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January 10th 2005
Published: January 10th 2005
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I skiied Morocco on Saturday! That makes two new continents in less than 2 weeks. I left Fez on Saturday with my friend Analee (who works as an iron-age archeologist in Jordan) and we made our way up to Ifrene, the Moroccan Aspen, and then on to the ski lodge at Mischliffen by grand taxi. Clearly a colonial era legacy, Mischliffen is just 2 small hills with two rope tows and a swiss style ski lodge and hotel; but what it lacks in verticle rise it makes up for with excellent people watching and dirt cheap prices.
We were the first ones there in the morning. I rented skis in the ski shop - ok actually it was just a guy with several dozen pairs of broken mismatched 80s era slalom skis tossed haphazerdly into the back of a pickup truck - and kicked through the slush for 10 minutes to the lift only to discover that it wasn't set to open until 11:00. I walked up the hill rather than waiting, and took one 4 second run to the bottom to try out the skiis, then sat down and waited while Analee did some sledding and the day-trippers started to arrive.
I guess snow is something of a novelty for people who live out on the coast and see it only once a year. As the place started to fill it became apparent that most of the families had come up from Casablanca just to sled and throw snowballs. There were definatley a number of middle aged women - covered from head to toe in black robes with only their eyes showing through the slits in their veils - who took delight in making snow angles, going out-of-control bonkers on their sleds and causing general havoc with snowballs and what-have-you.
The lift only opened after the ancient diesel engine had belched smoke for several hours and filled the whole valley with a fine layer of pollution. I payed my five dirham and went up the rope tow and came bombing down the hill in 4 seconds then did it again... and again and again and again. After 10 rides or so I met some christian charity workers from Texas who were also living in Fez and we all went down to the lodge to have some lunch. After lunch they started the lift for the big hill which was quite exciting. I took the rope tow up being carefull not to lose my skies in the bushes they had neglected to clear from the tow-path and was dissapointed to find that both of the runs were also covered with bushes. The snow was aweful; slushy and crunchy but I had a few good runs despite my dodgy skies which clearly hadn't been waxed or sharpened in the last... well.... ever.
The king has a royal palace (one of at least 10) on the side of the big hill. It looks more like a big resturant than a palace actually, but one can tell its royal property by all the guards and flags and what-not. Two of the Texans got fed up trying to ski down the slush, and in walking down the hill accidently trespassed onto the palace grounds where they were apprehended immediately and arrested for being spies. They were released without too much hassle al-hamdulilah when it became clear that they where just some defeated skiiers gone wayward on their way down the hill, but they did have to go through an official interrogation first. At the end of the day we took a grand taxi, sunburnt and tired, all the way back to Fez and celebrated our ski Africa adventure with 3 bottles of Moroccan wine. All in all it was quite the adventure, and while it didn't compare to Sierra Nevada two weeks ago, the whole day didn't cost me more than $25. I've heard the Oukaimiden near Marrakesh is a bit nicer and that it even has a full-fledged chairlift so I think in a couple of weeks I'm going to go down there In Shallah with a small group from the school to see if we can't have a little fun.


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