ski moroccoThe words “Morocco” and “skiing” don’t seem to go together, but did you know that Morocco is home to Africa’s highest ski resort? And, in addition to this record-setting resort, there are several other ski resorts throughout the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. If skiing is a hobby you enjoy, consider giving the slopes of Morocco a shot. While American and European ski destinations are expensive getaways in winter months, this is Morocco’s off season so prices are much more affordable.

The ski season lasts from December to March/April but conditions vary greatly depending on snowfall and temperatures. Unlike American ski resorts, Moroccan ski resorts don’t make artificial snow so skiing conditions are completely dependent on natural elements. Also, there are few grooming machines. Because of this, runs may be bumpy, powdered, packed or any variation of these. Ski lessons, rentals, chairlifts and run difficulty vary depending on the ski hill.

While there are many ski hills to cut your teeth on, these four destinations should be at the top of any skiers to-visit list.

Ifrane

Built during the French protectorate, this city resembles any Alpine village in Europe. Jebel Mischliffen is a small ski area a few miles outside of Ifrane. It was built in the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged. The runs are short and the chairlifts unreliable. This is a good ski hill for amateurs or families. If you’re nearby, it’s worth a trip to see the city and say you skied in Africa!

Oukaimeden

This resort is located about 30 miles south of Marrakech and is Morocco’s largest and most well-established ski resort. It sits at 8,500 feet above sea level and the chairlift rises to 10,650 feet. Jebel Attar is the highest peak and has five runs, the longest of which is about two miles. There are shorter lifts if this hill is too intimidating. A day pass for Oukaimeden is only $10 and rentals are around the same price. Beware of “guides” on the slopes offering assistance for a fee. Ask for a true instructor if you’re unsure of ability and skills.

Tazaghart

Are you an expert on the ski hill? For the truly advanced or expert skiers, Tazaghart, in the same mountain range as Oukaimeden, is the hill to conquer. The only way to access this slope is to physically climb Mount Jebel. There is a small hut available at about 9,900 feet, but there are no other facilities on this hill. This is a completely raw hill and conditions are dependent on weather patterns.

Heliskiing

One of the newest options for skiing in Morocco is heliskiing. This type of adventure skiing has been popular in the U.S., Canada and Europe for several years and is now making its way to Africa. Skiers travel by helicopter to the top of the mountain peak and are then dropped off so they can ski down the summit. For safety reasons, they are often followed by the helicopter and/or a guide. For the true adventure seeker and expert skier, this opportunity allows distance from the crowds and an adrenaline-charged experience. Heliski Marrakech currently offers this service to interested parties. New mountain skiers should not consider this.

Though skiing might not be top of mind when it comes to Africa, take advantage of lower lodging and airfares during the winter months and include skiing on your list of must-do items when you travel to Morocco.

Written by Amanda Mouttaki.

Photo by simon_music.

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