Ski Odyssey 2012
Feb 20 - 29, 2012
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Day 1

Arrive Marrakech, Morocco.

Historically a desert caravan outpost, the city of Marrakech has been a must-see for all travelers to North Africa for centuries. Marrakech is a melting pot of Berber and Arab culture. It is a place without description and only something you can experience in the flesh. A popular Moroccan proverb is perhaps the best description we can offer. Ma doumta fil magrib fa la tastagrib. When in Morocco, don’t be surprised by anything, everything is possible.

  • Airport pickup from Marrakech-Menara international airport
  • Afternoon guided tour of Marrakech’s medieval markets (medina), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Ben Yusuf Medersa.
  • Dinner overlooking the famous Djemaa el Fna square; watching the ancient tradition of story tellers, magicians, and acrobats.
  • Relax and sleep at Hotel Assia, a traditional riad in Marrakech’s medina (old city). (double occupancy, private bath)
Day 2

Foothills of the Central High Atlas Mountains

Catch a glimpse of your skiing objectives as you travel overland through olive groves and the plains of Marrakesh into the foothills of the Central High Atlas Mountains. These lands are layered with a tapestry of tribal rights, pastoral lands, sacred peaks and stunning natural beauty. The vast, high plateaus are the summer grazing grounds for the Ait Atta, southern Morocco’s largest nomadic tribe. Here you will discover the purest example of the Imazighen (local word for Berber that means the ‘free people’) culture. Little development has reached this area due to its extreme geography and isolation in winter.

  • Depart Marrakesh after breakfast. Travel through the Central High Atlas Mountains to the Ait Bouguemez Valley. (4-5 hours from Marrakesh, private 4x4 or minibus)
  • Lunch and short walk at Cascades d’Ouzoud, a 110 meter and three-tiered waterfall home to wild Macaque monkeys.
  • Prepare for morning departure to mountains
  • Stay at locally owned Gite Flilou, a traditional guesthouse in the village of Agouti. (Shared occupancy, shared bath)
  • Traditional Berber dinner of couscous, tagine and mint tea.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 3

Ait Bouguemez Valley/Trek and ski to Tarkeddit Refuge through the Berber highlands

Ait Bouguemez, known by locals as the 'happy valley’, sits in a broad, lush valley at the base of North Africa’s second highest mountain Jbel M’Goun (4068 m). Less than a decade ago the valley was shut off from the rest of the world for four months out of the year due to remoteness and snowfall. The inhabitants of the Ait Bouguemez Valley are renowned for their resourcefulness having survived in such a remote and harsh location for thousands of years. Their resourcefulness continues with ambitious development of sustainable development projects, cooperatives, schools and associations.

  • After an early breakfast set out for Tarkedit Refuge with mules and muleteers.
  • Begin trekking in village of Agerssif (1489meters) travel through small Berber hamlets.
  • Picnic lunch along river valley of Assif Ait Mellal.
  • Trek and ski tour up and over the Tarkeddit Col (3450m) enjoying views of the snow-capped Central High Atlas Mountains. Hike down to the refuge on Tarkeddit Plateau (2900m).
  • Prepare for early morning summit climb. Eat traditional Berber dinner, sleep at Tarkeddit Refuge. (shared occupancy, shared bath)
  • 8+ hours of trekking and ski touring.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 4:

Summit Climb and Ski Jbel Oumsoud (3883m) in the Berber highlands.

Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. Historically they spoke various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Today Arabic is spoken almost universally by Berbers, along with Darija, as well as French (in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) and some Spanish (in Western Sahara and parts of Morocco), due to European colonization of the Maghreb. Today most Berber-speaking people live in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger. Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the word Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), possibly meaning "free people" or "free and noble men." Ibn Battuta is one of the best known historical Berbers, a medieval explorer who traveled the longest known distances in pre-modern times.

