Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Guide to Winter Sports in Asia

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Mention winter sports in a casual conversation and the chances are that the countries that will come up for discussion will include Canada, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, the United States and various Scandinavian countries. Yet there are many superb places to be found in Asia for winter sports.

One only need consider the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Russia's deep south and on the Black Sea coast, to recall that winter sports are enormously popular throughout the world, even in countries that don't get much, or indeed any snow or ice. The Jamaican bobsleigh team may spring to mind.

For winter sport enthusiasts looking for something a little different, here are few places in Asia that may be attractive.

JAPAN

For those who don't know the country Japan is surprisingly mountainous, with a range running from the north-east to the south-west. The north-west part of Japan, which faces the Sea of Japan, gets very heavy snowfalls in the winter and there a good number of fine ski resorts. In the northern island of Hokkaido ski resorts such as Niseko and Rusutsu provide excellent powder snow, and on the main island in Nagano prefecture the Shiga Kogen Ski Area groups 21 ski resorts together, making it the largest such area in Japan. The country has over 500 ski resorts so there is plenty of choice. It's even possible to ski on the iconic Mount Fuji where there are two small resorts.


CHINA

This huge country may not spring immediately to mind as a winter sports destination, but as well as its incredible cultural history there are some very good ski resorts for winter sports activities. In the far north-east is the Yabuli Ski Resort, the largest one in China, and traveling almost due west from there to the Mongolian border finds the resort of Alshan. Distances in China are huge, and with two resorts near Beijing around 40 miles away from the capital it's the ideal opportunity to rent a car to get to them.


RUSSIA

Known for its bleak, harsh winters, Russia is known for its achievements in winter sports, topping the medals table at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The ski resort at Mount Elbrus, deep in the south of the country on the border with Georgia is good for skiing and snowboarding. The resort at Rosa Khutor, one of Russia's largest, is an hour's drive from Sochi Airport and there are plenty of opportunities for skiers and boarders at all experience levels.


KASHMIR

Although a disputed territory in the north of India, it is possible to ski in Kashmir, and there can be few more exciting experiences than taking to the slopes in the Himalayas. The Gulmarg Ski Resort is considered the best in the Himalayas with very heavy snowfalls and excellent powder snow. It's some 30 miles from the state capital of Srinagar, and its accessibility adds to its attraction as a prime skiing location.

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