Skiing and snowboarding are sports that are enjoyed in almost every region of the world. Whether the area is served by lifts or is a backcountry paradise barely matters as long as there is a way up and a ride down.
These are the 5 strangest, most unexpected areas that you can ski:
5. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort, Arizona – United States
Most people immediately think of the desert and sweltering heat when it comes to Arizona. However, Arizona Snowbowl is home to some of the state’s best skiing and receives an average of 260 inches of snow per year. The Snowbowl has just under 800 skiable acres with a total of 55 runs and 8 lifts. The mountain features several terrain parks, double black runs, and hike-to terrain that provides amazing views over the San Fransico Peaks Range. It is located only 20 minutes away from Flagstaff, AZ, which has an average temperature of 75-80 degrees. The summit of the Snowbowl is well over 10,000 feet above sea level, which allows for the snow and cooler temperatures than the rest of the state.
4. Afriski, Lesotho – Africa
Afriski has a maximum capacity of 320 skiers and operates from June through August. Again, when Africa comes to mind, the typical thought includes deserts, wild animals, and safaris, but Africa is much more than this. This resort is around a five-hour drive from Johannesburg and is accessed by the Moteng and Mahlasela passes, which reach 10,000 feet. Afriski is located in the Maluti Mountains and heavily relies on snowmaking machines due to the low annual snowfall. This resort essentially has one run with a terrain park at the bottom and is one of the two resorts in Southern Africa.
3. Mauna Kea, Hawaii – United States
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano with a peak elevation of 13,803 feet above sea level and is considered the world’s tallest mountain. It is the only location in Hawaii that receives snow and is a backcountry destination with no lifts. Riders must be prepared to have a vehicle with 4WD and be ready to do some touring and hiking to get to the top. Mauna Kea is a spiritual site, and the best time to ski or snowboard here would be “late January through March.” Even though the snow is sparse and erratic, the views are consistently beautiful. Too many tourists miss the opportunity to ski or snowboard in Hawaii simply because they do not know it is possible. So, next time you take a surfing trip to Aloha State, don’t forget to visit this world-renowned volcano and cool down with some skiing or snowboarding.
2. Mount Hermon, Israel
In 1948, Israel became a sovereign nation, yet they have hardly escaped politically driven tension with their neighboring Arabs. Located on the border of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, Mount Hermon is Israel’s only ski resort and is home to 14 runs and 5 lifts. “On the top of Mount Hermon, in the United Nations buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli-occupied territories, is the highest permanently manned UN position in the world, known as ‘Hermon Hotel.'” Like Mauna Kea, Mount Hermon holds spiritual and religious values throughout the Middle East, but it also holds geographic importance as it receives more water than most other parts of the desert region. Planning a trip to this area of the world needs to be thoroughly thought through and well-executed.
1. Masikryong Ski Resort, North Korea
Not much is known about North Korea. However, it is known that the Masikryong ski area was created in 2014 as part of Kim Jong Un’s plan to increase tourism directly. Constructed in just 10 months, “Masikryong Speed” has become a national slogan representing North Korean Pride and unity. The mountain resort only has a few chair lifts which access 9 runs. Interestingly enough, when construction began, Switzerland refused to sell chair lifts to North Korea due to sanctions. Kim Jong Un responded by calling this situation a “serious human rights abuse.” Many believe that the ski area is nothing more than North Korean propaganda, and other countries, including Austria and France, also refused to help with the construction. Masikryong sticks to North Korea’s theme of the unknown and unpredictability. Research on this ski area is limited, and the best way to find out more would be to book a flight to Pyongyang (at least if you’re willing to travel to North Korea).