Posted by Oliver Meredew on December 20th, 2016.
When it comes to the winter sports on offer across the world, there is an abundance of choice. We’ve compiled a shortlist of five of the very best winter resorts across the world, as well as five places where you wouldn’t expect to find snow to slalom in.
Before you fasten skis to the roof rack, however, it’s worth remembering that winter in the Southern Hemisphere is from June to August, instead of December to February!
The first ‘conventional’ entry on our list is hallowed ground for winter sports enthusiasts – the French commune of Chamonix. Located on France’s far eastern border, the region is nestled right up against Italy and Switzerland.
Famed for its sheer variety of slope types, routes and transport options, Chamonix is a veritable playground for the aspiring snowboarder or skier, but also caters for a range of other pursuits, like ice skating, mountain climbing and dogsledding, to name a few.
Chamonix’s visual appeal is well known; the town sits at the base of the largest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc, and the surrounding snowscape was featured as a vista in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.
While the town of Chamonix is open for tourism throughout the year, the winter season proper begins in late December and stretches to the beginning of May.
The first unlikely place to visit is a long trip south from France, with South Africa’s Tiffindell Ski Resort being the surprising location of a winter sports venue.
While temperatures in most of South Africa rarely dip below freezing even in winter, Tiffindell is an exception. Located on the border with Lesotho on the slope of Ben McDhui, Tiffindell is notable for its oddity as a stretch of snow in an otherwise hot country.
The slope size at Tiffindell is relatively small compared to other entries on this list, though it does at least fit the bill of being a ski resort in a place that seems the least likely to have one.
In order to keep snow on the ground throughout the season, Tiffindell often utilises snow machines, which can make things difficult for amateurs due to the different properties of manufactured snow.
The winter season in Tiffindell is from June to late August, and the resort allows both skiing and snowboarding.
The next popular spot for skiing and snowboarding is a world-renowned one, the Swiss municipality of Zermatt.
Found close to the southern Swiss border with Italy, Zermatt proudly boasts that it ‘smashes every record’; as well as being the highest ski resort found in Europe, Zermatt is also open year round due to constant snow formation on account of the extreme altitude.
The town of Zermatt itself is located at the bottom of a valley in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn, but cable car systems criss-cross the mountain range to allow access to the famed ski and snowboard routes while providing a bird’s eye view on the way up.
The area for activities is vast, with the longest run covering over 20km. Stat wise, it is estimated that the well-oiled machine of Zermatt transports over 90,000 riders around the area every hour.
As well as offering huge areas to test your abilities on the snow, Zermatt’s slopes are also dotted with top class restaurants conveniently located next to ski and hiking trails.
For some, the immediate image that spring to mind when Morocco is mentioned is of bustling market places, haggling matches with local merchants and stifling heat in the summer time.
During the winter, however, Morocco’s more mountainous regions are blessed with a bounty of snow, and the resort of Oukaimeden is one of the best places to experience this phenomenon, as well as get some practice in with the skis.
Just a few hours’ drive south from the major city of Marrakesh, Oukaimeden is the highest ski resort in Africa and holds the record for the highest continental ski lift as well.
The slopes on Oukaimeden are larger than Tiffindell’s and are open for skiing, snowboarding and sledging, though the exact boundaries between groomed and ungroomed areas of snow are not always clearly defined.
The resort typically bears snow in the winter season, which stretches from December to February, sometimes mid-March.
Back to the ‘normal’ ski resorts now, and we’re sticking in Europe with a trip to the Norway-Sweden border. While it doesn’t hold the world-famous status of the more high-profile ski resorts in the world, the municipality of Trysil is a still a solid spot to pick for your skiing and snowboarding needs in winter.
Tucked into a small nook on the Norwegian side of the border with Sweden, Trysil is the largest ski resort in Norway, and offers over 65 slopes and almost 30 different ski lifts to choose from.
The focal point of the region, the mountain of Trysilfjellet, has a family friendly slope layout, with harder and easier slopes running alongside each other to provide more relaxing or exciting paths back down the mountain to the same end point.
