Oukaïmeden, Morocco

Photo: Chez Juju
Photo: Chez Juju

You flew to North Africa to escape winter. You planned to barter in the souks, sleep in a riad, and listen to traditional Berber music and the call to prayer in Marrakesh. So how in the world did you end up wearing skis on a snow-covered mountain?

It turns out that Morocco’s best ski resort—to be fair, it’s one of the country’s only ski resorts—is just 70 kilometers from Marrakesh. A day trip from the city brings you through the desert-like plains, to the pine-covered foothills, and up the massive granite peaks of the High Atlas mountains. The south-facing slopes are bare and rocky; they don’t look like a winter wonderland at all. But the north-facing slopes are a completely different story.

Oukaïmeden feels like a European ski village. Rental shops, featuring old equipment and unset prices, line the single road into town. Chez Juju, facing the slopes, is a chalet-style hotel and restaurant. A single chairlift, plus T-bars, chug up the side of the mountain. Twelve miles of trails, ranging from green (easy) to black (difficult), weave between the boulders and the trees. Jebel Attar, the area’s highest peak, looms overhead. While mounds of fluffy white snow cover nearly everything in sight.

Morocco’s ski season is short. January and February are the best months for snow, so you arrived at the perfect time. Spend the day riding up the slow-moving chairlift. Stretch your legs on the beginner trails, before testing out boulder-dotted Pistes des Mouflons and mogul-filled Grand Combe. By the end of the day, you’re ready to move on to Combe du Mort, the mountain’s steepest run. Then head back to Chez Juju, where exhausted skiers eat tagines and cassoulets on wooden tables on the sunny terrace. By the time you return to Marrakesh tonight, this winter wonderland will feel like an impossible dream.

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