30 Jan

Weird and wonderful ski destinations

The British have had a long love affair with winter sports. If you ever have the chance to visit the august offices of the Ski Club of Great Britain in leafy Wimbledon, you will see black and white pictures of adventurous ex-Army types staring down at you from the walls together with heavy wooden skis and metal bindings which look distinctly dangerous. I suspect broken ankles were fairly commonplace in the early days of skiing.

These brave, sports loving adventurers have a fair claim to have invented, or at the very least popularised, skiing for leisure purposes and the Alpine resorts they frequented are still amongst the very best that the world can offer. However, why not continue in their ground-breaking spirit and try out new and relatively untried destinations? Escape the crowded runs of Switzerland and France for destinations where the après-ski may not be quite so polished, but you will gain off the scale kudos over your more pedestrian chums.


Argentina, steaks, tango, Eva Peron, Malbec, Che Guevara and… skiing! Yes, the mountain of Cerro Cathedral, is a bustling ski resort near the town of Bariloche in Patagonia offers a wide range of pistes for you to burn through the calories after eating an asado (an emperor sized mix grill), plus those South Americans do love a party. Bariloche is well known amongst students for its night life and inexpensive ski resorts.


When you think of volcanoes in Italy, I suspect the destruction and subsequent amazing preservation of Pompeii on the outskirts of Naples come to mind. But Italy also has Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna in Sicily which erupts regularly, providing spectacular light shows for the neighbouring cities of Catania and Taormina. But, the eruptions are usually fairly minor and easily avoided, so those entrepreneurial Sicilians have taken full advantage of Etna’s dramatic slopes and exciting topography on the upper slopes and the gentler conditions further down, which are perfect for beginners. If you’re tempted to mix fire and ice never forget that Etna is a VOLCANO so check with the locals and take their expert advice before heading off to Europe’s most unusual ski location.


Australia has a most aptly named range of peaks, the Snowy Mountains. However, I’m not suggesting you head there for your powder fix, no head to the home of devils and Hollywood’s greatest ever daredevil Errol Flynn, the stunningly lovely island of Tasmania. From the 1,500 peak in Ben Lomond National Park, you will find panoramic views of the Tasmania’s unspoilt countryside before you career off down the slopes in the true spirit of the frontier and Flynnesque daring do. It will feel like the baking heat and red deserts of the outback are on another planet rather than in the same country.


And finally thrill seekers… Lesotho. Where I hear, you ask? Lesotho is a delightful, small country, fully enclosed within the borders of South Africa. It is truly an African Andorra or San Marino. 3,000m above sea level the Maluti Mountains will give you surely the most unexpected vistas in the world of winter sports as you hurtle down the slopes marvelling at the unforgettable landscapes of this most unforgettable continent.

So get with the pioneering spirit and try somewhere truly off piste and let me know if you come up with any other suggestions. I would love to hear them.