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World’s Best Under-the-Radar Ski Destinations
Get a serious powder fix (without long lines!) at these up-and-coming skiing and snowboarding destinations.
Sure, you’ve heard of Aspen, Whistler and Tahoe—some of the most recognizable ski destinations in North America—but where do you go if you want a less-crowded destination that still boasts fresh powder and amazing trails? Throw your gear in a wheeled duffle and head to one of these emerging skiing and snowboarding spots, snow-obsessed locales that offer a world-class ski experience without hoards of people clogging up the lift lines. Just make sure to visit them soon—they won’t be under the radar for long.
Mount Bachelor, Bend, Oregon
Mount Bachelor—which is actually an extinct volcano—is a unique ski destination offering both downhill and Nordic skiing. While there isn’t any lodging on the mountain (Mount Bachelor is located on and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of Forest Service land), skiers typically stay in the lively town of Bend, located about 20 minutes from the mountain. It’s a fun-filled locale with restaurants, art galleries, outdoor adventure and more mirco- and craft- breweries per capita than any other part of the United States.
Bend started as a logging town with a largely Scandinavian population, a heritage that helped to give skiing its start in the area. What makes the mountain unique is that skiers have the ability to ski 360 degrees off the summit, with the top 1,500 feet (457 meters) of vertical above the tree line. The mountain’s tree skiing is among the best in the US, as the trees they are widely spaced. Recently, the Forest Service granted Mount Bachelor a new master development plan, which will add over 600 acres (243 hectares) of skiable terrain—mostly for advanced skiers—making it one of America’s five largest ski areas. The breakdown of Mount Bachelors ski trails is about 15 percent beginner, 25 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced and 25 percent expert.
Season: November through May
Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada
While most skiers visiting British Columbia head straight to Whistler Blackcomb, Revelstoke is a destination you should also add to your must-visit list. Featuring 5,620 feet (1,713 meters) of vertical drop—North America’s highest—as well as 3,121 acres (1,263 hectares) of groomed trails, high alpine bowls, gladed terrain and straight-line runs.
What truly makes this resort worth a visit is its heli-skiing offerings, which guests can conveniently access from the same village base as the lift, cat, and backcountry ski runs (it’s the only ski resort in the world to offer this). If you’re adventurous, check out the resort’s North Side Bowl, aimed mostly at intermediate-advanced to advanced-level skiers. Snowfall on the mountain averages an impressive 360 to 540 inches (12 to 18 meters) per year, and the levels of the mountain’s 40 trails break down to 10 percent beginner, 42.5 percent intermediate, and 47.5 percent advanced.
The newest addition to the slopes is the Turtle Creek Rail Line (opened during the 2012-2013 season), which takes you through the Turtle Creek Beginner Area. Other amenities at Revelstoke include a tube park, paragliding, and dog sledding.
Travel Tip: No matter what level slopes you choose ride, keep your money, IDs and credit cards safe on the slopes by wearing a money belt, which goes under your clothing and zips securely.
Season: November through April
Throughout most of its existence not even locals really took advantage of Engelberg’s ski offerings. It’s only recently that they’re starting to notice just what a gem this ski resort truly is.
As Engelberg is only just starting to get popular, it still remains relatively quiet, meaning skiers can immerse themselves in a peaceful world of powder-capped peaks, cliffs, glaciers, over 50 miles (80 kilometers) of piste, and consistently deep snow. Here you can experience one of Switzerland’s highest vertical drops at 6,562 feet (2,000 meters), as well as an off-piste skiing mecca for advanced skiers, for example, the “Steinberg,” which features glacial and crevassed terrain and 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) of vertical. Additionally, Engelberg is located only an hour from Lucerne as well as Zurich, giving you great options for further exploration of Switzerland. In Engelberg itself, you can enjoy its vibrant wellness culture full of spas and active pursuits.
Season: October through May
While Japan may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of skiing, it’s actually home to more than 600 ski resorts! This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as 75 percent of Japan is covered in mountains, many of which enjoy reliable and heavy snowfall.
Niseko is one of the most popular resorts of choice for international travelers, but for an up-and-coming choice, look to Furano. As Furano has made a habit of hosting major ski events it’s beginning to get more and more recognized by the outside world…but it still manages to retain a non-resort feel. There are many reasons to book a flight to this ski resort: It has a vertical drop of 3,163 feet (964 meters), an average snowfall of 26 feet (8 meters), consistently sunny skies, and one of the fastest ski lifts in Hokkaido.
This resort is great for families and beginner/intermediate skiers, with 16 miles (25 kilometers) of groomed trails, which 40 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate and 20 percent advanced (you’ll still find some steep terrain and challenging moguls). Bonus: Furano is one of the only ski resorts in Japan to offer such a large variety of accommodation styles to fit every budget, such as self-contained apartments, chalets, hostels, bed and breakfasts, pensions, and hotels.
Season: December through May
St Sorlin d'Arves, France
A lesser-known ski resort in the popular Les Sybelles ski area, St Sorlin d'Arves has much to offer those who know about it. It’s one of the newer ski resorts, and is still developing its trails and amenities. Along with the scenic beauty of the French Alps, you can look forward to more than 186 miles (300 kilometers) of pistes, well-groomed runs, reliable snow fall, slopes starting at 5,085 feet (1,550 meters) of vertical drop, and 10 miles (16 kilometers) of cross country ski trails.
Out of their 93 trails, 51 are beginner, 35 are intermediate and 7 are advanced. After you’re done for the day, head to the charming village of St Sorlin for some low-key apres-ski. Bonus: The resort’s prime location allows skiers to explore the rest of the Les Sybelles ski area, one of the country’s largest skiable domains, with more than 186 miles (300 kilometers) of intermediate skiing.
Season: December through April
Where do you plan on skiing or snowboarding this winter season?