When you think of Africa, you may picture savannas, deserts, jungles, and beaches, but probably not snow-capped mountains and ski slopes. Yet, contrary to popular perception, Africa has some amazing ski resorts that offer thrilling winter sports, stunning scenery, and cultural richness. From Morocco to South Africa, from Algeria to Lesotho, and from Tunisia to Ethiopia, Africa boasts a diverse range of ski destinations that cater to different preferences and budgets. Whether you are a seasoned skier or a curious adventurer, a solo traveller or a family group, a foodie or a partygoer, there is something for you in the snowy corners of Africa. Let's explore some of the best ski resorts in Africa and see what they offer beyond skiing.
Our first stop is Oukaimeden, a small village located in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, about 80 kilometres south of Marrakech. Oukaimeden is the highest ski resort in Africa, with an altitude of over 3,200 meters, and a ski season that usually lasts from December to March. The resort features six ski lifts, 20 kilometres of ski slopes, and various snowboarding and cross-country options. The slopes are suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers, with gentle runs and some steeper challenges. The scenery is breathtaking, with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, valleys, and Berber villages. You can also rent equipment and take lessons from local instructors, who are friendly and experienced.
Besides skiing, you can enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, sledding, or just relaxing in the natural hot springs nearby. Food-wise, Oukaimeden offers some tasty and warming dishes, such as tagine, couscous, harissa soup, and mint tea, which reflect the local Berber cuisine and hospitality. The prices are reasonable, with a daily ski pass costing around $25 and a meal for two around $20. Oukaimeden is an ideal destination for families with children, as it has a kids' club, a playground, and a skating rink. You can also attend some cultural events and festivals, such as the Berber New Year celebration in January or the Imilchil Marriage Festival in September, which showcase the traditional music, dance, and costumes of the local tribes.
Moving down to the southern tip of Africa, we arrive at Tiffindell, a cozy ski resort located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, about a 6-hour drive from Johannesburg. Tiffindell is the only ski resort in South Africa, and one of the few in the southern hemisphere that has natural snow, thanks to its high altitude of 2,720 meters and its location near the Drakensberg Mountains. The ski season in Tiffindell lasts from June to August, and offers a variety of slopes for different levels, from easy nursery slopes to challenging black runs. The resort has three ski lifts, a terrain park, a ski school, and a snowmaking system that ensures good snow conditions even in dry winters. Besides skiing, you can try snowboarding, tubing, quad biking, hiking, or stargazing, as Tiffindell has a clear sky and little light pollution. Food-wise, Tiffindell has a rustic and hearty cuisine, with options such as beef biltong, braai meat, potjiekos, and Amarula hot chocolate, which reflect the South African love of meat, spice, and warmth. The prices are a bit higher than in Oukaimeden, with a daily ski pass costing around $60 and a meal for two around $40, but the quality and ambience are worth it. Tiffindell is a perfect destination for adventurous couples or groups who want to combine skiing with wildlife safaris, wine tasting, or beach hopping, as South Africa offers a diverse range of attractions within easy reach. You can also experience some local traditions, such as braai parties, Zulu dancing, or Xhosa beadwork, which showcase the rich cultural heritage of the rainbow nation.
Next on our list is Chréa, a charming ski resort located in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, about 40 kilometres from the capital Algiers. Chréa is one of the oldest ski resorts in Africa, founded in the 1920s by the French colonizers, and it still retains some of its colonial charm and elegance. The resort has three ski lifts, six ski slopes, and a ski school, and the ski season lasts from December to April, with good snow quality and sunny days. The slopes are suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers, with some steep and narrow runs that require skill and courage. The scenery is stunning, with cedar forests, waterfalls, and cliffs, and you can also spot some wildlife, such as Barbary macaques, wild boars, and foxes. Food-wise, Chréa offers some French-inspired dishes, such as croissants, baguettes, crepes, and fondue, as well as some Algerian specialties, such as couscous, tajine, and mint tea. The prices are affordable, with a daily ski pass costing around $20 and a meal for two around $15. Chréa is a good choice for solo travellers or couples who appreciate history, nature, and gastronomy, as well as for those who want to explore the vibrant city of Algiers, which has a rich blend of Arab, Berber, and French influences.
