Looking for where to go skiing away from the beaten slope? We’ve picked unusual skiing destinations in Europe, North America, and around the world for some winter fun.
If you’re European, you’ll usually hit the slopes in Austria or Switzerland, maybe the South of Germany; if you’re from the US, you’ll go for Colorado, for example. We’re at Kiwi.com like to go to places that might not normally be on your radar.
Hopefully, not only will you discover a bargain, but you’ll get to go somewhere you’ve never been. So, with that in mind, let’s grab our skis and head on out!
More than the Alps: Lesser known skiing destinations in Europe
The Finns are all about cross-country skiing, so let’s end there (you’ll notice I didn’t take the opportunity to make a “let’s Finnish there” pun). The activity center in Jämi, for example, offers a range of outdoor activities, ranging from the usual (skiing, hiking) to the not-so-usual (snow golf, dog sledding, driver training for snowy conditions).
It also includes a particularly Finnish thing: the ski tunnel. A number of resorts have these. They’re purpose-built tunnels in which there’s artificial snow and the temperature is controlled through cooling ducts, meaning they’re open even when there’s not enough snow on the ground outside.
Heading up to the lakes around Vuokatti in the middle of the country, for example, means similar things – dog sled safaris, ice-skating, and cross-country skiing – and will also get you access to their 13 varied routes and slopes, as well as two ski tunnels (one for skiers and one with obstacles for snowboarders).
Although many peoples’ initial thought of the UK in winter is grey skies and rain, the Highlands are a popular spot for fans of winter sports. From December to April, Scotland offers a number of ski resorts around the Cairngorms, Glencoe, the three wide valleys at Glenshee, and challenging, off-piste adventures across the Nevis mountain range.
Ideally, visitors would be looking to fly to either Glasgow or Edinburgh and travel north from there. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of these ancient landscapes, some of the friendliest hospitality around, and, of course, the chance to relax with an amazing whisky at the end of the day!
Another option for an unusual ski trip is Greece. Seriously? Yes indeed! In fact, Greece’s largest ski resort, the Parnassos Ski Center, is only around two hours north of Athens and offers 13 lifts to 19 ski runs, seven ski routes, 10 trails, and three mini beginner runs. Slightly further is the Kalavrita Ski Center, where skiers can tackle the 2,340m Mount Helmos. It’s also a lovely place to stay: the town of Kalavrita is nestled in a valley and from there you can take a trundling, narrow-gauge train through the Vouraikós Gorge to the seaside town of Diakofto. That’s two very different holidays in one!
Forget Aspen: Ski destinations in North America
Not far from Salt Lake City, Utah, lies the resort of Snowbird. Due to its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, the arid conditions produce some of the finest powder snow in the world, that stays dry and soft even days after a fresh snowfall.
Its 10km of runs are a nice mix of gentle and challenging, and of course the whole time you’re not far from Salt Lake City. So even if there are non-skiers in your group, you have, unusually, the option to stay in a large American city as well as having a world-class resort on the doorstep.
Jackson, Wyoming, is home to three resorts (Jackson Hole, Snow King, and Grand Targhee), and little else. The landscape is wild and beautiful, home to elk and beavers, and Jackson itself was established by a beaver-trapper in the 1820s.
Flying in to Jackson Hole airport, you’re greeted with spectacular views of the Teton Mountains and, since 2013, a sleek, modern facility; it’s located only 14km from Jackson itself and is a 30-minute bus ride to the Jackson Hole resort. The possibilities for ski rental are many, with an online rental service meaning that you can just turn up straight off the plane and pick up your gear.
If all that outdoorsy stuff gets a bit too much for you, the town is home to a good many bars giving an “authentic” wild-western experience (read: a lot of pick-up trucks and checked shirts). If you fancy something more cultural, you could visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which contains works by such artists as Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol’s series on endangered species.
Skiing is not so unusual in South America
At the La Hoya, Nevados de Chillán resort in Chile visitors can experience more than just skiing. Along with 32 different runs, split roughly equally between ability levels, there are also natural volcanic spa pools, and programs of massage, mud baths, aromatherapy, and shiatsu.
When you can finally work up the energy to get out on the slopes, you’ll find South America’s longest ski run, the 13km of the Tres Marias as well as its longest vertical drop, if that’s your sort of thing.
Fans of tree skiing are also catered for, as some areas have trails that run through the tree-line, although off-piste these tend to get too claustrophobic and there’s a lot of undergrowth, which means the quality of the snow is not always great.
How about skiing in Asia?
If you’re looking for a ski trip that’s a genuine adventure, Iran could be just the ticket. It’s a mountainous country, as you probably know, with over a hundred peaks of 4,000m or more, and has 19 ski resorts across the country, with the three most popular only around 70km from Tehran. Okay, they’re not the most modern facilities you’ll find, but why worry about that when you’re exploring one of the oldest civilizations on earth from a perspective very few people have even considered? It’s possible to actually tour the country via the summits, discovering Iran’s history and culture, and having piste-based fun on the way. Amazing.
United Arab Emirates
For a markedly less natural but year-round option, Dubai offers skiing in its vast Mall of the Emirates. A huge, slanted building parked on top of the mall, Ski Dubai recreates genuine winter conditions, so you’re skiing on real snow and a total of 1.5km of runs, with a proper chairlift to take you to the top of the slope. If you feel like coming down faster, there’s a twin-track bobsleigh run, plus a snow cavern to explore and penguins to meet! And, of course, when you’re done with all that, well… you’re in the middle of Dubai. Step back out into the sun and go to the beach!
Charmingly, the Appi Kogen website encourages you to “Be Happy in Appi!”, and by fast train, this resort is around two hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo. It’s a year-round sports venue, spread over two mountains and incorporating 45km of runs, there are options for every level of skier.
There’s skiing from December to May with a night-time running an option on most nights and they also run a snowboard school for those who fancy having a go at that. Aside from messing about on the slopes, evenings play host to occasional pop concerts, and if you feel like venturing out of the resort there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area.
Ever heard of skiing in Africa?
Finally, let’s have a look at Africa. Africa for skiing? Absolutely. In the Atlas Mountains to the south of Marrakesh, you’ll find Africa’s highest ski resort, its highest ski lift topping out at 3,258 m with five runs coming down from there, plus a decent range of slopes from lower heights.
The village of Oukaïmeden has everything you’d expect from any other ski resort – restaurants, hotels, and so forth – but there is a wider range of unofficial rental places than you might find in Europe, with some fairly dated-looking equipment. Oh, and it’s probably the only place where shuttle buses are occasionally replaced by donkeys.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg – Kiwi.com will help you find the best deals to give you a fabulous winter of thrills.
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