Not known as a snowboarding destination Morocco could surprise some. It’s home to the Atlas Ranges and the tallest mountain in North Africa, Jebel Toubkal at 4167 meters. From the sun drenched streets of Marrakech you can have a breakfast of croissant and mint tea while your ears ring with the call to prayer, the buzz of street sellers and horse drawn carts. Through the morning haze of 2 stroke oil you can see the snow capped peaks of the central High Atlas.
A 76km drive from the city is the resort of Oukaimeden. It claims a 663m vertical drop from 3258meters, there’s 1 chair lift, 7 drags and 20km of piste. If you find any of this working or open then you’re in luck. Most of the time its donkey or walk up. From the top there’s great views of the Marrakech plane and with good snow a fun ride down. There’s some posh hotels and also a few bunk houses. If you don’t want to hire a board that’s the shape of a bullet bring your own.
The High Atlas run from the Atlantic east towards the Sahara, and are home to the Berber Tribe a rock hard group of once nomadic herdsmen. Now semi nomadic and most with thicker skin on there hands then you have on your feet. When the Arabs from the east invaded they couldn’t control them and instead persuaded them to take on the Spanish. They made it all the way over the Pyrenees before getting a slap in Martel. When the French were here they never got control of these beautiful mountains and there inhabitants are still on the wild side but really hospitable as most true mountain people are.
A two hour drive from Marrakech is the small Berber village of Imlil, the last port of call before heading up Jebel Toubkal. It’s a good idea to spend the night here to organise a guide if you haven’t done so in Marrakech. Best to crash down in a locals house and bung them a few £ in the morning. From Imlil you can hike up to the bloody cold Toubkal Refuge, to make it easy hire a porter or a mule. From here it’s possible to hike the surrounding slopes and board back to the refuge. There’s a good bowl directly behind the refuge. You will need a guide as well as all your own equipment and food, including a very good sleeping bag, ice axe and crampons. Remember to go slow and drink plenty of water to stave off altitude sickness, and the best snow is normally late Jan early Feb.
In the Middle Atlas 81km south of Fez is Michlifen it’s got 1 chair and 1 drag, 4 pistes, a top elevation of 2000m and a drop of 200m. With its low altitude and a strong African sun it’s best to get up early before the snow becomes slush. The town of Ifrane is where all the accommodation is and if you hadn’t of just driven though pine trees with monkeys in and all the men weren’t in dresses you wouldn’t think you where in Morocco. The kings got a mansion here and there’s posh hotels with bell boys, it’s a weird hybrid of France and Africa and it isn’t cheep. Morocco doesn’t offer great boarding and if you’re not prepared to hike it’s awful. But it’s a cool destination if you want to spice up a visit to Fez and Marrakech.
Boarding in Morocco is about the whole experience meeting the locals eating the food and seeing some great mountains, not just the boarding. After all who do you know who’s boarded in Africa?
Resorts in Morroco
Departs Sat 14 Dec 2013 , from Manchester