It’s adventure time for winter sports enthusiasts and many of you are deciding where to go for your next skiing or snowboarding trip. The options are plenty and the choice can be tough. We give you an overview of countries and regions in the world, where you can indulge in a fluffy white powder activity with your travel buddies. This is not a resort review, as there are thousands of them, but rather a guide on what to expect in each destination and how your ski experience can be different. Depending on where will you go and what you are after during your skiing or snowboarding trip.
“A pair of skis are the ultimate transportation to freedom.” – Warren Miller
There are two winter seasons on Earth
Where to go skiing or snowboarding depends largely on when. As the seasons vary between Hemispheres, you may want to take the advantage of winter in Northern Hemisphere or combine sun and surf with skiing in New Zealand and Australia later in the year, as the seasons are reversed there.
In Europe, USA and Canada, the ski season typically lasts since November until early May, whereas in New Zealand and Australia ski season runs between June and October. You can also ski in Japan and the season there typically runs from mid-December until early April, achieving peak in January and February.
Whilst your safest bet for a winter ski trip is between January and February, it is also the most expensive time to go skiing. But, choose wisely and you will enjoy a good quality snow in March and April, for a much lower damage to your credit card. If you want to take advantage of less crowded slopes in March and April (or even early May), choose a ski resort above 1500 meters with plenty of north-facing terrain above 2500 meters.
Right now, depending where are you based, you can go skiing in Europe, USA, Canada and Japan. That gives you plenty of opportunities where, depending on vacation time, budget and desire for the time on a plane.
Europe is heaven for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, with many skiing opportunities within two-hour flight, or if you live in one of the countries, a few hours’ drive. From the well-established Alpine resorts in France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany, to the less crowded slopes in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic and Andorra and finally Nordic countries, Finland, Norway and Sweden, where snow runs in people’s bodies instead of blood. Well, it doesn’t but it’s an integrated part of life.
What to expect in the Alps?
Alpine ski resorts are likely to be your European benchmark, once you have taken a trip there. You will end up comparing your Alps experience with that in Eastern or Northern Europe. Alps and ski resorts in Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany offer world class ski opportunities with vast ski areas, modern lift systems, diversity of resorts and accommodation, fabulous views, picturesque towns, high-altitude slopes for your spring-time skiing, gourmet food and of plenty of ‘après-ski’ options. They can also set you back quite a few Euros, depending on the luxury level of your trip.
Andorra and Eastern Europe
Andorra, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland will offer slightly different experience. Whilst you are most likely to get more for your money there, you will also have less diversity and glamour than Alps. But that’s not to say that you won’t have a great trip. Each of these regions is unique on its own. One thing is almost sure, you certainly have less crowds there.
Virtually tax-free Andorra is a tempting option to explore for your next skiing or snowboarding trip, combined with some shopping opportunities. With plenty of high-altitude resorts, English-speaking ski and snowboarding schools for those making their first attempt at skiing, great après-ski venues; it’s a perfect skiing and snowboarding destination for beginner and intermediate ski enthusiasts.
Eastern Europe may not offer the same experience as skiing in high Alps, but you will save a lot of money on ski rental equipment, accommodation, lift passes and food. Virtually everything. Skiing is not a new sport in these countries and there are well established ski resorts, with good amenities, transport link, pistes, post-ski saunas, baths and relaxation possibilities. If this is your first ski trip, you may want to start there, as majority of the slopes are beginner and intermediate friendly.
You may go there to see Santa Claus, you may go there for the opportunity to ski during the 24 hour daylight. Imagine going to the least populous European countries, where two things are guaranteed: snow and quiet slopes. Less party more gourmet food, sunshine, silence, post-ski sauna and unspoiled views will all be experienced in Sweden, Finland or Norway. And without a sunscreen, a sunburn will most likely be experienced too. If you are after fireplaces, rugged, unspoiled landscapes, empty pistes, husky rides, you know where to look now.
Hello and welcome to ski heaven. USA offers one of the best skis and snowboard opportunities in the world.
The most popular USA ski resorts are Aspen, Beaver Creek and Vail in Colorado, Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Lakes in California (read our blog about Northern California, to find out more about Lake Tahoe), Park City and Salt Lake City in Utah, Breckenridge and Telluride in Rocky Mountains, Vermont, Stove and Killington in New England on the East Coast, Sun Valley in Idaho. You can also ski in Alaska.
