After a day in the snow, melt into one of these six natural hot springs.
Soaking your weary bones in a hot tub is a glorious finale to a chilly day on the slopes—so much so that it’s become a time-honored, post-ski tradition. Kind of like an après-ski beverage (or three), except taking a dip in steamy, mineral rich waters is much better for your body. Most resorts have some kind of hot tub experience, but the ritual gets elevated at the Western resorts we’ve got here, which, by luck of geography, enjoy close proximity to natural hot springs. Instead of fiberglass tubs or the aroma of chlorine, you get babbling currents, snow-shrouded boughs, and fresh mountain air. What are you waiting for? Start mellowing out those achy muscles here:
Sip Beer, Soak Muscles—Wolf Creek, Colorado
The nearby town of Pagosa Springs contains several commercial hot springs, but Overlook Hot Springs Spa is the most low-key and unique. At this small, turn-of-the-century building on the town’s main drag, 110°F mineral water is pumped up to the roof, where two tubs command unobstructed views of the San Juans’ East Range. You can even order a cold one from a bar on the premise. “Being up there on the rooftop, watching the sun drop while you sip a beer—it’s as good as a hot spring gets,” says Pagosa Springs local Mike Kissle.
Clothing? Required. Book the private indoor hot spring ($60/hour) if you want to wear your birthday suit.
Distance from ski hill: 25 miles (30 minutes)
Get there: 432 Pagosa Street
Info: (970) 264-4040
Au Natural, Oh Yes—Sun Valley, Idaho
About 10 miles from the Sun Valley ski area, hushed, snow-laden evergreens surround Frenchman’s Bend Hot Spring, which bubbles up from the east bank of Warm Springs Creek: Its icy currents rush past the wall of stones that bathers have built up to contain the 110°F spring water. “I love that it’s still so wild,” says longtime Hailey local Calysta Phillips. The vibe, however, is utterly civil. “People are always friendly and inclusive, and are always willing to scoot over and make room for newcomers.”
Clothing? Required, per Forest Service rules.
Distance from ski hill: 10 miles (45 minutes)
Get there: Infrequent plowing and rutted snow (or mud) calls for a 4WD vehicle for the 45-minute drive from Ketchum. Follow Warm Springs Road west for 10 miles (yes, it’s a 45-minute, 10-mile drive) and park along the road by the signed spring.
Info: Ketchum Ranger District, Sawtooth National Forest. (208) 622-5371
Marinate With Views of Misty Mountains—Banff, Alberta
Three resorts—Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village—share access to Banff Upper Hot Springs, a swimming pool and bathhouse perched on a mountainside. From the 104°F water, you get panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, including the wave-shaped Mt. Rundle. “Nothing beats soaking out there and looking at the stars,” says longtime local Jennifer Osinga. Crowds are thinner in winter than in summer; still, mornings offer the most serenity.
Distance from ski hill: 7 miles (20 minutes) from Mt. Norquay
Get there: Take the Roam bus ($2) or drive from Banff: Follow Banff Avenue across the Bow River, turn left at the T, and follow Mountain Avenue for two miles to the springs.
Info: (403) 760-1346
Steam and Stargaze—Steamboat, Colorado
Located at the end of a wending mountain road, Strawberry Park Hot Springs feels like a backcountry soak-spot: Pools here are minimally developed, with natural-looking rock walls and gravel bottoms, and the sun provides the only lighting. (At night, you’ll want a flashlight or headlamp to navigate the stairs from the parking lot to the 104°F pools.) The two main areas accommodate big crowds, while a handful of secluded outdoor tubs fit just two or three people. In the morning, you may have the place to yourself. At every time of day the scenery is enchanting. The surrounding pines and aspens collect snow, a stream flows alongside the pools (you can invigorate your steamy soak with a bracing plunge), and stars twinkle in the darkness. “It’s rustic,” says Steamboat snowmaker Mark Schneider, “So you can still appreciate the natural setting.”
Clothing? Optional after dark.
Distance from ski hill: 10 miles (30 minutes)
Get there: Call Sweet Pea Tours for a ride (from $40, includes $12 admission to the springs) or make the 25-minute drive (4WD or chains required) from downtown Steamboat Springs: Follow County Road 36 north for five miles to the signed parking lot.
Info: (970) 879-0342
Sunset's Best Seating—Mammoth Mountain, California
This part of the Eastern Sierra is pocked with natural hot springs, but Hilltop and Wild Willy’s rank as the most scenic—here or anywhere. Panoramic views of jagged peaks surround these steaming pools, which survey Glass Mountain, the Minarets, and the White Mountain range. Incoming snowstorms create the “Sierra Wave” of clouds rippling above Mammoth, and if you go at sunset, “it’s literally like watching a light show as the clouds turn pink and orange,” says local resident Morgan Gonzales. Sitting on a slight rise, Hilltop offers the best vistas and hotter water (a valve lets you admit as much of the 120°F spring as your skin can handle) than many other hot springs. But Wild Willy’s 95°F pool is bigger and more kid-friendly.
Clothing? Optional at both.
Distance from ski hill: 14 miles (20 minutes)
Get there: Most vehicles easily handle the 15-minute drive over mostly-paved roads. From Mammoth Lakes, take US 395 South for 5.4 miles, turn left onto Benton Crossing Road, and continue 2.5 miles. After crossing a pair of cattle guards, pick your spring: Turn right and drive a mile to the signed parking area for Wild Willy’s; or continue down the hill and turn left to Hilltop.
Info: Bishop Field Office, Bureau of Land Management. (760) 872-5000
The After Ski Qi—Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Given the New Age predilections at nearby Taos, it’s no surprise that Manby Hot Springs is even less straight-laced than most. “Last time I was there, I saw a bunch of naked hippies eating Häagen Dazs right from the container,” says TSV instructor Tom Jackman. But the aesthetics attract people of all persuasions: These three rock-rimmed pools sit beside the Rio Grande River, at the bottom of a steep-walled gorge. Getting here requires a mile-long, 30-minute hike from the canyon’s edge, but the 100°F water dispels the day’s fatigue. Look out for a pair of circular petroglyphs carved by Ancestral Puebloans.
Distance from ski hill: 24 miles (45 minutes)
Get there: Follow NM 150 from Taos Ski Valley, turn left onto US 64, turn right onto Tune Road (turns to dirt) and drive 4 miles, bearing left at each fork to the parking lot. Look for the dirt path heading down into the canyon.
Info: Taos Visitor Center. (575) 758-3873