In 1983, South African skier and coach Don Shead felt it was time to address what he saw as a real need in the South African ski scene. “We have always had some really talented athletes skiing within the country, but we had long been separated from the thriving scene in the United States,” says Shead.
The country’s political and racial policies of the late ’70s and ’80s kept them from international competition. “With the end of apartheid, I wanted to build a truly international facility that could attract the world’s best skiers and expose our kids to the level of skiing that existed elsewhere,” says Shead.
After opening Ski World in South Africa, Shead invited coach David Benzel and skiers Carl Roberge and Cory Pickos to Johannesburg as he began to reshape the country’s ski scene. Today, Shead continues to attract international professional skiers: Bailey Austin, Trent Finlayson, Will Asher and Jimmy Siemers have all recently spent some time skiing in Johannesburg.
“We continue to be the international hub for tournament skiing in South Africa, and it’s paying off,” says Shead. Ski World’s latest protégé Eamon van der Merwe grabbed a podium finish at the 2014 U.S. Junior Masters; this year, Nicolas Stegman, Shead’s junior slalom star, is headed to the U.S. to test himself against the world’s best. With pristine skiing conditions and an exciting English-speaking culture to experience, Ski World is the perfect winter ski destination.
South Africa's Sites
Ski and Stay Packages: The Lakes Hotel (thelakeshotel.co.za), Ski World’s on-site hotel, is literally a few steps from the lake.
Coaching: Don Shead is competitive water skiing in South Africa. Shead has coached numerous national and world champions throughout his career.
Site: Ski World operates on Lake Benoni, an urban man-made lake five minutes from the international airport. Featuring a jump and two slalom courses situated for opposing wind directions, Lake Benoni touts ideal conditions more days than not.
Pro Shop: Ski World is the country’s premier Nautique dealer, using the 6L Nautique 200 for its lessons. In the shop, D3 and HO Skis are available for demo and purchase. Visit the website at skiworld.co.za.
Activities: An 18-hole golf course skirts the perimeter of the lake, while tennis and squash courts are adjacent to Ski World’s pro shop.
Chaperone Service: Ski World offers a full-time chaperone service to help navigate Johannesburg. Land at the airport and let Ski World handle the rest.
Flights: While the flights aren’t exactly inexpensive, the U.S. dollar’s current exchange rate and the relatively low cost of living will easily offset the airline’s bill.