Expect to pay a small fortune for a weekly lift pass, in exchange for the world’s best ski areas with well-groomed slopes, magnificent mountains, endless pistes, super-fast ski lifts and opportunities for skiing in both East and West Coast. USA ski and snowboard packages are more flexible than European, so you can combine your Vermont ski trip with a Boston city break for example. One thing worth mentioning, is that in the USA, the ski resorts are quite spread out, unlike Europe, so car rental might be a necessity to move between them and take advantage of your multi-resort ski pass.
Expect to combine your skiing trip with hiking trails, shopping, dining in fine restaurants, diversity, spas, friendly people and picturesque ski resorts (just Google-image Banff to get the idea). You can actually ski in most parts of Canada, but the most popular provinces and ski destinations are in British Columbia, neighbouring Alberta, and Quebec in the east. Similarly, to the USA and Alpine resorts of Western Europe, you will have a world class ski experience in Canada.
For many people, Canada offers the most beautiful views in the world to enjoy during their skiing and snowboarding trip. And like in Europe, you will have an opportunity to visit several resorts within one day. Something, which may not be easy to do in the USA.
Lake Louise is one of Canada’s top resorts and part of the three world-class ski resorts- SkiBig3, comprising Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay all located in Banff National Park.
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains have been rated top North America’s ski resorts and are a skiers’ dream destination. The resort is located between two massive mountains linked by gondola, which is an attraction on its own.
Another world class ski resort is Big White, located on the west side of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The local climate in the area provides endless supply of dry, light, fluffy champagne powder with excellent skiing conditions.
Not just sushi, tea and cherry blossoms, but also amazing skiing and snowboarding opportunities and heavy snowfalls courtesy to the cold Siberian air.
There are over 500 ski resorts in Japan, with the best ones being in the northern parts, Hokkaido and Tohoku and in the mountains along the Sea of Japan Coast (Niigata and Nagano). If you decide to travel thousand miles to Japan for your skiing or snowboarding trip, you won’t be disappointed, as great quality white powder is guaranteed here. A trip to Japan, won’t be just a winter sports adventure, but a full cultural experience, with amazing hospitality, great food and a dip in Japanese history and culture. Something you may not easily find elsewhere in the world, but it’s definitely possible in Japan, is night skiing, with most Japanese ski resorts keeping the slopes open for some midnight snow adventures. For your ramen to go with your skis and a full cultural immersion, Japan is a great winter sports destination, for those on shoestring and those seeking high-end luxury during their adventure time.
People go to New Zealand for spectacular views and best in the world trekking and hiking opportunities. But that can easily be combined with something else. A ski or snowboard trip in the middle of European Summer. Chasing the snow? Why not! And even more worthy, if you are to experience the same skiing conditions to that of Western Europe, but in an unspoiled environment. It is the Land at The End of The World after all.
The four ski regions of New Zealand are alpine resorts of Queenstown, Christchurch and Canterbury Plains in the Southern Alps, small town of Wanaka nestled on the edge of Lake Wanaka and the Mackenzie region with Lake Tekapo at its heart.
A ski trip to New Zealand means you will be inhaling the cleanest and purest air on earth, whilst experiencing awe inspiring views combined of picturesque towns, alpine peaks and azure lakes. You will also be likely to combine your ski adventure with trekking, wine tasting, exploring waterfalls at a great value for money prices. And those seeking pure adrenaline and freedom, you will have the opportunity for the ultimate Heli-skiing experience, with plenty of local operators offering Heli-trips. Regardless if you will be going off piste or with the crowd, remember to take plenty of sunscreen. In New Zealand you can be burned even during cloudy weather, as the country has the highest UV ratings in the world, due to its pure and clean air.
At Tribd, we regularly check which destinations are popular for different activity types, so we can provide insights to our adventure community. When Australia came on the list of countries for ski trips, I thought that it was on error. Skiing in Australia? But it’s surfer’s paradise…!
Well, it turns out not just, there is snow in Australia and there are skiing and snowboarding opportunities too. Skiing conditions in Australia can be found mainly in the two states of New South Wales and Victoria, and Tasmania.The two top ski resorts in Australia are Perisher and Thredbo, around six hours drive from Sydney, or seven hours from Melbourne. Perisher is the largest, Thredbo is the highest resort. Both offer great equipment, slopes for all levels and an après-ski nightlife. Perisher has the most expansive ski terrain in Australia and is also the largest resort in the Southern Hemisphere. Whilst your skiing experience won’t be the same to that of Europe, North America or Japan, it’s worth knowing that you have an option to put the ski boots on, when visiting Australia, or if you fancy skiing in the Summer, just hop on a plane and head a few thousand miles South.
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