Mountains of fun - without skis

UP FRONT

January 03, 2002|By Amelia Cleary | Amelia Cleary,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

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 that don't require skis at area ski resorts. 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.

Maryland

Wisp Ski Area

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.

Pennsylvania

Big Boulder

Lake Harmony

Jack Frost

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 driver's 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.big2 resorts.com.

In Tannersville, about 15 minutes from the resorts, shoppers can find bargains at Crossings Factory Stores outlets.

Hidden Valley Resort

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 resort.

Blue Knob All Seasons Resort

Claysburg (2 hours)

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