WHEN you think of skiing, what immediately comes to mind? Performing aerials on the Swiss Alps, gliding down the snowy slopes of Chamonix in France or joining a ski tour at the world-famous Sella Ronda route in Italy. Or perhaps you think of the powdered off-piste slopes that adorn the mountainsides in Canada. But would you ever consider Asia for a skiing holiday? You ought to.
Asia is actually home to some of the world’s best ski resorts, suitable for both professionals and amateurs looking to find their snow-legs. On top of that, with the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the spotlight is going to be on Asia’s best destinations for skiers.
Here we look at some of the region’s best routes for those looking for some winter fun this festive season:
Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort
This Japanese ski resort really shines as one of the best resorts in Asia. It offers incredible ski terrain, huge snowfall of around 12 meters per season. The lower and wider terrains at the base of the mountain, close to the village, offer the perfect setting for those just finding their balance on the snow.
The mountain offers skiers the choice of nine courses, including a challenging 39-degree steep slope, halfpipe, and jumping course.
After a full day carving the snow and exploring the areas only visible on skis or snowboards, you can relax and rejuvenate in a local onsen (hot spring), before fueling up with some authentic Japanese cuisine and retiring for the night.
Nozawa Onsen also offers vacationers a unique experience on Jan 15, every year. The Dosojin Matsui (Fire Festival) is celebrated here annually. The incredible show of blazing torches and fake battles can be enjoyed with a handsome amount of sake. This is a celebration not to be missed.
Niseko is considered Japan’s number one ski resort, known for its wide-open powder slopes and tree runs that connect four interlinked ski resorts – Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and An’nipuri.
Grand Hirafu boosts a plethora of scrumptious cafes, restaurants offering traditional Japanese cuisines, French-Japanese fusion and American comfort food to warm you up. The nightlife choices are also a favorite with locals and vacationers alike.
Changbaishan International Resort
Located in the vast and beautiful province that is Jilin, and surrounded by tranquil emerald forests, this is a ski resort that couldn’t be further away from the high-rise, smog infested, busy cities around China.
The resort is equipped with internationally-acclaimed infrastructure that would perhaps put some European or North American resorts to shame. With two high-speed gondolas, three six-person chairlifts and 10 magic carpets, you’ll never be short of choices on where to ski.
The lifts connect to 43 runs, all unique and fortunate enough to be graced with natural snow-fall, which is a rarity in many Chinese ski resorts.
This resort is renowned around the globe for its idyllic skiing terrain. The skier’s paradise has already won Korea’s Best Ski Resort three times and established itself as one on the top skiing destination across the entire continent. It’s popularity has also led it to being chosen to host the Slalom and Giant Slalom events at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
For serious skiers, YongPyong offers night time ski options, because why limit skiing to just the daytime? The resort has 15 lifts that service 31 runs.
It is also home to Dragon Plaza, which is considered to be one of Asia’s biggest ski houses, and is well-equipped with restaurants, karaoke booths, a bowling alley and even indoor-golf simulator for those missing the summer sports.
The resort is perfect for families and those wishing to take a few days out of the busy capital of Seoul, to grab some time on the powdered slopes.
Just a 45 minutes’ drive south of Seoul, snow sports enthusiast can find five slopes, all varying in difficulty levels. As a bonus, the slopes are also open until the early hours of the morning for those who want to practice skiing, undisturbed by youngsters and beginners.
Our pick – India
The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa
India certainly doesn’t come to the forefront of many minds when thinking about winter sports, snuggling up in front of a cozy fire or sipping hot chocolate. For those not familiar to the region, its a country that usually evokes a picture of dusty plains and blistering sun, but we’re not fibbing when we say India has some of the most incredible ski conditions on the globe.
Across the north of India lies the fringes of the Himalayas, which is home to the five-star luxury resort, The Khyber. The resort is located in the Gulmarg region, only 90 minutes from Srinagar airport.
It has six bunny-slopes perfect for beginners and several steeper, higher slopes for expert skiers. Height-junkies can ride in one of the world’s highest cable cars – the Gulmarg Gondola – going from base station at about 8,530ft above sea-level to final drop-off on Kongdoori Mountain, the shoulder of the nearby Apharwat peak, at about 12,293 ft above sea-level.
The safety at this resort is maintained to the highest standard, patrolled by American avalanche specialists and 14 Kashmiri snow scientists and rescue specialists, all highly trained and well-prepared for any situation.