Mountain Travel

Tiffindell Ski Resort: South Africa’s Best Winter Holiday Destination

Tiffindell Ski Resort on the south facing slope of Ben MacdhuiVertical: 180 m

Top elevation: 2,900 m

Base elevation: 2,720 m

Runs: 2

Lifts: 5

Lift capacity: 1600 people/hour

Ski Slope: 2.4 km

25% easy

33% intermediate

42% difficult

Don’t you know that there is a ski resort in Africa? Yes, and it’s Tiffindell!

This year-round alpine ski resort established in 1993 in the Southern Drakensberg is situated at Tiffindell Farm, Barkly East, 9786, South Africa. CNN’s “Top 100 Ski Runs of the World” in 2014 has rated Tiffindell in 19th place.

The ski resort is situated at 2,720 m (8,920 ft) on Ben Macdhui’s south-facing slope, the highest mountain in the Eastern Cape, with a 3,001-meter elevation. It is 24 km (15 mi) above Rhodes’ town and about 212 km east of Aliwal North.

The pistes within the 15 acres of terrain are suitable for all snow sports abilities. Winter season in the resort is in June, July, and August, and the perfect time that Tiffindell is open for skiing and snowboarding that accommodates all types of visitors.

The slope-side accommodation is available for 150 guests and more visitors in the surrounding valleys during the day. Like other resorts, Tiffindell has a ski school offering almost three months of skiing and snowboarding lessons. There is also a restaurant, coffee lounge, 2 bars, ski clothing shop.

Those who are not into skiing may opt for a unique experience playing with the snow, such as making snowmen, throwing snowballs, or tobogganing, making it the perfect family holiday for young and old.

It is not only during summer can people visit the resort and create memorable adventure because, during spring, summer, and autumn, Tiffindell becomes one of the best off-the-beaten-track adventure-lands in South Africa.

Other resort activities include hiking, mountain biking, boarding, grass skiing, photography, rock art, birding, some of SA’s best fly fishing, quad biking, and the famous “8 Passes” route for motorcyclists and 4×4’s.

Tiffindell is also globally known for beautiful flowers, with the unique alpine blooms that capture and mesmerize flora enthusiasts from the world’s four corners.

There is an approximately 1.3-kilometer-long slope. The Main Slope (red run) and the Gully Slope (blue run) have corresponding button lifts that return skiers to the mountain after their descent. A tow rope services the 100-m wide and 60-meter-long beginner slope. The International Ski Federation (FIS) has approved the Main Slope for Slalom and Giant Slalom courses that goes steeper and steeper the higher you go. The first FIS race in Africa was held here in 2014.

Besides skiing and snowboarding, the resort also offers other activities best done in the summer or spring season. This includes hiking and mountain biking.

HIKING BEN MACDHUI

Ben Macdhui is the highest peak reaching an impressive 3 001 meters situated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The Cape’s highlands have a typically cold climate that allows the beautiful fauna and flora to thrive.

Ben Macdhui is close to Rhodes’ small village, voted by Getaway Magazine as one of the top 20 secret retreats. This area is notable with cool summers and freezing winters. Snowfall happens at any time of year, which is very unusual for South Africa.

Hiking Ben Macdhui is challenging with its rough terrain and unpredictable weather conditions that cause trails to be risky. It is best and essential to follow the map and stick to the painted pointers. Hikers are advised to prepare for very bad weather along the way and to bring along plenty of protective clothing that is warm and will keep them dry.

BIKING THE RHODES TRAIL

Where: Rhodes, northeast of Barkly East, near Tiffendell Ski Resort

Level: difficult (with grueling climbs and long route)

Type of route: mostly gravel and dirt road; 81 km circular route

During winter, the route can be slippery and tricky. This has freezing weather in winter, and snowfalls attract skiers and snowboarders to this part of the country; Summers are beautiful.

The trail is south of the country’s border with Lesotho on the gravel R396 connecting it to Dordrecht.

Getting at Rhodes is the hardest part of MTB rides as it is not on the way to anywhere in particular but more of an end destination. Yet, it is a popular weekend adventure spot.

The cycle route starts at the Rhodes Hotel in the village and heads up the public gravel road (R396) to Naude’s Nek’s top. The climb to the highest pass in the country is very steep and difficult.

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