Unexpected Countries With Great Skiing

For skiers or snowboarders, nothing quite compares to the thrill of weaving down a slope, the sensation of gravity-aided propulsion making them almost feel like they are flying. Powder hounds count the days to the winter season, dreaming of the runs that they will make, the warming meals they will eat to fuel up, and the satisfying ache of weary quads at the end of a day on the mountain. Winter sports enthusiasts have their favorite peaks, the patches that bring them the most joy, and often, they'll return year after year to create new memories to add to those already in the bank. But, once in a while, it's nice to have a change of scene, to discover somewhere new, a place that's unknown and unexpected. 

Seasoned snow bunnies will be all too familiar with the fabulous skiing in the United States, especially the rich choices around Salt Lake City, as well as fine options in destinations like Colorado and California. They'll also know about the numerous runs in Canada, Switzerland, Austria, and more, but what about other countries that aren't so obvious? Many states around the world manage to hover under the ski radar but offer excellent places to hit the slopes. Here are some of the best.


For U.S. skiers who feel the summer blues, when powder and pistes seem like a distant memory, heading south of the equator is a smart way to lift their spirits. Skiers can fly to this South American country during the hotter months in the U.S. and find some prime conditions for hitting the slopes. A popular spot for residents of Buenos Aires is the destination of Las Leñas, which sits in the Andes mountains in Mendoza province, a region also famous for its wine. The ski resort has 30 different routes, a vertical drop of more than 4,000 feet, and a season that runs from June through September, so travelers can expect excitement galore. 

Also, starting in June but extending to October, skiers and snowboarders can hit the mountains in Bariloche, a bit further south in the country than Las Leñas. In addition to downhill, snow bunnies can try cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, sledding, and even hit the snowy flats on snowmobiles.


Australia isn't all arid landscapes and gorgeous waterfronts. It's also where to find some fine skiing, with the resorts blanketed by snow during the American summer. Perisher sits within Kosciuszko National Park and is massive, with 3,000 acres of terrain and almost 50 lifts. The ski area is divided into four sections, and there are 100 trails for visitors to choose from. Snow riders who like to test their skills can head to any of the seven terrain parks, with a couple specifically designed for skiers and boarders with more experience. 

Thredbo is suitable for skiers of all abilities, with a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs — its 50 ski and snowboard runs cover all the bases. It's also easy to reach from Sydney and Melbourne, taking around six hours by car from either, and visitors can stay in the lively ski village at the base of the mountain.


Azerbaijan has some breathtaking modern architecture in its capital, Baku, including one of the coolest airports in the world. It also has resorts located in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, where skiers of all levels can let rip on the slopes. Situated in the south of the country, in an autonomous region called Nakhchivan, the powder in Ağbulaq is perfect for skiers, snowboarders, and even visitors who like the simple pleasures of sledding. 

Ağbulaq is a small ski area, but the facilities are up-to-date, and there is a hotel on site where guests can rent all the ski gear they need — there is even an artificial lake that further adds to the hypnotic scenery. Further north, at Tufandag, the choice of lodging is greater, and there is also an onsite ski school that is remarkably affordable, with eight hours of private instruction for an adult costing only 230AZN (around $135.) A three-day ski pass, with access to four mountains, is a steal at 84AZN (around $50.)


Bulgaria, located north of Greece and Turkey, has long been a ski destination for Europeans in the know, an affordable place on the continent with an ever-growing presence on Europe's ski circuit. One of the leading resorts is Borovets, where Hotel Rila has a roof whose shape mimics the slopes of the mountain. There are 12 lifts and 29 different runs, learners can enroll in the ski school, and non-skiers can try snowmobiling or even take a horseback ride in the powder. 

The other big ski resort is Bansko, which has 15 lifts, ranging from six-seaters to good old-fashioned T-bars that pull the riders up the slope. A day pass costs 90 Bulgarian Lev, or about $48. For roughly half the price, visitors who don't ski can purchase a Gondola Lift ticket to the ski village, where restaurants, bars, and cafes allow them to enjoy the scenery without needing to strap on any gear.


The long, slender South American nation has several ski mountains, and thanks to its location in the Southern Hemisphere, it will be a boon to skiers who want to hit the slopes during the summer months in the United States. One of the most famous resorts is Portillo, anchored by a large, bright yellow hotel from where visitors can ski out directly. 

There are more than 1,200 acres of terrain to explore, with runs for beginners and intermediates and bowls that fill with powder perfect for advanced skiers. The season runs from June through September, and the longest run here is more than 1.5 miles long. At Nevados de Chillán, located in the Andes mountains, the terrain is vast, accessed via 13 lifts, with 20 slopes open to conquer. What's even more alluring about this ski resort is the chance to soak in thermal springs, courtesy of the volcanic activity in the region.


