With rubber boots, berber tunes and an a-okay from allah, one giddy moroccan makes tracks in the atlas range. This man with the enthusiasm of a Border collie herds us in as we hike down into the outskirts of Tacheddirt
“ski? couscous?” A man with the enthusiasm of a Border collie herds us in as we hike down into the outskirts of Tacheddirt, a Berber village located at an elevation of about 3,200 metres in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains. He points to the mountain above, the village below, then back to himself. “Yes?” he asks. We follow the swish-swish of his satin robe through a street maze, as mud and mule poop gather on our ski pants. His name is Hassan. He invites us into his home for a splash of mint tea and a plate of biscuits. A pair of skis and mega oversized ski boots are propped in the corner beside a pile of twigs. Hassan is one of three locals who are
smitten with skiing. I ask him if his wife Zera has ever hit the slopes. He laughs, shaking his head as though I’d asked if his wife had ever tap danced on the moon. The next morning Hassan is at the trailhead in jeans and rubber boots. His skis are lashed together with orange twine and tucked into the side pockets on his pack. We hike together for the first hour until he heads up a rocky spine. As I stop to slip on ski crampons, I catch Hassan’s silhouette confidently picking his way up the cliff. “Hassan is a little fox,” his friend Mohammed, also a skier, had mentioned the evening before, winking at Hassan. Mohammed also told us what he loved about skiing: to take risks, go fast and feel courage. “Same as you?” he asked.
Hours later we rendezvous on the ridge where Hassan is huddled in a nook waiting for us, giddy for descent. He stands, turns 90 degrees, and mutters a few words to Allah. The call to prayer bounces through the valley below, mosque to mosque. Hassan fishes out a cell phone from his pack and it glows with music. “Berber songs,” he says, proudly cranking the volume. His jump turns are impressively spritely.That night Zera giggles as we watch a video of her husband skiing. She plays it over and over again, as though trying to imagine the feeling of flying over snow for herself.—Emily Nilsen