A Guide to the World's Top Off-the-Beaten-Path Ski Areas

Enjoy alluring trails, challenging runs and picturesque backdrops in these underrated ski spots.

By Roger Sands, ContributorDec. 23, 2016
By Roger Sands, ContributorDec. 23, 2016, at 2:37 p.m.
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Panoramic shot of young female freestyle skier in high mountains at early morning.
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(Getty Images)

Tackle lesser-known terrain in these under-the-radar ski destinations.

Each year, millions of skiers head to the slopes to shred powder in iconic mountain ranges such as the Rockies, the Alps and the Pyrenees. But while you can count on excellent terrain in these top ski areas, you can also expect steep crowds and prices. As an enticing alternative, these eight underrated ski areas offer ideal snow conditions along with slopes well-suited for beginners and experts alike. For a sense of solitude on the trails, along with wallet-friendly ticket prices, head to these often-overlooked ski areas.
Gleenshee Ski Center.
Credit

(Courtesy of Ski Scotland)

Glenshee Ski Center, Scotland

When you think of Europe's great mountain ranges, Scotland likely isn't the first place to come to mind. However, both the terrain and snow conditions compare favorably to some of the world's famous ski resorts. Glenshee, the largest in ski resort in the U.K., covers 2,000 acres with 25 miles of piste runs extending across four mountains. Plus, you can experience an alpine feel at Glenshee, which features 21 lifts and 36 runs. And if you're looking for a lively après-ski scene, there are three eateries at the resort that are perfect for enjoying a hot chocolate and a small bite when you need a break from the slopes.
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Tackle lesser-known terrain in these under-the-radar ski destinations.

Each year, millions of skiers head to the slopes to shred powder in iconic mountain ranges such as the Rockies, the Alps and the Pyrenees. But while you can count on excellent terrain in these top ski areas, you can also expect steep crowds and prices. As an enticing alternative, these eight underrated ski areas offer ideal snow conditions along with slopes well-suited for beginners and experts alike. For a sense of solitude on the trails, along with wallet-friendly ticket prices, head to these often-overlooked ski areas.

Glenshee Ski Center, Scotland

When you think of Europe's great mountain ranges, Scotland likely isn't the first place to come to mind. However, both the terrain and snow conditions compare favorably to some of the world's famous ski resorts. Glenshee, the largest in ski resort in the U.K., covers 2,000 acres with 25 miles of piste runs extending across four mountains. Plus, you can experience an alpine feel at Glenshee, which features 21 lifts and 36 runs. And if you're looking for a lively après-ski scene, there are three eateries at the resort that are perfect for enjoying a hot chocolate and a small bite when you need a break from the slopes.

Kangaamiut, Greenland

The rugged terrain around the small village of Kangaamiut offers descents of more than 6,000 feet to the water's edge, including long, flat glaciers that are perfect for moderate skiers and extreme skiers alike. The unique cultural experience provided by heli-skiing makes it an adventure that all skiers should consider. Reputable outfitter Mountain Adventures is uniquely positioned to take advantage of hundreds of glacial runs dropping into three different fjords directly behind the Island of Kangaamiut. Groups include four skiers and a guide. Upcoming heli-skiing adventures on the west coast of Greenland will take place in April and May.

Flagstaff, Arizona

With Arizona's consistent sunshine and high temperatures that often reach triple digits in the summer season, it's hard to imagine the Arizona Snowbowl receives an average of 260 inches of snow annually. Flagstaff has been Arizona's winter sports city since the early 1900s, and Arizona Snowbowl is the state's premier winter destination. With a vertical drop of 2,300 feet, you can carve your way down 40 runs and 777 acres of fun. Freestylers will enjoy twisting within the Sunset Terrain Park. And in the event the weather fails to cooperate, a snowmaking system covers over 50 percent of trails, allowing for prime conditions from late November to early April.

Nordica Skiarena, Hungary

Winter is a great time to visit Hungary. Although Hungary isn't famous for its ski resorts, the country offers a unique spin on a traditional ski getaway. In fact, skiing has become one of the favorite pastimes in Hungary in recent years thanks to the heavy snowfall in small, lesser-known mountain areas. Home to six resorts, Hungary provides varied terrain along with excellent cuisine and a festive après-ski scene. Nordica Skiarena is the largest ski center in Hungary with 16 slopes and plenty of educational courses with ski instructors for beginners and experienced powder hounds alike.

Thredbo, Australia

When you picture Australia, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef may come to mind. But Australia is also home to some terrific skiing spots. Thredbo has the longest and most vertical terrain in the country, with natural hits, wind lips and powder bowls to satisfy even the most advanced riders. Plus, Thredbo's off-piste areas rank among the best in the Southern Hemisphere with numerous rollers and kickers in addition to some fabulous powder bowls. Beginners and intermediate skiers will appreciate the long, tree-lined trails that are ideal for practicing turns. Even better, efficient quad chairlifts ensure more time on the slopes.

Chapelco Ski Resort, Argentina

Within close proximity to the impressive Lanìn volcano that borders Chile and Argentina, Chapelco Ski Resort offers plenty of scenic forest runs. Expert skiers love to explore the steep terrain in the side-country, where there are chutes and bowls containing challenging pitches. Plus, a new high-speed quad and gondola serves 28 trails. And thanks to an annual average snowfall of nearly 30 feet, visitors can snowboard and ski at Chapelco from June to early October. If you love soaking up après-ski festivities, you can find a lively post-ski scene in San Martín de Los Andes.

Whakapapa, New Zealand

Skiing in New Zealand is an experience unlike any other. Postcard-worthy views at every (ski) turn, Alpine peaks, azure lakes and resort towns jam-packed with Kiwi hospitality are all part of the allure of planning a New Zealand ski trip. New Zealand's more than 310 miles of resplendent mountain ranges divide the South Island from north to south, resulting in some serious skiing and boarding opportunities. Billed as New Zealand's premier winter playground, Whakapapa Ski Area offers a potpourri of downhill activities, with amazing natural terrain that includes massive snow-filled basins, lift accessed back country slopes and steep chutes, among other features.

Wintergreen, Virginia

Nestled within 11,000 acres on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Wintergreen Resort is a favorite year-round vacation destination for East Coasters. At certain times of the year, especially during early spring, the elevation variance allows visitors to ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. Wintergreen Ski Area offers 23 trails and slopes with a variety of beginner and expert terrain. What's more, Wintergreen features a terrain park and the largest snow tubing park in the state with eight lanes, 900-foot chutes and a 100-foot vertical drop.
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Roger Sands, Contributor

Roger Sands is an experienced travel writer with a passion for destinations that inform and ...  Read more

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