Everywhere There’s Snow. (And Some Places Where There Isn’t.)

Reader Richard Pazara has skied almost everywhere on the globe, and he’s still going.
Credit: Richard Pazara

You can’t have a favorite place until you’ve seen them all. That seemed reasonable to me, so when I started skiing back in 1973, I wanted to favor new locations over ones that I had already skied. My general plan is to fly somewhere, rent a car and stay in a centrally located non-resort town and drive for less than hour to different ski hills. Definitely not ski-in ski-out.

Since retiring in 1994, I’ve had the time to accelerate that effort.  At the end of this season, I have a total of 1,241 different ski areas in 31 countries which includes 432 in North America, 560 in Europe, 203 in Japan and 30 in the Southern Hemisphere.  The experience differs greatly based on local culture, ski area marketing philosophy and, of course, topography and climate.

How does lunch in the French Alps compare to the cafeteria line at your local resort? You kidding?
Credit: Richard Pazara

Truth be told, in terms of sheer numbers such as vertical drop, number of lifts, on-mountain restaurants and miles of runs, the Alps come out way ahead over North American resorts. In the Alps, an area with 1,500-2,000 foot vertical and five-seven lifts will have a day price of $35-40.

For example, Trois Vallees in France with a 7,000 foot vertical with 375 miles of runs is serviced by 143 lifts and has a $65 day ticket price. Add the incredible views of the Alps and excellent food and wine, and it’s really an memorable experience. And yet, most North American skiers I have spoken are totally surprised by these numbers.

Outside the Alps, European skiing becomes much more moderate with hundreds of small T-Bar areas in Germany, for example.

Scandinavian skiing reflects the hardiness of Scandinavians. Go to Salen, Sweden and see pop-up campers in the parking lot in 5 degree F temps. Or go night skiing  at 9:00 am at Levi in Kittila, Finland  (in January there is no day) when it’s -4 degrees F and be told it’s better than last January when it was -60 degrees F.

Ski Dubai is an indoor experience. And cool (17 degrees F)
Credit: Richard Pazara

Japan had the most ski areas of any nation, but the total has been in steady decline for several years. Skiing in Japan which boasts heavy snowfall and some significant mountain complexes is still mainly a social phenomenon.  Not uncommon to arrive on the weekend to a totally full parking lot and see no lift lines as a large portion of the young snowboarders are there to see and be seen, not to make a lot of runs.

The infrastructure is Japan is also different.  In the southern part of the main island Honshu, ski areas have ice plants installed on the mountain. That’s right; it’s too warm to make snow with air and water, so ice is made and crushed to cover the slope. I skied one spring on a 1,500 foot vertical snow cone. Japanese lift people are almost always older men who bow as you exit the lift every time. When it’s snowing, the chairs are always swept clean before you sit down. And there will be an air compressor by the lodge to blow off any snow before you put them away. The Gala Yuzawa lodge has a gondola entry at one end and the bullet train station (from Tokyo 115 miles and 100 minutes away) at the other end.

There are also ski areas in unsuspected places. Morocco has Oukaimeden in the High Atlas (14,000 feet) where I was offered a donkey ride to the lift by a local boy. Dubai has an indoor ski area in a mall. It is kind of odd to be quite cold after a two-hour session in a thin rental ski suit at Ski Dubai where it’s 17 degrees F inside and 107 degrees F outside.

Skiing in the Southern Hemisphere is a joy. Driving a circle route in Chile and Argentina was quite an adventure with some wonderful skiing. Australia has Theadbo and Perisher Blue among other resorts which are quite nice with some very unique twists. I think of Eucalyptus trees as tropical but the Snow Gum tree is a hearty winter variety.  Seeing them and wombats and kangaroos on the drive to the hill is still amazing to me.   New Zealand has some real mountains, and the chance to ski the Tasman glacier on the spur of the moment was a thrill.

So I have enjoyed a lot of different places in all conditions, from unbelievably good to unbelievably bad. I have some places I prefer, but I’m not done yet, so I can’t have a favorite place until I’ve seen them all.



  1. Richard
    Your article is fascinating, I knew so little about non-US ski resorts.
    Thank you.

  2. Jon Weisberg says:

    Richard, What a fascinating (and enviable) adventure you’re on. Looking forward to more like this one. Thank you! Jon

  3. Tom Seybold says:

    Great piece, at 75 I still hoped to have a few seasons. Now you make me think I could travel south and take out the season part…

  4. marc liebman says:

    What an accomplishment!!! Gosh, I wished I’d started earlier and put this on my bucket list in my twenties. Based on his article I started counting and got close to a hundred… and I’ve skied in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, NZ, South Korea and all over Europe and still think that the best skiing in the world is either in the Rockies or New England. But doing this, WOW!!! My hats off to Richard!!!

  5. Lowell Nelson says:

    At 66 I skied 30 days in western US and Canada and thought that was a lot.
    In August I’m off to Chile and Argentina!
    You inspire me to keep doing it.

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