2017-2018 Far West Skier's Guide - 64-20
n the process of passing through more
than seventy countries for the purpose
of skiing, it has come to my attention that
while the downhill process is quite similar in
each and every land, the manner of getting uphill can differ rather radically. In a day and
age of high-speed, detachable six-seat chair
lifts, comfortable gondolas to serve eight
seated passengers, and large cable cars that
transport 150 people at a time, the uphill ride
has become, for the most part, comfortable
and convenient. But all the fun and excitement has been deleted! The Doppelmayr
Company and a few of their colleagues have
turned this genre into an effective, but bland,
If you are somebody who longs for the
good old days, when getting up the mountain
was equally adventurous as skiing down, here
are a few tips about where you might still
enjoy some of those thrills. There are still locations where you can access ski runs on animal back and others where the motorized
uphill transportation offers all the thrills and
spills of an amusement-park attraction.
Morocco is an excellent place to begin, if
one is fond of animals. At the base of Morocco's largest ski area, Oukmeïden, various
men with mules await visitors who would like
to access the mountain aboard their surefooted steeds. While the double chair lift,
which is also operational at Oukmeïden, might
be more practical, the mule-back ride is certainly more interesting. In addition, the nearby Toubkal Massif, Morocco's highest mountain has no lifts. There, mule back is the ordinary method of climbing from 1700 to 2900
Sahara. Here, it is also quite helpful, if not
meters, from where one begins ski touring.
South of the Atlas Mountains, the skiing necessary, to use dromedary to carry one's
takes on a sandy aspect in the dunes of the equipment and oneself to the best ski area.
The steep part of the climb up to the peak of
the dune to be skied must be done on foot, as
camels are not good climbers. Nevertheless,
the drudgery of walking for hours to get to the
highest sand dune is best performed by an experienced desert traveler with a hump.
In Canada, one of the old methods, oft
used in the 1940s, of getting up mountains is
coming back into vogue. The so called
"weasel" carried passengers up the mountain
in the days of skiing's infancy in North America, and now, the modern day "weasel" - the
snow cat - is really catching on among offpiste skiers as a way of reaching virgin terrain.
Entire ski areas are popping up in the Rockies
based on this principle.
While the snow cats in the North American operations are generally machines that
64 - 2O Far West Skier's Guide 2O17 - 2O18 / Digital Edition Insert
ABOVE: A pack mule
is being prepared to
carry skis and boots
toward the Toubkal
Massif in Morocco. Isn't
this a more interesting
way to travel than a
LEFT: Jimmy Petterson is
riding toward Mt.
Toubkal. The mule-back
ride began in Imlil (1800
m) and continued all the
way to the snow line at
about 2900 meters.
LOWER LEFT: Jimmy
Petterson's skis, boots,
and guitar are being
transported across a
swath of sand in the
Sahara toward a
waiting sand dune.
photos / Jimmy Petterson
can carry a good number of seated passengers,
there are also locations where one can be
dragged behind a snow cat holding a rope. Mt.
Elbrus in Russia and Oppdal in Norway use
this method to add some extra territory to
their lift accessed area. In addition, there is
also a connection between the Montafon Valley and the Paznaun Valley of Austria that can
be made with the assistance of such a snow
cat and rope system.
In Italy, there is a more old-fashioned version of this method. On one of the descents
from atop the Lagazuoi Cable Car near
Cortina, one eventually comes to the point
where the ski piste flattens out entirely. There,
a sleigh pulled by horses and with ropes attached awaits skiers to pull them a few kilometers to where they can board the Armentarola lift.
More exclusive than the snow cat or the
horse-drawn sleigh, and of course, more ex-