Part of Liftopia’s mission is to make it easier for people to get out on the slopes. We’ve long supported Learn to Ski and Snowboard programs and recently introduced Liftopia Experiences that offer hosted ski day trips from multiple North American cities.
For experienced skiers and snowboarders, though, it is sometimes worth making more effort to get to harder-to-reach ski destinations. A cat-skiing or heli-skiing adventure often makes for a person’s most lasting memories on the mountains. In Europe, for many, going “off-piste” has become a central part of their snow sports lifestyle.
The following list of ski destinations go even further. Some of these destinations offer great snow, while others might only offer a great story. However, all of them take some serious effort before you can make your first turn.
Yes, there is more than just surfing in the 50th state. Thanks to a summit elevation of 13,800 feet (750 feet higher than the top of Arapahoe Basin in Colorado), Mauna Kea on the Big Island does receive enough snow for backcountry skiing and boarding. Visitors use their own vehicles on the access road to shuttle skiers and riders back to the top. While there are some space observatories on Mauna Kea, do not expect any sort of lodge or public facilities. Do not expect to find ski/board rentals, safety patrols, or even lunch.
Adventure Network International offers ski excursions to Antarctica for about $30,000. The trips are scheduled for the Southern Hemisphere summer months (November through January). The continent qualifies as a desert, so huge powder dumps are virtually non-existent. However, temperatures below the freezing mark even in the summer mean that the snow that does fall stays well preserved.
With the 2022 Winter Olympics headed for Beijing, the Chinese government is in the midst of a push to develop a winter sports industry. The number of ski areas has been growing exponentially in recent years and now number more than 700. Many of the ski areas have easy high-speed train access, but most are fairly small and tend to focus on the local market. Yabuli Ski Resort is the largest in China and their National teams train there, but it is located in the Northeastern Changbai Mountain Range which is far from popular tourist locations.
The average American might have trouble locating Kyrgyzstan on a globe, but the Central Asian country features some impressive skiing terrain. In terms of both topography and trees, the Tien Shan mountains look much like the most impressive parts of the Rocky Mountains in North America. If you can make it to Kyrgyzstan, Karakol Ski Resort has five lifts covering 20 kilometers of trails. When Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union, Olympic athletes would train at the mountain.
Located in the Kashmir region of India, Gulmarg receives annual snowfall of about 550 inches. Rising to an elevation of about 13,000 feet, the world’s highest gondola used for skiing is the centerpiece of the facility. The slopes offer some worthy challenges for experts. However, a bigger challenge may be the politics of the Kashmir Valley. A territorial dispute between India and Pakistan led to a cease-fire border known as the Line of Control that runs close to Gulmarg. A U.S. Department of State advisory discourages travel to the region due to “sporadic violence.”
CNN Travel has asked if Iran might be the next place you go snow skiing? The reasons are “backcountry paradise” and snow conditions similar to that of the Rockies. Located only two hours outside of Tehran, Dizin Ski Resort is the country’s most popular and reaches an elevation of 11,800. While conditions are great and Dizin is close to a major metro area, skiing in Iran still takes a lot of effort for North Americans for political reasons. The U.S. Department of State has issued multiple travel warnings for Iran.
Let us know in the comments if you are willing to make the effort to ski or snowboard at any of these destinations.