When you’re planning a ski trip, places like the Alps, North America, Scandinavia, Japan are some of the first places to come to mind. However great skiing can also be found beyond those places in countries you wouldn’t even imagine to have snowy peaks. We want to surprise you with a selection of 10 low-key amazing places for skiing and boarding.
Far from luxurious ski resorts, crowds clogging the slopes and fancy après ski bars, these resorts might have even better snow quality, more terrain, modest prices and a valuable cultural experience you will never forget. You will happily be proved wrong of your own assumptions against resorts out of the alps.
Here goes a bucket list for unusual, must-try snow destinations!
1. Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Characterized by an extreme continental climate that brings a long season and particularly fluffy snow, Kyrgyzstan is the paradise for powder-loving skiers. Considered one of the best ski resort in Central Asia, Karakol offers 20km of slopes for all ski levels and 5 ski lifts, with the highest peakch reaching up to 3040 meters. Karakol amazes both beginners and advanced skiers, and offers stunning views over the Issyk-Kul lake and the Tien Shan mountains. It has recently added a fun park and freeriders can easily access quality powder outside of the slopes. Kyrgysztan is definitely the go-to place for adventurous spirits and powder lovers!
Off-topic note: Kyrgyzstan’s gastronomy is a must-try, Kymyz (a bitter, alcoholic concoction made of horse’s milk) and Beşbarmaq (horse sausage served with noodles).
2. Afriski Mountain Resort, Lesotho
Arguably the rarest ski resort in the world operates from June to August and it can extend until September if the weather allows so. Afriski is one of the only two ski resorts in southern Africa and it is located in the Maluti Mountians of Lesotho, a small country completely surrounded by South Africa. Afriski has a slope running about 1km and its summit reaches about 3,222m. Believe it or not, skiing is one of the main tourist attractions in Lesotho. Maybe because it’s the only place in sunny South Africa that turns into a winter wonderland, and its inhabitants are thrilled to have any place to ski. Moreover, this area has awesome restaurants, pubs and local DJs.
The uniqueness of being able to say that you’ve carved powder in South Africa makes the experience worthwhile. If you want a fun, unusual, all-round experience, you should add Lesotho to your bucket list.
3. Oukaïmeden, Morocco
Better-known as a sun-soaked, warm place, in Morocco you can find slopes that compare to European ski slopes About 80 km away from bustling Marrakesh, perched in the summit of Jebel Toubkal, we find a picturesque village called Oukaïmeden. The resort provides 10km of slopes and its altitude reaches 3268km above the sea, making it Afrca’s highest and premier ski resort. While we would not recommend planning a full ski trip to Oukaïmeden, we highly recommend it as an activity during your stay in the area. But trust us, the trip is worthwhile !
You can manage one day from Marrakesh if you wake up early and head back. Enjoy a delicious cup of Moroccan tea and hop to the slopes!
4. Huascarán, Perú
What? Skiing in Perú? Indeed. Remember that the Andes range is extended within that country too. Huascaran is the highest mountain in the Peruvian Andes, located in the center amongst the Cordillera Blanca range. This huge mountain reaches up to 6768m, it goes without saying it is capable of serving great powder adventures. The season typically lasts from May to September, and the high altitude allows for an even longer season of snow adventures. Huaraz City is located 7 to 8 hours away from Lima’s international airport Jorge Chavez. The most recommended way is to travel via domestic flights, as bus travel might be dangerous. Once you’re there you will be surprised to see some mountaineering pros flocking in the village before heading to the Huascaran National Park and Cordillera Blanca mountain.
5. Mount Parnassos, Greece
While Greece is most famous as a summer destination with its sun-soaked islands and ancient ruins, its potential as a winter destination shouldn’t be dismissed. Mount Parnassos offers an extended area of slopes for beginners until advanced levels.
It is an easy day trip from Athens, or affordable accommodation can be found at the resort itself. Greece is known for offering quality après ski options and of course delicious Greek cuisine is guaranteed. Just be aware that due to its increasing popularity crowds are becoming more and more normal.
Mediterranean experience is guaranteed!
