Ski Touring in the High Atlas Mountains.

Trip Overview

This ski expedition to the rugged Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco will treat you to the best skiing on the continent of Africa. You will have full days of backcountry skiing in spectacular alpine locales in addition to the opportunity to explore the country’s rich and exotic history and culture. The skiing consists of various objectives (from 600m to1200m descents) including a summit and descent of Jbel M’goun (4071m; 13,356ft), the second highest peak in North Africa, Jbel Oumsoud (3883m), Jbel Tarkeddit (3650m), and Jbel Azourki (3677m).

Morocco is a land of inspiration, exoticism, awe-inspiring scenery, grand architecture and graciously hospitable people. For centuries it has been a muse for explorers, famed artists, writers and designers such as William Thesiger, Eugene Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and Jacques Majorelle. Few places in the world will overwhelm your senses with contrasts as intense as Morocco’s sharp white sun against towering golden limestone cliffs; expansive vistas of palm trees framed in 4000 meter high snow- capped peaks; slow-cooked dishes bursting with the flavor of preserved lemons, green olives and cumin; robed and hooded nomads traversing the desert alongside masses of camels, sheep, and goats; and narrow, winding medieval streets bustling with merchants, artisans, storytellers and snake charmers.

Travel from the trodden tourist circuit, deep into the heart of Morocco and North Africa. You will be challenged and exhilarated during your climbs and descents of Jbel M’goun, Oumsoud, Tarkeddit and Azourki. Immerse yourself in an unforgettable culture and inspirational journey.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Marrakech, Morocco

  • Airport pickup from Marrakech-Menara international airport.

  • Group cocktail and meeting. Dinner as group or on own.

  • Relax and sleep at hotel in the Ville Nouvelle. (double occupancy, private bath)

  • No Meal Included

    Day 2: Zawiya Ahansal

    Catch a glimpse of your skiing objectives as you travel overland through olive groves and the plains of Marrakech into the foothills of the Central High Atlas Mountains. These lands are layered with a tapestry of tribal rights, pastoral lands, sacred peaks and stunning natural beauty. The vast, high plateaus are the summer grazing grounds for the Ait Atta, southern Morocco’s largest nomadic tribe. Here you will discover the purest example of the Imazighen (local word for Berber that means the ‘free people’) culture.

    Founded in the 13th century by a traveling saint, Zawiya Ahansal is one of the oldest zawiyas (holy center) in Morocco. Despite its seemingly remote location it was established on the original caravan route over the Atlas Mountains from Timbuktu and quickly became a center for learning and knowledge. To this day, Zawiya Ahansal has active branches throughout Morocco and Algeria, and pilgrims regularly visit the shrine during the Islamic month of shawaal bearing gifts for Saint Sidi Said Ahansal. Zawiya Ahansal is the second poorest region in Morocco, a statistic that is apparent in the extremely high illiteracy rates, complete lack of healthcare and continued subsistence living. Due to these centuries-old hardships the inhabitants have become known for their strength and independence; they were the last stronghold in North Africa against the French occupation in the late 1930’s. Despite its poverty, it is perhaps the richest of Morocco’s regions in terms of architecture, culture, natural beauty, and hospitality.

  • Depart Marrakech after breakfast. Travel through the Central High Atlas Mountains to the Zawiya Ahansal Valley. (5 hours from Marrakech)

  • Lunch and short walk at Cascades d’Ouzoud, a 110 meter and three-tiered waterfall home to wild Macaque monkeys.

  • Evening historical and architectural tour of the Zawiya Ahansal Valley.

  • Stay in locally owned Maison d’Hotes Dar Ahansal. (double occupancy, private bath)

    http://darahansal.net

  • Day 3: Ski Jbel Azourki (3677m)

    Jbel Azourki has long been a sacred mountain for the region’s tribes and seasonal nomads. Annually, inhabitants would challenge themselves and climb to the summit to make a sacrifice and ask Allah for blessings of rain, plentiful crops, regional peace and health. After our final ski decent we end at Ism Suq, an historical weekly market for the semi-nomadic and nomadic tribes of the region. Six days a week it is a deserted, dusty outpost but on market day it is teaming with donkeys, camels, goats, sheep and their owners who have made the long trek to trade with their neighbors for another week’s rations.

  • Breakfast at Dar Ahansal. Early morning departure.
  • Drive to the base of Jbel Azourki. (1 hour)

  • Climb and ski Jbel Azourki.

  • Return to Zawiya Ahansal. (1 hour)

  • Après Ski at Kris Erickson’s house in the village of Aguddim.

  • Stay in Dar Ahansal for a well-deserved rest and hot shower. (double occupancy, private bath)

    http://darahansal.net

  • 6+ hours ski touring, roadside access.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 4: Ski Jbel Azourki (3677m)/Ait Bouguemez

  • Breakfast at Dar Ahansal. Early morning departure.

  • Drive to the base of Jbel Azourki. (1 hour)

  • Climb and ski Jbel Azourki.

