10 Strangest Ski Resorts You Won’t Believe Exist
From dictatorship to erupting volcanoes, we’re taking you on a journey to 10 of the strangest and most unusual ski resorts to exist on our planet. Get ready for some outrageous skiing you won’t believe is possible.
Number 10: Masikryong, North Korea
Our journey starts off in the hermit kingdom of North Korea. Not exactly a ski destination that comes to mind! But deep in the rugged Taebaek Mountains near Wonsan on the east coast lies Masikryong Ski Resort, leader Kim Jong Un’s wacky winter wonderland pet project.
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This luxury resort was Kim's personal obsession, inspired by his time studying abroad as a young boy eating chocolate in Switzerland. He wanted to emulate the charming Swiss ski chalets and slopes he enjoyed in his youth. So the young dictator ordered his army construction corps to build Masikryong in just 10 unbelievable months, a feat of speed they boasted as "Masikryong speed."
With over 15 miles of mostly empty North Korean ski runs all to yourself, it just might be the world’s loneliest ski resort! Ride up the high-speed Austrian-made lifts and gaze out at the mountain vistas surrounding you. But don’t relax too much - you’re likely to see blaring propaganda music playing out across the slopes. As a foreign tourist, you'll be watched at all times by government minders. So wave and smile!
The skiing is decent with beginner and intermediate cruising runs, as well as a hardcore double black diamond mogul run to challenge you. Watch out for the ski patrol as they zip around watching for trouble on the slopes. Or maybe it's so they can arrest you for skiing off the approved trail map!
After a long day carving tracks, you can try to relax at the massive on-site Masikryong Hotel. This imposing 11-story triangular building has over 120 rooms, an indoor pool, a karaoke bar, and more. The hotel interior is straight out of Switzerland with wood-paneled rooms, marble floors, and penthouse suites overlooking the slopes - just with an omnipresent eerie vibe of being watched wherever you go. Don't expect to explore or meet locals without everything being controlled and micro-managed around you.
Enjoy cocktails at the Swiss-themed bars and restaurants, with menu items like fondues and raclettes. But you won't see many other tourists, as the hotel often sits completely empty except for on-edge government guides and somber-looking resort staff. It is a surreal contrast to the poverty and ox carts that still roam the frozen North Korean countryside outside the resort's fortified gates.
So if you’re searching for a truly bizarre ski vacation, and don't mind supporting a controversial regime, Masikryong just might be for you. Just remember to bow before the Kim statues and keep your propaganda smile on! This ski resort is like nowhere else on Earth.
Number 9: Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Skiing this dormant Hawaiian volcano is an unforgettable experience, but Mauna Kea's jagged landscape and thin air present unique challenges. With no ski patrol, lifts, or amenities, this is backcountry skiing in one of the world's most extreme environments.
At 13,796 feet, the air is dangerously thin. Altitude sickness can kick in rapidly. The weather is also wildly unpredictable. Blinding winds and whiteout conditions are common, making the steep volcanic slopes treacherous.
And while the sun might seem warm, UV exposure is severe. The tropical sunlight reflects harshly off the snow, so be sure to wear goggles and high-SPF sunblock.
After skiing the spring-like snow, called "pineapple powder," watch out for hidden rocks lurking below the surface, famed for damaging skis.
There are no lifts so you’ll need a capable driver to shuttle you back up to the top or you’ll be hiking back up for your next run.
While risky, shredding down a Hawaiian volcano under sunny skies is an adrenaline rush you won't find anywhere else!
Number 8: Bamyan, Afghanistan.
For our next stop, get ready for a true ski adventure as we head to the snowy slopes of Bamyan, Afghanistan.
Surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains, Bamyan offered a peaceful re spite from the turbulence elsewhere. And its remote location means the powder is untouched. Skiing here is about as raw as it gets - no groomed trails - just wide-open mountaintops.
Peer down at the valley dotted with remote villages, then slice through dry, unbroken powder all the way back down.
