The best alternative skiing destinations
By Samantha Fergusson
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict whether the snow is going to be any good each season in the traditional ski resorts of Europe. This makes it much harder to plan your ski holiday than before. The good news is, there are oodles of destinations that also have great snow but are better known for attractions other than their pristine pistes. One day this will change, but you will be ahead of the game! Here is our selection of the best alternative skiing destinations that you should have on your radar…
Kyrgyzstan is an up and coming destination that should definitely be on your radar. In summer, the steppes are green and lush, the lakes an entrancing blue and the surrounding mountains offer heavenly hiking country. In winter, the skiing is spectacular.
Of the 23 ski hot-spots, 10 are within easy distance of the country’s capital, Bishkek. One of these is Karakol, where over 20km of slopes wiggle their way across the mountains up to a soaring 3,040 metres above sea-level. The resort here is one that other ski resorts in Kyrgyzstan use as an aspirational measure – the pistes are the longest, the equipment the newest, and the accommodation is amongst the best in the country. For an epic view in Karakol, take the Panorama lift up to survey the Tian Shan mountains as they fall away into the distance, and the deep blue of the Issyk-Kul Lake… bliss. The apres-ski is also top dollar.
The best snow usually falls in Kyrgyzstan in January and February.
The land of tango, polo, wildlife, wine… and skiing! This vast country has so much to offer, and dotted throughout the Andes, you will find 14 ski resorts, mainly around Mendoza, the Lake District and in Patagonia. The cooler climes of Patagonia mean that the ski resorts don’t need to be as elevated above sea-level (generally sitting at around 2,000 metres) – this is great if you have any concerns about altitude sickness, and there are some lovely beginners’ slopes if you’re still in the early days of your snow sports career! If, however, you err towards being more of an adrenaline junkie, then look no further than Las Leñas in the Mendoza area. While it has something to offer all levels, it has become a bit of a mecca for extreme skiers and snowboarders, with fantastic access to lots of backcountry and heli-skiing on offer. The nightlife is also famed for being lively – if you like a dance, you can boogie the night away - and much of the following morning if you so choose! Families might like to head to Los Puquios, which is cheap, cheerful and welcomes all ages.
The ski season in Argentina runs from mid-June until as late as mid-October. The best dry powder tends to be from July to mid September.
Georgia may not leap into your mind as a skiing destination, but it definitely should! The powder can reach over 3 metres deep and the pistes are well maintained and nicely varied. Both Kutaisi and Tbilisi airports are handily placed to reach the best resorts, most of which receive reliably heavy, frequent snowfall from December right the way through to April (but don’t worry – there’s plenty of sun too, so white-outs don’t factor in). If you like to get out into the backcountry, head to Gudauri, Mestia and Goderdzi and if you are suitably experience, you can heli-ski. Bakuriani is a great resort for intermediate skiiers, with some lovely slopes for beginners too. And of course, if you need any further encouragement to visit this magical country, the Georgian wine (the Georgians were the first to produce this wonderful elixir) is fantastic and brilliant value for money.
The ski season in Georgia runs from December until April.
Make it happen
If you have been inspired to dig out your salopettes and dust off your ski boots, then don't hesitate to get in touch with any of our local experts in Kyrgyzstan, Argentina or Georgia. Kyrgyzstan already has some ready-made trip ideas to give you some inspiration, and all our local experts can tailor-make your perfect holiday to your requirements.