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The World’s Weirdest Snowboarding Destinations

One of the things that would have attracted many of us to snowboarding in the first place is the prospect of traveling to new places. How many other sports can you think of where you get to charge around the mountains on a plank of wood?

Regardless, it’s amazing how few of us ever get round to straying from what we know – that family friendly resort in the French Alps, or your favourite snowpark in the valley over.

Turns out that there are a whole heap of ski resorts in some truly unexpected places. From active volcanos in the middle of the ocean to giant fridges stationed in the desert, there are limitless possibilities and places to discover.

Why not make it your New Year’s resolution to snowboard somewhere new this year?

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Forget grass skirts, surfboards and coconuts, sack it all off and go snowboarding on a Hawaiian volcano instead!

With not a chairlift or gondola in sight, the only way to access Hawaii’s 4205m high dormant volcano Mauna Kea is by four wheel drive. Riders can take it turns chauffeuring their buddies up the hill and getting runs in down the volcano’s snow-covered mantle.

With no groomed runs or piste control, variable snow conditions and exposed lava rocks, this one’s definitely recommended for more accomplished riders, and it would be well worth checking whether the road to the summit has been cleared of snow before setting out.

And while the snow conditions certainly aren’t world-renowned, the space observatories that litter the lunar-like landscape atop Mauna Kea are, and definitely worth a visit.

Masik Pass, North Korea

Snowboarding in North Korea? You bet!

As of the 1st January 2014, North Korea – a country still barely able to feed its own citizens – opened up its own ‘luxury’ ski resort.

Masikryong Ski Resort boasts nine pisted runs (served by two seater ‘vintage’ chairlifts), a luxury hotel, ice rink, swimming pool and restaurants, and apparently cost a cool 35 million USD to construct. Rumour has it that you’ll even find an internet connection up there.

While the riding is unlikely to stack up against the vast terrain of the Alps or the incredible tit-deep powder of Japan, it is certainly one that few people will ever get to tick off the bucket list.

Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand

Snowboard Mt. Doom!

Mt. Ruapehu is home to New Zealand’s two largest ski areas: Turoa, and the fantastically named Whakapapa, and along with nearby Mt. Ngauruhoe, was the visual stand-in for Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Oh Mr. Frodo!

The snowboarding in the area is decent, being catered to all abilities, although it’s worth bearing in mind that Ruapehu is still an active volcano, and during its last eruption in September 2007, a rock from the blast severed the leg of a hiker (bet it didn’t tell you that one in the guide book).

You’ll be consoled to know that there is an advanced warning system in place and thankfully the restaurants and lifts have been built away from the path of the lava, making it unlikely that you’ll get carried away/burned alive should the volcano decide to blow while you’re having a lunchtime poo.

Parnassos, Greece

It might surprise you that there’s snowboarding to be had in the Mediterranean land of Feta, drunk British tourists and (regrettably) struggling economies, but there are actually fifteen or so ski resorts to discover in Greece.

The biggest, and perhaps most well known of the bunch is Parnassos in central Greece, which features 36km of piste split over 19 runs. Greek mythology has it that Mount Parnassos was the home of Apollo, and as the god of light and sun, you should get your fair share of sunny days if you time your trip right.

As a rule of thumb, Greek resorts are definitely best avoided if you’re looking for park riding, and the terrain is generally basic: pretty flat and not really challenging in any semblance of the word. But by the beard of Zeus, you’re snowboarding in Greece!

Dizin and Shemshak, Iran

For a country far more well known for hot weather and political unrest than it’s ski resorts, you may be surprised by the quality of terrain on offer in Iran. 

The Zagros Mountain range in Iran has some seriously lofty mountains, with 5 peaks that break through the 4000m mark. There are two main resorts that can be ridden, Dizin and Shemshak, and both are only a couple of hours drive from Tehran.

Seperate ski lifts for men and women used to be the norm in these resorts, but thankfully, the rules have since been relaxed. In them, you’ll find some extremely long runs, great snow – owing to the high altitude, and limited but sufficient mountain facilities. On top of that, a day pass will only set you back around $12. A steal!

