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You can Ski in Morocco?! Your guide to the Oukaimeden Mountain

posted on: Dec 6, 2021

Image 1: High Atlas. Source: CNN.

By: Ruqyah Sweidan/Arab America Contributing Writer

Skiing. Snowboarding. Sledding. These are some of the most popular winter sports we enjoy when we are blessed with snow. Many people travel to ski resorts in the US and in Europe to experience exclusive activities. Many do not know that there is a prominent ski resort in the Arab world It is in Morocco. No, the country is not famous for snow sports. Little is it known that there has been a long practice of skiing in the country’s High Atlas Mountain region. This is where Africa’s highest ski resort is located.

History of the Atlas Mountain Chain

Image 2: Atlas Mountain Range. Source: Britannica.

To begin with, the Atlas Mountains were originally formed when the tectonic plates Africa and America collided. These remains can still be seen today in the Fall Line region in the Eastern United States. The series of mountain ranges stretch across northwestern Africa: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. They extend for more than one thousand miles, from the Moroccan port of Agadir to the Tunisian capital of Tunis. Although the Saharan region is more likely to be described as the archetypal North African habitat, it is the well-watered mountains north of this vast desert that provide the foundation for the livelihood of most of the peoples of North Africa and a striking green or white background for many North African towns.

Historically, the Berber people lived in village communities within this mountain range. They were fortified and perched high up on mountain crests. The Ishelhiyen people also lived the river valleys. These mountain slopes were used for both pasturage and agriculture, although it was difficult labor to accomplish with changing weather on mountains. Despite precarious living conditions, the Atlas Mountains were densely populated. Today, most people have left the mountain dwelling lifestyle to live in urban areas and earn a better living.

Skiing on Oukaimeden!

Image 3: People walk on a slope at the Oukaimeden ski resort. Source: CultureGuide.

Oukaïmeden is located in the High Atlas Mountains and has been a fascinating skiing location for decades. The resort is located fifty miles south of Marrakech. It is the highest ski resort in Africa at over three thousand meters. It slopes can come up to ten kilometers, and they host a mix of both tourists and local skiers. The ski season here can last from late December through to March. However, like the Western mountain ranges of the US, the high elevation provides ideal conditions during January and February. This time of year tends to bring snowy weather with spring-like skiing conditions. You may actually forget that you are in subtropical Africa!

 To get to Oukaïmeden, it’s best to travel by car. The journey is just under two hours long. A shared taxi is usually the most affordable way to go and would not cost you more than fifty dollars each way. Hint: this would be the ideal time to show off your negotiation skills, which are infamous in the Arab world. The resort is also a convenient size that you could explore in just one day. Thus, you can ski until the lifts stop running in the afternoon and be back in Marrakech in time for dinner!

Something for Everyone!

Image 4: Ski Park. Source: Viator.

Once you arrive, you’ll find seven lifts that run for all abilities, including six draglifts that are ideal for the beginner’s nursery slope and intermediate-level slopes. These slopes are the most attractive with under control conditions. There is even a slow single chairlift to the more advanced slope. Nevertheless, if you have skied before, then you’ll know that the difficulty of each run varies depending on the hill.

At the bottom of the lifts, you will find a well-kept nursery slope that is more suited for beginner’s-level skiing. It also boasts a large family sledding area. You will have a selection of runs to choose from. The longest is just over two miles and runs from the top of the chairlift. It is the one that most people find challenging. This is where the snow can feel like hard off-piste ice in some sections as you descend. However, Oukaïmeden is still worth exploring as skiing here can be very rewarding due to its own eccentric characteristics that make it a noteworthy destination.

Yalla! Book Your Trip

Image 5: View from Home on Oukaimeden. Source: Ouk.Org

In short, Morocco’s skiing scene is unique and worth a visit! It is more affordable and less frequented than many European skiing destinations. There is also higher likelihood of clearer weather that will afford you fantastic views! A unique experience could even include a donkey ride between slopes rather than a traditional shuttle bus or ski lift. Hence, Morocco is home to sweeping deserts and enchanting historic sites such as the capital city Marrakech. Now, you know that the country’s richness includes its own Arab Winter Wonderland!

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