North American skiers and snowboarders have lots of wonderful destinations on their own continent. (See North American Bucket List Part 1 and Part 2.) However, heading overseas adds an exotic element to a bucket list.
Ski the Land of the Rising Sun
Recognition of Japan’s bountiful powder has been picking up in recent years. The nation has hosted a pair of Winter Olympics, Nagano in 1998 and Sapporo in 1972, but ski movies are really behind its “Japow” reputation. Long a preferred destination for Australians, more and more Americans are making the 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo across the Pacific.
Blessed with 600 inches of dry powder each season, the northern island of Hokkaido features resorts such as Niseko, Asahidake and Furano. Niseko is the most famous and most Western culturally of those three examples. And with Niseko United now on the Mountain Collective, your trip to Japan is that much closer. (More on Japow here.)
Summer Ski in Portillo, Chile
The big yellow South American cruise ship in the Andes is a magnet for Northern Hemisphere skiers and boarders looking for a summer fix. The Hotel Portillo is often compared to a cruise ship, because it provides almost all the lodging, food and civilization for those visiting the isolated resort. Trips are generally booked as all-inclusive, ski-week packages.
The skiing at the Chilean resort is all above treeline. One bucket list sub-item under the Portillo heading would be to ride the Roca Jack. The tricky five-rider surface lift is like the ornery offspring of a platter pull and a slingshot.
Summer Ski in New Zealand
Summer skiing in Chile is cool, but summer skiing in New Zealand is a true fantasy experience, “fantasy” as in Lord of the Rings. The country’s spectacular scenery shown in the films set off a tourism boom.
The snow-capped peaks above green valleys in the Southern Alps on the South Island provide an excellent Southern Hemisphere destination. Coronet Peak, Treble Cone and The Remarkables are a few of the better-known resorts.
Tackle the Hahnenkamm Downhill Course
Known as the Streif, the race course on Mt. Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel, Austria, must be considered the most famous downhill course in the world. The 2-mile course dates back to 1937.
Except during the men’s World Cup race held there each January obviously, the course is open to recreational skiers at Kitzbuhel’s ski resort. Intermediate skiers can handle the route with the exception of a few pitches. The resort even designates a “Family Streif” that offers an alternate way around the particularly steep sections.
Take a 360° look at what it’s like to drop into this world famous run!
Drink gluhwein in Austria
Skiing and boarding in Europe can cover huge expanses of terrain to the point that ending up in the wrong village at the end of the day is a real consideration. France has particularly big linked ski areas, but many of the French base areas are “purpose-built,” so they don’t always have that quaint, centuries-old European look. On the other hand, Switzerland and Austria are known for picture-postcard ski villages.
Yes, there are plenty of serious skiers in Europe, but the food and drink tends to be a bigger part of the on-mountain experience. Rather than worrying about your vertical stats for the day, relaxing with a glass of mulled wine called gluhwein on a deck in the middle of the day is part of savoring the cultural scene.
Located at the base of Mont Blanc, Chamonix is one example of a French ski resort that does have a historic village to go along with incredible ski terrain. A cable car climbs 9,000 vertical feet from the town to the summit of Aiguille du Midi. Lots of skiing for mere mortals does exist in Chamonix, but the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi is so extreme that it’s more hardcore mountaineering than skiing.