Ski resorts are dotted all over China, including some near the capital. A few hours' drive from Beijing, Dolomiti Mountain Resort (also called Duolemedi) takes its name from the stunning mountainous region of Italy, where the magic of the outdoors is difficult to resist. Popular for its activities in the summer, the Chinese resort is also a winter escape, with cedar trees topped with snow and a ski season that lasts almost four months. There are five slopes on the mountain, one specifically for beginners and one set aside for snowboarders. 

North of Harbin, where visitors should not miss the incredible annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Yabuli ski resort has three main ski areas and more than 30 miles of slopes to tackle, set among pine forests. For fans of all-inclusive resorts, there is a Club Med here, which has an indoor climbing wall, yoga sessions, and a pool where guests can warm up after a day on the mountain.


Not to be confused with the southern U.S. state known for its peaches and the world's busiest airport, the country of Georgia sits on the Black Sea, north of Armenia. The ski season runs from the middle of December through the end of March, and what makes the country such an attractive prospect is that it has some of the cheapest skiing in Europe. The resort of Gudauri has 10 chairlifts and four gondolas, is less than 100 miles from the capital of Tbilisi, and a six-day ski pass costs GEL340, which is about $21 per day. 

The day passes at Goderdzi Mountain Resort are even cheaper — they start at $11 — though the season ends in the middle of April. Since getting here requires a little effort, with four-wheel drive vehicles necessary, the crowds are a little more sparse than at other resorts. The resort's location, high up and yet caressed by the air from the Black Sea, creates conditions perfect for dependable snowfall.


Japan should not be an unexpected country for great skiing, considering Nagano hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998, but the East Asian nation might not come to mind when thinking of mountain slopes blanketed in snow. The ski season extends from December through April, with the months after the New Year promising the best conditions. The northern island of Hokkaido offers the most reliable, consistent snowfall and is where the resort destination of Niseko is located, perhaps the biggest draw for overseas visitors. 

Niseko comprises four ski resorts set around the mountain Niseko Annupuri, with Niseko Hanazono ideal for beginners and Niseko Village better suited to more seasoned skiers. On the island of Honshu, Hakuba is a good option for skiers visiting the Japanese capital, with Tokyo a four-hour drive southeast. Located in Nagano prefecture, Hakuba is where the Winter Olympics took place, and has 10 different resorts, with some lodging options available for those on a tight budget.


A large country in Central Asia that borders both Russia and China, Kazakhstan is an excellent place to hit the slopes. It's also a fascinating cultural destination, a crossroads between Europe and Asia, with tremendous contemporary architecture and many traditional Islamic structures. Not far from the city of Almaty, which sits on a valley floor with clear views of towering mountains, Shymbulak Ski Resort promises good skiing and some spectacular scenery. 

From a gorgeous setting in a deep gorge, the resort's vistas unfurl across mountain ridges with clouds extending as far as the eye can see, and riders on the slopes can enjoy the scenery during the winter season. Close to Almaty's city center (around 10 miles away), Tabagan Ski Resort has a sledding run that is open throughout the year and slopes that dissect banks of spruce trees. First-timers can get skiing and snowboarding lessons from onsite instructors.


Sitting entirely within South Africa and under British rule until it gained independence in 1966, Lesotho is a small nation with some grand mountains — the high terrain makes up the majority of the country's landscape. The altitude allows excellent conditions for skiing, and Afriski makes the most of this with its super slopes and a broad range of other adventures. 

Activities are available for all ages and levels, from beginners to advanced, and even those not interested in hitting the slopes. Bumboarding (guests sit on a small board as they slide down through the snow and ice) and paintball are a couple of fun alternatives to hitting the slopes, and visitors can also head out snow-shoeing to see how the snow machines create the powder for the slopes. Afriski The main draw, of course, is the skiing and snowboarding, with off-piste skiing for those looking for an extra challenge in their winter excursion.


This North African nation has lots for tourists to enjoy, from coastal towns like Essaouira to the fabulous architecture in the medina of Fes. It also supplies some excellent skiing choices in the Atlas Mountains, located not far from iconic Marrakech, a city with sprawling, fascinating markets and an eventful history that has long been a magnet for curious travelers. Oukaimeden not only has natural beauty, but it is also the site of ancient rock carvings dating back more than 5,000 years, adding a historical element to a trip here. 

During the warmer months, Morocco has excellent trekking, but in winter, visitors can hit the slopes to fine-tune their form or take lessons with instructors on the slopes. Situated between the cities of Fes and Meknes, Michlifen sits in a region of cedar and oak trees and has a small ski resort with some runs best suited to beginners and intermediates. The scenery here is spectacular, with lakes and pastures lending it the illusion of Switzerland transplanted to North Africa.


