Anytime from November to April, the peaks of the Western and Central High Atlas offer the opportunity for African skiing. Although obviously not comparable to the slopes of Europe and North America, skiing in Morocco offers the more intrepid skier an intoxicating mix of sport, culture, and adventure. The country's two better-known ski fields are only a 1- to 2-hour drive from Marrakech and Fes, respectively, and returning to these ancient, bustling, and much warmer cities after a day out in the snowy wilderness is a typically Moroccan attack on the senses.
Morocco's only true ski resort is at Oukaïmeden, 70km (43 miles) south of Marrakech. When conditions are good, 3,263m-high (10,705-ft.) Jebel Oukaïmeden's north-facing slope has up to 20km (13 miles) of trails on eight marked pistes, with access provided by one chairlift and six surface lifts. The headline black run would fit right in at a European resort, but the lack of slope maintenance -- and the prevalence of submerged rocks -- can make the downhill challenging. The quality and length of Oukaïmeden's snow season has varied greatly over recent years, but your best bet is between mid-January and mid-February, when unfortunately it can also get horrendously busy on the weekends. Ski equipment can be hired in the village, which is only 200m (655 ft.) from the chairlift station, but can be of an amazingly varied quality, and you may also have to bargain for the cost. Gear can also be rented in Marrakech, but it's really worth bringing your own if you're a serious skier. When there's enough snow cover, the volcanic crater of Mischliffen, near the Middle Atlas village of Ifrane, also offers a fun day's skiing, with a few trails that are great for beginners, accessed by a couple of surface lifts or by simply hiking up the slopes. There's usually some equipment for hire in Ifrane.
Also possible on the Atlas's peaks and slopes is ski mountaineering, or ski randonné. Popular with the French and Swiss, the sport is becoming more common nowadays in the Western High Atlas and on the slopes above Aït Bou Guemez Valley in the Central High Atlas. This off-piste skiing requires regular carving skis with special mountaineering bindings that allow the heel to release when climbing, and that can be fixed when skiing down. Removable skins for the bottom of the skis will also better enable you to go uphill. You'll have to bring all this equipment with you.
Irish-Moroccan trekking company Nomadic Morocco operates a very handy and informative blog (http://nomadicmorocco.blogspot.com) with regular snow and weather updates.
Tour Operators -- There are no specialist tour operators offering Morocco skiing itineraries. Hotels in Ifrane and Oukaïmeden will usually be able to assist prospective skiers with equipment and transport to their respective ski fields. Getting to any other snow-covered areas usually requires high levels of perseverance and adaptability, but this can prove to be part of the adventure. Ski mountaineering in Morocco requires the assistance of a guide, who will organize accommodations, mules, porters, and even cooks. If you wish to preorganize this, try contacting the Bureau des Guides d'Imlil (tel./fax 0524/485626; email@example.com), the official mountain guide center for the entire Western High Atlas region, or Kasbah du Toubkal, also in Imlil (tel. 0524/485611; fax 0524/485636; www.kasbahdutoubkal.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.