We didn’t exactly have a view of the Parthenon from our ski location at Parnassos (ski resort near Athens, Greece, see map below). Yet I couldn’t complain. Greece has a lack of snow at the moment, so getting up in elevation is key. Today, we rode the cable at Parnassos ski center for a quick hit of white vertical, where we climbed for turns above the lift termini (is that Greek?) and checked out sublime views: Gulf of Corinth to the south and Euboean Gulf to the northeast. I like places where you can ski above the sea, Greece does not disappoint in that regard.
Adding to the fun at Parnassos, while Greece does not have the thousands of mountain huts as those of the Alps, a few classic “refugio” are owned by the Greek Alpine Club. The M. Defner refuge is located off to the side of Parnassos Ski Center, in a backcountry area that’s as yet untouched by mechanized skiing. You can traverse into the refuge from the resort, or hike up from parking at snow-line (usually an hour maximum walk). Begun in 1923 as a small stone hut, Defner now sleeps a few dozen people, replete with solar and generator electricity, and wood heat (worth also noting that during winter, all supplies are carried in under human power, making this a truly ‘off the grid’ experience.)
Defner refuge prices vary according to your meal requirements and length of stay, but you should be able to get a bed and three squares a day for about $25/person/day. Warning, Hellenic hut food is addictive — the baked feta cheese alone will have you swooning — then they break out the bean and sausage “mountain soup.” We spent two nights. Hut operator and ski guide Kostis Papadakakis along with cook Demitri kept us joyful as we communed with Zeus on the heights. We should mention here that film maker Constantine Papanicolaou was kind enough to haul Louie and I around for a week and show us Greece without the wrong turns and false starts we’d have done on our own. Adventure travel without a guide can be fun, but we didn’t have many days to see things so it was nice to have Constantine help us focus.
If you want to combine a visit to Athens along with skiing, I do recommend utilizing Dafner refuge as well as the Parnossos lift access. This especially if you don’t have a lot of time to travel around the country. You can contact refuge operator and guide Kostis Papadakakis via his Facebook. He’ll get you all set up for a stay. Anyone doing ski travel in Greece should also contact Way Out Adventures for general advice as well as arranging guides, accommodations and transport.
Note: Despite the Greek marketing juggernaut that would have you believe the country is all about blue water, white sand and ancient statues, Greece is actually a mountain country with hundreds of options for ski touring. Apparently, some of the peaks are even waiting for first ski descents! Various guides and smart adventure travelers have known about this for years so I’m not raging about anything newly discovered, but it’s worth emphasizing that these ski opportunities exist and are way under utilized.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.