Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Skiing at Exotic Places Around the World


Zermatt, Verbier, Sankt Moritz or Aspen, Colorado, are well-known ski areas.  However, there are skiing and snowboarding places in countries and regions, sometimes at the other end of the world, where one has never heard of - with fantastic snow conditions and marvelous ski resorts, such as:
Primarily a resort town, Mount Buller, Victoria, is popular with snow sports enthusiasts in winter due to its close location to Melbourne. The Winter season starts in June, 25 lifts are bringing skiers up to around 100 kilometers of ski runs. The ski area around the town has a network of 22 lifts, capable of moving more than 40,000 people per hour.  If you don't want to drive, there are 4-wheels, coaches (overland busses), and even a limo from Melbourne airport or a helicopter which are bringing you to the resort.

New Zealand
Queenstown is New Zealand's favourite winter playground, an excellent and unique snowboarding and skiing destination. Queenstown has four ski fields within easy reach. It's an exuberant après ski culture and a vibrant alpine resort town, Queenstown is a snow-lovers’ paradise. All four Queenstown ski fields cater for learners, families and advanced skiers and snowboarders, with one of the longest seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, running from early June until early October.

The home of Pacific surfers is a paradise for skiers too!  Ride with a jeep to the over 13,000 ft high (4205 meter) Mauna Kea with its observatory and swing downhill through powder snow, crossing the lava of volcanoes.  There are no lifts, no grooming, no resorts - just plain skiing.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Some of the best places to ski in the Southwest are in the Santa Fe area.  The season typically lasts from late fall through early spring, bringing up to 300 inches of snow a year to some ski resorts and plenty of races, winter festivals and other events.
The 16-mile drive up the mountain to Ski Santa Fe is breath-taking.  A shuttle bus picks up skiers at the parking lots.  Tickets cost around $40, unless you are over 72, then it's free!  The chairlift goes up to an elevation of 11,250 ft, the snow is beautiful and ski runs are easy.  A fabulous resort, an almost hidden jewel.


Taos, New Mexico
"Surrounded by sacred wilderness, and infused with the cultures of the Native Pueblo, Taos Ski Valley is steeped in legend and mystique.  Its vast, rugged terrain and generous, free-spirited community calls out to a different kind of adventurer—a mountain lover with a passion for adventure and a taste for cultural discovery."
Eight alpine ski areas with fifteen lifts and three cross-country trails are inviting snow tourists.  Half of the runs are black market, the other half of the 110 runs is for beginners.  Taos a 17-century Adobe village with lots of art galleries, is only 10 minutes from the ski area situated.

When summer rolls around, there is no reason to store your skis.  Simply pack up your equipment and head across the equator.  The months of June to mid-October are ideal for hitting the slopes of Las Lenas in northern Argentina.
There are 40 gorgeous miles of groomed hills.  However, the real attraction is the “off-piste” skiing. There is over 500 thousand acres of wild runs that await experienced snowboarders and skiers.
Another ski area, the most southern in the world is Cerro Castor near Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina.

Among a breathtaking mountain scene, Portillo or Valle Nevada offer fantastic ski runs. South America’s oldest skiing locations are world-class.

Oukaimeden, a Moroccan ski area has a summit of 10,738 ft, offers seven lifts, and lies only 50 miles outside of Marrakesh in the Atlas mountains.  Snow can be expected from January to March.

South Africa
A South African “National Treasure” in the Southern Drakensberg district: Tiffindell came into existence in 1993, born by avid skiers and run by passionate snow lovers.  Since then the resort has grown to become a true Alpine resort for all seasons. During their Winter (June, July, August) it is all about snow! No wonder, at an altitude of 2720 meter (ca. 8.500 ft), nestling snugly on the slope of Ben McDhui (3001m), the highest peak in the Cape Province.

Did you ever plan to spend your Winter vacation in Kazakhstan?  Avoiding the alpine crowds?
Shymbulak, also known as Chimbulak is a very sunny ski resort near Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan. It is located in the upper part of the Medeu Valley in the Zaiilisky Alatau mountain range, at the elevation of 2,200 metres above sea level. The Ski Resort applied for the Olympic Winter Games. However the easy slopes for skiers and snowboarders have a gondola, the world’s third-longest gondola at 4.5 km length to the 10,000 ft (3,200 meter) high Talgar-Pass, plus six lifts. Rentals of ski and snowboard are available along with locker facilities.

