(CNN) — Imagining a snow-filled wonderland in the blistering days of August is almost impossible.
Amazingly enough, in eight short weeks, ski resorts around the Northern Hemisphere will start opening their doors for the regular season. But you can take advantage of a ski town in all its off-season, late summer glory.
From five-star dining to world-class spas and bucket-list hikes, these nine destinations are perfect for a ski-resort vacation without having to travel in the snow and sub-zero temperatures.
ITALY: Cortina d’Ampezzo
Average August temperature: 70 F / 21 C (high); 50 F / 10 C (low)
Nestled in the Dolomite mountain range is the quintessential heart of Italy’s famed super-ski region, Cortina d’Ampezzo.
A picturesque village known for its close ties to Hollywood royalty (the 1963 “Pink Panther” was filmed here) as well as its notable aprés ski life, those who love to ski have always placed this northeastern Italian town high on the list.
When the icy winter isn’t luring visitors, the green grounds of a cool summer afternoon are doing their part to draw travelers.
Hike and climb the massifs and spires of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage area. Or, for a real challenge, hop on a mountain bike and explore 435 miles of biking trails in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Give your muscles some love by enjoying a spa treatment at Hotel Cristallo’s “Ultimate Spa” with its expansive pool, oversized Turkish bath and Transvital facials.
Finally, consider dining at one of Cortina’s 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, where you’re just as likely to find innovative takes on German classics as you are Italian cuisine.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Via G. Marconi, 15, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy, +39 0436 862171
Hotel Cristallo, Via Rinaldo Menardi, 42, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo BL, Italy, +39 0436 881111
Average August temperature: 68 F / 20 C (high); 44 F / 7 C (low)
The “White Mountain,” as locals refer to Mont Blanc, provides a backdrop for rich, glamorous luxury year round.
All lifts in the summer season (July 7 to August 31) are free, thus helping hikers and climbers explore Saulire Summit. Don’t miss the chance to fly down the 1992 Winter Olympic ski jump in an inflatable toboggan if you can handle a little speed.
For the less daredevil-types, Courchevel has Europe’s largest mountain aquatic center, Aquamotion. A massive lagoon, jumping pool, an aqua-racer slide and a “wild” river will please adults and children.
At the end of the action-packed day, wind down at Courchevel’s Les Airelles. On the outside, the hotel’s multilayered, cresting spires look like something drawn from a fairy tale. Inside, it’s classic sophistication: The bartenders make an excellent Fleur 75.
Courchevel, 73120 Saint-Bon-Tarentaise, France, +33 4 79 08 00 29
Saulire Summit, 73550 Les Allues, France, +33 4 79 08 00 29
Aquamotion, 1297 Route des Eaux Vives Courchevel Village, 73120, France, +33 9 71 00 73 00
Hotel Les Airelles, Rue du Jardin Alpin, 73120 Saint-Bon-Tarentaise, France, +33 4 79 00 38 38
CANADA: Banff-Lake Louise, Alberta
Average August temperature: 75 F / 24 C (high); 60 F /16 C (low)
Set amid snow-topped mountains, Lake Louise’s turquoise waters are a sight to behold.
In winter, Lake Louise’s perennial host Banff National Park has some of the best skiing in not only Alberta province but all of Canada. In summer, the cool historic town of Banff offers quintessential Canadian Rockies’ hospitality with delicious food and beverages.
Embrace Banff’s easy spirit by posting up at Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar, which might be the only distillery in the world within a national park.
Then take a quick ride up one of the Sulfur Mountain Gondola to catch a most fetching view of Banff before coming back down to enjoy a bison burger or the classic all the way from Montreal, poutine.
If dessert is on your mind, the best spot to eat some sugary confections is historic Fairmont Banff Springs. For over 125 years, this former castle has provided visitors with incomparable views of the Banff-Lake Louise area — and the best double fudge, caramel and peanut butter concoction you can imagine.
Work off the bear claw’s calories with a long hike along Lake Louise the next morning.
