7 Lesser-Known Ski Destinations to Avoid the Lift Lines

Add a new destination to the exhilaration of skiing.

Two skiers walking up a snow-covered slope.

Drier snow can be expected in February, while March and April are popular times to visit Sunnmøre.

Courtesy of Norrøna Adventure

Although there are many tried-and-true ski resorts around the world with big-name recognition (Vail, Whistler, Courchevel, Zermatt—we’re looking at you), discerning skiers are always on the hunt for the next mountain filled with excellent terrain, pillowy powder, and a lack of lift lines.

At each of these lesser-known ski destinations and resorts, you’ll find all of the above, plus luxurious grand hotels and boutique ski-in, ski-out mountain huts, local delicacies, and cultural immersion.

1. Sunnmøre

  • Location: Sunnmøre, Norway
  • Best for: Ski touring and unspoiled landscapes with koselig—the Norwegian version of hygge—vibes
  • Where to stay: Juvet Landscape Hotel: This architectural wonder is a design hotel fully immersed into nature, with minimalist “birdhouse” log rooms and “landscape” rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Sunnmøre is on the southwestern shores of Norway. It’s mostly Norwegians who know and ski the region because of the vast skiing possibilities and thinner crowds compared to the well-known Lyngen alps. Dotted with smaller lift-served ski resorts like Strandafjellet and Sunnmørsalpane Skiarena Fjellseter, the true Norwegian way of experiencing fresh powder in the region is off-piste on a ski tour to chase the unique light and opportunities to ski from the slopes down to the sea. On many of Norrøna Adventure’s organized trips, you can stay on a boat or use a boat to reach more remote mountain locations.

In Norway, saunas and hot tubs are not just an après-ski ritual; they’re a part of the culture. And if you come during the northern lights season, hunting for the magical phenomenon at night is a can’t-miss experience.

Three kids skiing and snowboarding down a snow-covered slope

June Mountain is an underrated place for adult and kid skiers alike.

Photo by Peter Morning/ MMSA

2. June Mountain

  • Location: June Lake, California
  • Best for: View-seeking skiers; Ikon passholders; individuals and families looking to brush up or expand their ski skills
  • Where to stay: The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth: This well-appointed Westin is steps from the Mammoth Mountain gondola and a quick drive to June Mountain, making it ideal for skiers who want to experience both in one trip. Opt for a Mammoth Studio suite for a full kitchen and gas fireplace, and enjoy the hotel’s rejuvenating hot tubs and strong, fresh coffee available free in the lobby each morning.

A large sign at the base of June Mountain makes it clear you’ve arrived at “California’s Family Mountain.” While that accolade is true, June’s 1,500 skiable acres make it more of an actual “skier’s mountain” where the whole family can lap groomer runs (or even build up confidence on gentle black diamond terrain). Skiers from popular Mammoth Mountain are also lured to the area, with many regulars there considering it a vacation from their home mountain when the crowds roll in. The pleasant nature and spellbinding views over June Lake and the Sierra Nevadas from the hill are reason enough to come, as is its peaceful atmosphere.

While Mammoth is known for its epic après party scene, June Mountain has fewer frills. Mere minutes away, the laid-back town of June Lake offers off-mountain options for hungry skiers and those needing a postrun cocktail. Its best-kept secret is La Parilla, a taco truck serving Mexican and Tex-Mex staples, including burritos, fajitas, tacos, and quesadillas. The truck is parked at June Lake Brewing, which has outdoor seating, hard seltzers (called Bang Sauce), and a variety of specialty craft beers best enjoyed under the warm California sun.

A few snow-covered houses among trees, with mountains in background

The conversation on luxury skiing in Colorado often centers on Aspen and Vail. But 20 minutes down the road from sister resort Vail, Beaver Creek is one of the most pleasurable and under-the-radar U.S. ski destinations.

