The icy tentacles of winter had taken hold in South Africa. We were headed for the heart of the country where many a mountain forms the kingdom of Lesotho. With the highest overall altitude of any country in the world, a wintery adventure was promised. That is just what we got. It was time for skiing South Africa – or ‘within’ South Africa to be more exact!
Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa’s borders. Thus making skiing South Africa a real possibility in the cold winter months.
Upon entering through the SA-Lesotho border, snow drifts lined the sides of the road. Waterfalls were literally frozen in time and we suddenly understood why the Basotho people drape themselves in blankets. We headed up and up into those undulating mountains. We passed tiny villages billowing smoke from stone huts, dodged cattle, donkeys and goats. And with every turn, the excitement grew ever more palpable.
Our weekend at Afriski
Arriving at Afriski, one of only two ski slopes in Southern Africa, was like something out of a Dr Seuss book. Because here in Africa was a little Alpine village and the reality of skiing South Africa was becoming more and more real. People were learning to ski and snowboard with gluhwine served by the gallon load. “You’re off to great to places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.” And so we followed the words of Dr Seuss and got our ski pass, geared up and headed off to play in the snow. The mountain was waiting after all!
Winterfest added another dimension to our snow adventure
Arriving at the start of the snowy season at Afriski meant we had joined for a weekend of musical madness. Winterfest was in full swing. It was quite a surreal experience to snowboard down the slopes with the likes of Jack Parrow playing on a stage at the bottom the slopes. And while a dozen bodies danced to some local tunes, my French ski instructor also seemed pretty perplexed. He was just one of a group of foreign instructors that had arrived in Africa for the season to teach young and old the wonders of the slopes. To get such high-level instruction in the mountains of Lesotho was simply amazing.
What you need to know about skiing South Africa/Lesotho
While the slopes at Afriski are limited (during my time there one baby slope, one intermediate slope and one ‘advanced’ slope were open) it is a great place to visit if you want to learn to ski or snowboard before heading off a more expensive European or American adventure. There was even a kiddie’s area, bum boarding and tubing runs. While a playpark was built for those who really wanted to show off their skills. We spent our weekend switching between snowboards and skis, laughing, falling, flying, singing, sleeping. And then doing it all over again! We even tried our hand perfecting some jumps at the Kapoko Snow Park. And as we flew down those snowy slopes we thought to ourselves – where else in the world would you see people skiing in jeans, blankets and even bowties!?!
And as the weekend came to a close, a board at the bar caught my eye and another quote ringed ever true – “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a snow pass!”