Lake Louise, (no street address given), Alberta, Canada, +1 (877) 956-8473
Banff National Park, Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada, +1 (403) 762-1550
Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar, 219 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1A7, Canada, +1 (403) 762-5114
Sulfur Mountain Gondola, 100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B2, Canada, +1 (866) 756-1904
Fairmont Banff Springs, 405 Spray Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J4, Canada, +1 (403) 762-2211
SWITZERLAND: St. Mortiz
Average August temperature: 65 F / 18 C (high); 42 F / 6 C (low)
Often considered the favorite of the international jet-set is St. Mortiz, Switzerland. This flawless ski resort has been offering dizzying views of the Alps since the 19th century when the British invented the winter alpine holidays in St. Mortiz.
Art is a big draw here as well. Check out Galerie Gmurzynska, a local art gallery that rotates unusual, modern installations from Gmurzynska’s other gallery in Zurich.
After the art scene has tired you out, choose one of St. Mortiz’s numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. Rolf Fliegauf’s Ecco on Snow recently went from being a two-star Michelin restaurant to a three-star; you’ll want to make reservations in advance.
German-born Fliegauf won his first Michelin star at 26 and with Ecco on Snow, Fliegauf infuses the more hearty palate of Switzerland’s 26 cantons with his favorite kind of cuisine: Asian.
St. Moritz, St. Moritz Tourist Information, Via Maistra 12, CH – 7500 St. Moritz, +1 (970)-429-3099
Galerie Gmurzynska, Paradepl. 2, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland, +41 81 8 33 36 51
Ecco on Snow, Via Maistra 3, Silvaplana 7512, Switzerland, +41 81 836 63 00
USA: Stowe, Vermont
Average August temperature: 64 F / 18 C (high); 51 F / 11 C (low)
The Green Mountain State considers Stowe Ski Resort to be the “Ski Capital of East.” But it’s as cool a place as any in New England come late summer.
Hot air balloons are the thing here. Once you get an overview of the city from up above, come back down to earth and belly up to one of the area’s popular craft breweries. You don’t have to be a beer connoisseur to enjoy the numerous offerings in Stowe.
Idlyetime Brewing Company (formerly Crop Bistro + Brewery) has a rotating selection of house-crafted ales, lagers and stout.
Other places to try:
— Foam Brewers, naturally named for the mixtures of malt and hops fermenting on top of beer, has a sour beer selection of “Red Dot,” “Purple Dot” or “House Dot.”
— Four Quarters Brewing offers unusually cocktail-esque beers such as “S’mores Stout” and “Moscow Mule.””
— The Alchemist pours up Belgian-style Dubbel, double-IPAs and American IPAs.
Not far from the center of town is the Ben + Jerry’s Waterbury Factory, where you can sample all of the ice creamery’s current flavors.
Stowe Mountain Resort, 5781 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT 05672, +1 (888) 253-4765
Idlyetime Brewing Company, 1859 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672, +1 (802) 253-4765
Foam Brewers, 112 Lake Street, Burlington, VT, +1 (802) 399-2511
Four Quarters Brewing, 150 W Canal St, Winooski, VT 05404, +1 (802) 391-9120
The Alchemist, 100 Cottage Club Rd, Stowe, VT 05672, +1 (802) 882-8165
Ben + Jerry’s Waterbury Factory, 1281 Waterbury Stowe Rd Route 100, Waterbury, VT 05676, +1 (866) 258-6877
JAPAN: Niseko United, Hokkaido Island
Average August temperature: 77 F / 25 C (high); 61 F / 16 C (low)
Each winter, Niseko United is blessed with heaps of fresh powder. As such, it has been deemed by Ski Japan, the official government entity, as Japan’s No. 1 snow resort.
Sans snow, however, Niseko is still a fantastic option for a getaway.
Natural springs, known as “onsen,” are a beloved tradition in Japan. In this region, the natural springs are particularly bucolic.
Choose from the Hilton Niseko Village’s onsen spa or the more traditional onsen at The Green Leaf Onsen, where natural rock formations are on full display.
The onsen may be especially appreciated after whitewater rafting on Niseko’s Shiribetsu River.
One cannot leave Niseko United without trying soba (buckwheat noodles). You can find soba all over the country, but you could do worse than to try the ones at Rakuichi Soba. It’s often booked solid at dinner, but there’s a walk-in lunch option that’s equally delicious.
