Lingering winter frosts have our thoughts increasingly turning towards the mountains. This year is all about eschewing inflated prices, long lift queues and overbooked restaurants and seeking out virgin pistes. Ski trips are a great chance to explore new cultures and push yourself physically, so why not take this annual ritual to a new level in one of these lesser-known resorts?
The Powder Haven; Niseko, Japan
Light, fluffy powder, unbeatable Japanese food and a complete overturn of everything you have ever associated with skiing all await in Niseko. With snowfall levels to put European resorts to shame, and powder that stays all day, it's an exceptional snow experience. Shun the schnitzels and strudel in favour of king crab legs, ramen and katsu curry and replace après ski with a restorative soak in natural hot springs. Stay at luxury boutique hotel Kimamaya and treat yourself to an extended stopover in Tokyo en route to Sapporo airport.
The North American Dream; Mont-Tremblant, Canada
On Canada's East Coast, Mont-Tremblant is easily accessible from the UK, and while it's not the largest ski area, the chocolate-box style village and roaring log fires will cosset you in cosiness. Fly into Quebec and stay in the gloriously mountainous Fairmont hotel but wrap up warm, temperatures in January can drop to -30C. This is the safest option of the bunch but provides varied terrain for mixed ability ski groups looking for a gentle change of scenery.
The Sun Seekers Spot; Riksgransen, Sweden
The resort itself may be small and hotels limited but don't discredit this North Swedish destination. Firstly, latitudinal factors mean the season only opens in March and runs until July, with 24 hours of daylight by June giving a whole new meaning to night skiing. Secondly, the pistes are good but the resort really shines for experienced adrenaline seekers with amazingly affordable access to a vast multi-peaked heli-ski area. Time to reset your body clock and experience skiing on a whole different level. Fly into Kiruna via Stockholm.
The Long Haul Adventure, Cerro Catedral, Argentina
Head here via Buenos Aires for some of the Southern hemisphere's most exciting skiing (avoid crowded July and opt for August or September to visit). This is gaucho country with rugged hillsides, hearty steaks and a distinctly South American vibe but it's not just the culture that's worth the trip. Cerro Catedral is famed for its immense backcountry skiing; spend days getting lost off-piste to the awe-inducing backdrop of the Andes. Stay in the resort or if you're looking to sample more Argentinian life, stay in nearby Bariloche, a charming lakeside town with great restaurants and stunning scenery.
The Novice Skier's Paradise; Geilo, Norway
If you're new to skiing and craving gentle contours then head to Geilo with easy to moderate slopes perfect for a leisurely introduction to the sport. What's more, the resort offers a host of wholesome off-piste activities for ski-wearied legs. Try dog-sledding, ice-fishing and fjord-cruising to really immerse yourself in this winter wonderland. Perfect for late season skiing with reliable snow cover through 'til late April. Fly into Oslo or Bergen and hole up in one of many cosy log cabin accommodation options.
Mystical Mountainsides; Gulmarg, India
For ski mavericks looking to shun the crowds and seek unchartered pistes, this is the ultimate option. With the world's highest cable car, endless off-piste routes and exceptional heli-skiing for the brave at heart, a trip to the Himalayas has to be one of the more unique ways to get your ski fix. Après-ski doesn't exist and beginners would struggle but for the intrepid, phenomenal off-piste skiing in the most spectacular setting awaits. The accommodation options are more limited but consider the Hotel Highlands Park or Kyhber Mountain Resort for a Himalayan take on luxury. This isn't a trip for the non-committal, with an epic journey via Delhi to Srinagar to reach it, but where else can you ski surrounded by shrines, monkeys and communist relics?