Top 10 Weirdest Ski Spots

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on August 19, 2009 9:24 pm

Not all sports are so connected to their environment as skiing.  Ask a raquetball player how much environment is important to his sport.  Since the physical setting, the stage of skiing, is such a large part of our sport, skiers are often drawn to places strictly for the setting — to be on skis at a place you wouldn’t expect to be on skis. 

The weird spots make skiing super fun regardless of snow conditions.  I’m in a cave, in the desert, at an Evangelical University, an observatory, in Africa… on skis!


Next page: Martini action with Frank










photo courtesy Snowbasin Alpine Team


#10  Palm Springs Aerial Tram, CA

The Palm Springs Aerial Tram was the setting for Mission Impossible, the O.G. one from 1969, and Bikini Destinations from 2004.  Many faces to the Palm Springs Tram.   Bing Crosby is remembered for riding it.  Ronald Reagan didn’t remember riding it.  In 2001 the tram was transformed into a gigantic sit & spin with the entire 80-passenger car rotating for 360 degree views. 

The 5,873 foot climb has been put into climactic perspective as being a motor trip from Sonora, Mexico to the Canadian tundra.  So even though you’ve been throwin’ back Martinis poolside with the ghost of Frank Sinatra, 8,516 feet up in the San Jacinto Mountains, you can throw on the skis!  Palm Springs isn’t just golf courses, pools, celebs and the occasional meth addict.  It’s a place to make some (slight) turns.

Next page: The world’s biggest refrigerator


#9  Ski Dubai, The United Arab Emirates

Sitting 8000 miles away at a keyboard, I denounce the wasteful unnecessity of a gigantic 74,000 square foot refrigerator in the middle of the desert.  But, if I was walkin’ by…  Yes, my conscience says the most powerful voice I can vote with is my wallet.  But, my religion asks, “How much are tickets?”  Cool.  I mean, dude, it’s in Dubai! 

It’s the largest indoor ski resort in the world.  It’ll be 105 in Dubai on Saturday outside, 30 degrees inside.  That kind of heat would make me jump into my fridge at home with the Fuji apples.   In Dubai’s fridge I can throw an iceball at Paris Hilton and cruise 1,300 feet on skis.  All while the icebergs go drip, drip, drip…

Next page: Sharia Law and you

[page]#8  Malam Jabba, Pakistan

The Swat Valley has been ground zero in the fight for Pakistan.  Militants wanting to impost Sharia Law had wrestled away control of Pakistan’s one ski area.  They were eventually bombed out of the strategic stronghold, but not before the base lodge and chairlifts were torched

Until the chairlift can be repaired, it’s strictly hike-to-terrain at Malam Jabba.  Skiing can be a symbol and serve as a patriotic duty.  Just tell the militants it’s one nation under snow!

Your mother’s stress levels will rise to dangerous levels, so best not to mention this sojourn to her.  Leave your travel itinerary with us and keep a low profile, less Bill Clinton have to come and get you.

Next page: Sand, sun, and no Gidget


#7  Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

19,000 acres of sand and not a beach bunny in site.  The tallest sand dunes in North America are the product of hefty westerly winds picking up sand deposits from the Rio Grande and its tributaries and dropping them on the east edge of the San Luis Valley.  The highest dune rises 750 vertical feet.  That’s twice as much as World Cup champ Lindsey Vonn had to work with at Buck Hill.

With sand skiing, wet sand is fastest, so check the dunes after rain.  Ditch the wax, dry ski bases work best, and relive your 80′s fantasies, bust out the Gaiters to keep sand out of your boots.

Next page: Bigger than Everest



#6  Mauna Kea, HI

From the base floor of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii’s “White Mountain” rises 33,476 feet, the tallest in the world.  Taller than Everest.  The result is the best of Polynesian pow, aka “Pineapple Powder”. 

After a good dump, the 13,796 foot dormant volcano of Mauna Kea becomes the best (and only) skiing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Lift tickets are free as there are no lifts.  You are your own shuttle service, ascending the service roads the scientists of the Keck telescope use.  Regardless of snow conditions, the views from the top of Mauna Kea are religious.  With 1,500 vertical feet, you’ll feel born again skiing the massive heights of the Big Island.

Next page: The fort of evil scientists!

[page]#5  Pic du Midi, France

The 131-year-old observatory looks straight out of a James Bond movie, a hideaway for a sinister plot developer.  Thankfully, no evil plans are being hatched atop the summit of Pic Du Midi, that is unless you consider science evil. 

The observatory has quite the storied past, having been part of the Apollo missions.  Today, a few rooms of the concrete structure have been turned into guest lodging.  Guided ski tours are offered down the 3,200 ft. descent and into the largest ski resort of the French Pyrenees, La Mongie & Barèges.

Next page: Don’t color outside the lines

[page]#4  Ski Cyprus

Cypriots are no johnny-come-latelies to the sport of skiing.  Since 1934, folks from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus have been bombing turns down the face of Mt. Olympus.  The Christian God rules the Greek part of the island, the Muslim God rules the Turkish part of the island, but the Greek Gods still rule the slopes of Cyprus.  The four surface lifts are Zeus, Hera, Hermes, and Aphrodite.

The trail map may be drawn in crayon, but that does not mean Cypriots don’t take their skiing seriously.  The first appearance of a Cypriot in the Winter Olympics was at Lake Placid in 1980, and come this 2010 Jamaica will not be the only island nation competing in Vancouver.

Next page: Come one, come all some!

[page]#3  Snowflex, Liberty University

And on the seventh day, God skied.  In 1971 Jerry Fallwell established the largest evangelical university in the world.  Shortly before his death in 2007, Falwell put in motion plans for the first Snowflex hill in the United States.  On August 29th, Liberty University will open its dry slope gates.

Come one, come all?  Well, maybe except for a few of you out there.  In an appearance on the 700 Club shortly after 9-11, Falwell said, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”  (translated: No Snowflex for you!)

Next page: Vintage skis and modern law

[page]#2  Mischliffen, Morocco

Yes, it’s called the “Moroccan Aspen”, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.  Rentals here are obtained from a guy in a beat-up Toyota truck.  Equipment is a mix-and-match of antique Olin Marks that haven’t been tuned since Michael Jackson was singin’ PYT.  If the lifts break down, you can hitch-a-ride on a donkey.  Seriously. 

The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, has one of his royal palaces slope side.  Uninvited guests are not welcome to the palace, but if you see His Excellency, give him props for creating Mudawana, a new family code unique in the Arab world for the amount of freedoms it affords women.

Next page: Which hole in which wall?


#1  Hole in the Wall, Mammoth, CA

There have been lots of hole in the walls.  There’s one in Connecticut, a Hole in the Wall Camp for seriously ill children.  There’s one in music, “Hole in the Wall” by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones on their album Fight of the Cosmic Hippo.  Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, was part of the Hole in the Wall Gang. 

As a geological formation, with apologies to the Hole in the Wall in South Africa’s Wild Coast Region, the Hole in the Wall at Mammoth is the coolest hole of them all.  It’s out-of-bounds, but accessible from the top of the Mammoth Mountain gondola.  Go there the first time with someone who’s been there many times.  Otherwise you’ll be on KCAL, the local Los Angeles TV station, and the plastic announcer man will be talking about how many toes you lost to frostbite.


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photo by Philip D. Schaefer

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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