Alpine huts, chocolate crêpes, outdoor hot tubs and gallons of glühwein; these things probably spring to mind when you conjure up images of après-ski in some ice-bound resort. But what about active volcanoes, African sunsets and a warming plate of rogan josh at the end of an invigorating day on the slopes? Check out some of these unlikely spots where you can enjoy the white stuff.
Afghanistan: Political instability, highly militarized and terrorist prone area Afghanistan does not exactly sound like an idyllic ski resort and it does not have an actual ski resort just yet, but that doesn’t mean you cannot get a little on and off-piste action. Bamyan Province was the first in the country to establish a tourist board and one of the initiatives to entice visitors to central Afghanistan is the Afghan Ski Challenge.
The 7km race, also open to snowboarders, takes place each March and offers its adventurous participants a true taste of ‘outback skiing’. Amenities are basic as best — there are no lifts, no mountain rescue, only the most basic medical care and racers need to be totally self-sufficient.
Hawaii: Adrenaline fiends can get a double fix on Big Island in winter, tackling the slopes of Mauna Kea (White Mountain) in the morning and enjoying some surf after lunch. The dormant volcano isn’t called White Mountain for nothing, but just because there’s snow doesn’t mean this is an easy slope to ski down. This is true wilderness skiing, or snowboarding, where a 4×4 is your only lift and facilities are entirely absent. The vertiginous slopes are not for novices — the uninitiated skier is better just visiting the mountain for its superb astronomical observatories or sticking to sipping cocktails on the beach.
Greece: The typical trip to Greece tends to include sunny days and sandy beaches rather than snow-covered mountains and ski resorts, but if you visit in the winter months, there are plenty of the latter scattered about. For a country you don’t tend to associate with winter sports, the resorts are comprehensive and offer a range of runs for skiers and snowboarders. Dilute time on the slopes with a little historical sightseeing, or if you prefer to stay on the piste, you can get a taste of Greek mythology on slopes boasting names like Aphrodite, Hera and Hermes.
Mongolia: Skiing on the steppes might seem an unlikely option, but Mongolia does boast a sole skiing resort, just 13km from Ulaanbaatar the capital on Bogd Khan Mountain. Beginners are well served and there are also a few runs of interest to more advanced skiers. The old ‘it’s-too-cold-to-snow’ story seems relevant here, and while you can bank on nose-numbing temperatures that plummet way below zero, the white stuff is often provided by snow cannons. While you’re in the area, don’t miss a visit to the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, a colossal sculpture of the emperor on horseback.
South Africa: Although better known for safaris and surf, South Africa also boasts a downhill ski resort. After extensive refurbishments, Tiffindell Ski Resort reopened in 2013. Sitting in the Eastern Cape, hugging the border with mountainous Lesotho, which also offers a similar small facility, Tiffindell opens to skiers and snowboarders for three months in the Southern Hemisphere winter. Boozy après-ski in the on-site pub, claiming to be the highest in South Africa, is just as much a part of the experience as a day on the main slope.