Unique ski resorts you need to experience

Mountaineer trekking to the top of Mont Blanc mountain in French Alps.

Whether you’re an experienced skier or more interested in the ski scene, these once-in-a-lifetime destinations belong on your bucket list.

When it comes to bucket-list-worthy ski experiences, there’s no shortage of slopes to explore. But if you know where to look, you can find experiences at ski resorts that combine awe-inspiring terrain — how about having the mountain all to yourself in Alaska? — with breathtaking apres-ski experiences like tasting rare wines in Japan. These four ski resorts offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences, on and off the slopes.

Set off on a ski safari in the Alps

Landscape aerial view of French alps mountains from helicopter cockpit.

The location: Many serious skiers flock to ski resorts at Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, but you shouldn’t overlook France’s Tarentaise Valley, just 30 minutes from world-class ski resorts like Val d’Isere and Tignes and offering some of the best skiing in the world. For a true adventure, join a guide on a helicopter ride to less populated slopes on the border between France and Italy, where you’ll enjoy untouched powder and the privacy to revel in this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Where to stay: There’s room for everyone at Chalet Pelerin and Chalet Hibou in the charming mountain village of Le Miroir. Both are part of Eleven, a global collection of luxury adventure lodges, and offer old-world charm with modern-day amenities. Head to Restaurant l’Edelweiss in nearby Val d’Isere for a leisurely lunch of traditional Savoyard fare like melty raclette or rich tartiflette, or dance the night away at La Folie Douce.

Don’t miss this: From Eleven’s ski resort, you can ski or snowshoe to L’Alpage du Crot, a former sheepherder’s hut transformed into a cozy restaurant and refuge. Ski right up, unclip your skis, and savor classic Alpine dishes like galettes, croutes, and fondue prepared fireside by a chef and paired with French wines as you gaze out over the cliffs of nearby Avoriaz.

What to know: If you let the team at Eleven know what type of skis or snowboard you prefer before your arrival, they’ll have them waiting for you in the ski resort’s boot room. Eleven’s guides can also find just the right terrain for you, no matter your skill level.

Ski some of the deepest powder on the planet

Mount Yotei at dusk with the town of Hirafu in the foreground.

The location: Niseko, located on Japan’s northern island prefecture of Hokkaido, is a powder paradise that’s home to four ski resorts — Hanazono , Grand Hirafu, and Annupuri— all accessible on one pass. The region is famous among skiers for its wide-open bowls and views of Mount Yotei, as well as its “champagne powder” — high-quality, deep, fluffy snow considered some of the best in the world.

Where to stay: HakuVillas has prime real estate in Upper Hirafu Village, just 200 meters from the Hirafu Gondola. The four exclusive luxury residences at this ski resort each include a personal chalet host, private chef, and chauffeur to see to your every need — including hot cocoa served mid-slope. After a long day, return to your villa to revive sore muscles in your intimate onsen — a traditional Japanese hot spring bath — or enjoy an exclusive tasting of rare Chateau Latour wines.

Don’t miss this: Ask your villa host to make a reservation at Kamimura, a Michelin-starred Japanese-French fusion restaurant renowned for its omakase-style tasting menu. The restaurant includes dishes from world-class Chef Yuichi Kamimura like Kutchan egg custard soup with black maitake mushrooms and duck, or Monbetsu puffer fish tempura with brown rice risotto, sour plum, and dried seaweed.

What to know: Niseko’s ski resorts are blessed with snow all winter; from December through March, Niseko receives an average of 14 meters of snow. But January’s cold temperatures and strong storms deliver the area’s deepest “Japow,” or Japanese powder.

Make untracked turns under the midnight sun

Outdoor lounging area with a fireplace in the wintertime.

The location: Sweden’s Riksgransen ski resort is located along the Norwegian border. Located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, it’s the country’s northernmost ski destination, earning it a reputation as Europe’s spring skiing capital. There are a variety of terrains to explore, including slopes that cross into Norway and back, plus off-piste runs that offer epic adventure and soft, untouched powder.

Where to stay: Niehku Mountain Villa is named after the indigenous Northern Sami word for “dream,” and that’s exactly what the ski resort is for owners Johan Lindblom (a mountain guide who has skied the globe) and Patrik Strömsten (a former ski racer). Built into a train line roundhouse from the early 1900s, the 14-room villa offers easy access to ski touring and heli-skiing around the region and on the Kebnekaise massif, Sweden’s highest peak. Relax around the firepit (inspired by the design of coal-fired steam engine boilers) or gather in the dining room for a farm-to-table culinary adventure and take a peek into the carefully curated wine cellar through the glass floor.

Don’t miss this: Strömsten has twice been recognized as Sweden’s top sommelier, and the ski resort’s well-stocked cellar includes revered labels such as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Harlan Estate. Ask him to select the perfect bottle to pair with a multicourse meal of local dishes, like grilled sirloin of beef from Vuollerim with croquette of oxtail, grilled and raw broccoli, baked and raw Jerusalem artichoke, and a sauce of black currants and smoked bone marrow.

What to know: In Riksgransen, the ski lifts open in February and don’t close until June. For about two months in late spring, you can maximize your time on the slopes thanks to the “midnight sun” — due to the ski resort’s position above the Arctic Circle, the sun rarely dips below the horizon in the summer months.

Schuss in the shadow of North America’s tallest peak

Mountaineers climbing at Denali National Park pulling a sled.

The location: If Alaska is the last frontier of skiing, then Denali National Park is the ultimate challenge. Skiers can tour around glaciers and notch first descents — but it’s not for the faint of heart. The steep, wild conditions are best for more experienced skiers, who will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views along routes like Messner Couloir, Orient Express, and Rescue Gully. Less experienced skiers can still take to the snow, however; Denali’s sled dog trails are fun to explore on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Where to stay: The five-bedroom exclusive-use Sheldon Chalet feels like it’s floating in the clouds from its 6,000-foot-perch at the head of the magnificent Ruth Glacier — a unique experience compared with typical ski resorts. This off-the-grid hideaway is accessible only by helicopter, and the summit of Denali 10 miles away is visible from almost every vantage of the hexagonal lodge. By day, you can ski tour around the area. At night, you’ll feast on Alaskan king crab legs, Simpson Bay oysters, and spot shrimp from Prince William Sound.

Don’t miss this: The ski resort’s guides can design an itinerary tailored to your interests, from glacier snowshoeing to snow cavern spelunking and sledding. But be sure to make time for a little relaxation: The remote location (and lack of light pollution) means the chalet’s observation deck is the ideal spot for star and meteor shower gazing — if the timing is right, you’ll also get a front row seat to the Northern Lights.

What to know: The 5-acre ski resort is the only private land in Denali National Park and includes the historic Sheldon Mountain House, a 212-square-foot hut with a wood-burning stove for those looking for a more rustic experience. Whether you stay at the chalet or the hut, you’ll find it easy to disconnect from the outside world because there’s no Wi-Fi — the owners want guests to fully immerse themselves in the experience. Heli transfers between the frontier town of Talkeetna and Sheldon Chalet are weather dependent, so build in buffer days for your flight home.