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High-altitude Ski Spots



Few feelings are more exhilarating than skiing down an ultra-high-altitude mountain. The momentum you gather as you slice through mist, and possibly clouds, makes you feel like you’re flying.

The higher you are, the bigger the adrenaline burst. Brace yourself for the lowdown on five terrific ski slopes tracking some of the world’s tallest mountains.


Africa is probably the last place you associate with skiing. Few people have heard of this towering ski resort said to be Morocco’s only one, perched amid the Atlas Mountains. Oukaimeden, touted as Africa’s top skiing resort, hosts the highest ski lift on the continent, set at almost 11,000 feet up in the sky. To reach the top of Oukaimeden, for a laugh you can also go by donkey. Oukaimeden’s best skiing is on offer between January and February. You have a choice between about seven runs – the longest meanders about two miles. A plus is the dazzling view of the surroundings in tune with the altitude. The rub is that, thanks to climate change, snow at Oukaimeden is getting thin on the ground. Picture patches of bare brown rock. The balding process has spawned talk of manufacturing snow to artificially stretch the season, which seems a tacky solution, but the fact that you are in subtropical Africa adds to the buzz. Better yet, Oukaimeden is a convenient trekking base for exploring local rock carvings.


The Pearl of the Alps, Swiss-based Saas-Fee, is equipped with a ring of no less than 13 peaks that soar 13,000 feet. Talk about wow factor. The exceptional height pans out as some sensational, muscle-melting runs. Skiing and snowboarding are on the cards for 10 months of the year, discounting May and June. Should you tire of carving, you can turn to the 12 miles of winter walking trails and the 5-mile-long cross-country ski trail. The resort also offers toboggan runs. Then there is the humming nightlife and revolving restaurant trumpeted as the world’s highest. In a bonus, Saas-Fee is car-free. You only get electric buggies that give you an extra adrenaline spurt when they creep up behind you. A cheaper, less teeming alternative to next-door Zermatt, Saas-Fee has been called “insanely picturesque.” It feels like the top of the world. Spectacular local glaciers up the drama. Take a peek through the webcam [].

Sunshine Village

A highlight of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, Sunshine Village is based at a head-spinning 7,000 feet. The phenomenally lofty ski resort is formed by three mountains: Standish, Lookout, and Goat’s Eye. Sunshine Village was put on the map by the legendary trapper and prospector with a Buffalo Bill look, Bill Peyto. Peyto’s rugged life gave him the toughness and smarts to guide tourists to the future extreme sports venue. Sunshine Village served as a task destination for the season ending episode of the American reality television show The Amazing Race 5, which first ran in September 2004. In the last, 13th leg of the race, after riding the gondola to the base of Lookout Mountain, entrants slipped into snowshoes to tackle the 2,000-ft vertical hike to the top of the Great Divide, which lies at a lung-busting 8,900 feet. According to, the snow that carpets the ill-named resort featuring over 3,300 acres of skiable land is Canada’s best. And some of the world’s most extreme double black runs are all yours to carve once you take the Goat’s Eye express to 8,500 feet.

Val Thorens

Clinging to the Tarentaise Valley in the French Alps, Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort. Think an altitude of 7,545 feet. The resort forms part of the sprawling Three Valleys ski area which, with some 400 miles of piste, is the world’s biggest linked ski area graced by an array of elevators including draglifts, chairlifts, gondolas magic carpets, and cable cars. Snow carpets the place, meaning it is usually open from mid-November until early May. For daredevils, Val Thorens has some seven hyper-hard black runs. The highest ski-able peaks are Pointe du Bouchet (10,564 feet) and Cime de Caron (10,500 feet), whose cable car is one of the world’s biggest with a capacity of some 150 passengers. Expect queues to match. In 1994, the resort served as the platform for a Tour de France stage finish. Colombia’s Nelson Rodriguez won the stage, which had the second loftiest height for a stage finish in the Tour de France’s chequered history.


Still often ranked as the world’s highest altitude ski resort, Chacaltaya stands in the La Paz Department of Bolivia. The Andes mountain, which soars a mighty 17,785 feet, constitutes the world’s highest ski spot – after a fashion. The tragic catch is that, although the mountain’s name means “cold road,” its glacier has receded rapidly in response to global warming. So, opportunities to carve powder are now extremely thin – if you are lucky, you just might find a sprinkling. Meantime, the extreme sports on the ascendance are climbing and gravity-powered mountain biking, courtesy of the neatly named Gravity Bolivia. Astride your bike you navigate a steep, zigzagging road that leads you into the steaming depths of the Zongo Jungle. Besides you can visit the eerie canyons of Moon Valley: a bizarre and dramatic work of art sculpted by erosion over the centuries. The area also sports an attraction touted as the world’s highest tournament standard golf course.


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