Photo by nschwensow/Shutterstock

3. Beaver Creek

  • Location: Avon, Colorado
  • Best for: Families who prefer the luxury ski experience; multi-generational ski groups, beginners and intermediate skiers; Epic Pass holders
  • Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch: Resembling a National Park lodge, this Ritz-Carlton property has three separate slope-side hot tubs and a year-round heated pool, a fireside bar and lounge area, and a Club Level lounge with après alpine fare, like gourmet hot dogs and Bavarian-style pretzels.

Coupled with an annual average of 323 inches of snow and dazzling views of the Colorado Rockies, Beaver Creek mountain feels spread out and expansive with three distinct village areas (Beaver Creek, Bachelor Gulch, and Arrowhead) connected by bridges that you can ski over and under. The mountain is also the ideal place for beginners to learn and fall in love with the sport: Much of its upper mountain terrain in the Red Buffalo area and newly opened McCoy Park include gentle green runs that are big on learning and views.

Part of Epic Pass, Beaver Creek is also the mountain destination for sweet tooths. At 3 p.m. each day, bakers greet skiers with a freshly baked treat at the bottom of the slopes at Beaver Creek Village. There’s also an on-mountain ice cream shop, a cookie cabin dedicated to freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies and hot chocolate, and a Candy Cabin filled with taffy, chocolate-covered Oreos, and—if you’re quick enough to nab them—chocolate-covered Swedish fish.

For a more sophisticated and savory experience, look into the meat served up at Wyld at the Ritz-Carlton, the hummus and pita at Citrea, and the cozy alpine experience and sleigh ride into the midmountain at Zach’s Cabin.

Two empty chairlift seats above a snow-covered mountain

Kicking Horse is tucked between the Purcell and the Rocky Mountains and has more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, 121 runs, 4 alpine bowls, 85 chutes, and 5 lifts.

Photo by EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

4. Kicking Horse

  • Location: Golden, British Columbia, Canada
  • Best for: Advanced skiers seeking extreme terrain, side-country seekers who don’t mind a hike for quality conditions
  • Where to stay: Palliser Lodge: Ski-in and ski-out access, large, comfortable studios, and one- and two-bedroom condo-style suites are the draw at Palliser Lodge. Some accommodations have private hot tubs and private terraces for northern lights gazing.

Whistler and Banff have already lured many international skiers to Canada. In-the-know skiers, however, are zeroing in on Kicking Horse. Located in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, Kicking Horse offers incredibly easygoing and crowd-free skiing. As the crown jewel of the Powder Highway—the 800-mile highway connecting eight alpine resorts—it’s affectionately known as the “Champagne Powder Capital of Canada” for its soft, effervescent-like snow. But there’s nothing prissy about the resort, which boasts some of the most challenging terrain in North America, not to mention excellent chute skiing.

Kicking Horse offers plenty to experience, including a 20-acre grizzly bear refuge where Boo, the mountain’s resident bear, lives and is protected in a fenced-in natural habitat that’s visible to skiers. Take a midday bison chili skillet or burger in hand with mesmerizing views of Canada’s oldest mountains at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, which takes dining to new heights at 7,700 feet.

The funky yet sophisticated town of Golden is 15 minutes from the resort by car, offering plenty of shopping, lodging, and dining options. Highlights of the latter include Reposados Tacos for Mexican cuisine with vegan and vegetarian options—like halloumi avocado burritos and kabocha squash tacos—plus margaritas made with fermented syrups. Within walking distance, visitors can start off their dinner with a stop by Whitetooth Brewing Co.'s tasting room, where the specialty is small-batch Belgian-inspired and West Coast–influenced beers.

About 10 people standing on mountainside snow with the Swiss flag at right

Jungfrau is an appealing alternative to well-loved ski destinations like St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Verbier.

Photo by Saturdaybliss/Shutterstock

5. Jungfrau

  • Location: Jungfrau, Switzerland
  • Best for: Multi-resort skiing, group ski trips with nonskiers, fondue fans
  • Where to stay: Hotel Bergwelt Grindelwald: This 90-room design-centric hotel has epic mountain views and an adults-only spa, where a steam bath, pools, an ice fountain, and a fireplace supply relaxation. The communal lobby restaurant and bar, which serves elevated alpine fare and top cuts of meat.

