Winter’s here and the kids are on holiday. Why not swap the beach for snow-chasing in the mountains this year? Katrine Anker-Nilssen chats to KZN’s very own snowman – who has taken SA by storm with SnowReport
Durban boy Rob Ansell has travelled extensively and visited over 30 countries, but he always returns as the spirit of Africa flows strong in his blood. “Weather, and especially snow, has been a passion of mine since I was a child, so I’m very fortunate to find myself enjoying a career chasing snow,” he says with a smile.
In 1992 Rob met Serena, and together they have two sons. “Gary has an entrepreneurial spirit that rivals mine, while Thomas is convinced he is going to be a snow reporter,” laughs Rob, adding that whenever possible they travel together on snow adventures around the country.
SnowReport started off as a hobby, but has developed into one of the largest community-driven initiatives in South Africa. “When I returned from a stint overseas and could find very little info on snow forecasting and snow zones in South Africa, I started doing research,” explains Rob. A few weeks later snowreport.co.za was born, and today it’s one of the busiest winter websites in Africa – with over a million hits every year. Then there’s the 200 000 followers on Facebook – with last year’s post reaching a whopping 47 million. “Our community of followers is amazing – people send us pictures from all over the country, allowing us to share exciting snow news. We also have over 20 web cameras placed in strategic positions – trying to catch the first snowflakes when they fall,” says Rob.
SnowReport is not only helpful for pleasure seekers and adventurers who want to know where the snow is so they can go and play. “As much fun as snow can be, it can also be very dangerous. We issue warnings on areas that people should stay away from when there are heavy snowfalls, and we advise people of the precautions they should take when visiting a snow area. We also share information on road closures and extreme conditions, promote safe and accessible resorts in the snow zones, and provide important forecasting that farmers – in particular – rely on,” explains Rob.
Video and TV reporting will increase this winter, and a bunch of crazy hikers want to take Rob up into the Drakensberg to sleep in a cave for a few nights when there is a decent snowfall on the way. “When you love what you do and have the support of the community and industry, you have a winning formula,” says Rob.
If you have ever been in falling snow, you will know the quiet that it brings to a landscape. “It is a quiet stillness that cannot be compared to anything else, and the beauty of snow as it blankets our African landscape is quite breathtaking,” says Rob. “Growing up I remember my dad taking our family into the KZN Midlands to play in the snow, and those are truly happy memories. We certainly hope that we are helping families make these memories today.”