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High-Flying Fun: 7 Adrenaline-Pumping Offseason Adventures at Ski Resorts

8/18/17 by Matt Wastradowski

When the snow melts and the ski gear is stashed for the season, it’s easy to forget about ski resorts. But, buoyed in part by recent policy changes by the U.S. Forest Service, as well as a drive to keep money coming in year-round, many resorts have begun offering a variety of extreme outdoor experiences that redefine our relationship with summertime slopes.

In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service enacted a new policy that expanded recreation opportunities at ski areas and resorts on National Forest land throughout the United States. The guidelines impacted 122 ski areas and nearly 180,000 acres of public land, creating a whole new array of adrenaline-pumping offseason adventures.

Today, outdoor enthusiasts can try Europe-inspired via ferrata routes through some of the continent’s most scenic mountain ranges, ride mountain bikes through thrilling downhill courses, and try their hand at bobsledding on one of the world’s top courses. Here, some adrenaline-pumping offseason adventures at ski resorts throughout the United States and Canada.

1. Try out your climbing chops on Jackson Hole’s via ferrata.

Via ferratas allow climbers to scale mountain peaks and navigate alpine passes by using some combination of cables, iron rungs, pegs, steps, suspended bridges, hiking, and scrambling. Originating in Europe, the climbing routes have become more popular in North America in recent years, both as a gateway for would-be mountain climbers and a breathtaking challenge for outdoor enthusiasts.

Along with Telluride and Whistler, B.C., the world-famous Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has joined the via ferrata fray. Jackson Hole’s experience, which offers several routes for climbers of all experience levels, includes a trek across a 120-foot suspended bridge and ascents up the mountain’s imposing granite faces—including one stretch that covers more than 500 vertical feet.

2. Conquer the new Mountain Coaster in Steamboat Springs.

Heads (and hands) up, roller-coaster junkies: The Steamboat Resort at Steamboat Springs unveiled the heart-stopping Outlaw Mountain Coaster in August 2017.

Billed as the longest mountain coaster in North America, the Outlaw covers 6,280 linear feet and descends more than 400 vertical feet with all manner of dips, turns, waves, and 360-degree spins thrown in for good measure.

The coaster may eventually have a wintertime presence on the mountain and is part of a broader effort to drive summer traffic to the resort. Other additions include a new chair lift and mini golf course.

3. Bomb down Aspen’s slopes on a mountain bike.

Everyone loves Aspen for its powder-covered slopes, but Snowmass Bike Park’s growing mountain bike community is quickly earning praise among new riders and veterans alike. With nearly 3,000 feet of downhill trails and more than 50 miles of classic cross-country trails, it’s easy to see why.

Beginners love the 3.5-mile Verde Trail, which traverses rolling hills through pine and aspen forest. Veterans, meanwhile, test their chops on the park’s toughest trail, the 2.75-mile Valhalla Trail, whose highlights span a 1,400-foot vertical drop that includes berms, jumps, bridges, a wall ride, and other freeride challenges.

Snowmass Bike Park also hosts a number of rides for road cyclists looking to enjoy the mountain scenery. On tap are sublime views of the Maroon Bells, a pair of 14,000-foot peaks that stay snow-capped all year long; a trip over the Continental Divide; a stop at the Woody Creek Tavern, where Hunter S. Thompson hung out in his heyday; and a ride into the fascinating ghost town of Ashcroft.

4. Test your fear of heights at Kicking Horse Resort’s via ferrata.

Billed as perhaps the toughest via ferrata in North America, the routes at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia draw adrenaline seekers for their daring climbs, soaring heights, and open-air thrills.

There are three separate routes, the most hardcore of which is the Ascension Route. Its challenges include crossing the 300-foot-high signature "Guts Bridge," a wobbly suspension bridge; tackling more than 1,500 feet of vertical climbing to Terminator Peak—a whopping 7,900 feet above sea level—and, at one point, dangling at one point over some 900 feet of wide open space.

5. Go for the gold on an Olympic bobsled course.

Have you ever wanted an Olympic experience without, you know, all that training? Get a taste of the glory—and, of course, a dose of some serious adrenaline—with a guided bobsledding trip on Whiteface Mountain, just outside Lake Placid, home to the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

Over the course of a harrowing half-mile, you'll reach speeds of 55 miles per hour while tackling a speedy straightaway and hairpin Olympic turns. The ride might last less than a minute, but you’ll have memories that last forever.

6. Choose your own adventure in Whistler.

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Whistler may be best-known for its world-class skiing, but anyone who sticks around after the snow has melted will find a head-spinning array of adventure year-round, including myriad climbing options that offer plenty of fun and thrills for every skill level.

Each summer, Whistler opens up for via ferrata guided tours, as well as indoor and outdoor rock climbing. The mountain’s via ferrata route covers snow slopes or boulder fields, depending on the season and mountain conditions, and a climb to Whistler's stunning summit, roughly 7,000 feet above sea level. Meanwhile, the Sea to Sky Corridor beckons with numerous crags for mountain climbing and bouldering (including the popular Cheakamus Canyon and Rogues Gallery).

Winter brings the chance to explore Whistler’s storied slopes in new ways. Ice climbing tours, in particular, have become popular with outdoor adventurers looking to explore the region away from fresh powder. Tour guides provide equipment, instruction, and navigation over pure ice formations and mixed climbing areas.

Whistler is also home to a year-round indoor climbing gym that features a 5,500-square-foot rock wall, bouldering zone, slabs, overhangs, and other technical features.

7. Bungee jump, zipline, or climb at Oregon’s tallest peak.

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Less than two hours from Portland, Mount Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl offers more than 20 adventures and activities for thrill-seekers and families alike—all on the slopes of the state’s tallest peak.

Families generally stay busy with volleyball, horseback riding, a bungee trampoline, and go-karts, while adrenaline junkies can opt for some of the park’s more extreme offerings. Those include a 100-foot bungee jump, 800 feet worth of zip lines, a 32-foot rock wall with 422 square feet of climbing face, and more than 40 miles and 1,500 vertical feet of mountain biking trails.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.