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This Winter Wonderland Is Where You’d Least Expect It

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Photo by @kari_medig

Think Morocco is all desert? Think again.

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AFAR’s January/February 2016 issue featured a beautiful photo essay about snowsurfing in Japan (yes, Japan!) shot by photographer Kari Medig. But Japan isn’t the only unexpected ski spot Medig is familiar with. We invited him to share some stunning images of another surprising ski location: Morocco, from the slopes of Oukaïmeden to the sands of the Sahara.

You might not expect a big ski culture in Morocco, but these rental skis and boots found along the road to Oukaïmeden are proof enough that there is plenty of powder to be had high in the Atlas Mountains.
The vast majority of the skis for rent at Oukaïmeden are throwbacks from bygone ski eras in North America and Europe.
Peugeot taxis, ’80s era remnants of France’s colonial connection with Morocco, whisks tourists to the ski resort at Oukaïmeden in the Atlas Mountains.
Many Moroccans from Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrekech come to Oukaïmeden to learn how to ski. For some, it’s their first time seeing snow.
While many of the tourists that he met were new to skiing, these two young Berber locals were ready to enjoy a challenge and the late season powder.
Local Berbers, like this guy, will carry their skis everyday from their homes to the lift to rent to tourists.
Other villagers will wait on the lower slopes of Oukaïmeden ski hill offering rides on ornately decorated horses and donkeys.
Due to the country’s latitude: north facing slopes hold plenty of snow, while the south facing slopes are exposed to the sun and therefore lie empty.
After Saharan storms, the fresh dusting of powder at Oukaïmeden will have a red tint from the dust of the nearby sand dunes.
The coolest thing about skiing in Morocco? It’s not all about snow. In Merzouga, at the eastern edge of the country, Medig joined some locals in search of the best Saharan sand dunes to ski, proving that you can have the best of both worlds if you’re traveling through Morocco in the winter—without giving up your winter ski dreams.

>>Next: How to See the Morocco Most Tourists Don’t

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