Granted, it is quite enjoyable to visit ski resorts that offer perfect slopes, comfy chairlifts, and award-winning restaurants for après-ski. But how often do you want to race down the same ski fields in Switzerland, France, and Canada? We've come up with the 10 most unusual places to ski — from freeriding in Hawaii to hitting the snow in one of the world’s largest shopping malls. —Wibke Carter
Lesotho may not be an obvious choice for a skiing holiday, but it is home to one of only two ski resorts in southern Africa. Afriski is situated in Lesotho's magnificent Maluti Mountains at an altitude of 10,570ft. Opened in 2002, the resort offers two ski runs (the main slope and a beginner’s slope), two lifts, ski lessons and a gondola.
As winter falls into the dry season in Lesotho, it hardly ever snows in the Maluti Mountains. However, temperatures drop below freezing between June and October – perfect for making snow! Overnight, at least twenty snow canons produce the just overone-mile long ski run with technology made in Austria. Many visitors come here from South African cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s South Africa Travel Guide
In the land of crocodiles, Bondi Beach, and countless marsupials, skiing is possible inVictoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania. The latter is home to Ben Lomond, Australia’s premier skiing destination. The massif, situated in the northeast corner of the island, soars out of a eucalyptus forest to a plateau with a 5,157ft summit. Ski trips have been led here since the 1930s, and for many Australians, a trip to Ben Lomond is their first encounter with snow and winter sports..
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tasmania Travel Guide
Cerro Castor is the world’s most southernmost ski resort at less than 600 miles from Antarctica. Due to its location, snow already settles at sea level during the Argentinian winter, and even small mountains have glaciers. Cerro Castor’s particular characteristics ensure one of the longest seasons inSouth America, from June to mid-October.
There are a total of 26 trails with various degrees of difficulty. Highlights are the El Cóndor run from the highest point of Cerro Castor (3468ft) down to the valley, and the new, black piste Chimango for expert skiers. Off-piste sectors feature restaurants, tea rooms, and recreation facilities.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tierra del Fuego Travel Guide
Daemyung Vivaldi Park
WHERE: South Korea
In South Korea, people like skiing “Gangnam-style”, with bright outfits and loud speakers blasting pop music — often through the night and into the early morning hours. Winter sports have only been around for 30 years in South Korea, but now there are hundreds of miles of ski runs and over 130 ski lifts.
The country’s most popular ski resort is Daemyung Vivaldi Park, only 45 min fromSeoul. The resort can accommodate up to 20,000 visitors daily, has 12 slopes and features Asia's first 8-seater express chairlift and 8-seater gondola. Since South Korea was declared host for the Winter Olympics 2018, the entire nation has gone winter-sports crazy.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s South Korea Travel Guide
Skiing in Dizin, just 43 miles north of the capital city of Tehran, has been possible since 1969 when the resort was first opened under the reign of the Shah of Iran. Located in the Alborz Mountain Range, it is one of the highest ski resorts in the world. Ski lifts take visitors to an altitude of almost 12,000 feet above sea level.
Until very recently, the slopes were segregated by a big fence down the middle of the mountain, with women skiing on one side and men on the other, but this became unenforceable. However, the lifts are still segregated. There are two lines, and it is illegal for men and women to share a gondola. Skiing in Iran is especially popular with nationals from the nearby Gulf States and expats living inDubai who would like a change from the indoor ski resort there.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Africa and Middle East Travel Guide
Though northern Pakistan has some of the tallest and most impressive mountains in the world, the country has only had one single commercial ski area which was destroyed during the Taliban invasion in 2006/7. Malam Jabba, developed with the aid of the Austrian government in the Hindu Kush, featured a hotel and a chair lift. Even without those facilities, it remains a skiing spot and popular destination for locals, not just for the winter sport but also the fresh mountain air and the stunning view of Nanga Parbat. The Pakistan government has announced plans to rebuild the resort with a hotel, chairlift (construction underway), cable car, snowboarding and ski slopes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s Asia Travel Guide
WHERE: North Korea
North Korea’s only ski resort opened in 2014. Masikryong, located near the city of Wonsan in Kangwon Province, is part of a plan by leader Kim Jong-un to gradually increase foreign tourist numbers. While Chinese citizens are already free to drive their own cars into the Luo border region, Westerners must travel with a handful of private tour operators.
Masikryong, also known as Masik Pass, is set on top of Taehwa Peak (4,460 ft) and includes dining areas, accommodation for skiers, chairlifts from China, and 70 miles of multi-level ski slopes. Plans are under way to upgrade a nearby airforce base to an international airport and develop a special tourism area with Masikryong at its center.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s South Korea Travel Guide
WHERE: New Zealand
Welcome to Middle Earth! Mount Ruapehu, perhaps better known as Mount Doom, gained worldwide fame in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Ruapehu is an active volcano that rises from lowland rain forest to a snow-covered, alpine zone. There it houses two ski resorts: Turoa and Whakapapa.
The long, 4-5hr drive from Auckland or Wellington is worth it, if only for the breathtaking view. From the top you can see down into the crater lake and across to the other volcanoes in Tongariro National Park. Compared with some European destinations, skiing in New Zealand is very affordable. The ski season at Whakapapa and Turoa runs from early July to 24 October.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s East Coast and the Volcanic Zone Travel Guide
Skiing in Lebanon is quite a relaxed affair. Even during the civil war the ski lifts only closed a few times due to avalanche risk. The country has six ski resorts with Mzaar Kfardebian being the country’s biggest and most popular one.
Located only 28 miles (one hour by car) away from the capital Beirut, the resort offers 42 slopes and 50 miles of ski tracks during the four months season. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Bekka Valley and mountain peaks like Laqlouq. Off-piste, visitors can explore the natural water-crafted bridge called “Jisr al-Hajar” (“Stone Bridge”), Roman temple ruins, and rock-cut tombs in nearby Faqra.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s Africa and Middle East Travel Guide
WHERE: United Arab Emirates
Although the coldest month in Dubai is January — a still-balmy 66°F — and it never snows, in Dubai visitors will find a winter wonderland. Ski Dubai is the largest of its kind in the world, and part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.
It features five runs that vary in difficulty, height and steepness. A state-of-the-art chair lift takes skiers and snowboarders to the top of the 279ft high snow mountain and off-piste visitors can warm themselves in Alpine themed facilities like the Avalanche Cafe.
For the whole family, the Snow Park also houses bobsled runs, a snow cave, and tobagganing hills. Plus there is a colony of Gentoo and King Penguins to interact with.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dubai Travel Guide