Slopes, powder snow and ski resort are not words you usually associate with Greece. But there is even more to this beautiful country in the Mediterranean, synonym of beautiful islands, dreamy beaches and one of the most influential civilizations in history.
Ski touring in Greece is blooming. Over the past years, more and more people are coming here from different countries, “like a wave”. As a developing ski touring area, there are many things that only a local expert will know.
Pavlos Tsiantos started skiing when he was 6 years old. Born in the Czech Republic, his mother was Czech and his father Greek. Pavlos moved back to Greece at the age of 12. As a kid, he practiced winter sports and ice skating.
Pavlos traveled the world in search for amazing mountaineering experiences. He visited the Andes and the Himalayas. In 2004, he reached the peak of Mount Everest with a Greek expedition. After that, he focused on ski touring and ski mountaineering. Ski mountaineering for Pavlos means double the fun: “You can hike up and then descend on skis! I was hooked forever”.
So what do we need to know about ski touring in Greece? Come in for Pavlos’ top exclusive tips!
First, a few basics
What are the main characteristics of Greece as a ski touring destination?
- In the winter, you can find snow already at an altitude of between 1,000 and 1,500 m
- There are 53 mountains above 2,000 meters
- And 138 mountains between 1,000 and 1,500 meters
- The above are autonomous mountains, not only peaks!
What makes ski touring in Greece different
Pavlos mentions three key aspects of ski touring in Greece that, combined, make the experience special:
1- The unexpectedness of the location: Greece is not widely known as a destination for ski touring enthusiasts. This is precisely what makes it special. It remains one of the best kept ski secrets in Europe.
2- Its remoteness: when ski touring in Greece, you access remote places in a very short time. Some of these can even be more remote than those in the Alps. If isolation and exploration are what you are looking for when skiing, this is the right place for you. The fact that it hasn’t been developed to the fullest yet makes it extra special.
3- The proximity to the sea: This allows you to combine different activities in one same trip. If you travel to Greece either late in the winter or early in the spring, you might even be able to bathe in the sea and ski amazing slopes in one same day. You can experience this in Mount Olympus, Crete and Peloponnesus, for example.
Top 5 ski touring locations
After careful consideration (“It’s not easy to pick just five”, he admits) – these are Pavlos‘s top 5 ski touring spots in Greece:
1. Mount Olympus (2,918 m)
This is the highest mountain in Greece, and a historical place too. It is part of the Olympus range and is located 80km from Thessaloniki. It is also a very symbolic place, as it was known in Greek mythology as the home of the Gods.
2. Mount Smolikas (2,537 m)
This mountain filled with beautiful conifer forests is, according to Pavlos, one of the most interesting spots in Greece, in terms of skiing options.
3. Mount Parnassos (2,457 m)
Located near Athens, “it also has one of the best ski resorts in Greece, and is a great location for ski mountaineering as well”. Mount Parnassus is another location often mentioned in Greek mythology, as house of the muses.
4. Mount Vardousia (2,495 m)
Located in central Greece, Mount Vardousia hosts over ten peaks above 2,000 m.
This beautiful island, the largest in Greece, has more than one option. Two of Pavlos’ top recommendations are the White Mountains and peak Psiloritis. Ski touring in Crete means skiing downhill with the impressive view of the Mediterranean Sea.
What ski touring level is necessary?
“In Greece, there are options for every skill level! The shape of the mountains vary – there are south faces, north ridges – all kinds of variations”, mentions Pavlos. The maximum altitude is not higher than 3,000 m, plus there are no glaciers. This combination makes Greece a ski touring location open to several skill levels.
The one characteristic that will determine whether a location is for a beginner or an experienced skier is the remoteness.
A note from Pavlos for beginners: “The most suitable locations for beginners will be those closer to the ski resorts. There are ski lifts available to gain altitude. Mount Parnauss, Stilisa and Peloponnesus have cable cars, for example”.
What is the best time of the year to go ski touring in Greece?
The winter in Greece can last until well into May. “If you are lucky, you can even find snow patches in June!”, Pavlos tells us. Another characteristic of the Greek weather is the abrupt change of seasons.
When it comes to the very best time to go, Pavlos answers: “Although you could be lucky and have a great skiing day in May, the safest time for ski touring here in Greece is January to March”.
How developed are the facilities and locations here?
Skiing in Greece started as ski mountaineering. The first ski tour took place in 1931, Pavlos recalls. It was between the 50’s and the 60’s that the area started to be developed more steadily. The very first ski resort with a lift was built in 1955. Later, the 80’s saw a new peak in activity.
Still, Greece still has large distances of unexplored areas. A lot of exploration is still possible. This is a fascinating opportunity for adventurous skiers.
In the winter, huts located close to ski resorts are open the whole season. Those farther away are usually open on weekends or for special groups if requested in advance.
So while there is not an established “hut-to-hut” tradition like in the Alps, you can go on a 1-day program departing from the highest village possible, and then spend the night there, at a hostel. From a remote village, you can even reach several summits in a single day.
Why you need to contact a certified mountain guide
Of course, remote locations mean a lack of support and proper support in a potential rescue, warns Pavlos. This is why skiers need to contact certified mountain guides, who will be prepared to guide you an assist you.
At the beginning of this blog post, the idea of ski touring in Greece probably sounded extremely unusual… We hope that by now we’ve helped you change your mind, and add Mount Olympus, Crete or Parnassos to your ski touring bucket list! Why not…?
Thank you Pavlos for sharing your knowledge, and your love for Greece and ski touring with Explore-Share.com!