Ski holidays are generally fairly straightforward experiences. You plan your trip, you make your trip, hopefully there’s fresh snow and blue skies, you find some great lodging, you have a great time and you head home. Perfect.
But some areas are just a bit different, and could make a good choice if you want a ski vacation that’s a little out of the ordinary.
1. Mt. Shasta, California
Mt Shasta in California isn’t the biggest or flashiest resort in California but it does, some believe, have something other resorts in the Golden State do not – a hidden alien city beneath the slopes.
Indeed, you’ll probably enjoy your day on the slopes without ever realizing that beneath your feet, under the snow and indeed the entire mountain, lies the underground city of Telos, inhabited by descendents of the Mayan civilization who now travel to at least seven intergalactic star systems.
2. Lagunillas, Chile
If your tastes run to ghosts rather than aliens, then a summertime trip to Lagunillas, a mid-sized area located some 30 miles from Chile’s capital, Santiago, must be in the cards.
There’s been skiing here for more than 80 years, but the Legend of La Lola goes back still further to the start of the last century. The story goes that one dark and stormy night, a mule driver was killed and his grieving widow set out, dressed in white flowing robes, to search for him. She never returned and the legend is that she still wanders what are now ski slopes, occasionally appearing to distressed skiers and mule drivers in bad weather.
Always ready to respect a good story, the local ski club is reported to organize an annual race in which hooded, pole-less skiers attempt to emulate the mourning widow in style as well to demonstrate their skiing prowess. The winner then has to try to “personify the widow’s spirit” over the following year.
3. Batea Mahuida Snow Park, Argentina
Over the border in Argentina, things can get complicated if you want to get to know any of the staff at the Batea Mahuida Snow Park.
Established on the Mahuida Volcano by the indigenous Puel Tribe in July 1999, all Batea Mahuida Snow Park’s staff come from one of sixty families that make up the community. All members of the staff are closely or more distantly-related and share the same surname, ‘Puel’.
In terms of local après ski delicacies, there is a snack bar where you can taste the regional “piñones,” a sacred fruit for the tribe.
4. Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Back in the US, and across the country in Vermont, it was neither aliens nor ghosts that were responsible for the unlikely location of a chairlift’s base station.
It’s a little known fact that half a century ago, Smugglers’ Notch was once owned by Tom Watson, Jr, then chairman of IBM.
Tom was into “superlatives” in a big way, so when he installed the first chairlift on Madonna Mountain, he decided that in order to make it “the longest bottom-drive chairlift in the USA”, he had to drop it down a couple of hundred feet from the logical starting point for the chair. That’s why today you ski down to get on the lift. View lift tickets to Smugglers’ Notch.
5. Gassan, Japan
How about a ski resort that can’t open in the winter because there’s too much snow?
That’s the claim made by Japan’s only summer ski area, Gassan in Yamagata prefecture, a small area served by an aged double chair.
The ski slopes are snow-covered year round. In fact, there’s so much snow in the winter that the resort can’t actually be reached by road nor can the staff crank up the lifts until a bit of it melts away by the start of Spring. Typically, Gassan’s season runs from early April to late July.
6. Aso Choe Jinko, Japan
Japan has another rare attraction, the chance to ski through volcanic ash at another tiny resort, Aso Choe Jinko, which is noteworthy for being located on the side of a constantly smoking, live volcano.
Snow cover is reported to last for only a fortnight each year. The rest of the time, there’s an artificial surface slope.
7. Lech, Austria
If you enjoy boating as much as skiing then you might opt for a ski resort near a big Lake. (Tahoe immediately comes to mind.)
But in Austria, 4,750 feet up in the famous Arlberg region, the exclusive resort of Lech has no sizable areas of open water in the vicinity (the nearest stretch of open sea is several hundred miles away). That fact, however, has not stopped residents of the village establishing their own yacht club, where well-heeled members can get together and discuss all things boat-related while they’re out on the slopes.
8. Serfaus, Austria
And if you’re in Austria for a bit of boat-based discussion, why not check out one of the world’s smallest metro systems?
The resort of Serfaus has been around for over 3,000 years. It has a population of 900 …and a levitating underground railway. The tiny Tyrolean village’s railway uses magnetism to hover a millimetre above the ground for a seamless ride through four stations, free of charge from your hotel to the bottom of the lifts. Marvelous!
So, if you are looking for something a little different on your next ski holiday, check out one of these out-of-the-ordinary ski areas that are out there waiting for you!