Break Out That Passport
The Best Bucket List Ski and Snowboard Experiences in the World
No matter how much snow your local resort is getting this winter, part of the fun of skiing and snowboarding is traveling to new mountain ranges in search of foreign snow. The idea that somewhere on the planet the powder is deeper, the bowls are wider and the chutes are steeper is too alluring not to take a peek Expedia’s current rates. Like seeking nirvana, the quest for the perfect run will forever be incomplete, and that’s a good thing. But there’s no harm in looking, right?
Resort Skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees
Spain, land of Flamenco and paella, is not often thought of as a destination for top-notch European snow. The Alps’ siren call lures skiers and snowboarders to Austria, Switzerland and Italy, leaving Spanish ski resorts to the west unassuming and uncrowded. That’s despite endless kilometers of open terrain — Baqueira/Beret Resort is the most expansive with some 4,700 acres — plus state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming. Not to mention quaint slate-roofed Pyrenean villages and ski lodge menus that include foie gras alongside compulsory jamón and vino tinto.
Closest Airport: Toulouse, France
When to Visit: January – March
Cost: €50/day at Baqueira/Beret
Heli Skiing in New Zealand’s Southern Alps
If you get skunked in the Northern Hemisphere this winter you can always head Down Under. The Southern Alps of New Zealand are known for treeless ski fields. But to reach the highest peaks, you’ll need to hire a chopper. Harris Mountain Heli-Ski, based in Queenstown, flies 11 different mountain ranges covering 3,000 square kilometers of terrain that includes low-angle bowls for those with shaky knees and big mountain lines for anyone looking for an adrenaline spike. Harris Mountain has been piloting trips for more than 30 years, so they know where to find the good stuff. Cutting lines down the Aoraki Mount Cook range may be the best way to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Closest Airport: Queenstown, New Zealand
When to Visit: July – October
Cost: ~$703+ / 3 runs
Cat Skiing in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia
The Selkirk Mountains straddle the Idaho/Washington border and extend deep into British Columbia. The range is home to a number of cat-skiing operations, thanks to a consistently bottomless snowfall. Baldface Lodge provides the full package — after a helicopter transfer from Nelson, British Columbia, you’ll be treated to breakfast buffets, massages and 15,000 feet of untouched Canadian cold-smoke. Be prepared to play hard, and play hard some more.
Closest Airport: Spokane, Washington
When to Visit: December – April
Cost: ~$3,098 / 3 days
Touring in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan isn’t on anyone’s travel list — maybe due to the Central Asian country’s Soviet past, or fear of the “-stan” suffix — but it should be. Look at a relief map of the region and you’ll notice that Kyrgyzstan is covered in mountains, and where there’s mountains there’s snow. Ski infrastructure is still minimal, with only about a dozen resorts, which means that you’ll have the 3,600m peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains all to yourself if you’re willing to earn your turns. 40 Tribes has built their yurt camp experience around the idea of community-based tourism and offers six weeks of guided or unguided ski and snowboard experiences each winter. How is the snow you ask? You’re required to bring skis 115mm or wider, if that answers your question.
Closest Airport: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
When to Visit: January – March
Cost: $2,225 / 4-day guided tour
Hut to Hut in Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Huts
The 10th Mountain Division Huts originated in the early 1980s with a group of Aspen skiers that included Fritz Benedict, a World War II vet who was inspired by the extensive system of mountaineering huts found in Europe. Now the system comprises 34 backcountry huts that sleep anywhere from three to twenty people and service more than 350 miles of mapped trails. The huts are equipped with everything you need for cooking and sleeping, and toilet paper as well. There isn’t a better slow skiing experience out there (unless you count sitting in traffic on I-80 on the way to Vail).