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It's summer: Time to hit the ski slopes

Ski resorts and ski resort towns around the West are gearing up for their busy second seasons of hiking, fishing, and festivals.
A couple takes off on the Extreme Zip Ride at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.
A couple takes off on the Extreme Zip Ride at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah.Douglas C. Pizac / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

When ski slopes become blanketed with grass and wildflowers in the summer, the towns in the mountains of the West stay bustling with crowds looking for an unusual mix of culture and outdoor experiences.

In fact, ski resorts and ski resort towns around the West make a point of trying to attract visitors in the offseason, usually spring and summer.

In the Vail Valley, one can fish in legendary rivers or hike to the top of a 14,000-foot mountain, and then catch a concert or dance performance under the stars.

Since 1987, Vail gradually has built up a cultural following with the construction of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, which holds 1,260 in fixed seats and an additional 1,240 on the surrounding hillside.

Not far away, tourists can stop by for a food-and-wine festival or Jazz Aspen Snowmass (June 22-25), go whitewater rafting, horseback riding, camping or climbing. Telluride, about 200 miles southwest of Denver, boasts some kind of festival just about every weekend of the summer -- from bluegrass and jazz to wine, culinary arts and films.

On the Net:

  • Vail: or (800) 525-3875.
  • Aspen: or (800) 525-6200.
  • Telluride: or (970) 728-6900.

Barely a month after spring skiers pack it in, Park City and its three downhill ski areas -- Park City Mountain, The Canyons, and Deer Valley -- begin to buzz again as summer tourists take their place.

The resort town is a popular destination for mountain bikers and hikers, drawn by spectacular scenery and more than 300 miles of public trails linking the three resorts. Wide, paved bike lanes and recreation paths are also plentiful, as are organized group rides and races.

Musical offerings include weekly outdoor concerts, the Park City International Music Festival, the Deer Valley Music Festival and the Park City Jazz Festival. Movies are also shown outdoors by the Sundance Institute, known for its Sundance Film Festival in winter.

Twelve golf courses, six public and six private, are within a 20-mile radius of town.

The Utah Olympic Park, which hosted the jumping and sled events, remains busy in summer, with wheeled bobsled rides that go up to 70 mph, "zip-line'' rides, and shows every Saturday featuring freestyle aerial skiers jumping into an outdoor pool.

Several stables offer horseback riding, and local streams provide abundant options for fly-fishing.

For lodging, there are more than 6,000 rental units, and rates are well below the peak winter months, officials say. Dining is available at more than 100 local eateries. There's also the Park City Food and Wine Classic, featuring more than 300 wines and gourmet food. Salt Lake City International Airport is 36 miles away via Interstate 80.

On the Net:

  • Park City Mountain Resort: or (800) 222-7275.
  • Deer Valley Resort: or (888) 754-8477.
  • Canyons Resort: or (435) 649-5400.

Sun Valley Resort's 18-hole golf course consistently has been ranked No. 1 in Idaho by Golf Digest and features a 6,892-yard course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Greens fees are $145, or $125 for guests of the Sun Valley Lodge. The lodge opened in 1936 as the cornerstone of Union Pacific Railroad Chairman Averell Harriman's desire to provide UP rail passengers an opportunity for "roughing it in luxury.'' The resort also features evening ice skating performances by Olympic medalists from mid-June to mid-September, the latter on a rink that offers rink-side dining by reservation.

At Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, President Bush tried out the 25-mile circuit of mountain bike trails during a presidential vacation last summer. Besides lift-served access to the mountain, the resort has a Challenge Park with mountain bike "teeter-totters,'' rocks and other obstacles. A "jump park" at the resort includes multiple ramps for various skill levels, and clinics on jumping and riding are scheduled during the summer. Group and privately guided mountain bike tours are also available.

Trail passes are $3-$18, bike rentals are $15-$35 and guided tours are $50-$120. Lodging is available in two- and three-bedroom cottages at the base of the Tamarack mountain and in luxury hotel rooms in the Members Lodge and Spa. You'll find motels in Donnelly and Cascade.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint features a "bungee jump trampoline'' that allows even beginners to perform double and triple flips while suspended from bungee cords and bouncing 30 feet in the air. The resort's Mountain Activity Center also has a climbing wall, giant checkers, volleyball, horseshoes, bocce and croquet.

The resort sells a summer fun pass for $15 that covers unlimited scenic chair lift rides, two tries on the climbing wall and a turn on the bungee jump trampoline. Summer accommodations include the upscale Selkirk Lodge at the resort and condo-style units at the slopeside White Pine Lodge, while several motels are located 11 miles away in Sandpoint on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest lake.

On the Net:

  • Sun Valley Resort: or (800) 786-8259.
  • Tamarack: or (877) 826-7376.
  • Schweitzer: or (800) 831-8810.

California, Nevada
In a normal year, the mountain bikes would be coming out in the Sierra Nevada.

But this winter has been anything but normal along the California-Nevada line, where 11,053-foot Mammoth Mountain picked up 55 feet of powder. With lakes, golf courses, bike trails and hiking areas blanketed with snow, Mammoth plans to stay open for skiing until the Fourth of July, as it did last year. Then, the place will turn to summer activities.

By the time the daffodils bloom in the town of Mammoth Lakes (elevation: 7,800 feet), the runoff will have filled scores of lakes, rivers and creeks. There are two golf courses -- one 18-hole and one 9-hole -- that offer magnificent views and challenging water hazards.

Horses, 4-wheel-drive vehicles, bikes and anything that floats can be rented. Hiking and rock climbing are popular as well.

Mammoth Lakes has about 8,500 rental units, and half of its tourists come in summer, with 81 percent of them from Southern California. Many own fractional shares in resorts so they can ski in winter and escape the heat in summer.

Along with places to eat in town, Mammoth boasts a European-style village for shopping, dining and nightlife.

At Lake Tahoe, summer activities turn to the lake -- and golf.

A dozen courses are less than an hour from the resorts, including Edgewood Tahoe on the lake shore within sight of Tahoe's casino row, and home to the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.

Two are located on ski resort properties -- Northstar-at-Tahoe and at The Resort at Squaw Creek -- both on the California side of Tahoe's north shore. Northstar's course was designed by Robert Muir Graves; Squaw's by Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Squaw's charming Tyrolean-flavored village offers opportunities for strolling, eating, and shopping.

At Tahoe's south shore, Heavenly Mountain Resort has a gondola that carries riders 2.4 miles up the mountain from the 7,200-foot base to the 10,067-foot peak for eating, hiking and wall-climbing overlooking the lake.

At the 9,123-foot level is an observation deck, and at the base is Heavenly Village, with more than 40 shops, places to eat and entertainment venues. The Nevada line and the south shore's high-rise hotel-casinos are a five-minute walk.

Tahoe offers everything from sunbathing to parasailing. Rent a boat or fish for trout or salmon in lakes, streams or the Truckee River.

On the Net:

  • Mammoth Mountain: or (800) 626-6684.
  • Squaw Valley USA: or (800) 545-4350.
  • Northstar-at-Tahoe: or (800) 466-6784.
  • Heavenly Mountain Resort: or (800) 432-8365.