Image: Stowe Mercantile
Toby Talbot  /  AP file
The Stowe Mercantile in Stowe, Vt. has penny candy and a tuned piano for patrons to play and relax if the weather's bad.
updated 11/6/2007 8:53:14 PM ET 2007-11-07T01:53:14

Too warm to ski? Hit the pool or hot tub. No snow on the slopes? Try "Nordic walking" or a eucalyptus body wrap.

Or work out on the racquetball courts or skating rink.

When Mother Nature takes the "winter" out of winter sports, skiers and snowboarders need other options. And most ski resorts have plenty of them.

When there's rain or little snow in Stowe, many skiers and snowboarders head to the shops and restaurants.

"The weather definitely affects our business," said Trudy Welch, co-owner of Stowe Mercantile country store, which has penny candy and a tuned piano for patrons to play.

"A lot of people will just sit and play the piano or checkers," she said. "It's a good place for them to relax if the weather's bad."

Or they'll duck into Shaw's General Store outdoor clothing and gift shop which has been in the same family since 1895.

But visitors aren't discouraged from skiing in the rain.

"The best day that I ever had in my history of skiing was in a torrential rainstorm, because the snow conditions softened up and it was fun," said Mike Colbourn, vice president of marketing and sales.

But rain may only be tolerable for die-hards.

"If they're British, they're on the mountain," said Jo Sabel Courtney, public relations manager for the Stowe Area Association.

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Knowing that skiers and snowboarders may want a break, Stowe builds in a day off from the slopes in its ski packages. "We're acknowledging the fact the weather may not cooperate, and their bodies may not cooperate," Colbourn said.

At Okemo Mountain ski area, in Ludlow, there's no shortage of options for ski-less days. Visitors can swim, skate or play racquetball, or tune up their summer games at a 9-hole putting green or virtual golf.

Smugglers' Notch, in Jeffersonville, caters to families, replacing kids' daylong ski lessons with other activities when there's no snow. Families can also frolic in an indoor play area with an inflatable obstacle course, a miniature golf course and table tennis. It also offers baby-sitting, and puts on family entertainment every night — snow or no snow.

Yoga, pilates and craft classes are also available for adults. But if being outdoors is the priority, guided Nordic walking takes participants into the "Notch" using ski poles.

"It's good exercise, but you're not scaling cliffs," said Barbara Thomke, director of public relations.

Just over the mountain from Smugglers' Notch, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa claims to have one of the few masters in Nordic walking who takes people on guided walks.

But when it's rainy or cold some visitors might rather indulge in the spa.

"A lot of times, this is a great, comfortable place to come because sometimes it is 20 below zero and people just want to come and sit underneath the waterfall and get a nice heat wrap or different type of massage that's going to make them feel comfortable," said Spa Director Jesse George.

Topnotch Resort and Spa and the Trapp Family Lodge — home to the von Trapp family made famous in the "The Sound of Music" — also offer spa treatments for skiers' and snowboarders' weary muscles.

When it's crummy outside at Killington, "the spa goes ballistic," said spokesman Tom Horrocks.

If there's no snow on the ground, mountain biking and hiking are options, depending on the elevation. Some skiers head to nearby Manchester, an outlet shopping hub, or hit the movies in Rutland.

And, of course, there's always the bar.

Happy hours at bars and restaurants up and down the Killington Access Road take place whether there's snow or not.

When the weather's not skier friendly at Maine's Sugarloaf USA, visitors can head to the Antigravity Complex owned by the Carrabassett Valley Academy and the town of Carrabassett Valley, which has a climbing wall, skate park and bowl, Olympic-quality trampolines, weight room and aerobics room.

They also have the option of spa services, including massages, a sports and fitness center, with indoor-outdoor hot tubs, swimming pool, gym and an Internet cafe.

Several New Hampshire ski areas have skating rinks and Bretton Woods offers ice climbing classes. But Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch has the most unusual new offering: a zip line cable ride.

Riders put on a harness, clip in and slide nearly a half mile down a wire, James Bond-style, over the slopes and across the resort's parking lot to a landing ramp. The ride drops about 500 vertical feet and riders can go up to 45 mph, says Wildcat sales and marketing director Thomas Prindle.

The ride opened this summer and Prindle says it was designed as a four-season attraction.

"Like any outdoor winter activity, if you dress properly the cold is no problem. It's a great way to enjoy the beauty of the mountain and the notch," he says.

Great Glen Trails, a cross-country ski area at the base of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, offers an indoor climbing wall that is popular year- round.

"Ski areas recognize they have to diversify and offer something year round, for poor snow years and for the non-skiing members of families," said Alice Pearce of SkiNH.

Ski resorts, of course, do their best to make sure the slopes are open. Most have high-tech snowmaking equipment and vow to have snow-covered slopes by mid-November, if not sooner.

No snow?

"It's not a problem I've ever witnessed," said Alex Kaufman, a spokesman for Sunday River in Newry, Maine, which plans to open Nov. 9. "It's a question that's not applicable."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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