Après-Ski In Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains
Mats Fredrix is the Content Creator for the 2022 Morocco: Kingdom of the West Cycling Tour. He reports from Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains.
Sometimes something just feels so out of place, you have no idea whether you love or hate it. That’s exactly what it feels like riding through the town of Ifrane, in the Moroccan Middle Atlas mountains. Pedalling out of the brooding, bustling city of Fes, with a Medina full of odours, chaos and swindling, the absolute last thing you’d expect is to be passing by an Alpine style ski-resort.
Yes, skiing in Morocco is actually a thing, and the Michlifen ski station, just outside of Ifrane, is the most popular destination in the country for it. At an altitude of over 1,650 m, it gets snow for almost 5 months a year. The coldest temperature in Africa ever (-24C°) was recorded in this little town. Towards the end of April, however, there isn’t a single snowflake in sight, and the temperature is holding up nicely in the low twenties. After a sunny climb through a few typical little Moroccan villages, the sight of the town is just plain odd. Tour leader Doug Percival’s words are a pretty good description, “It’s a strange, but cool little place.” Pun definitely intended.
Cycling in from the north, the riders finally got a sense of having really climbed in altitude. The vegetation changes into hardier greens, with long stretches of scattered rocks as far the eye can see. The first thing you notice entering the town are the rooftops. The triangular shapes and roof tiles almost feel like a fata morgana at first sight. Then comes the greenery, lush flowerbeds and fields of thick green grass, with a very European village style little pond and park. As our colourful bunch of TDAers slowly roll through the town, it is maybe for the first time they are gaping more at their surroundings, than their surroundings are gaping at them. Row houses with gates and fences are mixed in with inns with names like ‘Hotel Chamonix’.
COVID has put some cracks into the town, and the place is starting to look like a dilapidated Disneyland. It wasn’t just the odd Swiss architecture that had drifted the riders a little off course. It was the promise of something considered an absolutely core essential to a bike ride: the coffee and cake stop. As promised by our Moroccan driver and lunch chef, Mohammed, the town included a full-on European ski bistro. And because of Ramadan, our riders had gone without for the whole trip. So they all definitely deserved to indulge a bit. Enjoying their pastry, cakes, cappuccinos and espressos, no one was paying any mind anymore to the sheer oddness of the place. Priorities, I guess.
Morocco: Kingdom of the West
Join us on this mystical cycling odyssey through Morocco – The Kingdom of the West. It is a country of mountains and beaches, souks and mosques...