Saturday, November 26, 2011

Africa: Check

We had a very early start to the morning heading into the riskiest continent of th trip: Africa.  To our  surprise Africa turned out to be the best snow and most amazing cultural experience of the trip!  We left our hotel in Geneva at 4:45 AM to catch the flight to Morocco. Other than a painfully slow line at the passport control in Morocco, everything went well.  We met up with our contact, Ayoub, at the airport.  He had a guide and driver ready.  We owe a huge thanks to Kris Erickson whom we met on the Antarctica cruise for setting this up in such short time.  I will write a separate posting on his wife's charitable organization here in Morocco.  We drove up a narrow, winding road perched on the edge of a near-vertical valley wall into the Atlas Mountains and Oukaimeden, a primitive ski area.  With incredible luck, a winter storm dumped 12-18 inches of powder two days ago and because it is early in the season, the lifts were not able to transport skiers (although they could take people without skis to the top).  I figured this was a prime time to bribe but it didn't work, and instead Scott and I enjoyed a 1.5 hour skin to the top.  The view was incredible of the snow-covered Atlas mountains, and the red-rock valley and distant plains of Marrakech all available to absorb.  The turns down weren't just some of the best of the trip, but some of the best skiing we've ever had.  The snow was a perfect powder giving us insanely smooth and predictable turns.  It was truly a unique experience to know this was Africa at its best for skiing.  At the bottom we had enough time to give our guides some quick lessons in skiing before heading back down to Marrakech.  Back in town we went to the old center square of town, which has one of the largest, craziest, and oldest trading markets on the planet.  Tens of thousands of people wandered narrow alleys in search for bargained deals.  We enjoyed dinner overlooking the square before heading back for some sleep.  We get up at 3 am to head to Montreal for the final stop!

 A Moroccan village on the way to the mountains
 Scott not totally enthralled by all the snow on the mountains...for once.  

This ass won't get out of our way!  

Two languages on the sign and we are still clueless.  The ski lift in the background does not accept one critical component: skis (by government decree!)
 Marty on top of the world in Africa!
 Obligatory banana holder picture

 Scott rockin' the African powder!
 Yep...knee deep in the stuff making Marty look like a hero...for once.  
Later that night, we explore the central square in Marrakech.  Imagine this scene stretching for miles in a maze of alleys and stairs and rooms. 
    Oukaimeden , a primitive ski area


  1. I heard from your blog from a fellow Antarctica skier. He's missing only Africa and told him he had to do it and make turns on day to bag the 7 continents.

    The one continent a day pace of the last few days is just 'wow'. I've traveled here and there and I never take anything for granted.

    Getting Africa in November...nice

    I'm only at 3 continents, but my monthly ski streak is up to 74. Zermatt and a few other Alps glaciers were done this August and September. Andes summer options is definitely cheaper.

    Good luck for tomorrow.

  2. I just saw you mentioned your landing in Montreal. I skied today (my month of November) and forecast calls for rain in the afternoon. Its been very warm this November and the snow we received on Wednesday is pretty much all gone.

    Your options are:

    Mt St-Sauveur (40 minutes from MTL) with 2 steep blue runs (they call them black). Snow was soft today.

    Tremblant (90 minutes) with 2 green runs.

    Whiteface NY (90+ minutes away). Gondola running.

    Jay VT (90+ minutes): 6 runs

    If it's raining, St-Sauveur would risk not spinning lifts.

    Sunday at St-Sauveur
    Cloudy. Periods of rain beginning late in the afternoon. High 7.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  3. Ha ha! So happy to see the banana holder traveling the world! 1.5 times around the world - check.