Heading to the heart of southern Africa, we arrive at Afriski, a lively ski resort located in the highlands of Lesotho, a landlocked kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Afriski is the most developed and diverse ski resort in Africa, with a wide range of facilities and activities that cater to different tastes and ages. The resort has seven ski lifts, nine ski slopes, a snow park, a half-pipe, a ski school, and a tubing slope, and the ski season lasts from June to September, with good snow quality and mild temperatures. The slopes are suitable for all levels, from beginners to experts, with some fun and challenging features, such as jumps, rails, and boxes. The scenery is spectacular, with rugged mountains, alpine lakes, and traditional villages, and you can also enjoy some off-piste skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, or hiking. Food-wise, Afriski has a diverse and flavorful cuisine, with options such as potjie, boerewors, samoosas, and rooibos tea, which reflect the South African and Basotho influences. The prices are reasonable, with a daily ski pass costing around $40 and a meal for two around $30. Afriski is a great destination for families or groups who want to have fun together and try new things, as the resort has a kids' club, a cinema, a games room, and a bar that hosts live music and DJs. You can also explore the local culture, such as the traditional music, dance, and clothing of the Basotho people, or visit the nearby Sani Pass, a scenic route that crosses the border between Lesotho and South Africa and offers stunning views and cultural encounters.
Last but not least, we come to Bale Mountain Lodge, a luxurious eco-lodge located in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, which offers a unique ski experience combined with wildlife watching, cultural immersion, and relaxation. Bale Mountain Lodge is not a ski resort per se, but it has a ski touring program that allows guests to explore the high-altitude slopes of the Bale Mountains, which reach up to 4,377 meters above sea level. The ski season lasts from December to February, with good snow quality and clear skies, and the slopes are suitable for experienced skiers who are willing to hike and ski off-piste. The scenery is breathtaking, with moorlands, heather forests, alpine meadows, and Afro-alpine vegetation, and you can also encounter some rare and endemic species, such as the Ethiopian wolf, the mountain nyala, the giant mole rat, and the Bale monkey. Food-wise, Bale Mountain Lodge offers a gourmet and healthy cuisine, with organic and locally sourced ingredients, such as injera, doro wat, tibs, and tej, which reflect the Ethiopian and Oromo traditions. The prices are high, with a ski touring package costing around $4,000 per person for six days, including accommodation, meals, guiding, and transportation. Bale Mountain Lodge is a must-see destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and luxury travellers who want to combine skiing with wildlife watching, birding, hiking, horseback riding, or spa treatments. You can also learn about the Oromo culture, language, and customs, which are an integral part of the Bale Mountains ecosystem and history.
Skiing in Africa is not only possible but also rewarding, as it offers a blend of adventure, nature, culture, and gastronomy that is unique and inspiring. The four ski destinations we have presented are just a sample of the diversity and richness of Africa's ski scene, which includes other countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, each with its own charm and allure. Whether you are a beginner or an expert skier, a family or a couple, a budget or a luxury traveller, Africa has something to offer you, from the snowy slopes of the Atlas Mountains to the alpine meadows of the Bale Mountains. So, pack your skis, grab your passport, and discover the magic of skiing in Africa, where the sun, the snow, and the smiles are waiting for you.
So are you ready to hit the slopes in Africa?
If so, you may be wondering when the best time to go skiing is. The good news is that there are several months of the year when you can ski in Africa, depending on which country you visit.
For example, Morocco is a popular destination for skiing in Africa, and the best time to ski there is from January to March. During these months, the snow cover is thick and stable, and the weather is sunny and mild.
If you're planning a ski trip to Algeria, you should aim to visit between December and February. This is when the snowfall is abundant and the temperatures are cool but not freezing.
