Tucked up far away in the rugged hills of the vast Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is a playground that offers unadulterated adrenaline, on tap, all year round. Rain, shine or snow, AfriSki Mountain Resort is the unexpected high you’ve been looking for.
Situated at 3222m above sea level, high in the heart of the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains, AfriSki Mountain Resort is the perfect place for those who have restless souls to feed and appreciate beauty like no other. My unquenchable thirst for adventure led me to this mountainous playground recently for a mid-year snow skiing escapade – which, in itself, is quite an extraordinary feat for Africa! The atmosphere is other-worldly and it is easy to forget where you are. There’s an almost European vibe, with guides and instructors from across the globe, who make the annual pilgrimage to Lesotho in either Winter or Summer to share their expertise with sports and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. And then there is the unmistakeable sense of Africa from the rugged landscapes, vast open skies and of course, the warmth of the local Basotho people who are some of the friendliest, happiest people on the planet. AfriSki has truly provided a gateway to a largely untapped world of high-altitude adventure and fun for the whole family – it is the absolute perfect mountain getaway.
SUMMER (September – May)
There are only two seasons at AfriSki and Summer begins in September when the chill starts to subside and the snow no longer falls on the Maluti Mountains. The resort, fully-equipped with mountain slopes built for Winter and snow activities, transforms and becomes the perfect playground for a variety of activities to get the heart pumping. The area becomes a hub of mountain biking, guided Enduro motorbike trips, trail running, 4×4 activities, paintball, hiking, fishing, abseiling and more. Utilising the Winter facilities, AfriSki has the only T-Bar lift in Africa with five exhilarating downhill mountain bike tracks as well as the Kapoko Park which offers bikers an array of fun obstacles and ramps to play with. Training at high altitude is another draw card in Summer and the remote trails, cross country courses and marathon distance routes attract avid sportsman from all over the world.
WINTER (June – August)
True to its namesake, AfriSki thrives most during the Winter months and hoards of people travel from near and far to enjoy the plethora of activities on offer. Since the introduction of world-class, modern snow making facilities and lifts in 2004, AfriSki operates much like that of a European ski village and offers phenomenal skiing and snowboarding fun for everyone. Whether you are a complete novice, or seasoned professional, fun is guaranteed. Providing all the components for a great ski holiday like ski equipment, snow passes, ski school and more, the resort has made a name for itself around the world.
Skiing and snowboarding are, of course, the biggest draw cards and the top-of-the-range snow making machines ensure that the slopes are in top condition all Winter. The Ski School has all the expertise necessary to help you learn and improve your skills on the snow with local and international instructors imparting their wisdom and enabling you to master the latest styles. Kids can also discover the fun under the close supervision of a team of dedicated staff at the Pudi Kids Club which means, while you hit the slopes, they will be safe and entertained all day long. For the more advanced skiers or snowboarders, the Kapoko Snow Park offers a variety of adrenaline pumping obstacles like rails, jumps and fun boxes which provide endless entertainment and can help you hone your skills. Other fun activities for the whole family to enjoy include bumboarding and tubing which are a little like sledding – a great way to spend the day having care-free fun alone or in a group.
STAY AND EAT
AfriSki have accommodation options for all budgets ranging from simple backpacker style accommodation and the more upmarket lodge options to beautiful wooden mountain chalets or more contemporary apartments. All options are a stone’s throw away from the facilities and restaurants and are equipped with everything you need to make your stay in Winter or Summer as comfortable as can be.
When hunger strikes, Sky Restaurant (named aptly as it is the highest restaurant in Africa – sitting at 3222 m above sea level), serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and provides for all tastes from burgers and pizzas (these are made in a traditional pizza oven and are a real treat!) to more traditional, homely fare. Offering striking views of the slopes and mountains, Sky is the perfect spot to start the day or unwind in a relaxed, friendly environment.
Gondola Café and Après Ski Bar is located closer to the slopes and serves drinks throughout the day as well as lighter meal options like pastries, sandwiches and muffins. The wood-clad café has an expansive deck to sit on and enjoy watching others take on the slopes. At night, the café transforms and offers the ultimate European Après Ski experience on the roof of Africa with DJ’s, live bands, Foosball and other games. One particular game that AfriSki is renowned for is **upside downers** – an attempt to break the existing record by drinking shots while hanging upside down from a snowboard attached to the roof. Don’t ask – you’ll have to try it for yourself.
HOW TO GET THERE
Despite feeling as though you are on the edge of the world when there, AfriSki is only 80km from the South African border. Driving from Durban, one would enter via the world-famous Sani Pass (which is an adventure in itself) and those coming from Johannesburg need only drive around four and a half hours via the tarred Moteng and Mahlasela Passes. The roads are good in Lesotho but it is advisable to always check in with the resort as weather conditions can make it a bit tricky – especially in the Winter months when the snow falls.
After experiencing the magic first-hand, it is no wonder AfriSki Mountain Resort has firmly established itself as a top destination in Southern Africa. After only two nights there, I felt as though I was saying goodbye to family. It may sound cheesy, but I can’t tell you how connected you end up feeling to the people there. During a day on the slopes, it is impossible to not make friends and at night, revelry is abundant at the Gondola Café where the staff go out of their way to host shows, quiz nights and all kinds of fun activities for guests to enjoy. It’s a really special place and if it’s not on your bucket list, it should be.
For more information, and to stay up to date on the upcoming events, visit www.afriski.net.
Text © Julie Graham | Images © Supplied