track, with only the more experienced riders getting to race the entire run.


#73: Ziplining (Val Thorens + Verbier)

La Bee zipline, one of the best things to do in Val Thorens.Ziplining offers an adrenaline rush like little else, racing through the sky at speeds of over 100km/h. And where better to experience this thrill than in the mountains? Take in stunning panoramic landscapes while soaring down at breathtaking speeds.

There are two main places in the Alps worth heading to in order to enjoy this most exciting of winter activities. In the mountains of the Three Valleys, a 1,300m long zipline known as “La Tyrolienne” runs from Orelle towards Val Thorens, with a vertical drop of 230m. One of the best things to do in Val Thorens, this zipline has you flying 250m above the ground at some points. Val Thorens is also home to La Bee, a chain of three double ziplines running over 1,800m into the heart of the resort.

The ultimate zipline experience is to be found on a luxury ski holiday in Verbier. The Mont 4 Zipline starts at the top of the Mont Fort, at 3,330m altitude. A 1.4km long wire with a 383m vertical drop, this thrilling zipline has you hitting speeds of up to 130km/h. Undoubtedly one of the best winter activities in Verbier.


#72: Take to the Skies (Helicopter Tours, Hot Air Balloon Rides & Paragliding)

Take to the skies on a helicopter tour, seen flying past the Matterhorn in the top right pic. The bottom right image shows paragliding in Tignes, while the left image is hot air ballooning above mountain peaks.Ziplining might give you a short, exciting taste of what it’s like to soar through the air, but to truly experience the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the mountains, you’ll have to pick one of these ski resort activities. Taking to the skies is one of the best things to do on a ski trip. Whether a short flight or a multi-hour long excursion, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the majesty of the mountains from a bird’s eye view.

Helicopter tours are your best option for sightseeing in the Alps. They are one of the best mountain activities, available all across European ski resorts. Great for the whole family, there’s nothing quite as mesmerising as seeing some of the world’s most iconic peaks up close.

A similar experience to a helicopter tour, but at a much more tranquil pace, a hot air balloon ride is a must for non-skiers. Sail to lofty heights above the ski resort on this unforgettable experience. There’s an annual International Balloon Festival each winter in the Swiss Alps in Châtaeu-d’Oex, less than 20 minutes from Gstaad and only a couple of hours from the ultimate luxury resorts of Verbier, Zermatt and Crans-Montana.

Naturally, to really fly like a bird, paragliding is the pinnacle of experiences. In tandem with a guide, take off from the top of the mountain and sail on updraughts, circling picturesque valleys before coming in to land.


#71: Be a Spectator

Spectators gathered at the bottom of the Streif in Kitzbühel, watching a skier come to the finish line of the Hahnenkamm race.One of the best winter activities in the mountains for non-skiers ironically still involves skiing. It’s just not you who will be doing the taking part. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup events take place all over the Alps throughout the winter season. At these events you can watch the best skiers in the world take part in the likes of Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and the insanity that is Downhill racing. Watching the technical mastery that takes place through a slalom course or the eye-watering speeds that athletes hit as they race for a spot on the podium has to be seen live to properly be appreciated.

The Hahnenkamm Race is the Men’s Downhill in Kitzbühel, one of the world’s most famous and toughest ski races. For the ultimate spectator experience, stay at the aptly named Hahnenkamm Lodge, with views across to the start line on race day.


#70: Glacier Palace (Zermatt)

Zermatt is another of the best ski resorts for non skiers, with plenty to do for all ages. The Glacier Palace is one of the best family-friendly winter activities in Zermatt. Located at 3,883m, at the top of the Klein Matterhorn Express, the Glacier Palace in Zermatt is the highest in the world. 15m below the surface, you can expect to step into an enchanting world of glistening ice. Among the interesting things to do here is an ice slide (especially great for kids), a walkable glacial crevasse and spectacular ice sculptures that seem to have leapt right from the pages of a fairytale. Carved out of eternal ice, the palace naturally gets very chilly, so it’s best to wrap up warm.

With the addition of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing providing pedestrian access, the Glacier Palace is now an activity for non-skiers in the Italian Alps too, when on a luxury ski holiday to Cervinia.


#69: Conquer the Ice (Driving, Skating, Climbing, Karting)

Ice climbing up frozen waterfalls can be one of the most rewarding winter activities in the mountains.It might be the last thing you want to see on the home run at the end of the day, but ice opens up a world of possibilities for winter activities in the mountains when not skiing.

Ice climbing can be tackled in any number of resorts across the Alps. This is can be both one of the most challenging and magical of ski resort activities. The sense of achievement gained by successfully scaling a frozen waterfall is like nothing else.

Much like when skiing, ice is not something you’d normally want to come across when behind the wheel of a car. However, one of the best mountain activities involves doing just that. Ice driving is a fantastic activity for non skiers in the French Alps, available in many resorts in France. You can go ice driving in Tignes Les Brévières, Val Thorens, and also the Portes du Soleil.

