Where to spot snow in SA

2013-05-31 09:04
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If frolicking on local snowy slopes isn't on your winter travel bucket list, we strongly suggest you rethink your plan!

While sunny South Africa may not strike most people as being particularly susceptible to snow, the truth is it does get its fair share of the fun white stuff (no, not THAT white stuff).

Here's a round-up of the best places to go and experience it:

Tiffindell, Eastern Cape

South Africa's soul and only ski resort is probably a good place to start this list. Located close to the Eastern Cape town of Rhodes, Tiffindell's slopes are made up of a mixture of natural snow and machine-made. After being sold for R5.5 million in July last year, the resort was closed for last year's winter season, but has reopened with a bang.

Developments for the 2013 winter snow season included the enlargement of one of the Tiffindell dams to four times its original size, increasing the snowmaking capacity. The road between Rhodes and Tiffindell has also been upgraded, allowing vehicles to reach the resort hassle-free in clear weather conditions.

Bookings have already opened for the 2013 winter ski season, running from June until early September.

Other snowy spots

However, if you're looking for something a little more natural and spontaneous, here are a few local spots to keep an eye on throughout the cold season.

No matter where you are in the country, you'll be able to reach one of these spots within a four-hour drive.

Western Cape


Matroosberg, Ceres. (Shutterstock)

Matroosberg, Ceres

When snow falls in the Western Cape, Matroosberg peak, the second highest in the province, is always first on the list of places to go. Located about 30km from the town of Ceres, it's a breathtakingly beautiful 3-hour drive from Cape Town, however, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to navigate the slopes.

Franschhoek pass

In the midst of winter, the magical winelands scenery in the Stellenbosch/Franschhoek area is often made even more magical by light dustings of snow on the surrounding mountain tops. While it mostly requires admiration from a far, more accessible areas such as the Franschhoek pass and Jonkershoek mountain trails have enjoyed sprinklings in recent years.

Eastern Cape

Rhodes

Heading to Rhodes Village in the Eastern Cape on a really icy day, you'll be almost sure to find some glorious snow to play around in.

Rhodes is located 342km from East London and 330km from Bloemfontein.

Hogsback

The magical, Lord of the Rings type village of Hogsback receives snow once or twice every winter, and the surrounding mountains even more often. Book a weekend stay in one of the town's cozy B&Bs to make sure you get a full fix of white wonderland!

Hogsback is 264km from Port Elizabeth and 138km from East London.

Other Eastern Cape passes that may be affected by snowfalls during winter months include Penhoek pass near Sterkstroom between Queenstown and Aliwal North, the Barkly Pass near Elliot, Prince Alfred's Pass between Avontuur and Knysna, the Swartberg Pass and the Nico Malan Pass between Port Beaufort and Queenstown.

Free State


Golden Gate. (Benjamin Tupper, SANParks)

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

If you're seeking a little taste of Switzerland on home soil, head to Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State during mid-winter. Temperatures may drop as low as -15 degrees celsius, making it a prime location for deep and luxurious snowfall. The park offers a selection of accommodation including camping, chalets close to the entrance and gorgeous log cabins higher up in the mountains. Add to your European experience by visiting the quaint little town of Clarens close by.

Van Reenen

Known as the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg, Van Reenen practically straddles the border between the Free State and KZN. Furthermore, at only a quick three hour drive from both Johannesburg and Durban, it's a convenient and central location for both seaside and city dwellers to experience some winter fun.

Mpumalanga

Long Tom Pass

With its top point reaching a whopping 2 150m above sea level, the Long Tom Pass between Pilgrim's Rest and Lydenburgh is one of the highest tarred roads in South Africa. Although snowfall usually tends to be rather light, the pass is highly accessible to even the most average of vehicles, making it a favourite snow-viewing spot. Be sure to visit Hops Hollow microbrewery at the top of the pass to sample some of their original beers, such as The Digger's Draught and Blacksmith's Brew.

Dullstroom

Probably most famous for fly-fishing, the picturesque town of Dullstroom is one of South Africa's quintessential country breakaway spots. Located 2,077m above sea level, it tends to get pretty chilly during winter months, practically making snow an annual occurrence. In between snowball fights and building snowmen, be sure to explore the wide variety of shops, restaurants and do a whisky tasting at Wild About Whisky.

KwaZulu-Natal

Underberg

Similarly to Dullstroom, Underberg is probably best known as a fly-fishing hotspot with its 160km of river and 60 plus dams. Located in the Southern Drakensberg it forms part of the Sani Saunter, which may not be as well known as the Midlands Meander, but offers the same sort of outdoor and artsy experience. While snow isn't an annual guarantee in the town, the surrounding mountains are sure to receive at least a dusting during favourable conditions.

Sani Pass. (Shutterstock)

Sani Pass

Connecting KwaZulu-Natal with Mokhotlong in Lesotho, Sani Pass is a notoriously dangerous road that should only be attempted with 4x4 and lots of reliable equipment - especially if your mission is to see some snow. If you have all of this in place, then what are you waiting for? It is sure to be an experience of a lifetime!

When to expect snow:

There's no exact science when it comes to snowfall, so there may be a sprinkling as early as April. However, Kevin Rae, chief forecaster for South African Weather Services, says that between July and September we are most likely to experience snowfall

 
Read more on:    weekend escapes  |  travel south africa  |  lifestyle
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