  • Drive to Ait Bouguemez. (2.5 hours)

  • Stay in guesthouse. (double occupancy, shared bath)

  • 6+ hours ski touring, roadside access.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 5: Ait Bouguemez Valley/Trek and ski to Tarkeddit Refuge through the Berber highlands.

    Ait Bouguemez, known by locals as the ‘happy valley’, sits in a broad, lush valley at the base of North Africa’s second highest mountain Jbel M’Goun (4068 m). Less than a decade ago the valley was shut off from the rest of the world for four months out of the year due to remoteness and snowfall. The inhabitants of the Ait Bouguemez Valley are renowned for their resourcefulness having survived in such a remote and harsh location for thousands of years. Their resourcefulness continues with ambitious development of sustainable development projects, cooperatives, schools and associations.

  • After an early breakfast set out for Tarkedit Refuge with mules and muleteers.

  • Begin trekking in village of Agerssif (1489meters) travel through small Berber hamlets.

  • Picnic lunch along river valley of Assif Ait Mellal.

  • Trek and ski tour up and over the Tarkeddit Col (3450m) enjoying views of the snow capped Central

    High Atlas Mountains. Hike down to the refuge on Tarkeddit Plateau (2900m).

  • Prepare for early morning summit climb. Eat traditional Berber dinner, sleep at Tarkeddit Refuge.

    (shared occupancy, shared bath)

  • 8+ hours of trekking and ski touring.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 6: Summit Climb and Ski Jbel Oumsoud (3883m) in the Berber highlands.

    Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. Historically they spoke various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Today Arabic is spoken almost universally by Berbers, along with Darija, as well
    as French (in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) and some Spanish (in Western Sahara and parts

    of Morocco), due to European colonization of the Maghreb. Today most Berber-speaking people live in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger. Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the
    word Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), possibly meaning "free people" or "free and noble men." Ibn Battuta is one of the best known historical Berbers, a medieval explorer who traveled the longest known distances in pre-modern times.

  • Ski Jbel Oumsoud (3883m).

  • Return to Tarkedit Refuge for well-deserved rest and traditional Moroccan dinner.

  • 8+ hours of ski touring, crampons and ice-axe required.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 7: Summit Climb and Ski Jbel M’goun (4068m)

    You are now in the heart of the summer grazing grounds of the Ait Atta, Morocco’s largest nomadic tribe. Spending nine months of the year in the Sahara Desert and Jbel Sarghro regions of southern Morocco, they travel to the Central High Atlas Mountains every June in search of green pastures and cooler temperatures. The Ait Atta and inhabitants of Ait Bouguemez Valley and surrounding valleys have a centuries’ old land sharing agreement that is still in place today. They are also historic allies having banded together against threatening tribes or more recently the French occupation of Morocco.

  • Pre-dawn departure for the summit.

  • Ski Jbel M’goun (4068m). From the summit look out over Jbel Sarghro and the Sahara Desert.

  • Return to Tarkedit Refuge for well-deserved rest and traditional Moroccan dinner.

  • 10 hours of ski touring, crampons and ice-axe required.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 8: Climb and Ski Jbel Tarkeddit (3650m)/Trek to village of Aguerd n’Ouzrou, Ait Bouguemez Valley
    Ski touring in the Central High Atlas Mountains started as early as 1925 when the first north to south crossing of the range was accomplished by a group of French skiers. The first documented ski of both Jbel Azourki and Jbel M’goun was in 1942; again by the French. In the 1950’s, the infamous Edmond Charlet began exploring the region and two decades later, in 1972, the British began to explore the region. Despite the relatively early exploration of these mountains by Europeans they have remained off of the radar of those looking to ski in Africa, always overlooked by the Jbel Toubkal region which lies in close proximity to Marrakech. As a result, they provide a very intimate, remote and awe-inspiring experience to the backcountry skier.

  • Early morning departure for summit and ski of Jbel Tarkeddit.

  • Trek and tour back to Ait Bouguemez Valley accompanied by mules and muleteers.

  • Picnic lunch along river gorges or in apple orchards. Terraced fields yield small crops of winter wheat

    and corn, and small orchards produce figs, apples, almonds, walnuts and peaches.

  • Stay at locally owned Gite Flilou, a traditional guesthouse in the village of Agouti. (Shared occupancy,

    shared bath)

  • Traditional Berber dinner of couscous, tagine and mint tea.

  • Full day skiing and trekking.

  • (B,L,D)

    Day 9: Ait Bouli/Marrakech.

  • Breakfast at guesthouse.

  • Depart for Marrakech. Scenic drive through the high valley of the Ait Bouli Berber tribe.

  • Picnic lunch.

  • Free afternoon in Marrakech. Souvenir shopping.

  • Relax and sleep at a traditional riad in Marrakech’s medina (old city). (double occupancy, private bath)

  • (B,L)

Day 10: Marrakech/USA.

• Airport transfer. • (B)