Tantalisingly close yet a world away; you are forgiven for not having considered Morocco for your next winter ski holiday. However perhaps we can tempt you for an alternative ski break, which comes complete with the bragging rights of visiting the “highest ski resort in Africa”? Morocco is our leftfield treat for the idiosyncratic skier or boarder.
It is abundantly clear that you should never come to Morocco for a ski holiday alone. To encourage you to do so would make us guilty of over egging the on-the-slopes experience. Instead, you are most definitely travelling to Morocco for a winter (sun) holiday. A city break in Marrakech or a longer itinerary taking in more of this fabulous country, perhaps? We are simply proposing that whilst you are in Morocco on holiday, Different Snow also then include a day or two’s skiing in Oukaïmeden, a ski resort high in the Atlas Mountains.
For you avid skiers and boarders, surely it’s worth a day of your time? How many can claim to have skied on the edge of the Sahara Desert? When have you previously ridden a donkey to the bottom of the lifts? The skiing itself makes for a thoroughly entertaining day, with almost 13 miles of what they loosely and rather optimistically call ‘piste’.
We know Morocco well at Different Snow – both on and off the ski slopes. We’ve visited countless times and are full of ideas and recommendations about how to get the most out of Marrakech, and the larger country beyond. Importantly, we’ve skied at Oukaïmeden so we understand the logistics involved and instinctively know how to set expectations.
Take a winter break with a twist, tick something insanely exotic off your bucket-list and squeeze an extra ski day out of your season.
Oukaïmeden claims to open from late December and the season will take you through until mid-March. Some years, this may even be the case. However, local knowledge firmly steers you towards the period from early January through to late February, when there is likely to be enough snow. Even then, no guarantees. This is not a snow-sure destination and there are no snow-making facilities. Thin and patchy snow is always a distinct possibility - it’s a good job that you didn’t come here for the skiing alone!
Winter is a great time to visit Morocco if you’re seeing the sights or browsing the souqs – the mercury is likely to be in the mid to low 20ºC and rain showers are rare. The huge advantage is that Morocco, and Marrakech specifically, is blissfully free of the tourist crowds which blight it during high season.
There are two notable ski resorts in Morocco. Different Snow feature Oukaïmeden which is high in the Atlas mountains, though within easy striking distance from Marrakech. Therefore, it is convenient to base oneself down in the city and commute for the day up to the slopes. It is also the resort with the most lifts and most extensive skiing possibilities - though this is by no means a particularly proud boast. Val D’Isere this is not!
You will be skiing high up - Oukaïmeden ranges from 3,200 to 2,600 metres and getting enough oxygen in your lungs, however, can be a challenge. It’s tiring.
The Moroccans love to visit the ski resort - it’s a novelty and the prospect of watching crazy foreign visitors with planks of wood strapped to their feet is a big pull. Many fashionable young couples from Marrakech often come up to the mountains for a romantic day trip. They enjoy a bracing chairlift ride to the summit, where you’ll have to dodge them teetering around as they take gleeful selfies. Having said this, there are also plenty of Moroccans willing to give skiing a go, and you’ll find these more courageous locals creating havoc on the gentlest novice slopes.
For your interest, Morocco’s other ski resort is up near Fès. It’s called Mischliffen and, notwithstanding a decent hotel, it turns out to be little more than a sledding hill, with two rudimentary surface lifts and a very dodgy snow record.
Tap on the resorts below to find out more:
Marrakech Menara Airport is well served by most European carriers, including those of the low-cost variety. Direct flights from the UK will take you just three hours – usually possible from the various London airports, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Because January and February are low season, this usually has a pleasing impact on prices.
Different Snow is a licensed and financially bonded tour operator, meaning we are well placed to organise these international flights to Morocco and include them as part of the tailor-made package. Often we have access to better fares than what would be available directly to you - at the very least, as good as. For your piece of mind, it's better to keep all the travel arrangements under one roof. Therefore, if one element fails for whatever reason, it then becomes our responsibility to get things back on track.