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Raising the Bar

Raising the Bar

By Mark van Dijk
posted: 05/31/2005

The skis bolted to the ceiling at Ice Station 2720 aren't there for decoration. Nor do they add much to the bar's alpine ambience. No, these skis are central to one of Tiffindell skiers' best-loved diversions. Here at the second-highest bar in South Africa, ski-boot-clad participants are clicked into the bindings and fed cockle-warming shots of the house special, blue Hot Stuff Sambuca. Keep 10 of them down and get your name added to the plaque on the wall. Record to beat: 51.

Are these skiers bored or what? Tiffindell, which opened in 1994 at the end of a narrow, winding, often treacherous dirt road in the Drakensberg Mountains six hours south of Johannesburg, is tiny by North American standards. Cut into the slopes of 9,846-foot Ben McDhui, Tiffindell has just three runs-the most extensive of which is 2,000 feet long. Three consecutive surface lifts drop skiers at the sole black-diamond pitch. Skate a few feet farther and you'll spot a fourth and final poma, which ferries the hard-partying après crowd right to the Ice Station's door.

The ski season runs from May through September, thanks to a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. But when it does snow, ironically, it doesn't take much to snarl the operation: Tiffindell was shut down for two days in 1998 after a modest 13 inches knocked out electricity and phone lines.

No worries, though. The bar stayed open the whole time.


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