Massive limestone walls rising to the left and right were the only things keeping vertigo at bay. Three friends and I were perched high on a snowy couloir, surrounded by white clouds. We had been climbing up to a steep ski line in Slovenia's wild Julian Alps for over four houses – and we finally gaining on the top.

As the clouds cleared, I popped my head out expecting to be at the top. We weren't. In fact, we were just clinging on to the side of a sharp arête with crampons and ice axes. The only option was to traverse the arête, going up deeper in the clouds and wind.

It all started when my friend Molly Baker and I decided to plan a new winter ski adventure. “Where should we go?" I asked. “Slovenia!" Molly said immediately.

She had spend a day and half there last summer, biking the Julian Alps and wanted to head back on skis. Plus this jagged range on the eastern end of the European Alps promised a new adventure.

There is far less ski traffic in Slovenia than in France or Switzerland, more opportunities for exploration – plus the beer is cheap and the people friendly.

So here we were, climbing blind with fellow professional skiers Liza Sarychev and ski mountaineer Kt Miller, on top of this mountain.

Photo: Brigid Mander

Ski Touring Slovenia Julian Mountains 4

We arrived with no plan other than packing skis and showing up in the Julians. A helpful Instagram follower sent Kt a photo of this very couloir. It was a deep slash in the side of Jalovec, the sixth highest peak in the Julians at 2,645m, and it looked amazing. We headed straight for it.

We kept climbing, kicking steps up along the arête into the flat whiteness, until a faint shout came from Kt a hundred meters ahead. Barely visible in the blowing snow, she was perched, smiling and hunched with her back to the howling wind on a perfect flat spot. We piled onto it, ready for the descent. One by one we dropped in.

The couloir - while definitely not powder - was chalky and grippy, steep enough to be really exciting, just shy of terrifying. We hop turned down the first 400m until it began to mellow out and the lower snow softened.

Jump turns morphed into faster, bigger ski turns out onto the apron and the edge of a thickly treed forest. We soaked up out success and adrenaline high for a few minutes, and then headed back through the thick forest to the little alpine hut we used as base camp for a few celebratory pivos (beers).

Locals told us you weren't considered a true Slovenian until you had climbed the country's highest peak, Triglav

We started our journey in the fairy-tale Slovene mountain town of Bled (no relation to Eastern European vampires, I found). We found a sparkling lake with swans and a tiny island, the only one in Slovenia, with a centuries old, castle-like church. Beyond that we could see what we were really interested in, the snow-covered peaks of the Julians.

As fun as the go-to resorts of central Europe are, we wanted a place without the crowds and overpriced tourism scene. We weren't disappointed. There's even an element of magic to the Julians – my stiff complaining knee was cured after a freezing post-ski skinny dip in a nearby clear green mountain river.

We found a fun, playful region around Vogel and Lake Bohinj by the steep faces were icy. The bulletproof snow wrapped around Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia at 2,864m.

We had hoped to ski this mountain, held in special regard by Slovenians as it was chosen for their national flag.

Photo: Brigid Mander

Ski Touring Slovenia Julian Mountains 3

Locals we met along the way told us you weren't considered a true Slovenian until you had climbed this peak, so we figured we could at least make ourselves honorary citizens of this charming country. However, it was not to be. Local opinion was the peak would be out of ski condition for a few more weeks.

So we had stuck out for (softer) snowier mountainsides, heading up to the northern side of the range near the borders with Italy and Austria in our overpacked rental car.

On the west side, we discovered Sella Nevea, a hidden little gem of an Italian ski area, with Bovec, a lovely, bustling Slovene mountain town, on the other side of the border. Between the two was a ridge with couloirs, bowls, featured mountain flanks, and little mountain bivies on both sides.

By the time we arrived, the mountains had a new coat of light, fluffy powder. Luckily, we made a couple of local Italian/Slovenian friends – of course – who just happened to be ripping freeskiers and one named Enrico Mosetti, who was an IFMGA guide.

Photo: Brigid Mander

Ski Touring Slovenia Julian Mountains 2

They generously showed us the goods in their backyard, by which I mean line after line of powder-filled couloirs and featured little descents. We topped it all off with plenty of other worldly-level cappuccinos whenever the opportunity arose.

Although we had developed a fine appreciation for Slovenian goulash, we weren’t about to say no to a few post-powder skiing, wine-filled, Italian family dinners cooked up by our multi-talented friends.

***

After nearly a week of heavenly, cold, Julian powder snow, it was time to head back to beautiful little Ljubljana, where we toasted with glasses of fine Slovenian wine to a successful exploration.

Despite the low snow season, we found the ski touring opportunities in the Julians to be more than worthy of return trips.

Many thanks to Slovenia TourismBajtica Guest House in BledVogel Ski Resort and the Slovenian Alpine Association (PZS)