Nine unexpected ski destinations around the world

From Morocco’s scorching landscape to a Spanish resort near the coast, your staple summer hotspots sometimes make quite the unique, unexpected and underrated winter destination. Whether it’s thrilling runs or family-friendly fun you’re looking for, we pin-point eight of the best, lesser-known resorts to add to your must-visit list this ski season.

Squaw Valley, California, USA. Image: iStock

California, USA

Though true to its name, with Malibu, San Francisco and San Diego delivering seriously sunny Pacific coastal bliss, The Golden State is also a chart-topping ski destination, with Squaw Valley Ski Resort comprising one of the largest ski areas in the country. A host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, this Lake Tahoe hotspot offers more-than-epic landscapes and 450 inches of snow every winter – coupled, of course, with as much traditional Californian sunshine as you’d expect. With more than 170 trails across 3,600 skiable acres, plus ski lessons for all levels, night skiing opportunities, and the family-friendly Alpine Meadows Ski Resort a mere 15-minute shuttle ride away, it’s no wonder it was voted best ski resort in North America in 2016.

Troodos Mountains, Cyprus. Image: iStock


With its gorgeous beaches, rolling vineyards, rugged mountainous interior and scenic Salt Lake dotted with pink flamingos, Cyprus is a more likely contender for sun-soaked summer holidays – but tan top-ups, tasting tours and hiking expeditions are not all that you’ll find on this Middle Eastern island-country: at its heart, the Troodos Mountains turn into quite the amazing ski destination from early January until the end of March. Rising up to 1,951 metres above sea level and offering a picturesque mixture of Mediterranean skies and frosty forests, Mount Olympus is one to keep in mind for your next winter break. You’re only an hour’s drive from Limassol from here, so a coastal escape is never too far away if you’d like a dramatic change of scene.

Gulmarg, India. Image: iStock


Swap the Golden Triangle for Gulmarg on your next India trip, as the country’s best ski resort offers an unforgettable experience with off-piste, backcountry skiing. Perfect for thrill-seeking, intermediate and advanced skiers or snowboarders, but not suited to beginners or the faint of heart, you’ll find endless lines and powder at this Kashmir resort to please adrenalin-filled travellers thirsting for a challenge and chance to get their ski legs into gear. Lifts here climb as high as 4,000 metres, and your adventures may even lead you downhill to local villages and shrines. Try your hand at heliskiing or couple a day on the slopes with the ultimate adventure – a ski tour and camping experience – for a true back-to-nature escape.

Sierra Nevada, Spain. Image: iStock


With the Costa del Sol less than two hours away, you could easily combine beach and ski in one trip at this incredible Spanish resort – and with a season that starts as early as November and ends as late as May, you can quite literally spend a morning on its 124 pistes (measuring a total of 106.80 kilometres), before making your way to the coast for a beachfront stroll, seafood quaffing or even a swim on warmer days. At an altitude of 2,100 metres and with unique sea views, the resort is serviced by 21 lifts and offer night skiing as well as child-friendly activities and recreation zones. Once you’ve had your fill of wintery fun, swap alpine air for a soft coastal breeze as you head down south to explore Málaga’s divine yellow-sand beaches, citadels and Moorish history.

Cairngorms, Scotland. Image: iStock


If you didn’t think you could ski close to home, think again: as well as being the site for Scotland’s only funicular railway, CairnGorm Mountain enjoys a full ski season from December to April, depending on snowfall, with panoramas of the Scottish Highlands stretching on as far as the eye can see. This resort offers more than 30 kilometres of runs alongside 11 lifts, equipment rental facilities, a Snow School catering for skiers of all levels, a fully-maintained freestyle park, and plentiful opportunities for cross-country skiing. You’re within a three-hour drive from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, so you can easily dust the snow off for a historically-rich city break.

Za? Onsen, Japan. Image: iStock


If you’re an avid skier yet struggling to resist the temptation of Japan’s hot springs in the winter, combine the best of both worlds up in Mount Za?: located in northern Honsh?, Japan’s main island, this year-round hot spring area is also well known for its Yamagata Za? Onsen Ski Resort, and makes the perfect destination for a traditional alpine experience on the other end of the world. Located about a half-hour drive from Yamagata City and easily accessible by Shinkansen bullet trains, this tourist-friendly resort is clearly signposted in both Japanese and English, and offers 14 slopes and 12 courses (the longest stretching across 10 kilometres) serviced by a gondola, three ropeways and 35 lifts. You’ll also find seven ski schools and one snowboard school catering to all levels on site, as well as a family-friendly snow park.

Vigla, Greece. Image: iStock


Greece may be known for its Cycladic architecture and entrancing coastlines in the summer, but head inland in the winter months to make the most of equally divine white sights on an unforgettable snowy break. Located in a quiet village near the town of Florina and the Macedonian border, Vigla Pisoderi Ski Resort opens from December to March and offers 12 pistes (including two for cross-country skiing and one for snowmobiling) surrounded by a beautifully dense beech forest. From here you’re a two-hour drive or so from Thessaloniki, and an hour from the idyllic setting of the Prespa Lakes and National Park.

Oukaïmeden, Morocco. Image: Jørn Eriksson/Flickr


Frenzied medinas, indulgent hammams, windblown deserts, earth-hued architecture lined with the greenest of exotic gardens… the mere thought of Morocco may conjure up anything but a skier’s paradise, yet venture deeper into the Atlas Mountains and you’ll find Oukaïmeden – a hidden North African gem that sits at an altitude as high as 3,200 metres in the High Atlas. From here, you can just about steal a glimpse of the sahara desert below as you make the most of its 20 runs, where fresh, crisp and untouched snow is best suited to bold skiers of all levels.

Skiing in the Catskills, USA. Image: iStock

New York, USA

You may struggle to separate yourself from New York City in the winter time, but head into New York’s Catskill Mountains for a superb, family-friendly snowy experience come November. All manner of wintry activities are on hand here to please both young and old – whether snow tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or even yoga. All fun aside, serious skiers will appreciate having 54 trails to explore, serviced by 12 lifts and stretching over 732 acres, as well as 50 acres of night skiing on nine trails. You’ve also six terrain parks to enjoy, whether you’re a beginner looking to practice with small rails and jumps, or a seasoned skier with plenty of energy to burn on more advanced facilities.

Click here to join Secret Escapes and save up to 60% on luxury hotels and holidays.

Take a look at our current collection of ski holidays here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.