Tiny African kingdom has skiing as Europe sweats summer heat
BUTHA-BUTHE, Lesotho (AP) — While millions in Europe are sweating through record-breaking hot summers, they are skiing in Africa.
do not worry. This is not another sign of climate change, but the fascinating anomaly of Lesotho, a small hill country completely surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho has an obscure geographic reputation: it’s the only country on Earth where every inch of its territory is more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level.
This leaves Lesotho with snow in the southern hemisphere winter. While cold winters in southern Africa are not uncommon, snow and ski resorts are even rarer. At 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, Afriski is the only ski resort operating south of the equator in Africa.
“I’ve never seen snow in my life,” said Kafi Mohapello, who took a short trip from South Africa to a ski vacation she never thought she would take. “So, it was a great experience.”
Bafana Nadida, from Soweto, a sprawling urban town in Johannesburg, is delighted to be wearing ski boots for the first time. He planned a day of ski lessons, taking pictures and playing in the snow.
Skiers and snowboarders line up to rent the right gear. Some were mentored by Hope Ramokotjo from Lesotho, who has worked for 12 years as a self-taught ski and snowboard instructor. His broad smile and deep, reassuring voice put beginners at ease.
“Push your therapy. Don’t pull your shoulders,” Ramokocho shouted to his class of eager but inexperienced African skiers as they staggered through the snow. “Good job! Good!”
Kapoko Snow Park in Afriski is the only freestyle snow park on the African continent. Competitors lined up for the annual Winter Whip Slopestyle snowboard and snowboard competition last month. Sekholo Ramonotsi, a 13-year-old from Butabute, Lesotho, regularly practises at Afriski, winning the junior snowboard and snowboard categories.
“I really want to ski in Europe,” he said.
London-born Meka Lebohang Ejindu said he had been teaching skiing and snowboarding in Austria for over a decade, and this was his first season in the southern hemisphere. He has family blood in Lesotho.
“It’s really heartwarming that a game like this is happening in southern Africa,” he said.
Afriski may not be up to the level of Europe’s sprawling Alpine resorts, but the love of winter sports is catching on.
At Afriski’s Sky Restaurant and Gondola Cafe, happy hour starts at 10am, with skiers and boarders showing off their winter fashions and partying, beers in hand. Some claim the bar is the tallest in Africa, although this is challenged by the Sani Mountain Lodge, 130km (80 miles) east of the Lesotho-South Africa border.
What no one can question is that the group went skiing in Africa.