Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 2,219 metres

Top elevation: 3,232 metres

Number of lifts: 6

Number of runs: 20

Access: Fly to Marrakech, where you'll base yourself. Oukaïmeden is a two hour drive away, up in the Atlas Mountains.

Oukaïmeden may be a tiny ramshackle ski resort in the Atlas Mountains, 45 miles south of Marrakech, but it also enjoys the distinction of being Morocco’s best ski resort. The main chair lift ascends the peak of Jebel Attar (3,258 metres), from which five marked trails haphazardly meander back down the base. To supplement this main lift (which is the star attraction), you’ll also find four surface tow lifts servicing a rudimentary novice area. That’s your lot.

Yet the ‘experience’ of skiing in Oukaïmeden is so much more. There is no absolutely no getting away from the fact you are in Morocco and as whilst all the accoutrements are present and correct – ski hire shops, a ski school, shops selling outdoor clothes and mountain restaurants – it’s all touched by the ‘wild west’. Characterful is the word we’ll use to paper over the cracks.

But let’s focus on the positives – you’ll get on the mountain riding on a donkey to the lift, lunch will be a tasty tagine and there's none of the big corporate nonsense you see in European and American resorts. It’s characterful and authentically Moroccan ... and within easy reach of Marrakech, resulting in no need to stay overnight unless you particularly want to. The scenery is spectacular.

Skiing first happened in the area in the 1930's, with the first hotels built in the 1950's. Since then, there's been some sporadic development here and there, culminating in some serious planned investment from a Dubai-based company several years ago. They were going to improve the infrastructure, update the lifts and runs, introduce snow-cannons and build luxury hotels. However, the global economic downturn seems to have put paid to all that.

Skiing in Oukaïmeden

From the resort base, you’ll see four surface tows accessing some gentle runs above. Give it a couple of runs to test your skis, but watch out for the catapult action of the tows (you have been warned!). This should adjust you to the experience of African skiing, as you dodge the local vendors milling around trying to sell you bags of walnuts, honey and necklaces.

It’s then time to head a kilometre down the road (on your donkey) to the chair lift. The first thing you’ll notice is that the queue for the chair lift is four times as long for those heading up to admire the view. First installed in 1963, the chair lift is almost 2,000 metres in length and has a vertical climb of 620 metres.

The only piste map is a faded board at the bottom of the slope and once you get to the top, things begin to get really confusing! There are a few signs pointing in various vague directions, but once you have left the top, the boundaries – such as they are – are not marked. There are about 12 miles of trails, yet the distinction between what’s on- and off-piste becomes blurred. The snow is anything but groomed, flat piste and this, combined with the dodgy hire skis, makes for a bumpy ride. None of the runs from the top of the chair lift we’d call easy. Most head down gingerly first time, at least until you’ve picked your route for future runs. The longest run is three kilometers long.

There are no snow-making facilities in Oukaïmeden, and with relatively sparse precipitation the slopes will always be challenging. If you’ve skied in the Scottish Highlands, much of this may sound familiar. There will be plenty of faux-guides willing to show you around, but most will do more harm than good. If you want someone to hold your hand and show you around the slopes (probably a good idea), we’ll engage someone from the ski school to do the honours.

So, there you go. An honest appraisal of the skiing experience in Oukaïmeden. We really don’t want to pretend it’s something it's not. But to provide balance – and forget all the disclaimers for one moment – it’s tremendous fun, there’s some challenges and, after all said and told, it is skiing and that’s exactly what we love doing!

Whatever you do, don’t go up the chair-lift. Stick to the surface tows in the main resort area. You can see what you ski, so judge for yourself if it’s something you fancy. There’s nothing too challenging in this novice area, though you’d certainly not finding us promoting Oukaïmeden as the place to make your first forays on to the ski slopes.

Get yourself up the chair-lift and then gingerly pick your way back down again. It’s a bit unruly, it can get steep at times and the snow is clumpy, bumpy and uneven. However, embrace the challenge and before you know it you’ll be having a good time! It's possible to ski back to the village from the top of the chair, along the ridge.