The skiing and hospitality make the long journey to Bamyan worthwhile - well it did before the Taliban took over. Locals were embracing the sport not just for adventure but for the jobs and income ski tourism provides.
The Afghan Ski Challenge brought international attention, pitting tourists against tenacious local skiers who trained on homemade wooden planks.
While luxuries are minimal, the views of the Hindu Kush peaks are unmatched. For skilled skiers seeking incredible scenery and cultural immersion in a little-known place, the snow-capped slopes of Bamyan delivered an experience that's anything but ordinary.
Coming up soon, we'll take you skiing down the fiery erupting slopes of one of Europe's most active volcanoes! But first, we’re going to North Africa.
Number 7: Oukaïmeden, Morocco.
Nestled high in the Atlas Mountains just 45 minutes from Marrakesh, this hidden gem of Oukaïmeden ski resort offers a peaceful winter escape from the scorching heat and dusty plains of Morocco.
At 8,500 feet elevation, the slopes here get blanketed in over 6 feet of featherlight snow each season. And with only two ski lifts, Oukaïmeden is a small resort with a laid-back vibe. The scenery is sublime as well, with cedar forests and Barbary sheep sharing the mountainsides.
After a day of carving, unwind in true Moroccan fashion. Soothe aching muscles in the steaming hammams of Marrakech, then kick back with sweet mint tea and a shisha pipe.
Oukaïmeden brilliantly fuses skiing with Moroccan culture. It’s one of a small number of ski resorts in the African continent. While far from a glitzy resort, its remote setting and community feel deliver an authentic cultural experience you won't find anywhere else.
Number 6: Mt. Etna, Sicily.
For a truly volcanic skiing adventure, look no further than the fiery slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. At 10,900 feet, Etna is Europe's largest active volcano, making this resort one of the most thrilling in the world.
Hope you aren't afraid of flying lava bombs!
While eruptions occasionally spew ash unexpectedly that dusts the mountainside. The two main resorts, Nicolosi and Piano Provenzana, offer smooth, lava-lined runs from beginner to expert. Just keep your eyes peeled for any smoke plumes billowing up so you can ski faster than the falling ash!
Crowds are sparse, letting you carve down slopes with unspoiled views of Sicily in every direction. On a clear day, peer down at the beaches and the turquoise Mediterranean Sea from the mountain's peak. The skiing is diverse as well, with options for alpine skiing through evergreen forests or volcanic moonscapes.
After a day hitting the trails, indulge in Sicilian wines and cuisine from the nutrient-rich volcanic soil. Etna brilliantly fuses sweeping scenery with a thrilling off-the-beaten-path skiing experience you won't find anywhere else. If you like your adventures bold and your snow volcanic, Sicily's fiery mountain is calling.
Number 5: Tiffindell, South Africa.
For our next stop, we're headed to the slopes of South Africa's only ski resort. Nestled within the Drakensberg Mountains, Tiffindell offers a snowy escape in the most unlikely of places.
At 8,900 feet elevation, it's the highest ski resort in Africa. While only receiving around 2 feet of natural snowfall each winter, artificial snowmaking helps the resort open in between June and August.
The skiing itself is quite limited in scale and scope. With only a few short runs and minimal vertical drop, expert skiers will likely find it underwhelming.
While certainly not a premier skiing destination, Tiffindell offers novelty as the only ski resort in South Africa and one of the few in the entire continent.
Still to come we've got an abandoned resort that was once the highest in the world. Find out why it’s impossible to ski here. Up next we head to the Middle East!
Number 4: Mt. Hermon, Israel.
Teleport yourself to the snow-capped slopes of Mt. Hermon in Israel. At 9,232 feet, it's the highest peak in the country, towering above the Golan Heights along the Syrian and Lebanese border. This strategic location makes Mt. Hermon a one-of-a-kind skiing destination.
The Mount Hermon Ski Resort features 14 runs spanning over 20 miles of wide-open terrain. Take the scenic gondola up to the summit, then take your pick of groomed cruiser runs or venture into the backcountry. But don't go too far off the approved trail map or you may end up in a restricted military zone!