  • Ski Jbel Oumsoud (3883m).
  • Return to Tarkedit Refuge for welldeserved rest and traditional Moroccan dinner.
  • 8+ hours of ski touring, crampons and ice-axe required.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 5

Summit Climb and Ski Jbel M’goun (4068m)

You are now in the heart of the summer grazing grounds of the Ait Atta, Morocco’s largest nomadic tribe. Spending nine months of the year in the Sahara Desert and Jbel Sarghro regions of southern Morocco, they travel to the Central High Atlas Mountains every June in search of green pastures and cooler temperatures. The Ait Atta and inhabitants of Ait Bouguemez Valley and surrounding valleys have a centuries’ old land sharing agreement that is still in place today. They are also historic allies having banded together against threatening tribes or more recently the French occupation of Morocco.

  • Pre-dawn departure for the summit.
  • Ski Jbel M’goun (4068m). From the summit look out over Jbel Sarghro and the Sahara Desert.
  • Return to Tarkedit Refuge for well-deserved rest and traditional Moroccan dinner.
  • 10 hours of ski touring, crampons and ice-axe required.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 6

Ski Jbel Oumsoud

Ski touring in the Central High Atlas Mountains started as early as 1925 when the first north to south crossing of the range was accomplished by a group of French skiers. The first documented ski of both Jbel Azourki and Jbel M’goun was in 1942; again by the French. In the 1950’s, the infamous Edmond Charlet began exploring the region and two decades later, in 1972, the British began to explore the region. Despite the relatively early exploration of these mountains by Europeans they have remained off of the radar of those looking to ski in Africa, always overlooked by the Jbel Toubkal region which lies in close proximity to Marrakech. As a result, they provide a very intimate, remote and aweinspiring experience to the backcountry skier.

  • Relaxing start to the day. Skiing on new terrain in a familiar setting.
  • Ski Jbel Oumsoud.
  • Return to Tarkedit Refuge for well-deserved rest and traditional Moroccan dinner.
  • 8+ hours of ski touring, crampons and ice-axe required.
  • Evening of traditional Berber music.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 7

Climb and Ski Jbel Tarkeddit (3650m)/Trek to village of Aguerd n’Ouzrou, Ait Bouguemez Valley

  • Early morning departure for summit and ski of Jbel Tarkeddit.
  • Trek and tour back to Ait Bouguemez Valley accompanied by mules and muleteers.
  • Picnic lunch along river gorges or in apple orchards. Terraced fields yield small crops of winter wheat and corn, and small orchards produce figs, apples, almonds, walnuts and peaches.
  • Stay at locally owned Gite Flilou, a traditional guesthouse in the village of Agouti. (Shared occupancy, shared bath)
  • Traditional Berber dinner of couscous, tagine and mint tea.
  • Full day skiing and trekking.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 8

Ski Jbel Azourki (3677m)/Zawiya Ahansal

Jbel Azourki has long been a sacred mountain for the region’s tribes and seasonal nomads. Annually, inhabitants would challenge themselves and climb to the summit to make a sacrifice and ask Allah for blessings of rain, plentiful crops, regional peace and health. After our final ski decent we end at Ism Suq, an historical weekly market for the semi-nomadic and nomadic tribes of the region. Six days a week it is a deserted, dusty outpost but on market day it is teaming with donkeys, camels, goats, sheep and their owners who have made the long trek to trade with their neighbors for another week’s meager rations. Private 4x4 will meet us at Ism Suq for transfer to Zawiya Ahansal for a celebratory goat sacrifice and shwaa (traditional earthen barbeque).

  • Early morning departure.
  • Travel by 4x4 over the mountain pass Tizi n’Tirghist. (1 hour, private 4x4)
  • Climb and ski Jbel Azourki.
  • Travel by 4x4 over the mountain pass Tizi n’Illisi to Zawiya Ahansal. (1 hour, private 4x4)
  • Stay in Dar Ahansal for a well-deserved rest and hot shower. (double occupancy, private bath)
  • 6+ hours ski touring, roadside access.
  • (B,L,D)
Day 9