Of the six ski resorts in Lebanon, it’s Faraya  Mzaar which is the most developed. With 18 lifts and a maximum altitude of 2465m, it’s popular with the cool Beirut crowd who come to ski, party and ‘be seen’ at weekends.  Young Saudis like to ski.  Their fathers at home are not amused, as there are lots of female skiers without wearing a veil : )  Tripadvisor reviewers wrote: "Definitely the highlight of my trip to Lebanon. Amazing place, lively and with lots to do. You must try the "ski-do", the snowmobile."  "From Beirut to Faraya Mzaar is like half an hour drive uphill.  We drove there on a day in March mid morning , spent like four hours and drove back to the warm spring of Beirut.  We took the ski cable commuter uphill and enjoyed the scenery and the freezing temps and the light wind chill."  "You can go skiing in the morning and than enjoyed the warm breeze of the Mediterranean in the afternoon."

Lots of possibilities in Iran to ski, such as the Shemshak Ski Resort only 60 kilometers from the capital Tehran.  Or at the Dizin ski resort — an under-two-hour drive north from Tehran, up in the Alborz mountains.  This part of the Middle East is the skiing world’s best-kept secret.  The place hosts thousands of powder junkies annually — both locals and foreigners alike — starting around the middle of every fall, when the gorgeous high-elevation resort’s extraordinarily lengthy ski season kicks off.

Kashmir, Northern India
Gulmarg in Kashmir  up to 12,700 ft (4,200 meters) skiers are transported by a Gondola and two lifts. Safe to ski until mid-May!  See a video of this powder snow area:


Dragon Valley, South Korea
South Korea will host the 2018 Olympic Games.  The Yongpyong Alpine Center at the Taebaek mountains is the largest ski and snowboard resort in Korea.  The ski season runs from November to early April.  There are 31 slopes, 15 different lift facilities, including a gondola lift.

Nozawa Onsen, Japan
Relaxation and culture take center stage at this Japanese ski area and village. Throughout the village, steam from the local onsens (hot springs) waft down cobblestone streets, it feels like you’ve taken a time machine back to the shogun era.  Stay in simple ryokans, the traditional Japanese inns, many of which have their own onsens in house.  There is a snowboarders’ park and an extended half pipe.  The T-bars, chair lifts and gondolas make sure that you will be able to expeditiously experience all these things.  Also of note is the night skiing, which should not be missed.
Another attractive ski area in Japan is Furano in Northern Japan on the Hokkaido island, where it snows up to 26 ft (9 meters) each year.

The Sierra Nevada is Europe’s southernmost ski station, and the highest in Spain.  With its high elevation, and 17 chairlifts, plus 2 cable cars, the skiing season can last from late November until early May.
Just 17 miles (27 km) from the city of Granada, skiers take the bus and in 45 minutes have 106 kilometers of ski runs in front of the 10,000 ft (3479 meter) high Mulhacen mountain available. Awesome, especially in the warm spring sun.

Sicily, Italy
Skiing around Mount Etna, a volcano?  Ski touring to the lava-releasing crater?  Europe’s largest active volcano, is commonly known for its role in Greek mythology and unpredictable eruptions, few realize it has ski resorts, too.  The closest airport to Mount Etna is in Catania, approximately an hour’s drive from mountain’s southern slope.  The trails tend to be very smooth, thanks to the volcano’s settled lava!  Better yet, crowds tend to be small, and at about 25 euro per day, ski passes cost much less than those in the north.
Sure, Mount Etna’s slopes may not be as expansive and exciting as those in northern Italy.  But skiing on a volcano, with a view of the sea, makes this the most unique experience of skiing in Italy.



Just a reminder what will happen with all the ski resorts and glaciers around the world, if we do not stop global warming:
LaPaz, Bolivia
Chacaltaya Ski Resort is an abandoned ski resort due to lack of snow and melted glaciers. Fantastic scenery and spectacular views.  April to May and September to November are the best time to make this day trip from La Paz.  

The road is not paved, very bumpy, steep, windy… quite the experience. Rent one of the vans with driver.  Never consider coming up this road by bus! It is just too narrow and dangerous. Put on warm clothes and bring something to protect your ears, it is very windy and cold up here. Use sunscreen and cover your face with a shawl. There is no food to buy on the way, pack some snacks and chew on the Coca leaf or take your altitude pills.

At 5300 meters (17,400 feet), there is a building, formerly “the world's highest ski resort”.  Now due to climate change and lack of snow no longer used.  In 1940, there was 22 km of ski area, on the Chalcataya glacier.  By the 1980s, this glacier had shrunk by half, and by 2005, there was just 100 meters left.  The glacier melted completely in 2009.  This might happen to other ski areas of the world sooner or later too...

My favored place in the snow - aka Champagne-Powder in Big White, BC, Canada - up to 4 meters each year!

Find also photos of exotic ski areas at Spiegel Online.


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