BEYOND THE MOUNTAIN: SNOWBOARDING IN THE MATROOSBERG
Dawn Kennedy - May 28th 2012, 11:53
With his love of surf and snow, Jeremy has an intimate, almost obsessive, relationship
with weather reports, which he reads at least 10 times a day. He’s looking for subtle
things, not just a good swell or a cold front. Jeremy checks a special aviation website
to measure the freezing levels. A cold front followed by a warmer front can mean rain
that just washes away any snow that has fallen. What is needed is for another cold
front to rapidly follow an initial cold front for a good freeze to set in.
After the two-hour drive from Cape Town, the adventure has just begun. On a clear
day, it takes a hike of one hour to reach the ski club’s overnight hut and equipment
store. However, in a snowstorm it can take up to four hours. The ski club has two
petrol-powered ski lifts, known affectionately as schlep-lifts, plus two portable ski
lifts. The equipment has a wonderful sense of ingenuity and derring-do. An old
Volkswagen engine fuels the 1.6km ski lift. The two portable lifts consist of a rope
attached to a lawnmower engine and are designed to be packed in a backpack while
you trek to where the best snow lies.
Eventually, after driving, hiking and getting hauled up the slope, it’s time to get on
your board. A snowboard is a kind of shrunken surfboard. For someone who finds
standing up on a surfboard frustratingly impossible, after watching Jeremy slalom, I
rule out any possibility of ever getting the hang of snowboarding, which strikes me as
akin to surfing on a toothpick. But Jeremy assures me that snowboarding is the easiest
of the holy trinity that includes skateboarding and surfing. If you can do the latter,
Jeremy says you’ll be up and snowboarding in less than two hours.
The 250 member-strong Ski Club of South Africa is mostly a family-and-friends
affair. Formed during the mid-1920s, the Ski Club relocated from Fonteintjiesberg to
Matroosberg when the former was declared a water catchment area for Worcester.
The only way to gain membership to the club is by first attending three scheduled
work parties. All the equipment up the mountain was originally carried there by the
ski club members, who continue to keep the hut and equipment in good shape.
Skiing is a tradition in Jeremy’s family. His grandfather and father both skied and
Jeremy has been going up the slopes since he was a kid. Snowboarding wasn’t
around then, and he first learned to ski. While skiing is faster, Jeremy switched to
snowboarding as he says it’s more fun.
Good snow is proving elusive these days. Jeremy says that the last proper dump of
snow was in 2000 when he was snowboarding from July to November. While there
was ample snow in 2009, in 2011 conditions were not right. Jeremy believes that this
might be evidence of global warming, pointing out that there was surely more snow in
earlier times as “no one would have bothered to build a ski lift given the small amount
of snow that we’ve had in the last decade”.
In 2012 the first snow fell in early April. To find out more about the Matroosberg’s
weather conditions go to www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Matroosberg/forecasts/
For Matroosberg visit www.matroosberg.com.
For the ski club go to www.skiclubsa.co.za.