Zawiya Ahansal/Marrakech

Less than 80 kilometers separates the Ait Bouguemez Valley from its neighboring region of Zawiya Ahansal. Founded in the 13th century by a traveling saint, Zawiya Ahansal is one of the oldest zawiyas (holy center) in Morocco. Despite its seemingly remote location it was established on the original caravan route over the Atlas Mountains from Timbuktu and quickly became a center for learning and knowledge. To this day, Zawiya Ahansal has active branches throughout Morocco and Algeria, and pilgrims regularly visit the shrine during the Islamic month of shawaal bearing gifts for Saint Sidi Said Ahansal. Zawiya Ahansal is the second poorest region in Morocco, a statistic that is apparent in the extremely high illiteracy rates, complete lack of healthcare and continued subsistence living. Due to these centuries-old hardships the inhabitants have become known for their strength and independence; they were the last stronghold in North Africa against the French occupation in the late 1930’s. Despite its poverty, it is perhaps the richest of Morocco’s regions in terms of architecture, culture, natural beauty, and hospitality.

  • Early breakfast of traditional breads, local honey, amlou (a Moroccan almond butter made with spices and argan oil) and mint tea.
  • Morning tour of the village of Aguddim.
  • Depart for Marrakech. Picnic lunch. (4-5 hours, private 4x4)
  • Evening of shopping in the medieval markets. Carpet shopping, souvenirs, evening out on the town.
  • Experience Marrakech’s world-renowned cuisine at a palace restaurant. Good-bye dinner.
  • Relax and sleep at Hotel Assia, a traditional riad in Marrakech’s medina (old city). (double occupancy, private bath)
  • (B,L)
Day 10


Morocco has more to offer! Extend your stay with a trip to the Atlantic beaches of Essaouira or Agadir, or a trip to the Saharan dunes of Merzouga and Zagora.

  • Airport transfer.
  • Head home or continue on an extension.
  • (B)

Itinerary Disclaimer

  • Flexibility is a must for all foreign and backcountry travel. This program is subject to change throughout the journey depending on weather and local conditions.
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Expedition Itinerary
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Packing List

  • Medications, personal hygiene, contact lenses, cold medicine, prescription glasses etc.
  • †Rain/wind coat (Gortex or equivalent)†
  • Warm hat
  • Warm gloves (1)
  • Ski touring gloves (2)
  • †
  • Warm coat (lightweight down)
  • Sleeping bag (0 degree Fahrenheit)
  • Backpack (40L)
  • Small travel towel
  • Hiking/mountain shoes or boots
  • Skis, boots, poles, skins, skin wax, transceiver, shovel, probe, ice axe (light weight), crampons
  • Sandals and/or flip-flops
  • Sunscreen, sun hat and sunglasses
  • Protein bars, jerky or favorite snack (Suggested: one protein bar for each day)
  • Personal first aid kit
  • †
  • Water purification tablets, brand name Potable Aqua
  • Hand sanitizer (pocket size)
  • †Book
  • Two wide-mouthed, 1-liter reusable water bottles (Nalgene or similar)
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • †
  • European plug adapter (2-prong) for camera recharging
  • Handkerchief, Buff is a great item to have
  • Passport copies (2)
  • Extra small or medium-sized compressible duffel bag for souvenirs
  • One ski bag and one piece of checked luggage (50 pounds or less, no wheels please)
  • Ear plugs
  • Long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve button-up shirts (2-3)
  • Lightweight hiking pants (2)
  • Mountain pants (soft shell water-resistant)
  • Lightweight wool shirt for layering (1)
  • Warm mid-layers (fleece or wool)
  • Hiking socks (2) Ski socks (2)
  • Comfortable clothes for relaxing
  • Nice travel clothes for evening out in Marrakesh (1)
  • Please pack lightly!
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Packing List
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It is important to remember that you will be over a day’s travel from the nearest medical facility. There are NO doctors in the region. Clients must be careful at all times and not take extreme risks to their physical health and safety. Compare the remoteness to being on a backpacking trip in the wilderness; help is hours away. Suggested Vaccinations for Morocco:
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Td/Tdap)
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis A (may require more than one dose – allow time prior to travel)
  • Hepatitis B (may require more than one dose – allow time prior to travel)
  • Typhoid
  • You do not need Malaria, Yellow Fever or Cholera vaccinations.


