Afriski 2014

*** publishing now, but a story I wrote six years ago after our annual winter trip to Lesotho – just ‘parking it’ for the archives! ***

The resort has taken another leap forward this year under PIN management since they got 51% share and with that, management control. Most noticeable was the parking, the roads and the walkways are neater and better paved. This makes getting around easier and safer. In an earlier year, Aitch once slipped on ice and got a big fright. The whole complex is tidy, too, where before material and equipment would be left lying around.

Much of the accommodation has been upgraded – notably the two big units which have been completely re-done and their outside staircases enclosed in glass (red arrows);

– two original triple-story accom units – the ‘PIN’ lodges –

Two completely new staff quarters have been built below the dams which frees up more accommodation next to the restaurant. I think its up to 240 beds. Up to 800 day visitors can arrive on a busy weekend day in school holidays!

The restaurant is terrific now. They have expanded to upstairs and down, take two sittings and were fully booked Sunday night. Professional chef, lovely grub.

– pisten bully –

Weather was two perfect days – midday saw ladies skiing in skimpy tops! One day was too windy for the skilift to run, so the slope people used the Pisten Bully to take people to the top instead. With us was the Naude family Michelle and Craig and their three boys, and Tom’s mate Lungelo.

Not moving forward this year was the kids enthusiasm! Jess didn’t ski / snowboard at all – sore knee & wrist. Tom spent about half his snowboarding time doing other things, including sleeping! Three of the five boys who went with us were out on the slope early until they got kicked off when it closed – keen as mouseturd, like Jess & Tom used to be – so it was fun seeing their newby enthusiasm. Times change!

So come next January my two will have to convince me we should go – or we’ll hire out our week for the first time after eight years! Ons sal sien . . !


Downhill From Here

Obertauern in Austria and I’m learning to ski. The paraat Austrian ski instructor is earnestly telling us to “snor-plau, snor-plau” but we’ve been “snor-plauing” for an hour and we only have two days to ski! This won’t do, so I head off for the ski-lift.

“Oy, where are you going?” shouts herr instructor. I point ‘up there.’ “But you can’t even snor-plau!” he exclaims, him being used to things being done as they should be done. He’s right, of course, but there’s the matter of the two days (less this hour we’ve already wasted).

I discover that when you hop off the ski-lift gravity does not take a short break to allow you to get your bearings, so my first descent is backwards standing up for twenty metres, then backwards lying down for a few hundred metres, then various undignified ways until I lose a ski which then gives a bit of traction, so I can dig one boot in the snow and stop.

So I can then retrieve the other ski and get back to the ski-lift and start again.

After a while I work out a good system: Down at full speed at an angle across the slope till I cannon into the deep drift on the side. Then back across the slope to the other side, till ditto. Zig-Zag I go, accumulating more snow with each crash so I look like a huge semi-human snowball. It’s abominable, but it is more fun than snor plau.

Too much snow accumulates on the corduroy trousers, so I decide to try another way: Straight down the slope to dodge the deep drifts.

Well . . .

Whistling along at terminal velocity I notice that there’s nothing to stop one at the bottom (which I haven’t reached till now, having been on my face long before the bottom). Below the ski-lift start, the slope simply ends against a building. Said building houses a below-ground restaurant where people can sit and eat while looking up the slope at eye-level.

Approaching the restaurant window at speed I close my eyes and lie back and hear a smack as my skis go through the grill under the window and protrude right into the restaurant above an occupied table where some sane guests (who can probably snor-plau) are eating. Some of our group, notably Volke – the CEO of Aitch’s company, our host on the trip, whose brother owns the restaurant, which is why we’re here – come up to me and pour gluwein down my throat and laugh at me, refusing to help me up or out of my skis. I’m soaked through my corduroys and cotton shirt under my anorak and my ankles are breaking, but do they care, as they laugh and take pictures?


I hang up my skis when I’m finally freed. Call it a day with limbs intact. One’s constitution can only stand so much fun.

– first-time skiing – corduroy pants, half a lesson, no brakes! –
– Aitch bundled up –


snor-plau – snow plough, I suppose – I never did learn to do it. Even after skiing again in Lesotho: Still no brakes.