Winter sports seem to be second nature to this country in Scandinavia, with Norway consistently snagging a considerable cache of medals at the Winter Olympic Games. Norway has majestic fjords that draw scores of visitors each year and also has some excellent skiing, especially cross-country. SkiStar Trysil is a place where skiers will never get bored, such is the breadth of the terrain. 

Travelers can find almost 70 slopes here, serviced by 32 lifts that connect the four ski areas. More than 50 miles of trails spread out in three directions from the mountain, and some areas are perfect for beginners. A short drive from Lillehammer, Hafjell is smaller than Trysil, but it's still a fantastic ski retreat. The resort has 18 lifts, more than 30 miles of trails, and three terrain parks where bumps, rails, and other obstacles let skiers and boarders liberate themselves from the shackles of standard runs.


In the south of the country, not far from beautiful historic Kraków, Poland has several slopes that give skiers plenty of winter options. Sitting near the border with Slovakia, Kasprowy Wierch is a mountain where a couple of pistes open up for downhill daredevils. Gasienicowa and Goryczkowa work best for skiers with a good command of their form, with steep sections that make control challenging. 

The facilities are relatively simple here — chairlifts instead of gondolas and no snow-making guns, so runs depend on natural snowfall — but the quality of skiing is worth it. A more extensive network awaits at Białka Tatrzańska, where a network of chairlifts links the three ski areas of Bania, Kaniówka, and Kotelnica. The destination has the advantage of using snow machines when necessary, so the skiing is more dependable than at Kasprowy Wierch. Of the 25 runs, 15 are for intermediate skiers, and the rest are split evenly between beginner and advanced.


Mountains with multiple lifts are among the ski-centric lures of romantic Romania. Visitors to Dracula's Castle (officially called Bran Castle) can easily make a side trip to Poiana Brașov, a mountain with 15 miles of runs set in the Carpathian Mountains and only 15 miles away from that mythical vampiric lair. About an hour to the south, Sinaia has a vertical drop of 4,000 feet and plenty of beginner-friendly trails. 

A longer vertical drop pulls in skiers and boarders to Bușteni. The charming mountain town sits between Poiana Brașov and Sinaia, although none of the trails on the mountain are tame enough to appeal to beginners. A much more intimate environment welcomes visitors to Mogoșa, an area popular in summer for its lakes and hiking. In the winter, the lake freezes over, allowing ice skaters to make circuits, while a chairlift and ski lifts serve the relatively compact slopes.


Long and short runs are available in Slovakia, a European country to the south of Poland and north of Hungary. The resort of Tatranská Lomnica sits, as the name suggests, in the High Tatra mountains, with its peak stretching 7,200 feet above sea level. Boasting a vertical drop of over 4,000 feet and retaining snow for almost half the year, this resort will certainly get the pulse of supreme skiers racing. 

The Low Tatras are where to find Skipark Jasná Nízke Tatry, the biggest ski resort in the country, with five different ski areas, 30 miles of trails, special routes for children, and even night skiing. At Park Snow Donovaly, purchasers of a ski pass online can get a discount, meaning that a one-day pass can be as reasonable as €30 (around $32.) Dog sledding and the chance to spin around an ice rink are a couple more lures at this winter wonderland.

South Korea

The country that hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics has plenty of skiing locations. This isn't surprising since South Korea has a wildly undulating topography, with three mountain ranges running through the nation. Home of the aforementioned sporting extravaganza, PyeongChang is the location of Phoenix Park, where 18 slopes cater to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There is a generous choice of lodgings at the base, with numerous condo blocks at the bottom of the mountain. East of Seoul, Yong Pyong Ski Resort also leaves visitors spoiled for choice, with 28 different slopes served by 14 lifts and a good selection of runs targeted at experts. 

Just one hour from the South Korean capital, Elysian Gangchon can be reached by public transportation from Seoul, making it a relatively simple getaway. Visitors will find 10 slopes, with six lifts ferrying passengers around, and many easy runs that ensure beginners stay energized and enthusiastic.


The beautiful Turkish region of Cappadocia attracts thousands of tourists every year, travelers who come to ride hot air balloons over the colorful terrain, see the mysterious rock dwellings, and wander around underground cities. It's here that visitors will encounter the gorgeous mountain resort of Erciyes, where summer and fall exploration gives way to winter skiing.

Chair lifts and gondolas shuttle skiers around the Anatolian mountain, where more than 40 slopes await expectant winter sports enthusiasts. Just over half of the runs are identified as intermediate, though expert skiers shouldn't fear — one advanced trail extends for more than four kilometers. There are four separate gates at the resort, and one of them features night skiing over the weekends, a unique experience that keeps the fun going into the evening. When young skiers have had enough of the cold, they can retire to indoor play areas at the Hacılar and Tekir Gates, where experienced and enthusiastic staff will take care of them, allowing adults to get back to the slopes.