While the ski season lasts from January through March, snow isn’t guaranteed.
The mountain's remote location means weather with sudden whiteout winds whipping down from Syria. And lifts may close if tensions heighten on the border. It's a landscape shaped by its sensitive geopolitical position.
If you're up for skiing fused with culture and history, Mount Hermon delivers an experience like no other. Consider venturing to Mt. Hermon for an only-in-Israel skiing adventure you won't soon forget.
Number 3: Cerro Castor, Argentina.
Nestled against the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia, Argentina, Cerro Castor has a claim to being the southernmost ski resort on Earth. This remote location is near the aptly named “End of the World”.
The quality of snow is unmatched, thanks to a southwest orientation that catches regular powder dumps.
Its 16 lifts provide access to over 25 runs covering all abilities. You'll find wide-open bowls, tree glades, and a terrain park accessed by high-speed quads.
But it’s the views that really set Cerro Castor apart. Gazing across the icy channel to Chile is an experience you won’t find at any other resort. After a long day skiing, unwind in the cozy mountain restaurants overlooking these insane vistas.
The lively city of Ushuaia offers great dining and nightlife just 30 minutes away.
The long ski season from June to October makes this a mecca for Southern Hemisphere skiers. Cerro Castor provides an adventurous skiing experience like no other. If you’re searching for the most unusual and exotic resorts on Earth, Cerro Castor is a must-ski.
Number 2: Chacaltaya Glacier, Bolivia.
Perched high in the Bolivian Andes lies the abandoned ruins of what was once the world's highest ski resort. Chacaltaya Glacier ski area held the record at an astonishing 17,785 feet above sea level - even higher than Mount Everest's base camp!
From the 1930s to the 1980s, Chacaltaya operated a single rope tow offering skiers thrilling descents down its half-kilometer glacier. For residents of nearby La Paz, it provided an adventurous weekend escape just 20 miles from the city.
But in the early 1990s, scientists delivered a grave prediction - the glacier would vanish completely by 2015. Tragically, even their dire forecast proved too optimistic. By 2009, 18,000 years of ice had melted away, shutting down ski operations forever.
Today, only faded memories and crumbling infrastructure remain where skiers once flocked. The two lone caretakers struggle to maintain the beloved relic. And La Paz faces a dire water shortage with its glacial water source dried up.
Chacaltaya's tragic demise stands as a stark warning and wake-up call on climate change.
Number 1: Gulmarg, India.
Nestled high in the Himalayas, Gulmarg is one of the world's highest and most adventurous ski resorts. With incredible snowfall - around 26 feet per season - and mostly ungroomed terrain, it's a powder paradise attracting expert skiers and boarders from far and wide.
Gulmarg is nestled deep in the Indian Himalayas, in remote and rugged mountainous terrain. The surrounding geography is stunning but infrastructure is lacking compared to your typical Western resorts.
Access the legendary terrain via 2 gondolas up Mt Apharwat. The Phase 1 gondola reaches beginner slopes while Phase 2 ascends to 13,000 ft for extreme in-bounds and off-piste runs. We're talking chutes, bowls, cliffs - endless options if you're willing to hike for turns.
Gulmarg has a famed and legendary local ski culture. Skilled Kashmiri ski guides and patrollers intimately understand the mountain and snowpack. Hiring a local guide is a must for safely navigating the terrain and getting the most out of your trip.
This resort sees massive snowfall and the quantities of deep powder exceed almost any other resort worldwide. This is a true powder paradise.
Beyond world-class skiing, Gulmarg delivers a one-of-a-kind cultural immersion with bustling markets and delicious cuisine. However, with the high altitude, potential for political unrest, and infrastructure challenges.
It might be rough around the edges, but Gulmarg is top of our list.
For extreme skiers and riders seeking unmatched experience in a spectacular Himalayan setting, Gulmarg is India's ski secret. This is a bucket list destination guaranteed to provide stories for a lifetime.