In South Africa, skiing is possible from June to August, but be aware that snowfall is rare during these months. Resorts such as Tiffindell and Afriski can provide artificial snow and ski runs.
Finally, if you're headed to Ethiopia for a ski trip, the best time to visit is from December to February. This is when the snow cover is firm and compact, and the slopes of the Bale Mountains offer a thrilling and scenic experience.
No matter which country you choose to visit, make sure to research and plan ahead to ensure the best possible ski experience. And Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Africa's snowy slopes.
If you are planning to ski in Africa, here are some tips that can help you make the most of your trip and avoid any surprises or disappointments.
First of all, research the ski resorts and destinations well in advance, and choose the one that fits your preferences and budget. Don't assume that all ski resorts in Africa offer the same level of infrastructure, services, and safety standards as the ones in Europe or North America. Some of them may be more rustic, remote, or basic, but also more authentic, adventurous, or exclusive.
Secondly, pack wisely, and bring all the necessary gear and clothing for skiing in high altitudes and variable weather conditions. This includes warm and waterproof jackets, pants, gloves, hats, goggles, and sunscreen. You may also need to rent or buy some equipment on-site, depending on the availability and quality of the local shops.
Thirdly, be prepared for cultural differences and challenges, and respect the local customs and traditions. Africa is a continent with diverse languages, religions, and lifestyles, and you may encounter some communication barriers, currency issues, or safety concerns. However, if you approach the locals with an open mind and a friendly attitude, you can learn a lot from them and enrich your skiing experience.
Fourthly, take advantage of the non-skiing activities and attractions that each destination offers. Skiing is just one aspect of the trip, and you can also enjoy hiking, wildlife watching, cultural tours, culinary experiences, and nightlife entertainment. Africa is a continent of contrasts and surprises, and you may discover some hidden gems that you never thought existed.
Finally, book your trip through a reliable and reputable travel agency or operator, who can provide you with the necessary information, guidance, and assistance before, during, and after the trip. They can also customize your itinerary and package according to your preferences and needs, and offer you some exclusive deals and discounts.
Skiing in Africa is not for everyone, but it can be a life-changing experience for those who dare to try something new, different, and exciting. You can challenge yourself physically, mentally, and culturally, and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, don't hesitate to take the plunge and explore the snowy slopes of Africa, where adventure awaits you.
Did you know that skiing in Africa is not a recent phenomenon, but has a long and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times?
In Egypt, for example, the pharaohs used to ski on the sand dunes of the Sahara desert, using animal hides as skis and poles. They considered skiing as a sport and a ritual that symbolized the victory of the sun over darkness and chaos.
In Morocco, the Berber tribes have been skiing on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains for centuries, using handmade wooden skis and leather boots. They developed a unique skiing style that combined agility, balance, and grace and used skiing as a means of transportation and communication between the villages.
In South Africa, the Afrikaans settlers introduced skiing to the Drakensberg Mountains in the late 19th century and formed the first ski club in 1913. They imported snow and equipment from Europe and organized ski races and festivals that attracted visitors from all over the world.
In Lesotho, the only country in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 meters, skiing has become a popular activity in recent years, thanks to the development of the Afriski resort. The resort has also hosted several international ski competitions and events and has become a hub of winter sports in southern Africa.
Apart from these historical and cultural facts, skiing in Africa also offers some fun and surprising moments, such as skiing with the Masai warriors in Kenya, skiing down the sand dunes of Namibia, or skiing in the moonlight in Egypt. You can also enjoy some unique après-ski activities, such as camel rides, hot air balloon rides, or wine-tasting tours. And who knows, you may even encounter some celebrities or royalty who share your passion for skiing, such as Prince Harry, who has skied in Lesotho, or Oprah Winfrey, who has skied in South Africa.
So, if you want to add some spice and adventure to your skiing experience, Africa is the place to be, where history, culture, and fun meet on the snowy slopes.