25 April 2015 by Andrea Weiss

Go skiing in South Africa

Skiing? In Africa? Yes, it’s true. It does snow here in the high mountains and there’s even a ski resort where you can take to the slopes.

Skiing in the Eastern Cape Highlands. Image courtesy of Tiffendel ski and alpine resort

At 2 720m above sea level close to the tiny village of Rhodes (about 800km from Johannesburg) lies Tiffendell ski and alpine resort, the only place in South Africa where you can strap on a pair of skis and try your luck on the slopes.

This beautiful area, known as the Eastern Cape Highlands, is part of the southern Drakensberg, the high mountains that separate South Africa from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Because of the altitude, it can get bitterly cold here in winter, but with the cold comes the prospect of snow ...

<p>After a good snowfall, Tiffendell is a winter wonderland. Image courtesy of <a href=

After a good snowfall, Tiffendell is a winter wonderland. Image courtesy of Tiffendel

Located on the slopes of the Scottish-sounding Ben McDhui (a truly Alpine 3 001m above sea level), when it doesn't snow, the resort is able to make its own snow and thus the ski season runs for three months from 31 May to the end of August.

<p>Image courtesy of <a href=

Image courtesy of Tiffendel

Although closed for a period of about five years, Tiffendell was auctioned off to new owners, ski enthusiasts Lew Campbell and Peter Pilz, in 2012, and reopened for the skiing season in 2013. 

Since the resort reopened under new management, the bookings have been 'pretty decent', says Tayla Whitehead in the reservations office in Johannesburg. 

It seems that people are keen to try out the novelty of skiing in Africa, and even if you're a complete novice, by the end of a week at Tiffendell, you will feel much more comfortable on the slopes.

<p>The resort offers easy access to the slopes. Image courtesy of <a href=

The resort offers easy access to the slopes. Image courtesy of Tiffendel

This is also the only area in the country where skiing is offered to schoolchildren as an extra-curriculum sport at its Ski Academy.

A junior ski club, called Ikephu Ski Pups, draws in children from four schools in the areas of Barkly East and Rhodes, and saw 120 children from disadvantaged backgrounds participate in the SA National Children's Ski Championships in 2014 (at Tiffendell, of course).

Tiffendell also hosted the only international ski race on the African continent in 2014 with racers from Sweden, Slovakia, Austria and the United States attending.

<p>There are two main slopes and a beginner's slope. Image courtesy of <a href=

There are two main slopes and a beginner's slope. Image courtesy of Tiffendel

The resort offers three-, four- and seven-night packages that include accommodation, breakfast and dinner, equipment hire, slope and lift passes, entertainment and all-important emergency medical support. Beginners are required to complete a day's skiing or snowboarding course at an extra fee.

They have some 150 beds (in chalets or mountain suites, all located within 100m of the ski slopes) and are also able to accommodate around 150 day visitors. People staying in the area who wish to spend a day at the resort should ensure that they book ahead. 

<p>Surfers might wish to swap their surfboard for a snowboard. Image courtesy of <a href=

Surfers might wish to swap their surfboard for a snowboard. Image courtesy of Tiffendel

Aside from skiing they also offer snowboarding, while those who are just tagging along for the fun can enjoy tobogganing down 'Bumboard Alley' and just playing around in the snow.

Then there's the traditional Après-ski entertainment so that you can warm up with a glass of schnapps or glühwein in South Africa's highest pub, called Ice Station 2 720m.

<p>Tiffendell by night when the Aprèski entertainment begins. Image courtesy of <a href=

Tiffendell by night when the Aprèski entertainment begins. Image courtesy of Tiffendel

In summer the resort turns to other Alpine pursuits such as mountain biking, trout fishing, birding, grass skiing and high altitude hiking to some beautiful waterfalls in the area. It seems the adventure never stops in this part of the world!

Category: Adventure, Attractions

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