Oukaïmeden, Morocco

Lift lines too long? Rent a donkey to take you to the top!

Situated high in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, Oukaïmeden is one of Africa’s premier ski resorts and is located around 80 km south of Marrakesh.

The resort has five challenging runs and a peak altitude of 3258m, and although you won’t find a park, you will find donkey taxis and fake guides offering to show you around the mountain. Result!

Ski Dubai

Snowboard a black run in a giant fridge in the middle of a desert.

Of course, indoor snow centers are nothing new these days, but Ski Dubai is surely one of the most impressive on the planet.

Featuring five runs (including the world’s first indoor ‘black run’), a snowpark and a whole host of other activities to keep the kiddies stoked on life, Ski Dubai is certainly a fridge done the Arabian way.

Solang Valley, India

Didn’t fancy donkey boarding? Try Yak boarding in the Himalayas!

The world’s highest mountains are not without their own ski areas although you’d be foolish to expect the same purpose-built mega hotels and infrastructure that you find in the Alps or other parts of the developed world.

Solang Valley, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh offers somewhat decent facilities, allowing you to ride alongside the towering Himalayan mountains. While the snowboarding will be super basic, how many people can claim to have ridden in the Himalayas?

For those of you too lazy to hike back up the slope, you may be pleased to know that you can hire Yaks to do it for you. Ya lazy bastards.

Bariloche, Argentina

Snowboarding in Argentina!

Bariloche is a pretty major tourist town in Argentina and acts as a kind of ‘gateway’ to many of the country’s best ski resorts. Also known as ‘Little Switzerland’, Bariloche has a heavy Swiss influence with restaurants serving cheese fondue and picturesque buildings decorating the streets in front of its Andes mountain backdrop.

The most famous ski resort in Argentina, Cerro Catedral is only 20km away from Bariloche and offers over 1,200 hectares of rideable terrain catering to all abilities.

Why not extend your season by a few months and pay it a visit?

Mount Hermon, Israel

Israel’s only ski area.

Mount Hermon Ski Resort is the only place you can snowboard in Israel (unless of course you make it happen yourself) and atop this sacred mountain you’ll find a decent-sized resort with 13 runs (7 red, 3 blue, 2 black and 1 green) that is well suited to intermediates.

Facilities are limited and there is no resort town so to speak, with visitors mostly staying in nearby towns. There’s ample terrain to ride though, but you should stay away from the lower slopes if you want to avoid the beginner Israeli kids learning to ski in jeans.

Libery Mountain Snowflex Centre, Virginia

North American carpet boarding at its finest!

Liberty University, home of the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell in 1971 and is the world’s largest Christian university.  The snowflex slope was built in 2009 and is one heck of a dryslope facility.

While dryslopes have been a feature of countries such as England for a long time, Liberty Snowflex was the first of its kind in North America, giving local riders the chance to shred year-round.

With permanent kickers and a really sick looking park, we’re not surprised that we’ve been seeing some solid riders and edits coming from the slope over the past few seasons.

Mount Etna, Sicily

Another Volcano to get rad on!

What is it that makes Volcanos so attractive for snowboarding? Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy and you guessed it: it has a ski resort on it.

Well, it actually has two! There’s Sapienza Refuge, with a chairlift and three ski lifts, and a smaller one on the North, at Piano Provenzana, with three lifts and a chairlift, so as you might have guessed, Etna’s a big daddy of a volcano.

If you do decide to head there for some ‘cano boarding, it’s worth keeping your wits about you: in previous eruptions the ski lifts on Etna have been damaged by lava flows so you sure as hell don’t want to be on/near them if she decides to blow her top!

Tiffindell, South Africa

Who figured you could snowboard in South Africa?

Tiffindell is the only ski resort in South Africa, built upon the Ben Macdhui mountain (named after the Scottish mountain of the same name).

With a pretty high elevation of 2810m and a good combination of natural and man-made snow, Tiffindell offers some decent snowboarding, playing host to the annual South African Ski and Snowboard championships.

The resort was sold at auction on 12 July 2012 for R5.5-million and opened under new ownership in 2013.

Have you been to any unusual snowboarding destinations? Let us know in the comments below.

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