10 Hidden Gems for Ski Enthusiasts

The Snowy Mountains of Australia covered in pure white snow with a few small brown plants peeking up under a blue sky
Skiers can find plenty of backcountry ski opportunities in Australia’s Snowy Mountains.

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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 of months per 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.

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

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Oukaïmeden (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. Oukaïmeden, near Marrakech, is a great option for skiers. This resort has a decent infrastructure, with a couple of chairlifts and a handful of hotels. 

In addition to six miles of runs from beginner through advanced, Oukaïmeden has plenty of off-piste opportunities. Ski season in the High Atlas is at its peak in January and early February.

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Ski Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

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.

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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.

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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 its highest peaks see snow during the Southern Hemisphere's winter, between June and 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.

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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.

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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 is a good option for people seeking a mountain adventure that isn't limited to skiing.

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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 New South Wales is home to several large ski destinations. The Snowy Mountains of NSW in the Australian Alps features resorts like Thredbo, which boasts the longest runs in Australia. 

Open from June through September, the Snowy Mountains resorts have runs for beginners through advanced skiers. For those looking for the beauty and solitude of fresh snow, there are also backcountry skiing options in the area.

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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 not 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.

The Solang Valley is one of the most popular ski areas in the country. In addition to skiing, visitors can enjoy snowboarding, tubing, and sledding in the valley. For the most snow, the best time to visit the area is in January, but resorts are open from October through March. A gondola, the Solang Valley Ropeway, takes visitors from the base of the valley to an elevation of 10,500 feet on Mount Phatru.

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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 nearby 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.