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10 Unlikely Ski Destinations

Sick of the same old slopes? These 10 ski spots around the world will surprise and excite even the most seasoned of skiers.

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Skiing is a favourite pastime for many Canadians, and we have our fair share of resorts to choose from. But today, we’re thinking outside the box. We’ve zeroed in on ten ski sports around the world that had us thinking, “We can ski there? Really?” Yes, it seems we can. From South America to the Persian Gulf, pack your skis: We’re going on a winter adventure!

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While Japan may not sound like the ultimate winter destination, skiing is actually pretty popular in this Asian country. With numerous ski resorts located in the northernmost points of Japan, one of the most popular spots is in the town of Niseko. Located in Hokkaido, the most northern island in Japan, it houses seven fantastic ski areas and resorts. It packs some serious powder and challenging runs, and the ski season is extensive, lasting from November until May.

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The cold winter months fall within Greece‘s off-season. This makes sense: Why on earth would anyone visit the Mediterranean country when it’s too chilly to wear a swimsuit and hit the beach? But if you’re a ski buff, you may want to take advantage of the season’s low rates. Greece actually has quite a few snow-capped mountains scattered across the country, the most popular being Mount Parnassos, located close to Ancient Delphi. The ski resort in the town of Arachova is particularly notable, with gorgeous views of the mountain landscapes.

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New South Wales, Australia has a rich ski history, dating back to the 19th century. Since then, the Land Down Under has offered prime fun in the snow during their winter season, boasting many popular ski resorts within Australia’s highest mountain range, the Snowy Mountains, like Thredbo Alpine Village. Many Australian skiers and snowboarders have trained for the Olympics here, and Australia even made an (albeit unsuccessful) bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics in the resort village of Smiggin Holes.

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One of the largest ski areas in South America is located in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. The Cerro Catedral mountain, reaching 1,030m above sea level, is a picturesque winter wonderland with 103km of runs, offering a myriad of activities like skiing, snowboarding, sledding and hiking, from June to October.

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South Africa

Ski season in South Africa may have recently ended (it usually runs from June to September), but you have reason to ready yourself for next year. The 20-year-old Tiffindell Ski Resort, located in the Eastern Cape Province, recently re-opened its doors after a six-month restoration. With upgrades and state-of-the art equipment, you’ll have both natural and man-made snow to slice through. The popular resort even plays host to the nation’s ski and snowboarding championships each year.

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Or do we mean… chilly? The South American country is best known as a hot summer destination, with many lovely coastal areas and beach towns. Yet the country also has a few internationally-renowned ski resorts located within the Andes. Ski Portillo, in particular, has professional skiers and snowboarders from north of the equator flocking down to the southern hemisphere to train for their competitions.

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We can tell you that a visit to the Oukaimeden Ski Resort, close to Marrakesh, is certainly a unique experience. It doesn’t get much snow, there are donkeys that take you up the mountain (don’t worry, there are lifts as well), and the pistes allegedly aren’t always well-maintained or groomed. But whatever it may be lacking in amenities, it is one of the few raw and quaint ski areas out there.

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The Beach Boys may have sung about California girls, all tanned and bikini-clad, but they forgot to mention snowsuits and ski goggles! Away from the sandy beaches rests the Sierra Valley, a mountain range across the states of California and Nevada. And Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the U.S., is the ultimate ski destination come winter. With a handful of resorts and hundreds of lifts, we’re sure you’ll be anxious to pack your ski boots instead of your flip-flops next time you hit the West Coast.

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Sand, sun, surf… and ski? Hawaii is one for the world’s top destinations for relaxation and soaking up some rays, but the Aloha State actually boasts a snow-covered mountain that offers a great ski experience. Mauna Kea – Hawaiian for ‘white mountain’ – is a dormant volcano and Hawaii’s highest peak, and while it may not have the facilities or amenities that many of us are used to on ski hills, it is still a popular spot for locals to ski and snowboard during the months of January and February.

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You may be wondering just where in the city of Dubai a snow-capped mountain may be hiding. We’ll be honest: There isn’t one. And yet many people flock to the largest-populated city within the United Arab Emirates to get in some powder time. Where, you ask? At Ski Dubai, which is an indoor ski area, and also a part of the Mall of the Emirates. But this isn’t just a tiny recreational area. It’s a grandiose mountain with five slopes, lifts, a snow park, and two cafes.