Every year holiday-makers flock in their thousands to popular ski resorts, such as Chamonix, Banff, Vail and Aspen, but for some adventurous travellers the promise of new cultural experiences and the opportunity to explore undiscovered terrain entice them to search out new landscapes to conquer with their skis. If you too are interested in travelling somewhere different for your ski holiday this year, take a look at our list of alternative destinations, which have so far been overlooked by the masses.
Famous for its chaotic cities and enormous population, skiing is probably the last thing to come to mind when you think of India, however in the far North of this fascinating destination there are in fact a number of mountainous regions that are perfect for winter sports. It is after all here that the Himalayas are situated.
If it's a culture shock you're looking for, make the small village of Gulmarg in Kashmir the destination for your next ski break. This isolated location will leave you feeling as if you've stepped back in time, with shops and stalls selling ski-wear from the 70's. The locals here tend not to bother with road vehicles, preferring instead to travel by wooden sledges, which can be rented out for the equivalent of £0.20 GBP an hour. Visitors can only expect basic amenities in the way of accommodation, however what Gulmarg lacks in sophistication it makes up for with its breathtaking mountain views. Situated at 4000ft above sea level, Gulmarg is the highest region for practicing winter sports in the world.
A hotspot for skiers travelling on a budget since the 50's, Serbia lost its popularity in the 1990's when war and NATO bombings deemed it unsafe for tourists. In the years since these tragic events occurred Serbia has maintained a largely stable political situation, although it has not managed to shake its war-torn image. For those who are willing to overlook Serbia's past, they will be rewarded by this country's rich culture, remarkable scenery and low costs for accommodation, food, lift passes, ski lessons and souvenirs.
The village of Kapaonik is an ideal destination for beginner to intermediate level skiers, although there is plenty of off-piste terrain for the more experienced skier to explore in this area.
Perhaps most well-known as the homeland of the legendary Dracula, Romania is a captivating destination that offers tourists breathtaking landscapes that incorporate a vast expanse of snow-capped mountains with a littering of exquisite castles. Here it's the deserted mountainous slopes, tasty local delicacies and a fascinating culture that lure travellers to its slopes. Like Serbia, the prices of accommodation, ski instruction and lift passes are extremely low in comparison to popular European ski resorts. There are a number of places to ski in Romania, including Poiana Brasov, which is located in the Transylvanian mountains, not far from the famous Bram Castle, the home of Dracula. Some winter sports enthusiasts come here to ski the Balkans, although facilities for travellers in this area are extremely basic and the off-piste terrain is best suited to advanced level skiers.
Although Bulgaria has become increasingly popular in recent years it still remains one of the less well known ski destinations. One of the cheapest countries for skiers to visit in Europe, this gem of a destination should be visited now before it is discovered by mainstream tourism.
Bulgaria also has a lot to offer adventurous tourists in the way of après-ski entertainment. Ski resorts here provide visitors with an amazing choice of bars and restaurants, many of which serve delicious local dishes at great prices.
If you're interested in visiting Bulgaria, head to the village of Bansko, where the charismatic Eastern infrastructure contrasts greatly with the investment of contemporary gondolas and ski lifts on the piste. Here you can relax in the knowledge that your ski holiday will continue, even if it doesn't snow as much as you hoped it would. This is because the resort boasts a high number of good-quality snow machines that make winter sports possible long into the spring.
Perhaps the most unexpected ski destination to make it onto our list, Morocco is home to North Africa's tallest lift, which reaches a mighty 3,265 metres at its highest point, the summit of Oukaimden. Not far from the capital city of Marrakesh, this destination has slopes to suit all levels of ability, although there is a greater choice of runs for the advanced level skier.
A charming feature of this ski destination, donkeys will carry you from the resort centre to the major ski lift, sparing you the ten minute hike with your ski equipment. Oukaimden is an extremely basic ski resort and if you decide to visit, it's a good idea to bring your own equipment as rental stock here has a reputation for being low quality and outdated.
When skiing in Oukaimden it is important to keep in mind that Morocco does not have the health and safety regulations of the luxurious European resorts that you might be used to. Here you must judge for yourself if conditions are safe and suitable for skiing and there are no ski patrols to rescue you should you become stranded. For this reason it is recommended that only highly experienced skiers should attempt to descend from Oukaimden's highest summit. It is advisable to wait for calm, clear weather, which will make for safer conditions on the mountain. Even if you are not planning to ski the mountain it is worth riding the lift to the summit to experience the incredible panoramic view at the summit, before travelling back down again via the lift.