Water purification of some kind is always necessary. Bottled water is available in Marrakech. The houses where you will be staying in the mountains serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. We suggest traveling with acidophilus, probiotics, and/or grapefruit seed extract, all commonly found at the health food store. These natural supplements are great ways to combat foreign intestinal bacteria on a natural level. Foreign bacteria is not bad, it is just different than what our bodies are used to and it is smart to take precautionary measures while traveling in any foreign country.


Men should not show their shoulders or knees and women should not show their elbows or knees. This means no shorts for men or women. Capris, long pants or long skirts only. Women do not need to cover their heads but many of our past participants have chosen to wear a head scarf from time to time. Women do not need to cover their faces. You will see other foreigners wearing less culturally aware clothing both in Marrakech and the mountains. However, they are ‘tourists’ rather than guests of the locals. We prefer to maintain a high level of respect at all times.


Drinking alcohol in front of or with locals and their families in the rural villages can be considered disgraceful. Out of respect for the locals that we will be traveling with, alcohol will only be available at some dinners or should be consumed in private areas. This will be at the Berber village, at the discretion of the trip guide and host. In addition, Morocco may be famous for its marijuana and hash but, despite what most people think, it is illegal. It can also be considered extremely disrespectful to do this in front of locals.


Arabic is the official language of Morocco. French is widespread in metropolitan areas and with men and teenagers in rural regions. Berber is the language of the mountains. English is very rare, with the exception of Marrakech where it is more and more apparent; but still not everywhere. A little Arabic or Berber goes a long way; an Arabic phrasebook is priceless.


Morocco’s official currency is the dirham. ATM machines and money exchange houses are plentiful in the cities. However, credit cards are rarely accepted, even at prominent tourist hotels and markets. Do not count on these services outside of the city. If you plan to shop, exchange money or withdraw it before heading into the mountains. VISA is the recommended credit card for an emergency. MasterCard and American Express are not widely accepted.

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Trip Tips
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Skiing in the Atlas Mountains

Regional Culture

Moroccan Culture

  • Bowles, Paul. The Sheltering Sky.
  • Brett, Michael, and Elizabeth Fentress. The Berbers. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
  • Shah, Tahir. The Caliph’s House. Shah, Tahir. In Arabian Nights. Clammer, Paul et al. Lonely Planet: Morocco 9th edition, February 2009
  • Canetti, Elias. Voices of Marrakesh


  • Armstrong, Karen. Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time.
  • Armstrong, Karen. Islam.

Health & Safety

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Suggested Reading & Links
Reserve Now

Expedition Overview

This ten-day expedition to the rugged Central High Atlas Mountains of Morocco treats you to
the best skiing on the continent of Africa. You will have six days (weather permitting) of backcountry skiing in
spectacular alpine locales in addition to the opportunity to explore the country’s rich and exotic
history and culture. The skiing consists of various objectives (from 600m to1200m descents)
including a summit and descent of Jbel M’goun (4071m; 13,356ft), the second highest peak in
North Africa, Jbel Oumsoud (3883m), Jbel Tarkeddit (3650m), and Jbel Azourki (3677m).

Morocco is a land of inspiration, exoticism, awe-inspiring scenery, grand architecture and graciously
hospitable people. For centuries it has been a muse for explorers, famed artists, writers and designers
such as William Thesiger, Eugene Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and
Jacques Majorelle. Few places in the world will overwhelm your senses with contrasts as intense
as Morocco’s sharp white sun against towering golden limestone cliffs; expansive vistas of palm
trees framed in 4000 meter high snow-capped peaks; slow-cooked dishes bursting with the flavor of
preserved lemons, green olives and cumin; robed and hooded nomads traversing the desert alongside
masses of camels, sheep, and goats; and narrow, winding medieval streets bustling with merchants,
artisans, storytellers and snake charmers.

Come be guided far from the trodden tourist circuit, deep into the heart of Morocco. You will be
challenged and exhilarated during your climbs and descents of Jbel M’goun, Oumsoud, Tarkeddit and
Azourki. Immerse yourself in an unforgettable culture and inspirational journey.

Cost $4000
Date Feb 20 - 29, 2012
Duration 10 days
Capacity TBA
Reservations Use Contact Form or call us at +1-530-582-1246

Reserve Today!

Ski Morocco 2012

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