Ice driving is one of the most exhilarating winter activities in the mountains, as seen here in Tignes.If getting behind the wheel of a large car proves to be a bit too daunting, you can lessen the intensity and try ice karting instead. The resort of Cervinia, for example, features its own dedicated track. A bonus to karting means you can race against all your friends and family too!

Prefer taking to the ice at more of a glacial pace? Head to the nearest ice rink and put on a pair of skates. Most ski resorts will offer some variety of ice skating. There are skate sessions open to the public at places such as the Olympic centre in Cortina or at open air ice rinks, like the one in Morzine.


#68: Boutique Shopping

Luxury shopping in Courchevel 1850, a great activity for non skiers.When you think of luxury boutique shopping, your mind might initially wander to some of World’s most glamorous cities. Places like Milan, Tokyo, Paris, or New York. Cast your mind to the Alps’ most glamorous ski resorts instead however, and you’ll find a bounty of places to indulge in some retail therapy. The likes of Courchevel 1850, Cortina and Zermatt are home to an abundance of stylish boutiques and luxury brands.

A stellar advantage to shopping in ski resorts is how high the concentration of stores is. No wandering across expansive cities for hours necessary. From single brand boutiques to ski specialists, souvenir shops to delicatessens, and everything in between, you’ll be left spoilt for choice! Certainly when the weather is bad, hitting the shops instead of hitting the slopes is often the more appealing option. And exploring luxury boutiques can be one of the best things to do in ski resorts for non skiers.


#67: Alaïa Bay (Switzerland)

Surfing at Alaïa Bay is a bucket list item when spring skiing in Switzerland.Surfing is a rather unorthodox choice as far as winter activities in the mountains go. To be accurate, this is more of a spring activity in the mountains, but certainly one for your bucket list. While not found in a ski resort, Alaïa Bay is located in Sion, a 30-45 minute drive from the luxury resorts of Verbier and Crans Montana. For those staying in luxury chalets in Zermatt, the drive takes a little bit longer, or alternatively, no time at all if you fly by helicopter!

Alaïa Bay is open to the public between March and November, making it a unique choice for a day out on late season skiing holidays in Switzerland. This artificial surf paradise in the mountains features a wave machine that can adjust to whatever your ability. There are easy waves and surf lessons for beginners, moving up to freesurf sessions in mega-barrels for seasoned pros. For more detail, our sister brand, Alps In Luxury, includes a great blog detailing the practicalities of skiing and surfing in the same day in the mountains.


#66: Unwind with a Spa Day

The outdoor swimming pool at QC Terme in Chamonix. A spa day is one of the most luxurious non ski activities.Indulging in the pure bliss of wellness and relaxation facilities is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Nothing quite resets you like a spa day, and the Alps boast some of the best spas in the world. When considering things to do on a ski trip, a spa day should be one of your top priorities. Whether enjoying luxurious massage and beauty treatments or a revitalising sauna session, swimming in the pool or unwinding in the soothing bubbles of a hot tub, there’s a spa facility to match everyone’s requirements.

Spa and wellness retreats go hand in hand with mountain living. No matter what resort you pick, there’s sure to be a place to help you unwind. Examples include Aquamotion in Courchevel, a firm family favourite with facilities to please children and adults alike, while pure serenity can be experienced in the wellness centre of QC Terme in Chamonix. Most resorts will feature sports and wellness centres to immerse yourself in a world of tranquillity. These typically showcase state-of-the-art facilities and an individual philosophy designed to perfect your wellbeing.

Of course, you are not just limited to these public spaces. If you are looking for a private retreat, spa facilities are found in many ultimate luxury chalets. We feature ultimate luxury chalets with swimming pools and a wealth of other facilities, meaning you can experience a harmonious spa day from the comforts of your own luxury ski accommodation.


#65: Gourmet Dining

One for the travelling gourmands, with food travel ever increasing in popularity. Experiencing the taste sensations of gourmet dining should be at the top of everyone’s list. Ski resorts have become a haven for some of the best restaurants in the world. World-renowned chefs flock to the Alps, opening seasonal restaurants with everything from traditional delights to innovative cuisine. Courchevel 1850 and Zermatt are two resorts with renowned Michelin Star restaurants, although you will find delicious dining across the Alps.

A key feature of many an ultimate luxury chalet is the service. A lot of the top chalets we feature offer a fully catered service. Dining on gourmet delicacies for dinner every night is an ultimate luxury experience, making a catered chalet ski holiday an excellent choice.

And if you’re looking for some ideas on the best places to eat in the Alps? There’s no one better to ask than us. We already have a guide on best places to eat in Val d’Isère, and a local’s guide to dining in Verbier. In the gastronomic hotspot of Courchevel, we also have pieces highlighting the top Michelin Star restaurants in Courchevel 1850 and 5* ski hotels with Michelin Star restaurants. In fact, our first bucket list blog focuses on Michelin Star dining in ski resorts.


