You could forgive the Afghans for having other things on their minds, rather than skiing. Yet not only is Bamiyan welcoming backcountry skiers to its slopes, the Bamyan Ski Club has even held a couple of ski-touring races.
With help from the Aga Khan Foundation, the Bamyan Ski Club is hoping to develop tourism in this culturally rich part of Afghanistan (Bamyan was home to the huge 6th Century Buddhas, infamously blown up by the Taliban) - seeing other war-torn areas such as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavian states as examples of how this can be done.
If you do ski here, be aware that there is no on mountain rescue, and you’re on your own when making any avalanche safety decisions.
Skiing in Africa – this is the novelty that Morocco can deliver, alongside the sights of men in ankle length shirts skiing alongside women in burkas. But it’s not just resort skiing here, as the backcountry ski touring is not only good, but offers a true cultural journey through these desert mountains.
Even though being so far south, the High Atlas Mountains get a lot of snow, benefitting from their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its storms. They’re also helped by being very high, with Jebel Toubkal being the highest point of North Africa at 4,167m.
The French colonised most of North Africa, Morocco being no exception, and introduced skiing to the fun loving Arabs, who still embrace the sport. The French created possibly the country’s best resort, Oukaimeden, only an hour’s drive south of downtown Marrakesh. It has a couple of lifts and good 1,000m of vertical.
Mischliffen Resort, near Fes, is a far more developed resort and bizarrely has a kind of Swiss feel. One minute you’re driving through a forest, with monkeys in the trees, and the next you’re in the alpine village of Ifran, which is the town for the nearby slopes of Mischliffen.
The newly formed independent countries of this region are all thrusting forward with their own plans for economic development, with many hoping for inclusion into the EU, none more so than the very new countries of Kosovo and Montenegro.
The government of the Republic of Kosovo sees tourism and skiing as a way to generate large sums of foreign cash. To help, it’s put out to tenure a contract for a resort operator/developer to help with the development of the existing Brezovica Ski Resort, which currently has only 9 pistes.
Montenegro already has some small ski resorts, such as Durmitor, and has a fledgling infrastructure of mountain guides, who will lead ski touring holidays and day trips.
Serbia’s main resort is Kopaonik, which has a very western feel, with 24 new lifts and 55km of piste. Kopaonik is a very inexpensive place to ski and a great choice for beginners.
Gulmarg is India’s top resort and is situated in the stunningly beautiful, although often disputed with Pakistan, Kashmir region.
There’s one long gondola here which reaches a height of almost 4,000 m and opens up a huge skiing area, which is great for the intermediate/advanced skier.
A new chair lift called was opened in 2012, servicing the top half of the mountain, showing a real intent to grow this resort in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
From the top of the gondola you can hike even higher and access over 1,500 m of vertical - some of the skiable faces here are a massive unobstructed downhill run of 1,200m vertical, enough to get anyone’s legs burning.
But it’s not just the mountain that’s the lure here: it’s the people, their culture, the food and the fact that you’ll be living off the stories of skiing here for a very long time.
There is also very good heli-skiing – oh, and it’s great for a cup of tea too!
The last time I was in the Middle East I saw a man wearing a t-shirt that had a picture of a man bent double laughing, under the words ‘Peace in the Middle East!’
Unfortunately, it’s this constant cycle of conflict and periods of peace, which has seen a lack of interest in skiing these fantastic mountains. Lebanon has six ski resorts, a fact that will surprise most, the pick of which are ‘The Cedars’ and Mazar.
The Cedars resort (at 2095m) is surrounded by an ancient cedar forest and sits within a large open bowl, which is where you ski. It saw a large investment in 2005, with 3 new chairlifts replacing the old drags plus, and a more recent input of $15 million has been spent on resort base facilities. There is even talk of a new 6 person gondola and a new hotel, but due to another cycle of unrest the plans are on hold.
Mazar is Lebanon’s most popular resort, being close to Beirut and having 80km of pistes. The skiing here is between 1850m and 2465m, so whilst not a huge vertical, it does offer some long runs.
Where? Well it’s the little known country swamped to its north by Kazakhstan, of Borat fame.
Kyrgyzstan maybe small, but the Tien Shan mountains in this central Asian country, are massive, and in fact the only flat part of this intriguing country are its lakes.
Close to the capital Bishkek (named after a wooden spoon for stirring the local tipple of fermented mares milk), is the Ala Archa National Park, which has a small ski resort.
But the best place to hit the slopes is the resort of Karakol. The town of Karakol sits on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, very near the borders of China and Kazakhstan, and in Soviet times, the ski resort here was the training base for the Olympic national team. 2004 saw the base area completely modernized, and the abundant snow makes for great powder skiing, between 2,000 and 3,000m.
CorsicaA little skiing, followed by a swim in the Mediterranean - yes it’s possible on the Island of Corsica.
There are four resorts on the Island - Col de Vergio, Ghisoni, Haut-Asco, Val d'Ese - none of which offer much more than the fun of skiing a few turns in the winter sun! Col de Vergio is the oldest resort with six drag lifts and some short tree runs.
Corsica is famed within hiking circles for it’s very demanding GR20 route, and of course if you can hike it then you can ski tour it - well some of it, anyway. The Corsica Haute Route is a very tough 11 day ski tour from South to North and covers most of this mountainous Mediterranean island.
Raise, Lake District, EnglandAn hour’s uphill hike from the mines of Glenridding, and you’ll be at the Raise button ski tow. The one tow here, maintained by the Lake District Ski Club, enables you to ski on the best snow in the Lakes.
The club was founded in 1936 by the local aristocrats who longed for the slopes of Europe, but didn’t have the time to pop over every weekend.
Raise was chosen as the site, as it has the best snow record, and has the ability to offer nine pistes - when conditions are right. The 2012/13 season saw the tow operate for sixty days, with skiers and riders at Raise enjoying some blue sky powder days with views down to Ullswater.
You used to need to be voted for/proposed to become a member, but after Raise accepted some much needed lottery funding, anyone can now join for £23 plus £7 for a day ticket. While a whole season ticket is only £55.
Sochi RussiaThere is something very strange about skiing past a sniper, and having airport style security checks before getting on a chair lift - all sound a bit farfetched? Well think again; this is Sochi after all.
The Russians take security seriously in this part of their vast country, and maybe after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics thing will change, but right now there is a real overkill in security, with snipers dug into the slopes and serious military hardware in resort.
Being built from scratch for this year’s Winter Olympics, Sochi has a weird feel to it anyway, but add that to the likelihood of having a gun pointed at you if you venture off-piste, then Sochi just had to be on this list.
Tiffindell, South AfricaTiffindell is situated in the Southern Drakensberg at 2720m, and with the peak of Ben McDhui reaching 3001m, it can offer skiing for three months of the year, so while it summer in the UK you can head south for a ski safari with a difference.
Tiffindell’s south facing position makes for good snow conditions, which are helped by state of the art snowmaking and a couple of newish grooming machines.
While the pistes are short by European standards, the terrain park is a lot of fun with a selection of jumps and rails.