If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, you’ve no doubt heard of and perhaps even enjoyed mountain resorts like Aspen, Lake Louise, St. Moritz or Innsbruck. However, there are other places to swoosh down the slopes besides the Rockies, Alps and other well-developed ranges. Some are rather strange places that don’t usually pop to mind when you think “ski”. Check out these unexpected destinations where you can strap on boards and enjoy a little downhill action.
1. Masikryong, North Korea
Did you hear that North Korea recently opened its first high-end ski resort? So far it has failed to attract many customers, which is hardly surprising given the country’s grinding poverty. Nonetheless, the rare visitor could conceivably enjoy almost empty slopes as well as huge propaganda screens along the way.
2. Tiffindale, South Africa
South Africa might be best known for its exotic megafauna and splendid safaris, but this mountainous land also sports a diverse range of microclimates, including one conducive to skiing. Tiffindale is the country’s only ski resort, but at an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet, it often has snow for at least three months per year. If not, they make some white fluffy stuff that’ll do in a pinch. The resort it also home to the country’s highest pub!
3. Mount Hermon, Israel
Home to one of the world’s most contested borders as well as being near to a live minefield and extremely tough security, Israel’s Mount Hermon ski resort might not sound very appealing, but it’s actually extremely popular among the locals. It features 14 slopes ranging from beginner to advanced levels. However, it also offers some of the most impressive and unique views of any ski resort.
4. Oukaimden, Morocco
There’s much more to Morocco than the windswept beaches, exotic deserts and chaotic souks that might come to mind, but did you ever think there would be a ski resort there? At almost 11,000 feet, Oukaimden typically has enough snow for skiing about three months per year. The slopes are accessible from the highest ski lift in Africa or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, by donkey.
5. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Skiing might not be the first thing that crosses your mind when you think of Hawaii, but at 14,000 feet high, the volcanic peak of Mauna Kea often has enough snow on the summit to make it suitable for some makeshift skiing or boarding. There are no lifts or grooming up there, but thrill-seekers take turns being the 4WD shuttle driver so everyone gets to experience a few runs. The snow can take on a strange texture under the Hawaiian sun, and the runs can end abruptly, but if skiing followed by some exotic cocktails on a tropical beach all in the same day sounds appealing, then Mauna Kea is hard to beat.
6. Mount Etna, Sicily
Speaking of volcanoes, ever fancied skiing down the slopes of one of Europe’s most famous volcanos? Home to the Nicolosi Ski Resort, Mount Etna offers a truly unique experience for adventurers who want to soar down the slopes of an active volcano. Watch out for the plumes and lava flows!
7. Union Glacier, Antarctica
There might not be any official ski resort in Antarctica but, if you’re the truly adventurous type and you have an enormous amount of money to spend, Union Glacier has to be one of the most unique places to go cross-country skiing in the whole world. Packages are available starting at $27,500, including transfers, equipment and a guide.
8. Bamiyan, Afghanistan
Bamiyan, Afghanistan was once on the hippie trail and is perhaps most famous for the ancient statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. While the country continues to be extremely unsafe and unstable, it is still home to some beautiful and diverse landscapes. However, in recent years, Bamiyan has become a bit of a skiing spot for locals. There’s still no developed ski resort because of its remoteness, but a ski club has started to promote backcountry skiing and races here.
9. Ben Lomond, Tasmania
The remote island of Tasmania, Australia’s oft forgotten outpost, is often said to be a bleak and chilly place, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to do and see there. Being in the southern hemisphere, the skiing season typically starts around July and lasts through September. Ben Lomond National Park is home to one of the country’s favorite ski resorts, sporting splendid views and unpolluted skies.
10. Ski Dubai, UAE
The searing heat of one of the world’s most ostentatious and glitzy cities might not sound very conducive to skiing, but Dubai actually does have its own ski slopes! Of course, the ambitious facility is entirely indoors, but it boasts the largest indoor skiing slopes in the world, with no less than 22,500 square meters of snowy inclines. An entry ticket also includes all rental equipment, so no need to bring your own to the desert.
11. Dombai, Russia
Russia is not immune to the appeal of Alpine skiing. This resort in the Russian North Caucasus mountains, not far from Georgia, is one of the most popular destinations for skiers and snowboarders. It’s a little worn down – let’s just say safety and regular maintenance are not their priority – so if the ski lifts look rickety, you can ride up via tractor or Bactrian camel. You’ll have earned a shot or two of vodka after a day on these slopes.
Yes, you can actually ski, snowboard, snowtube and bumboard in this tiny landlocked African country surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s Afriski resort is open for year-round recreation but is usually only has snow activities from June to September. The mountain slope does get a sprinkling of some natural snow during this southern hemisphere winter, but snowmaking machines top it up. They get about 3000 visitors every year.
13. Gulmarg, India
With the Himalayas looming large, it’s no big surprise that India offers some suitable ski hills. What is surprising is that the Gulmarg ski resort is right in the heart of Kashmir, a disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan. Never mind the soldiers walking around the powder, just consider yourself lucky that the tensions keeps the crowds away so you almost have the slopes to yourself. Situated at over 13000 feet, it boasts some of the highest gondolas in the world. Guides are available for backcountry skiing and heliskiing opportunities are starting to evolve.
14. Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand
Home to two skiing areas, including one of the best venues in the world for beginners, New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu is an active volcano reaching a height of more than 9,000 feet. It’s the highest of three volcanos in the area, and it was also one of the main filming locations for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where it was used to represent Mount Doom of Mordor!