6. Mzaar, Lebanon
Another unexpected place in the Mediterranean. Lebanon is home to snow-capped peaks and six well-preserved ski resorts. Moreover, the ski season is fairly similar to the Alps, from December to March. The Mzaar (“sanctuary” in Arabic) attracts lots of skiers in the Middle East with its breathtaking views and multiple amenities. It is located just over an hour’s drive from the capital Beirut and it offers 80km of 42 slopes and reaches up to 2465m. This is by far the most luxurious offer from our selection, and it is the only 5-star ski resort in the Middle East. It offers a wide range of leisure facilities such as jacuzzi, indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam rum and a kids’ fun center.
Psst! You can soak your muscles in the Mediterranean after a long day of shredding the slopes.
7. Malam Jabba, Pakistan
They call it “Switzerland of the East” for a reason. Pakistan offers incredibly good quality skiing with stunning scenic views. This heavenly looking place is the most commercial ski area in this country. Malam Jabba resort was actually built with the help of Austrian specialists.
An interesting fact: the resort survived 2 dark years under the Taliban rule. In 2007 it was taken over by them and most of the facilities were destroyed. The resort has been rebuilt and increasingly attracting international skiers to Pakistan, aiming to become an international hub for skiers.
If you want to have a unique Himalayan experience you should give it a try!
8. Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Looking for a fascinating alternative to pricey and packed ski resorts in Europe, which can be combined with a cultural trip? The most common option is landing in Sarajevo, far from anything you have ever seen before, its war-ravaged suburbs and its unique “Meeting of Cultures” feels like a world apart.
The resort is fairly close to the city center, with around 40k of ski slopes for any level, Jahorina hosts many events and competitions, as well as open air parties. Moreover, there are plenty of leisure alternatives such as spa, indoor activities and great gastronomical offer.
If you live in Europe and want to ski on a budget while enjoying an amazing cultural experience, thrilling views and laid back vibes you should check it out.
9. Dizin, Iran
It is commonly agreed that the Middle East is the skiing world’s best-kept secret. In Iran, you can actually look forward to endless kilometers of quality snow. The biggest of the Iranian resorts is Dizin. It is located about 70km to the North from Tehran in the soaring summit of Alborz range. The high altitude (it reaches up to 3,600m.) gives it a long season, which can go from November to May. With sanctions slowly easing and the country opening up, Iran is becoming more popular for powder junkies around the world.
If you are into powder skiing Iran is the place for you. Definitely an adventure worth living!
10. Gudauri, Georgia
Sitting in the peaks of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Gudauri is the largest and highest ski resort in Georgia. Gudauri is growing at a rapid pace and in the last few years it has grown to become one of the most popular resorts in the Caucasus area. Calling to all adventure lovers, Georgia is a paradise for powder and it won’t be long before people discover this amazing corner of the Caucasus.
Psst! Our colleagues from De Brede Planker arrange ski touring trips in Gudauri. They are experienced instructors who have travelled around the world and selected some unique places that provide a generous dose of powder and fun for winter sports lovers!
Off the beaten piste: adventure is guaranteed!
As you can see, there are plenty of under-the-radar resorts all over the world that have great potential (these are only just a few!!). Most of these countries may not pop up on many people’s minds as the most obvious ski destinations, but those ski resorts are a growing choice for riders who are keen to discover different places and explore new cultures.
If you want to hear more about bringing together your passion for skiing, traveling and experiencing new cultures you can also head over to Snowmads Travel. Snowmads is built by a collective of experienced skiers that have explored unexpected hidden gems and immersed themselves in unique cultures as you would never imagine. They have recently initiated their own travel agency in order to give YOU the chance to indulge your sense of adventure like never before.
If backcountry is something for you, you can go and check 40 Tribes Backcountry. Who are they? A group of professional mountain guides and locals who are ready to take you in a hunt for the perfect pow, travel adventures and cultural exploration. Their destinations go from Kyrgyzstan to Greenland, Svalbard to Chile… among many more!
Already spotted your next destination? Or maybe you have actually been there already? Head to our website to see our rating or rate any resort you have recently visited!