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Ski mountaineering in Morocco
Text and photos by Nicholas Hobley
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When one thinks of ski mountaineering, Morocco doesn't usually spring to mind. But with its High Atlas mountain range and series of snow-covered 4000m peaks dominating the hot desert from high above, it is definitely a destination worth considering.

Marrakech ski mountaineering

The adventure begins with a flight to Casablanca and a bus trip to Marrakech, where we rest for a day amongst utter confusion and chaos before setting off once again, this time to Imlil.

The road ends, we stock up with chocolate and other luxuries, laden our mules with all the gear and set off on foot, through bushes in bloom and a light drizzle to Aroumd, a small Berber village nestled against the hillside. We spend the night here acclimatising and depart the next morning, brilliant sunshine bodes well as we stride across the rocky valley floor and then gain height quickly to reach S'Chamharouch a rocky village.

Marrakech ski mountaineering

After a short stop we continue along the mule path to finally arrive at the Neltner Refuge; built by the French CAF, it offers the most basic of accommodation with no heating, electricity or hot water. Thankfully the meals are abundant and excellent.
The wind howls as we snuggle into our sleeping bags, dreaming of the mountains to be skied the next day. Will conditions allow us to climb Mt Toubkal, at 4167m North Africa's highest peak? Or will we acclimatise on a slightly lower peak? The next morning we choose this second, wiser option and the real fun begins.

But ski mountaineering in Morocco is much more than simply ski mountaineering, for it involves immersing oneself in a completely different culture, far removed from what we are accustomed to. Marrakech is indicative of this striking contrast, a melting pot of frenetic activity, of market traders, street peddlars and entertainers, where haggling and relaxation intermingle into a highly pleasurable pastime. Definitely a destination worth considering.

Morocco map

Getting there:
Either fly to Casablanca and take a bus to Marrakech, or fly directly to Marrakech. From here by bus or private minivan via Asni to the small village Imlil, where the road ends and the real adventure begins.

Best time of year
February to April, but it is worth finding out about the snow conditions in advance since these vary greatly from one year to the next.

The best guidebooks are obviously in French. Le Haut Atlas by André Fougerolles, published by Ed. Glénat and Ski dans le Haut Atlas de Marrakech by Claude Cominelli published by Claude Cominelli.

The Atlas Mountains by Karl Smith,
Cicerone Press is designed as a walking guide but contains information about where to hire mules, guides etc to the Toubkal Region.
Hotel Ali - Marrakech
Rue Moulay Ismail, Marrakech
Tel 444979
Fax 433609

The Neltner Refuge, situated at 3207m and built by the French CAF, is the base for most itineraries. Run by the local Berbers, it offers basic accommodation (no heating, electricity or hot water), but the meals are abundant and excellent

Special thanks
While out ski mountaineering we also tested the new skis by
Hagan and the Silvretta Easy Go 555 binding. Putting them through their paces from hard crust to light powder, they proved to be a impressive match.

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