Monday, March 09, 2015

Morocco's Oukaïmeden Ski Field ~ Great Snow - Poor Infrastructure

Oukaïmeden and Ifrane are two of Morocco's ski fields and this year they have been experiencing a boom, thanks to the best snowfall in years. However, it takes more than snow to make a great ski field. It takes infrastructure and that is sadly missing

This season has seen as many as 30,000 visitors per day visiting Oukaïmeden and because of the lack of accommodation they are destined to be day visitors. The two or three places offering accommodation have five or fewer beds, whereas there are hundreds of families who would opt for a longer stay if beds were available.

Other obstacles to development are the poor road conditions and a lack of car parking. One local described weekend conditions as "a nightmare" and said with 5,000 vehicles arriving, many simply give up and go home,

According to local Hassan Azougagh, "The road is too small and can sometimes be closed because of snowfalls."

An Oukaïmeden traffic jam

The authorities of El Haouz province have arranged several car parks and bus station as well as a new regional road but it is still less than is needed. There is little private investment with the only major project announced more than eight years ago to the sum of $1.4 billion by the UAE group Emaar. Sadly the project is on hold.

"In comparison with Europe we still lack the infrastructure to support skiers,"says Mohamed Bennani, a ski instructor with the Royal Moroccan Federation of Skiing and Mountaineering (FRMSM)

Oukaïmeden, at 3,600 m above sea level is the highest ski filed in Africa and offers 18 runs of around 1,000 vertical metres. If it can put the infrastructure in place, and the snow keeps coming, then it has the potential to become a valuable destination for Moroccan tourism.

An alternative answer to boosting the local tourist market may be ecotourism. In addition to climbing and trekking, paragliding and hang gliding, green tourism has the advantage of the longer summer seasons. It is also not dependant on snow.

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