For an electrifying skiing experience, few destinations compare with Jungfrau, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. The region comprises four separate ski hills, Grindelwald-First, Grindelwald-Wengen, Mürren-Schilthorn, and Meiringen-Hasliberg, making it a lesser-known but ideal European ski destination for groups of skiers of varying abilities.

For more advanced skiers, the area offers the famous “Lauberhorn” downhill run in Wengen, one of the longest and most demanding in World Cup ski racing. Ample backcountry skiing opportunities await as well, plus a number of scenic winter hikes and sledding, making Jungfrau appealing to nonskiers, too. In addition to rejuvenating Swiss health wellness centers and spas, Jungfrau is home to Jungfraujoch, a mountain destination (complete with an ice palace) that’s part of the UNESCO-recognized Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, à la carte Restaurant Crystal, and panoramic views of the Alps—no skis required.

Skier in an orange jacket looking at a distant snow-covered mountain

Travelers to Tokyo in the winter months can also easily add on a weekend at Myoko Kogen, which is accessible by a Shinkansen bullet train ride from Tokyo Station.

Photo by Michelle Mealing/Shutterstock

6. Myoko Kogen

  • Location: Myoko Kogen, Japan
  • Best for: Powder, side- and backcountry skiing, Japanophiles looking to experience the country’s unique slope-side vending machine snacks
  • Where to stay: Mountain Hut Myoko: Located at the base of Ikenotaira ski resort, this stylish lodge also has private chalet rentals, surrounded by incredible views and an enchanting, calming Japanese design, plush bedding, and super-warm showers.

The Myoko Kogen ski area fuses traditional Japanese charm and culture with world-class skiing, natural beauty, and challenging slopes for advanced skiers. Those looking to enjoy long runs and plenty of backcountry routes will savor their stay at any of Myoko Kogen’s many resorts. Upon arrival, powder enthusiasts will float, as the region receives more than 42 feet of snowfall each year. Visitors can enjoy everything from Yakatori and braised pork to squid ink udon in the central area around Akakura Onsen, as well as karaoke and traditional Japanese pubs.

Another charm of skiing at Myoko Kogen are the natural hot springs known as onsen, which abound near Mount Myoko. Soaking in hot springs rejuvenates tired muscles and will have skiers ready to head out for a new adventure soon.

Small snow-covered wooden houses near mountains with snow and evergreens

Located near the Swiss border, Livigno is slated to host part of the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Photo by marchello74/Shutterstock

7. Livigno

  • Location: Livigno, Italy
  • Best for: Unique dining and local specialties
  • Where to stay: Eco & Wellness Boutique Hotel Sonne: A boutique hotel with a quintessential ski chalet vibe, the family-run Sonne is filled with fireplaces, wood detailing, natural stone, and warm fabrics for a peaceful stay.

Locals call Livigno “Little Tibet” due to its high altitude, isolated location, and long, cold winters ideal for an extended ski season, but the star of this region is the required carb-heavy dishes that keep locals and skiers warm. Food in Livigno is delicious yet inexpensive, and no trip there would be complete without trying out the local specialty of sciatt, an addictive crispy buckwheat pancake with stringy cheese in its center. Another crowd pleaser, pizzoccheri, is a gut-busting dish made with a short tagliatelle pasta, cubed Casera cheese, potatoes, and cabbage with ample butter mixed in—and after ripping down over 71 miles of trails at an altitude climbing over 9,000 feet, it’s well-deserved.

If you’re not hitting the slopes, stop by Livigno’s restaurants. Gourmands will find a variety of Michelin-starred eateries within a reasonable driving distance, including the classic French Cà d’Oro restaurant, Brazilian cuisine from Vivanda, Mediterranean at Talvo by Dalsass, and creative dishes at Ecco St. Moritz.

From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR