10 Hidden Gems for Ski Enthusiasts

View from Mt Hotham ski resort after fresh snow looking towards Mt Feathertop, Victoria,
Skiers can take guided tours of the backcountry ski areas of Mount Hotham in Australia’s Victorian Alps.

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Even people who have never hit the slopes are familiar with the names of the world's most famous ski destinations: Vail, Aspen, Tahoe, and the Swiss Alps. These places are popular for a reason—they have ideal alpine conditions and a wide variety of runs. But what about the lesser-known slopes? There are places that people don't often associate with snow, let alone skiing, where it is possible to swoosh down uncrowded slopes for at least a couple months of the year. The beauty of many of these unexpected ski havens is that they are surrounded by many other attractions as well.

Want to enjoy the feeling of adventure that comes with strapping on skis or a snowboard someplace that few people know about?

Here are 10 hidden gems for ski enthusiasts.

1
of 10

Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii

Mount Kea summit blanketed in white snow with some patches of brown dirt and light blue sky

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At nearly 14,000 feet, this Hawaiian peak occasionally gets sizable snowfalls, which attract devoted skiers and snowboarders. With no resort, no lifts, and no groomers, this is hardly a place for novices or people who want their ski vacations to include a ski-in-ski-out condo and an evening soak in a Jacuzzi. However, renting a four-wheel drive truck and using it as a stand-in for a lift on Mauna Kea can lead to hours of great backcountry skiing.

Flakes can fly here at almost any time of year, but measurable snows on Mauna Kea generally occur between December and February.

2
of 10

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

snow covered mountain and valley in Oukaimeden, Morocco with a blue green sky

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Morocco's Atlas Mountains sit at the edge of the Sahara Desert, where they rise to more than 13,000 feet above sea level. The modest Atlas ski area of Mischliffen is within day-trip-distance of the popular tourist city of Fez. With a few skiable slopes and some basic facilities, it is certainly not the Swiss Alps, but skiers here can expect a complete lack of crowds and some amazingly unique alpine scenery.

Oukaimeden, near Marrakech, is another option for skiers. This resort has a decent infrastructure, with a couple of chair lifts and a handful of hotels. In addition to nearly 12 miles of runs, Oukaimeden has plenty of off-piste opportunities. Ski season in the High Atlas is at its peak in January and early February.

3
of 10

Ski Dubai, UAE

Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates indoor ski area with ski lift, trees, and white snow

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When you first hear about a ski resort in Dubai, you might think that it has something to do with strapping on a snowboard and riding down the fine sands of the Arabian Peninsula's trademark dunes. Ski Dubai, however, is an indoor snow ski destination with five runs and a full menu of other snow-based activities located within the Mall of the Emirates.

Real snow is made year-round at Ski Dubai, so skiers will find consistent conditions 365 days per year. The destination doesn't provide the familiar mountain scenery, however, and the runs may be too short for true alpine enthusiasts. An adjacent climbing wall and water park make it possible to have a complete adventure vacation without having to head out into the hot Arabian sun.

4
of 10

Parnassos, Greece

Rolling snow-covered hills and ski lift with blue sky and sweeping clouds in the distance at Parnassos, Greece

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Known for its olive groves, ouzo, ancient ruins, and sunny idyllic islands, Greece is not on the radar for most skiers. However, the country actually has some of the best slopes east of Italy. The resort area at Parnassos is a favorite among locals, who come here to ski on slopes that sit between 5,300 and 7,400 feet above sea level. Because of the altitude, the ski season at Parnassos can last through March.

The pine-covered slopes and the views of the Gulf of Corinth far below make this one of the most atmospheric places to take to the slopes. With over a dozen runs and lifts, Parnassos is a relatively small resort. The uncrowded environment and easy access to the other attractions in Greece make it a viable itinerary addition for skiers on a swing through Europe.

5
of 10

Afriski Resort, Lesotho

snow-capped mountains and blue sky in the distance with small mounds of plants sprouting in the foreground in Lesotho

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Lesotho is a tiny African kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa. The northern part of this small country is dominated by the Maluti Mountains. Some of this ranges' highest peaks see snow during the Southern Hemisphere's winter (from June until about September).

The Afriski Resort is the only true ski area in Lesotho. It uses snow-making machines when there is not enough snow on the slopes. However, at 10,000 feet, it certainly has enough altitude to retain the snow-cover that it receives during the winter. Despite its growing popularity, Lesotho has a remote feel that adventure seekers will surely appreciate.

6
of 10

Shemshak, Iran

Scenic view of snow covered mountains against sky, surrounded by commercial and residential buildings at Shemshak, Tehran Province,Iran

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The mountainous northern regions of this Asian nation are filled with possibilities for skiers. With seven ski lifts, Shemshak in the Alborz mountain range offers well-groomed slopes and plenty of chances to go off-piste and ski through fresh powder.

In fact, since local skiers rarely venture off the groomed runs, this is one of the best places for experienced skiers to find untouched snow. Another ski resort at Dizin, the largest in Iran, is a more-crowded option.

7
of 10

Bosques de Monterreal, Mexico

Bright blue sky and tall green trees on a snow covered field in Coahuila State, Mexico

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This small ski resort in Mexico's Coahuila state has good conditions with natural snow falling regularly in the middle of winter (December and January). During the off-season, the resort produces artificial snow in order to offer skiing year-round.

About 90 minutes from the city of Monterrey, the destination has onsite cabins with amazing views of the surrounding Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. Known for scenic pine and oak forests, Monterreal a good option for people seeking a mountain adventure that isn't limited to skiing.

8
of 10

Snowy Mountains, Australia

Vibrant blue sky behind protruding rocks amidst snow-covered peaks at Thredbo NSW Australia

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Australia is known for its deserts and tropical forests. But Victoria and New South Wales are home to several large ski destinations. The Snowy Mountains of NSW feature resorts like Thredbo, which boasts the longest runs in Australia. Victoria's Falls Creek is another popular and easily accessible resort that is open during the colder months of the year (from June through September).

Despite Australia's reputation as a warm continent, Falls Creek sees more than 13 feet of snow annually. There are also backcountry skiing opportunities in the Snowy Mountains and in the alps of Tasmania.

9
of 10

Solang Valley, India

Snow-covered mountain peaks in Solang Valley, India, with tall trees in foreground and blue sky and white clouds in background

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India might seem like a logical place for skiing. Despite being known as a warm weather destination, this large South Asian nation features the foothills of the Himalaya mountain range in its northernmost states.

Despite lacking the infrastructure that makes skiing holidays convenient, the tall peaks in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and Uttarakhand are attractive because the altitude makes very long runs possible. The Solang Valley is one of the most popular ski areas in the country, while Uttarakhand's Auli has a more resort-like feel.

10
of 10

Swakopmund, Namibia

Person wearing a helmet and sandboarding on the red sand Dunes of Namibia

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Skiing does not have to mean donning snow gear or waiting for fresh powder to fall. Namibia, a desert country in Southern Africa, has some of the world's best dune skiing. Skiers and snowboarders strap on specially prepared equipment and ride down these sandy slopes at speeds that are not much lower than they would be on a snow-covered run.

Local instructors in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay can provide transportation, guidance, and equipment for first time sandboarders. Dune-skiers in Namibia have perfected the use of waxes and the positioning of bindings for maximum control and speed on the sand.