8 Underrated Winter Destinations Around the World
Looking to cozy up by the fire at a remote lodge, stroll frost-covered sidewalks of a cosmopolitan city, or hit the powdery slopes? Sure, you could go to Aspen or Deer Valley, Gstaad or St. Moritz, but we suggest trying one of these less-traveled destinations, all of which offer equal charms and winter wonderland appeal—minus the crowds (and the expense).
South Tyrol, Italy
Set on the border of Italy and Austria, South Tyrol is a veritable melting pot of all the right influences. (Think northern Italian comfort cuisine mixed with grand Austrian castles and museums.) This is the home of the Dolomites, an 18-peak mountain range with some of Europe’s most heart-pumping ski trails. If you’re a beginner (or prefer to lounge by the fire), stay put at Alpina Dolomites, an architectural marvel and wellness retreat whose 56 rooms have a terrace or balcony overlooking the slopes. Another highlight: the spa, which offers everything from herbal baths to multiple-day personalized health programs, is the perfect place to recharge after time spent in the cold.
Japan’s hottest ski resort, Niseko, is now even more accessible thanks to new access by bullet train. Drop your bags at Kimamaya by Odin, a Scandinavian-style nine-room boutique in the heart of town, then spend the rest of your days shooting down its powdery runs (Hokkaido sees some 50 feet of snow per year) followed by relaxing soaks in an onsen (natural hot spring) at a nearby ryokan. As for the après-ski scene, forget greasy bar food: here, it’s all about fresh sashimi, snow crab legs, and sweet Akkeshi oysters. Save room for a glass of single-malt Hokkaido whisky at Bar Gyu+, accessed via an old fridge door that’s nearly impossible to find in the deep snowdrifts.
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Sölden, in Austria's Ötz valley, is all about skiing—minus the lift lines. Here, a whopping 31 high-powered lifts and gondolas transport up to 67,000 people per hour, so you never miss a moment of action. And the Tyrolean region sees a lot of that—it served as the backdrop for some of the most adrenaline-packed sequences in the latest James Bond film, Spectre. (Sölden will soon be home to 007 Element, a cinematic installation at the summit of Gaislachkogl Mountain dedicated to the Bond franchise). Take it all in from Das Central, a cozy-chic ski lodge with recently renovated rooms, 10 different saunas at the spa, and a gourmet restaurant located 10,000 feet above sea level.
Visiting a dude ranch during summer months might let you live out your cowboy fantasies (riding horses; roping cattle) but winter is the unsung hero at The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre glamping retreat in the heart of Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. After exploring snow-covered landscapes by dogsled, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or even horse-drawn sleigh, retreat to your log-cabin-style room, where the staff has already queued up a roaring fire and bubble bath.
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Fly just two hours southwest of Buenos Aires and you’ll arrive at Mount Cathedral, South America’s biggest ski resort. Squint your eyes at the 3,000-foot-high snowcapped peaks and blackened-hued timber lodges—like Llao Llao Hotel & Resort—and you’ll think you’ve been transported to a Swiss alpine town. Travel between June and September (Argentina's winter) for ski-in/ski-out mountain access, or go during North America's colder months to hike, mountain bike, boat, fish, and golf in the vast Patagonian wilderness.
The Catskills, NY
With its latest craft brewery craze and slate of design-centric new B&Bs, the Catskills are officially cool again. As the fall leaf-peeping crowds disperse, you’ll have your pick of chic accommodations: no two rooms are the same at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, where you can ski Hunter Mountain by day and break open your marshmallow kit at the fire pit by night, or post up at North Branch Inn, which has local cider on tap and a 100-year-old bowling alley in the basement. On your way out of town, stop by Buck Brook Alpacas to pick up a huyaca blanket, stuffed animal, or even the real thing. (Yes, the alpacas are for sale!)
Is visiting the French Alps on your wish list? Skip flashy Courchevel and join well-heeled French vacationers on the deserted slopes near Megève, a medieval village nestled among three of the country’s finest ski resorts—Rochebrune, Mont d’Arbois, and Le Jaillet. Check into the 12-room Le Chalet, a traditional alpine retreat that fronts pistes brimming with knee-deep powder. When you're not carving the slopes, dine at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants in town (we especially love Flocons de Se, which earned three stars of its own for its refined and surprisingly affordable menu) or stroll the charming cobblestone streets of the historic city center, a car-free zone with an open-air ice-skating rink and horse-drawn sleighs at the ready.
St. Petersburg, Russia
You could spend an entire week inside the imperial capital’s classic sites—including the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace and the ornate, Russian-style Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood—but it’s worth your while to seek out St. Petersburg's new arts scene at New Holland, a manmade island that houses warehouses-turned-galleries, performance spaces, and playgrounds. The cultural education continues when you check into Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace, a 19th-century royal mansion on St. Isaac's Square that’s just a short walk from the famed Mariinsky Theater.
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