Afriski And Oxbow Lodge

Afriski And Oxbow Lodge

Afriski Panorama
Sharon At The Top Of Sani Pass

The annual Afriski trip started with a few weeks of nervous weather watching thanks to an unseasonably warm winter. Afriski’s website claimed they were making snow, but the fact that girls were wearing miniskirts made us both nervous and happy. None the less, we’d booked, and we were going…

I picked Sharon up from the office just after 12pm and we bashed our way out of Durban. Clearly this recession is worse than I’d realised since very few people seemed to be at work. Instead they seemed to be spending their days driving slowly in the fast lane in a vain attempt to save on their fuel bills. Thankfully Sharon had bought me a pie which gave me something to take my mind off of the idiots surrounding us on the road.

An hour or so later, as we were passing the Underberg off-ramp, the hair on my chest grew an extra inch and I changed my route plan from via Clarens to the much more manly Sani Pass route. At least this is what I thought at the time…

Warren And Sharon On The Ski Lift

Sharon had never been up Sani so I spent the 100kms to Underberg explaining the various perils and deaths which had occurred on the pass. And then the worst happened…we started climbing the pass only to discover that it had been graded so perfectly that a Mini could’ve driven up there. Grrr! So much for the manly route?!

We reached the top of Sani at around 3pm and opted to give the pub a miss in an attempt to get to Afriski before the ski shop closed. This turned out to be in vain as we hit several sections of road works on route and were forced to wait on traffic coming in the opposite direction.

For those interested, the condition of the tar road between Sani Pass and Afriski is generally good with a lot of work being done to improve it. The section passing the mine which was once just potholes is gone, and in its place you’ll find a dirt road where there used to be tar. This, believe it or not, is a huge improvement and makes this section far easier and faster than before.

We eventually got to Afriski at around 6:30pm, had a quick look at the slope, sighed a breath of relief at the sight of snow, and then continued on to Oxbow Lodge. Western, Karen and his parents had taken the day off and were waiting for us in the bar. We moved through to the dining hall where we were served something which resembled Lasagne except was made out of glue, chicken, cauliflower cheese and then a creamy cake for desert.

The plan for Saturday morning was to hit breakfast as it opened, not chew, swallow instantly and be Afriski 10 minutes before the shop opened to avoid the long queue for skis. We scoffed down our porridge, egg, bacon and radioactive sausage and made it to the shop just as it opened. Surprisingly there was nobody else in sight and we had our equipment and ski passes in under 10 minutes.

Sharon Ripping Up The Slopes

From there it was on to the slope which we hit as it opened, and in utter awe I watched as Sharon headed straight for the main slope…I held my breath…she rocked!

Although the slope wasn’t running its full length, it was longer than it had been in previous years. And I’m amazed to say that Sharon took full advantage of this… After only a few runs from half way up she got brave and hit the top with vigor.

The skiing on Saturday was good as the slope wasn’t all that busy. Amazingly we never queued for longer than 10 minutes so all was looking good for a great trip. Sadly Western’s dad had what I believe was a spectacular b(f)ail – After some distance of unplanned backwards skiing, his skis dug in and he pulled off an amazing ARS (aerial reverse spin…not what he landed on). This resulted in the bat mobile being sent to his aid, and sadly saw a premature end to his skiing.

Warren Prior Snow Boarding

Despite this injury Western and I manned up and even tried taking on the snow park. This saw me achieve spectacular air and an even more spectacular landing…on my head. We were quickly informed we needed helmets and gave the snow park a miss for the rest of the trip.

Afriski has introduced a R50 entrance fee for people not staying at the venue, but this does include a R30 meal voucher. As a result we ate lunch at the original restaurant and not the new slope side cafe. Options were limited to burgers, toasted sandwiches and pizza, but all were generally good.

From lunch it was back to the slope for another couple of hours. Eventually, when we’d given ourselves enough bruises, we headed back to Oxbow in hope of a steaming glass of Gluwyn. Sadly the pot was not in its usual place, but thankfully after a few words with the owner we were assured there would be Gluwyn the following day.

Warren And Sharon Prior At Afriski

Dinner was again slightly disappointing, and I’m pretty sure the quality has dropped from that of previous years. The soup tasted like Oxo cubes and was followed by a grey goo they claimed was lamb. I didn’t try it myself but apparently it tasted better than it looked. I opted for the chicken (which consisted of wings only) and vegetables (which were good) followed by the evening’s pudding, trifle (which wasn’t too bad). Sharon of course doesn’t eat cream, and after explaining this to Albert, he had a few words with the kitchen and amazingly a bowl of ice cream arrived for her. Personally I think this was the better option.

Sunday, our second and last day of skiing, started off with a few great runs. I also took the opportunity to take a few photos but sadly none of these were as good as I might have hoped for. Trying to rush half a day’s photography into 5 minutes, just so you can get back on the snowboard, rarely works out well.

For some reason the snow melted more quickly on Sunday and was already highly slushy by lunch time, with small pools of water forming on the flatter sections. This combined with the fact that the queue was twice as long as the day before resulted in us not getting much skiing in. In fact, at one stage the queue took 40 minutes which was rather infuriating.

Due to the slow queue and short run we quickly realised that racing down the slope was a bad idea (according the GPS we hit speeds of over 50km/h). Thirty minutes of queuing for 1 minute’s worth of skiing was not the kind of proportions we liked. This led to us changing our tactic from speed to style. This also led to me having a severely bruised Coccyx, which is still hurting as I write this 2 weeks later.

Sharon At The Clarens Weather Station

Having said that, we dominated! A couple of runs later and I’d mastered riding switch on the snowboard, as well as 360s and a 180 degree hop. Western had done even better mastering a 360 on skis which I can’t imagine is easy.

Lunch on Sunday also took a lot longer due to the increased number of people on the slope. We all hit toasted sandwiches (since everything else had run out) and thankfully they weren’t bad. The pancakes on the slope however were another story. I think demand simply outstripped supply which resulted in undercooked pancakes coming out of the kitchen.

Sunday afternoon saw only a few more quality runs due to the ever growing queue. It also saw me taking out Western’s mom in spectacular fashion while trying out some new tricks. Watching the board instead of the slope is never a good idea…and as I looked up Gail was right in front of me. I turned the board sideways in a vain attempt to stop which only resulted in me taking out her feet first. I landed on my stomach, with Gail coming down on top of me, and knocking the wind from my lungs. I lay there for a while, and when she hadn’t moved for what seemed like ages, I got a bit worried that I’d seriously injured her. In the background I could hear Western yelling, “Hey, that’s my mom”. He he he! Easy tiger, she was on top of me. Thankfully she eventually got up and was injury free.

Back at Oxbow we enjoyed our Gluwyn around the fire and recounted the endless stories of the trip. Dinner was ox tail, chicken, and a very funny cake, but after a day’s skiing even goat tastes good.

Sadly that was the end of the skiing. We left straight after breakfast on Monday morning and made our way slowly home via Clarens. The plan was to stop at 278 on Main for pancakes but I was so full from breakfast that we just ended up browsing the town and stocking up on coffee, koeksisters and biltong for the drive home. I must say that the droe wors from the Purple Onion was probably the best I’ve ever had.

After a 7 hour trip to Afriski thanks to all the road works, we made it home in 5 and a half hours. Four years of skiing, and four great trips. I’d recommend it to anyone.