Had enough of being trapped indoors this winter? Get outside with our DIY Winter Adventure series.
It’s raining outside my apartment in New York City right now. And it’s the first week of December. And back in October we were teased by Mother Nature drunk on climate change, dumping up to 30″ of snow not to far north of here. It’s also raining right now in the closest thing approaching actual mountains some four or five hours to the north.
In other words, as this snow sport enthusiast sees it, it’s not exactly a pretty picture out there. The more I stare at my snowboard is sitting in the corner, the more it looks genuinely forlorn.
So, it’s a perfect time to day dream of powder, big mountains, exotic destinations and (personal, at least) first descents, planning a globe-trotting endless winter.
I’ve wanted to go to Kashmir for nearly two decades now, but despite going to India several times have never made it to the farthest northwest corner of the nation. For a good deal of time a civil war/insurgency made the Vale of Kashmir, home to the Gulmarg ski area on Mount Apharwat, a less-than-attractive destination. But (knocking on wood) the situation has largely calmed and riding at the largest resort in the Himalayas, both in terms of terrain and facilities, is again possible.
OK fine, it’s hardly an exotic snowboarding destination these days, but I’ve never gone—and after the seeing the clip above from Teton Gravity Research with Jeremy Jones and the Further film crew my desire to check out the Japan backcountry is pretty high right now. Sure, some of that tree riding looks like it could be in the more remote regions of the Mount Mansfield backcountry in Vermont (such as it is), but the rest of it, no way.
Japan’s got dozens of places to ride. The World Snowboard Guide and SnowJapan will start your research off right, even if your idea of a good day out isn’t splitboarding in a raging blizzard to small mountain refuge.
Lebanon? Yes, Lebanon. Another one of those destinations that I’ve been strangely attracted to for wintertime fun but haven’t made it to. I don’t know how many years ago I first found out that there’s decent to good riding within view of the eastern Mediterranean, but strapping in for some runs through cedar forests and at The Cedars has long simmered in the back of my mind as something worth doing. Check out the extent of the terrain post-2:00 in the video above—though it seems to get to the good stuff you’re going to have to do some hiking, never a bad thing.
The second of the I-didn’t-know-you-could-ride-there-and-perhaps-why-would-you-want-to destinations on my list: Iran. Again, at some point in my now hazy early memory of snowboarding I remember seeing a photo of the size of the mountains outside of Tehran and learning shortly thereafter that there were plenty ski resorts there—in hindsight any incredulity on my part resulted from Reagan-era propaganda (from both the US and Iranian governments) coloring my perception.
Conditions don’t look ideal in the video above, but that looks like time of year more than anything indicative at what the Iranian terrain can offer with decent snow cover.
Now, getting a visa to enter Iran is a serious hassle if you’re a US citizen. And given the dodgy treatment of US hikers suspected as spies who inadvertently strayed over the border from Iraq recently, there are plenty of good reasons to go elsewhere at the moment. Neither the Iranian government, nor the US government, seems to really want you to go. Plus, if you’re an Israeli citizen or anyone else who has been to Israel or shows any sign of perhaps wanting to one day travel there, you can’t go to Iran, full stop; the government doesn’t want you.
Now, despite some serious lift-serviced backcountry terrain, the final two spots on my endless winter dream list are positively simple to get to compared to Iran — even if the terrain is much more challenging.
The antidote to the big, manicured, all amenities country clubs on snow that are many ski areas in Colorado, Silverton Mountain, has one lift, no cut runs, no grooming and over 400″ of snow annually, all on steep terrain. Other than early and late season it’s guided riding only, with lots of high altitude hiking involved — all of which sounds like an ideal day out to me.
It’s easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in the US, but you’ve got to book in advance, and if the conditions aren’t optimum, well, you’re pretty much out of luck. Check out the link above for more info.
La Grave has been operating way longer than Silverton, has more lifts (barely), one groomed run and way more vertical (7,100 Feet!), but in many ways is similar. You either need a guide or really know the mountain, plus the requisite avalanche awareness and awareness of your own limits, to tap into all that La Grave has to offer.
To get to La Grave, you either fly into Lyon or Grenoble, or take the train to Grenoble.