#64: Snow Shoeing/ Winter Hiking

Snowshoeing is one of many winter activities in the mountains worth experiencing on a luxury ski holiday.We all love the thrill of skiing, but if you’re looking for winter activities in the mountains that let you fully immerse yourself in the magical snowy surroundings, there’s nothing better than a relaxing hike through the mountains. Snowshoeing and hiking is possible in every resort; for the best experience, we’d recommend a slightly lower altitude, keeping below the treeline. Hiking through tranquil forests is like something out of a fairytale. You’ll never feel more at peace with nature than when on a snowshoe trek or along a secluded hiking trail.

Austria is particularly well-suited to these sort of adventures, with Lech and Leogang offering trails for all abilities. Hiking past the cliff faces of the Italian Dolomites or the imposing mountain peaks of Switzerland is also a delight. Wherever you are, the experience is sure to be breathtaking.


#63: For the Animal Lovers… (Husky Sledding, Horse Drawn Carriages, Ski Joëring)

Working animals like those pulling a horse drawn carriage, seen here in Leogang, provide some magical non skiing activities in the mountains,Some of the best winter activities in the mountains involve getting to meet the local fauna. The mountains are home to all manner of wildlife, with many working animals providing magical mountain experiences. Snow holidays for non skiers are heaven if you are a lover of animals.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides are often the most enchanting way to experience a ski resort and its surrounding area. Fostering that perfect alpine atmosphere, the jingle of bells and clattering of hooves as you breeze through snowy landscapes is simply wonderful.

Beautiful mountains, bright sunshine, blue skies and those gorgeous four legged friends will make for another unforgettable experience. Mush your very own team of dogs and to learn what it takes to look after these amazing creatures. A husky sledding experience is something you and your family will treasure for a very long time.

Husky sledding in Méribel; perfect for animal lovers.Technically not a non-skiing activity as you are still on skis, but worth an honourable mention all the same in any entry about animals, ski joëring is a traditional Nordic form of transportation that is a lot of fun to experience. Used for centuries in Scandinavia, ski joëring is essentially being pulled along on a set of skis by a horse. A thrilling and exciting experience to get the adrenaline pumping that is certainly not for the faint-hearted.


#62: Gornergrat Bahn (Zermatt)

Gornergrat Bahn, one of the best things to do for non skiers in Zermatt.The Gornergrat Bahn is a mountain railway in Zermatt, taking you from the centre of the village right up to the observatory at the top of the Gornergrat mountain. Running from 1,600m to 3,089m, the train winds up the mountain. Skirting past ski slopes, it affords breathtaking views of the legendary Matterhorn all along the journey. The most luxurious way to experience this journey is in the NostalChic Class, an authentic carriage from 1961 with a host of exclusive services.

One of the best things about the Gornergrat Bahn is that it allows you to experience many of the aforementioned bucket list winter activities in the mountains as part of special packages. There’s gourmet dining experiences, snowshoe tours once at the top of the mountain, and lots more. At the top of the railway, the Zooom Matterhorn experience is often included in the price of most tickets, providing an interactive virtual experience to learn more about this iconic mountain which can be enjoyed even if the weather’s too cloudy to see the real thing.

The Gornergrat Bahn is more than just a way to get from point A to point B. It is one of the best mountain activities, a captivating experience that evokes the romance of train travel from a bygone era.


#61: Exploring Christmas Markets

Exploring Christmas markets is a great family pastime on a luxury ski holiday at Christmas.It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And there’s no place more magical to experience it than in the mountains. Fresh snowfall, sparkling lights and charming decorations, ski resorts are the place to be at Christmastime. There’s lots of reasons to go skiing at Christmas, but when not on the pistes, there’s few activities better than exploring the local Christmas markets. Bringing the ultimate festive atmosphere, you can lose yourself for hours wandering through the markets. Sip on mulled wine, purchase artisanal decorations and indulge on traditional snacks; nothing will raise your Christmas spirit better than this.

We’ve already put together a useful blog on some of the best resorts to visit at Christmas, although you’ll be sure to have a great experience wherever you go. Christmas is really the best time to visit ski resorts for non skiers.

If this mammoth entry into the Ultimate Bucket List series has given you some great ideas for winter activities in the mountains for your next ultimate luxury ski holiday, and you’re interested in finding a chalet to stay in or learning more about any of the activities mentioned, then we can help. Simply give us a call on +44 1202 203653 to speak to one of our Ski Specialists. Alternatively, you can also send us an email and we can help with any queries.

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Blue Skies Lifestyle Ltd, established in 2005, is an online luxury ski holiday agent that specialises in finding clients the perfect luxury ski chalet in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. We feature an extensive portfolio of luxury chalet accommodation and luxury ski hotels that are ideal for group and family luxury ski holidays.