6. Republic of Georgia
A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery. Ski buffs don’t usually think of Soviet Georgia when planning their next backcountry outing. But some ambitious plans in the Caucasus are trying to change that fast. Tucked between the Black and Caspian seas and smattered with mountains, Georgia has the kind of terrain adventurous skiers yearn for: peaks reaching 16,000 feet, deep valleys and largely untouched slopes. Known best for spectacular off-piste and heli-skiing, Bakuriani and Gudauri — each a short drive from Tbilisi — saw 30,000 visitors in 2009 and are expanding fast.
And now, in efforts spearheaded by the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the ski-resort bug is spreading even further. In Mestia, the first groomed slopes of a new resort opened in December. Also earmarked as a winter hot spot is Goderdzi pass, which can have snow coverage six months a year.
— KIMBERLY BRADLEY