Suggest an African vacation and most people imagine a scorching sun, palm-fringed beaches, or herds of wildebeest galloping across the savannah. Few people think of skiing.
Still, the continent contains five mountain ranges with enough seasonal snow to make potential trails, two of which host rudimentary ski resorts.
Nestled in South Africa’s beautiful Drakensburg Range, one of those resorts in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho attracts tourists looking for a more adventurous ski destination – despite the number of visitors drastically reduced by Covid-19.
Hope Ramokotjo snowboarding at Kapoko Snow Park at Afriski Mountain Resort in Butha Buthe, Lesotho (Reuters)
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“Africa, you know, you wouldn’t even think about it. I think that’s what surprises most people,” Snowboard instructor Hope Ramokotjo told TV after slipping into a section of perfect powder on his board.
“Yes, that’s not much,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at the bare brown hills beyond a lonely white slope. “But people come here and have a lot of fun. For me, as a local, I don’t have to fly: I have a vacation here.”
As with other tourist sites, the Covid-19 pandemic – and the severe travel restrictions imposed around the world in an attempt to curb it – have drastically reduced the number of visitors.
People ski at Kapoko Snow Park at Afriski Mountain Resort in Butha Buthe, Lesotho (Reuters)
They fell to next to nothing last year and are still only half of the usual 17,000 this year, said Pieter Peyper, owner of the nearly two-decade-old Afriski Resort. South Africa’s regional hub has been hit hard by the pandemic, with 2.64 million recorded coronavirus cases, and is on the red lists of most countries.
“It was something very different. My knees and feet hurt … but it was a blast,” said Kevin Kava, a first-time Ghanaian skier who lives in Cape Town, time after being eradicated.
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