Niseko United, +81 (0) 136 22 4611
Hilton Niseko Village, Higashiyama, Niseko, Abuta District, Hokkaido 048-1592, Japan, +81 (0) 136-44-1111
The Green Leaf Onsen, Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1592, Japan, +81 (0) 136 44 3311
Shiribetsu River, Various, +81 (0) 136-21-2551
Rakuichi, 431 Niseko, 048-1511, +81 (0) 136 21 2565
USA: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Average August temperature: 80 F / 27 C (high); 39 F / 4 C (low)
Located in namesake Jackson Hole Valley, Jackson Hole Ski Resort is where the peaks of Grand Teton National Park can be viewed. It’s also home to 3,472 square miles of Yellowstone National Park.
Rushing rivers, alpine forests, hot springs and gushing geysers are covered in snow during ski season, but in summer, nature beckons with a diverse array of exciting activities.
Nature and wildlife tours where you can see raptors and other wild game such as buffalo, elk and moose are supremely popular.
Invest in booking a full day Yellowstone National Park guided tour, where experts will be able to point out the game blending into the wilderness. Most tours start early in the morning so you can linger with a cup of coffee as you take in the view.
Another high on the Jackson Hole summer bucket list is whitewater rafting on Snake River. The big waves of Kahuna and Lunch Counter on the Snake River have a don’t-miss reputation among the hardcore rafting crowd.
For those who’d prefer to steer clear of the wildlife action, Teton Mountain Lodge and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort provide rustic chic luxury in the form of pools, spas and tasty cocktails.
Jackson Hole, +1 307 733 2292
Grand Teton National Park, 103 Headquarters Loop, Moose, WY 83012, +1 (307) 739-3399
Snake River, Various, +1 (307) 733-1007
Teton Mountain Lodge, 3385 Cody Ln, Teton Village, WY 83025, +1 (855) 318-6669
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 3395 Cody Ln, Teton Village, WY 83025, +1 (307) 733-2292
AUSTRIA: St. Anton am Arlberg
Average August temperature: 65 F / 18 C (high); 53 F / 12 C (low)
“They have an off-the-chart après life!” is the response I got when I mentioned to a friend I was considering a trip to St. Anton am Arlberg in Austria to ski this winter.
But for many visitors to St. Anton am Arlberg, skiing isn’t the top draw. For some, including those who appreciate the après more than the ski, it’s the hospitality of 2,600 Tyrolean people who populate St. Anton am Arlberg.
The Tyrolean hospitality makes memories of the Austrian Alps worth capturing, particularly in the summer when St. Anton am Arlberg’s scenery literally melts away to reveal gushing rivers, bucolic pastures and super lush meadows perfect for aimless wandering.
Unlike other ski resorts, St. Anton has something which can’t be missed. It’s Arlberg via Ferrata, a 3-kilometer (1.9- mile) long, 2,500-meter (8,202-foot) high mountain — so high it looks like it is part of the sky.
This monumental test of physical endurance is widely considered one of the top five climbs in the world and certainly a bucket-list destination for those who love rock climbing.
For those who prefer the view with a little less effort, Schnann Gorge has a striking rock face carved by waterfalls.
Arlberg via Ferrate, +43 5446 22690
Schnann Gorge, +43 5446 22690
USA: Vail, Colorado
Average August temperature: 75 F / 24 C (high); 40 F / 4 C (low)
In a word, Vail is sprawling.
Its 5,289 acres can feel overwhelming during the height of ski season. But summer in Vail rivals winter because the discovery is just as vividly arresting and much more relaxing.
Sans snow, Vail Ski Resort offers up such tempting options as zip lining, fly fishing and tubing. In addition to two concurrent miles of zip-lining, there are aerial bridges interspersed among the forest tops.
And while most ski resorts use their terrain to attract hikers, Vail is exceptional in this regard with its “fourteener” hikes (mountains at an elevation of more than 14,000 feet). In fact, Colorado has more fourteeners (53) than any other state. The Four Seasons Vail provides a luxurious two-day, “fourteener” hike with a llama.
Climb up Mount Harvard, Mount Yale or any of the other fourteeners around Vail, up to 14,005 feet while the llama carries your food and camping gear. The Four Seasons Hotel takes care of everything — cooking, pitching the tent and navigation. You provide the exercise.
Afterward, reward yourself with a relaxing spa visit at the Four Seasons Vail. Start with the 50-minute Swedish massage and then finish with the diamond luxury facial.
Four Seasons Vail, One, Vail Rd, Vail, CO 81657, +1 (970) 477-8600