One quarter of the mountain is given over to advanced terrain, yet in reality it depends on the conditions. There will always be plenty of challenge, as Jebel Attar is an uneven mountain of varying pitch and snow. There are couloirs dropping off the ridge which can increase the heart rate and if you stay over to the extreme left of the mountain, things also get a little interesting.

The distinction between on- and off-piste is somewhat hazy. It all feels like side-country and if you see a thin stash of powder, point your skis at it and see what happens!

The same fun and the same challenges as for the skier – snowboarding is as embraced as skiing is in Morocco. Surface tows in the nursery areas make for uncomfortable rides up, whereas the chair-accessed trails offer no specific challenges for boarders.

Kids will love the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and, generally, family holidays to Morocco are a joy. When it comes to the ski slopes in Oukaïmeden, the kids will be only under your care and your care alone. You'll find Moroccan families playing around on sledges and skis near the surface lifts, but only confident skiers of any age should approach the chair lift.

For those who stay up on the mountain, it's dinner in your hotel and then time for bed. It’s a good job that the food isn’t too bad and they serve wine, beer and hard liquor!

For most, nightlife will be back down in Marrakech. The smoky, snake-charmer-led chaos of the main Djemaa el-Fna square seems even more intense after the relative quiet of the mountains. We’d suggest that you go for a hammam before dining, as the heat will sooth ski-sore muscles.

Whatever you do, don’t go up the chair-lift. Stick to the surface tows in the main resort area. You can see what you ski, so judge for yourself if it’s something you fancy. There’s nothing too challenging in this novice area, though you’d certainly not finding us promoting Oukaïmeden as the place to make your first forays on to the ski slopes.

Get yourself up the chair-lift and then gingerly pick your way back down again. It’s a bit unruly, it can get steep at times and the snow is clumpy, bumpy and uneven. However, embrace the challenge and before you know it you’ll be having a good time! It's possible to ski back to the village from the top of the chair, along the ridge.

One quarter of the mountain is given over to advanced terrain, yet in reality it depends on the conditions. There will always be plenty of challenge, as Jebel Attar is an uneven mountain of varying pitch and snow. There are couloirs dropping off the ridge which can increase the heart rate and if you stay over to the extreme left of the mountain, things also get a little interesting.

The distinction between on- and off-piste is somewhat hazy. It all feels like side-country and if you see a thin stash of powder, point your skis at it and see what happens!

The same fun and the same challenges as for the skier – snowboarding is as embraced as skiing is in Morocco. Surface tows in the nursery areas make for uncomfortable rides up, whereas the chair-accessed trails offer no specific challenges for boarders.

Kids will love the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and, generally, family holidays to Morocco are a joy. When it comes to the ski slopes in Oukaïmeden, the kids will be only under your care and your care alone. You'll find Moroccan families playing around on sledges and skis near the surface lifts, but only confident skiers of any age should approach the chair lift.

For those who stay up on the mountain, it's dinner in your hotel and then time for bed. It’s a good job that the food isn’t too bad and they serve wine, beer and hard liquor!

For most, nightlife will be back down in Marrakech. The smoky, snake-charmer-led chaos of the main Djemaa el-Fna square seems even more intense after the relative quiet of the mountains. We’d suggest that you go for a hammam before dining, as the heat will sooth ski-sore muscles.

Getting There

It takes between one-and-a-half to two hours to get to Oukaïmeden by road from Marrakech. Tight hairpins in a steep-sided and dramatic gorge mark the final approaches to the resort, which itself sits on a natural plateau, surrounded by the peaks of the Atlas mountains.

We can organize transport for you – the vehicle and your driver / guide taking out any stress involved in the day. Otherwise you can drive – the traffic in Marrakesh being the main hazard. Once out on the open road, it’s all gravy, though drive slowly and keep a close eye on the local taxis which are hell-bent on taking their clients up to the mountain in as quick a time as possible. A compact car costs from £40 per day, a four-wheel-drive vehicle from £90.

Take the main P2017 road for 27 miles and it's a right on to the P20130 for a further 18 miles up to Oukaïmeden.

Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 2,219 metres

Top elevation: 3,232 metres

Number of lifts: 6

Number of runs: 20

Access: Fly to Marrakech, where you'll base yourself. Oukaïmeden is a two hour drive away, up in the Atlas Mountains.