The Seven Best Alternative Ski Resorts to Hit this Winter

From a smattering of new boutique hotels in the Dolomites to powder hunting in Uzbekistan, here’s what you’re missing.

Adventure of the cultural sort can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to skiing, with reliable snowfall and a strong apres scene taking priority. If you venture further than the Three Valleys, however, untouched slopes and non-existent lift queues await in all sorts of unlikely places. What's more, you can sub out the gluhwein for biodynamic Georgian wine, Japanese umeshu, Scottish whisky or some rich Italian hot chocolate. From a smattering of new boutique hotels in the Dolomites to powder hunting in Uzbekistan, here's what you're missing.

Off piste: our favourite alternative ski resorts this season

Gudauri

Georgia

Georgia might just be Europe's best kept secret when it comes to skiing. More than half of the country is covered by the Caucasus mountain range, for a start, making it a haven for cross-country skiers wanting to cover serious distance. Then factor in the incredibly high altitude, mile upon mile of snowy terrain, and non-existent lift-queues. To get a feel for the country, head to Gudauri, the country's most popular resort and home to a handful of boutique hotels and fine Georgian restaurants. For the truly adventurous, the valley of Svaneti is a UNESCO World Heritage with a couple of charming yet remote ski villages. In both areas, lift passes cost a fraction of the Alps - often not more than £10 a day.

Stay: Gudauri Lodge

Pinzolo

The Dolomites

Sub out tartiflette for pumpkin ravioli (a local speciality known as Casunziei), and cheese fondue for hearty slices of polenta with game ragu: a skiing holiday to the Dolomites is a must for those hankering after a taste of northern Italy. Technically part of the Alps, the Italian mountains have a strong identity of their own, while also offering some of Europe's best and longest slopes. Pinzolo is in the region of Trentino, with access to over 150km slopes with a single pass, and is a good place to start. Oh, and did we mention the thick, creamy Italian hot chocolates?

Stay: Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti

Glenshee

Scotland

If skiing in Scotland makes you think of lugging skis up a hill for an hour to enjoy 2 minutes of slushy skiing, you're not alone. What British skiing lacks in snowfall though, it more than makes up for in other activities: Blair Castle, Balmoral, rock climbing and archery are all on the cards. Glenshee is Scotland's largest area for skiing and snowboarding and your best bet if you want some actual skiing, with 8km of pistes, and snow machines on hand for warmer winters. You'll also find gorgeous mountain lodges and hotels such as The Fife Arms, which in itself is worth the trip (there's a casual Picasso hanging on the walls!). Nearby, Braemar Mountain Sports have cabins, a shop and restaurant.

Stay: The Fife Arms

Amirsoy

Uzbekistan

If you can hack the Russian signposts and lack of familiar amenities, you're in for a treat with Uzbekistan's first official ski resort. Following a multi-million pound investment, Amirsoy opened to much excitement in 2019, with a shiny new gondola, chalets, hotels and 900 hectares of terrain to explore. Lift passes, gourmet food and even heli-skiing are seriously affordable, and the sense of adventure is palpable for their first proper season. It's an hour's drive from Tashkent, which has regular international flights.

Stay: Le Chalet by Amirsoy Hotel

Tenjindaira

Japan

Dubbed 'Tenjin' by the locals, this tiny Japanese resort is known for serious amounts of snowfall and world-class powder, while only being a couple of hours from Tokyo. There are only a few runs in the actual resort; the reason people really come here is for the backcountry, a freeriding paradise of deep powder and open valleys. Tenjindaira also has one of Japan's longest ski seasons, running from late November to early May. A short drive down the mountain, you'll find Takaragawa Onsen, one of the largest outdoor hot springs in Japan.

Stay: Tenjin Lodge

St Martin de Belleville

France

Okay, it's in the Alps, but you won't find any Meribel or Val d'Isere-goers on the slopes of St Martin de Belleville. Agreed to be the prettiest resort in the Three Valleys, it's a traditional Savoyard village which *just so happens* to be located on the edge of the biggest ski area in the world. Access to the pistes is better than ever thanks to the installation of a brand-new gondola in 2020, meaning St Martin ticks the boxes for pounding the slopes as well as just looking picturesque.

Stay: La Bouitte

Gausta

Norway

A Norwegian secret with a fascinating history, word is only just getting out about this remote mountainous region. There's a railway running to the top of the mountain dating back to the Second World War, and 45km of peaceful slopes to wind your way down. A lack of smart hotels is part of the appeal, with only a smattering of lodges and one small guesthouse. A little more mainstream, Myrkdalen resort on the north west coast of Norway has wide open valleys and easier accessibility. The latter is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe, making it a good option for early season or later on in April. 62ºNORD can arrange trips for those wishing to get under the skin of Norwegian, with activities like deep sea rafting also on offer.

Stay: Gaustablikk Høyfjellshotell

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