Embracing a Slower Pace: Winter Wildlife Encounters at Ski Resorts

by Amanda Ellis | March 26, 2024

As winter sports enthusiasts, we often seek the thrill of carving through pristine powder or navigating challenging slopes. But amidst the rush of adrenaline there lies a quieter, more enchanting aspect of the ski resort experience: encounters with winter wildlife. Exploring the wilderness surrounding ski resorts can yield unforgettable encounters with a diverse array of animals, reminding us of the profound connection between nature and our recreational pursuits. Each sighting offers a glimpse behind the scenes into the delicate ecosystems that define mountainous regions. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a casual visitor, embracing these encounters can deepen your appreciation for the natural world and enhance your overall ski resort experience.

Encounters with Majestic Elk

A herd of elk in snow. A bull elk faces the photographer. Elk, with their imposing antlers and dignified presence, roam the snowy forests and meadows surrounding ski resorts, captivating all who have the fortune to witness them. Typically found in North America and parts of Europe, elk are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk (another season to aim for first chair in the mornings at busy resorts). During winter, they forage for food, primarily grasses and shrubs, sometimes venturing closer to ski resort areas in search of sustenance. Ski resorts in elk country often provide opportunities for guided wildlife tours or designated viewing areas, allowing visitors to observe these noble creatures without disturbing their natural behavior.

Glimpsing Playful Mountain Goats

A mountain goat on a high precipice overlooks the landscape. Mountain goats, adapted to rugged alpine environments, effortlessly traverse steep cliffs and rocky outcrops with astonishing agility. These sure-footed creatures exhibit curious behaviors and are known for their acrobatic antics, often engaging in playful displays or scaling sheer rock faces with ease. While sightings may require a bit more effort and altitude gain, the reward of observing them in their element is well worth the trek. Mountain goats primarily inhabit high-altitude regions, offering skiers glimpses of their remarkable adaptability and resilience in harsh winter conditions.

Encountering the Elusive Lynx

The regal lynx, with its distinctive tufted ears and stealthy demeanor, inhabits the dense evergreen forests surrounding ski resorts. Lynx are solitary and elusive creatures, preferring to hunt under the cover of darkness and avoiding human interaction whenever possible. These felines primarily feed on small mammals like snowshoe hares and squirrels, relying on their keen senses and stealthy approach to secure prey. While encounters with lynx are rare, skiers may occasionally spot them traversing forested areas or leaving tracks in the snow, adding an element of mystery to the winter landscape.A lynx in snow pauses next to a bush.

Observing the Agile Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe hares, with their white winter coats and oversized hind feet, are well-adapted to the snowy landscapes surrounding ski resorts. These mammals primarily feed on twigs, bark, and buds, utilizing their keen senses of hearing and smell to detect predators like lynx and foxes. Snowshoe hares undergo a fascinating seasonal color change, transitioning from brown in the summer to white in the winter to blend in with their surroundings. Skiers may catch glimpses of these elusive creatures darting among the trees or leaving tracks in the fresh snow, offering a charming reminder of the intricate web of life thriving in alpine ecosystems.

A single snowshoe hare faces the camera mid-stride through snow. Embrace Nature’s Pace

Winter wildlife encounters offer a refreshing contrast to the adrenaline-fueled excitement of skiing or snowboarding. Whether you’re pausing mid-run to admire a herd of elk grazing in a meadow, catching sight of mountain goats perched on a rocky ledge, or marveling at the tracks left by a passing lynx or snowshoe hare, these encounters enrich our ski resort experiences in profound ways. So, the next time you hit the slopes, keep an eye out for signs of wildlife and savor the enchantment they can add to your alpine adventures.

Featured Resorts

More from the Blog