Background: Mauna Kea is the mother of all volcanoes. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, it is the state’s highest point—impressive, considering that the majority of it rests under water. Mauna Kea is 32,000 feet from top to bottom, with a 13,796-foot peak above sea level, making it Earth’s premiere site for stargazing. No surprise, then, that the Mauna Kea Observatory is the largest astronomical observatory in the world, with thirteen telescopes along its summit, which are operated by eleven different countries.
Why It’s Unique: A county road that exists to allow scientists access to the observatory also birthed Mauna Kea’s skiers and boarders, locals who take advantage of Hawaii’s rare exposure to snow. With no lifts, no trail maps and no ski patrol, the terrain is best left to the experts, who usually take turns picking the others up after each run. A surfboard has even been known to make an appearance when the famous pineapple powder comes calling. The Mauna Kea Snowboarding Championship was established in 1994 and still continues, weather permitting, to attract international competitors.
(Photo by beasy/flickr)