The winter season in Trysil is from November to April, and both skiing and snowboarding are possible.
In another example of a generally warm nation and a high-altitude ski resort, the town of Pradollano in Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is one of the most southerly winter resorts in Europe.
The high altitude of the mountains (which are named as ‘snowy’ in Spanish) ensures plenty of snow to enjoy during the winter season, and at just a few hours away from Spain’s typically double digit temperatures on the south coast during winter, the location lends itself well to day trippers who want to enjoy the snow during the day then retreat back down to the coast at night.
Pradollano is well-suited to experts and amateurs in the world of winter sports, with beginner areas for aspiring snowboarders and a spread of ski schools helping to bring novices up to speed on the slopes.
Pradollano’s season typically stretches from late November to the beginning of May and encompass ski runs as well as the nearby Sulayr snowpark, the largest snowboard park in Spain.
Located near Vancouver on Canada’s west coast, Whistler Blackcomb is a renowned Canadian ski resort located between the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
Originally comprised of two competing resorts on both mountains, the two rivals were rolled into one in the early 2000’s and have never looked back. This merger has been to the visitor’s immense benefit; the resort has over 200 runs of varying difficulty, thousands of acres of overall skiing area and the two longest runs on each mountain are around 11km long.
The resort is well adapted to providing for all the family and provides activities such as dog sledding and zipline tours through the snow-laden forests, among others. The resort also features the innovative ‘Peak 2 Peak’ Gondola, which carries visitors between the two mountains and offers spectacular views.
Whistler Blackcomb is open year round as a resort, but the crucial ski and snowboard season runs from November to May.
Our penultimate unlikely spot for a winter activities is in South America, in the vast southerly Argentinian region of Patagonia.
Found on yet another national border (this time with Chile), Catedral Alto Patagonia on Cerro Catedral Mountain offers spectacular views and enjoyment for visitors, though not at the ‘usual’ season times.
The resort has a strong focus on employing locals to make sure the mountain is in top shape for the winter season, and is known as the largest ski resort in South America at almost 3000 acres.
As well as the more traditional winter sports, available activities in Cerro Catedral also include donuts (an inflatable ring adaptation of tobogganing), snowshoe walks in the woods, Nordic skiing and guided snowmobile tours.
Cerro Catedral Resort’s season runs from late June to the beginning of October and caters to skiers and snowboarders alike.
Sometimes known as the ‘Alaska of Japan’, the huge northern Japanese island of Hokkaido shares many of the same qualities as the northernmost US state, with large, sparsely populated areas and widespread snowfall in winter.
Within viewing distance of the imposing Mt. Yotei (a dead ringer for Mt. Fuji) in the west of the island), Niseko United is Japan’s “official #1 snow resort” and is made up of four combined areas.
As well as winning awards for the quality and consistency of its skiing terrain, Niseko United is also an all-inclusive resort, providing easier and more relaxing runs near the base of the mountain and more challenging routes towards the summit of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri.
The upper reaches of the mountain also hold culinary delights, with top class cafes and restaurants being located at the top of gondola and chairlift routes.
Niseko’s season lasts from late November to the beginning of May, with the ‘High Season’ coming between late December and mid-February. Skiing and snowboarding in alpine and forested areas is catered to.
Closing off this global tour of winter sports spots, the last but certainly not least location is Perisher, found in south-eastern Australia.
While the name might seem somewhat ominous, the Perisher ski resort in the state of New South Wales is an accommodating location for winter sports fans,
With over 3000 acres of skiable area, Perisher is renowned as one of the largest ski resorts in the entire Southern Hemisphere, and like Niseko is made up of four linked resorts.
The area is accessible to all ability levels, with a variety of different lesson types available to those new to sliding across the snow.
While snowfall in Perisher is less than in some other locations, Perisher is nonetheless a solid option for a non-seasonal winter sports trip, and definitely falls in the category of an unusual location.
Perisher’s season stretches from early June to early October, and the resort allows both skiing and snowboarding.
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