Most people associate skiing with posh places like Aspen and Lake Tahoe. But for the truly adventurous sportsperson, there's a whole world of slopes and snow to enjoy. Consider a journey off the beaten piste with this selection of surreal ski destinations.
1. SKI DUBAI // DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
As one of the world's largest indoor ski resorts, the 242,188-square foot facility has rails and kickers for snowboarders, as well as something for every level of skier including a 196-foot man-made mountain, a 10-foot ramp, and five different slopes. But these winter sports aren't the only way to beat the desert heat at Ski Dubai. Kids can also enjoy a break from the pistes and party with real live penguins, in the world's first Swim with the Penguins Program.
2. OUKAIMEDEN // NEAR MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
Okay, technically this sky-high spot is less than fifty miles from Marrakech but if the locals see you hauling skis, they'll know where you're headed. Oukaimeden is a ski resort set high in the Atlas Mountains, near their Toubkal peak. This unusual destination demands Africa's highest chair lift, which reaches 10,640 feet. If that makes you nervous, don't worry, you can alternately use a donkey for the climb to the area’s seven ski runs. Make the trip in January or February when the mountains are most likely to be snow-covered.
3. AFRISKI MOUNTAIN RESORT // MALOTI, LESOTHO
This African nation boasts the best skiing in the southern part of the continent. Skiing on the Maloti Mountains dates back to 1929, but has been enhanced by modern innovations like chair lifts and snowmaking machines. Open year round, this intimate retreat is home to a single run and limits its visitors at 250 at a time, but offers a wide array of amusements including hiking, fishing, paintball, tubing, and "bumboarding."
4. THE MOUNT HERMON SKI RESORT // GOLAN HEIGHTS, ISRAEL
The nation's northern tip occupies a portion of the 6000-foot-high mountains on which almost 28 miles of ski runs have been carved. Four chair lifts and five T-bars give skiers access to slopes suitable for novices, pros, and everyone in between. The International Ski Federation has even certified two runs as Olympic-standard. Israel's warm climate means this resort is only open to skiers January to March. However, Mount Hermon is contested land, with Lebanon, Syria, and Israel laying claim. So, this ski trip is recommended only for intrepid travelers.
5. MAUNA KEA SKI RESORT // BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Its name translates to "White Mountain," referring to the ski-worthy (or snowboard-worthy) area that covers this volcanic 13,796-foot mount from December to March. There are no lifts, grooming, or rentals at Mauna Kea Ski Resort. But those hungry for a special island adventure can rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle (and pick a designated driver) to haul them to the top of the mountain's impeccable peak via a dirt road. There, you can tackle some of the world's highest pistes and marvel in "Pineapple Powder," the sugar corn-like texture of the mountain's snow.
6. KITZBUHEL // TYROL, AUSTRIA
This tiny town has cobblestone streets that date back to its medieval origins. But its greatest attraction is its ski retreat with seven separate ski areas, united by a single pass. With more than 54 lifts, 688 miles of trails and the international event the annual Hahnenkamm downhill, Kitzbuhel prides itself as Austria's best ski destination. But don't let hubris get the best of you. The Streif is a treacherously steep slope, notorious on the World Cup circuit for its 5462-foot starting gate drop that has seen to the end of several ski careers.
7. WOODWARD’S BARN // COPPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO
Snow in Colorado is almost a given. But if you're looking to hone your slope skills (whether that means skiing, snowboarding, BMX biking, or skateboarding) without the snow, check out this barn that offers a safe environment to test out tricks. Open year round, seven days a week, the 19,400 square foot facility contains cliff drops, jumps, and pits filled with foam to insure a cushy landing. Camps and drop-in sessions are available.
8. BAMIYAN // HAZARAJAT, AFGHANISTAN
For thousands of years, this city of the Silk Road was best known for the 6th century monuments of Buddha, carved into niches in its mountain's exterior. Tragically, the Taliban blasted these out of existence in 2001. In their absence, downhill skiing has brought new life to the Hindu Kush slopes and the Koh-e-Baba mountain range. The Afghan Ski Challenge has inspired locals to take up the winter sport, but with each passing year more and more international visitors are making the trek to test these newly claimed runs. And trek you must. Bamiyan is a black diamond in the rough, offering no lifts, just guides to reach its peaks. The area's best skier admits he must hike an hour for a two-minute run. But for those who conquer these slopes, the scaling is part of the ride.
9. YONG PYONG // DAEGWALLYEONG-MYEON, SOUTH KOREA
The largest ski center in Korea, Yong Pyong affords three mountains, 15 lifts, and 28 slopes, all within a three-hour drive from Seoul. Among its most popular attractions is the Rainbow slope, which rises to 3970 feet. A twenty-minute chair lift ride to the top offers skiers a "super-advanced" course with an exuberant selection of paths and intersections, meaning each ride down Rainbow can be a wildly different delight. And you can inspect conditions whenever thanks to a real-time webcam.
10. MOUNT RUAPEHU // NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Embedded snuggly in Tongariro National Park, this mount offers two ski areas. Its northwestern side—known as Whakapapa—holds Happy Valley, its ski school, bunny hills, 30-some intermediate pistes, and 24 runs for experienced skier. You can also opt to take the Highnoon Express (the nation's highest chair lift) up southwestern Turoa for a 2369-foot vertical descent. But the real draw is the mountain itself. Not only is it an active volcano that required an advance warning system be put in place, it's also the location where the Lord of The Rings franchise shot their Mount Doom sequences. Skiing while quoting Frodo has never been more appropriate.
11. MOUNT ETNA // SICILY, ITALY
If skiing the slopes of an active volcano doesn't make you sweat, then consider this unique peak. Mount Etna is so active that skiers have a hard time distinguishing between swirls of windblown snow and volcanic smoke. You'll need an experienced guide to get you to its top. But once there you not only get extraordinary views of the Mediterranean, Ionian, and Adriatic seas, but also year-round skiing.