THE season has now started for Lesotho’s iconic Afriski Mountain Resort after significant snowfall starting Monday.
The resort reported this week that it recorded two centimetres of snow on Tuesday from midnight until 3am. This as Lesotho has been recording temperatures as low as -4 degrees Celsius as the winter season peaks.
Snowmaking at the resort supplements natural snowfall when the conditions are right and helps prepare the resort for the winter season. With a week of cold weather and low humidity, “it’s currently perfect” a statement from the resort said this week.
“Due to adjustments and improvements to the water storage facility at the quarry above the resort, we are fortunate to have more control of the system and more efficient water pressure management,” the resort management said in a statement.
“A newly built pump house at the top of the slope insulates our pumps to prevent our pipes freezing. All these factors contribute to simpler operations, in terms of producing what we all want — snow.”
Technical director, Graham Joyce said: “We are super excited, our new system is operating even better than anticipated, we have a week of cold weather, to capitalise on even more snowmaking before season starts”.
In the prevailing freezing temperatures in Lesotho’s highlands, the conditions are prime. However, the same cannot be said for travellers to the resort as the roads are closed for all 2×4 vehicles. Only 4×4 vehicles “with good quality off road tyres or snow chains” are permitted.
“Our ski season opens on 10 June and runs until the end of August, we look forward to having our guests hit the slopes with us,” reads the statement.
Sitting 3222 metres above sea level, Afriski is the only snow resort in Lesotho and is located in the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains of the Butha-Buthe district.
The resort has a full range of activities which include mountain biking, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, enduro biking and high-altitude training.
The resort augments natural snowfall with manufactured snow by way of pumping water into snow making lines. It introduced a M1 million automated snowmaking system which uses a reduced amount of energy while maximising snow production in May last year.
The implementation of the system started at the end of April 2020. The system was installed by MND Group while the commissioning and testing started on 1 May last year.
The equipment comprises of a storage dam located at the top of the mountain, a one-kilometre pipeline, a snowmaking booster pump, a transformer and electrical controls.
In the past, the resort relied on snowmakers to manually monitor wind, temperature and humidity conditions.
Afriski’s new state-of-the-art system works with a newly built high-altitude dam that uses gravity to feed water into these lines.