Jan 23, 2011 – Barrystravels.com – by Gefrey
Early start for four of us, well 5 of us actually. Lenny, Matt W, Annalisa and I were on the morning flight and Matt N kindly volunteered to drive us to the airport as he and Morwenna were on the evening flight. Up at 5.30am and on the way to Sharjah airport by 6am for our 8.25am flight. Annalisa did start to get a little worried that we would be late, but in the end we were there with plenty of time and after going back and forth through the security machine, we were checked in by an Air Arabia representative using their machines and then directed to the bag drop off, where inevitably there was a family that had no idea, what ‘bag drop off’ meant and so were checking in properly at the drop off counter. However, even after all this, we still had time to grab some breakfast in Costa or Maccy D’s for Annalisa and then wonder down to the gate.
Matt N and Annalisa had organised the whole trip again (after Nepal) and had used www.skileb.com to do so. Aside from flights these guys took care of everything – so as we emerged from picking up our bags, there was a guy waiting with a sign ready to whisk us off to the minibus that would take us up the mountain.
Now this is the first time I have been to Lebanon and having lived in Dubai for the last 5 years and complained about the state of driving in Dubai, I had my eyes opened!! I love travelling to see other cultures and experience new countries and the more I travel around this region, I see why when you mix all these people together in Dubai, you end up with the issues on the road. In Beirut though, it is mayhem!! Our driver was very good and obviously accustomed to the driving style. However we did have one very close call going up the mountain and I am still not quite sure how we didn’t pile into the back of the small saloon that was turning left!
Another slight point of concern was that we were in Lebanon to ski and snowboard and as we were going up the mountain, there seemed to be a distinct lack of the white stuff! We had been checking the weather beforehand and the website had assured us that all the slopes were open and there was snow. What made it even more worrying was that Matt W had been before and as we passed through Faryaa town was telling us, how when he was there, there was 5ft of snow at this level!! We still hadn’t seen any!!
We needn’t have worried though, a few more twists and turns up the mountain and I spotted our first snow clumps and the temperature noticeably dropped a couple degrees. All of which was good news for us. We kept on climbing and went past the hotel where Annalisa and Matt had stayed last year and also past the Intercontinental Mzaar Hotel where Matt W had stayed previously. The minibus pulled up and we jumped out. Our 3 bedroom apartment* was on the 3rd floor. The shop where we were to hire our equipment from was downstairs, as was a bar and restaurant that would deliver to us!! More importantly, across the street and the car park was the slopes! In terms of location, it couldn’t have been any better. Great start.
As we had taken the early flight and Lebanon is 2 hours behind Dubai, we still had half the day to go. Our package didn’t include this days equipment hire and slope pass, but 30 mins after arriving, we were all sorted and on the slopes! For Lenny it was actually the first time he’d been skiing properly and he did amazingly well all weekend!! It has been a good year or so since I was last on a snowboard. So we headed to the top of the slope, aptly named Baby! (a nice green run) Just so we could all get our ski legs on! The hardest part of snowboarding I find is getting off the ski lift as you have only one foot in the binding. So ‘Baby’ was good enough for me to start with for practicing getting on and off the lift as well as actually getting down the run.
As it turned out, there was no great drama getting off the lift (today) and after a couple of initial falls snow boarding legs returned and it was a good afternoon on the slopes. Annalisa and Lenny had a good few runs over a few hours and after a fall at the top, Lenny had turned his knee, so was in a bit of pain, so they went back to the apartment to warm up and chill out. So Matt ‘Hunter’ Wilson and I decided we would give the blue run that we could see from our window as it happens, a go. It’s funny how steep it looks when you are on the lift and how much steeper it is once you are stood at the top of the slope!
But for me that’s half the fun and the challenge. The lifts in Mzaar or Faryaa (they are still debating the name) shut at 3.30pm so that they can get everyone off the slopes before it goes dark, so we managed to get 3 runs in before we headed back to the apartment. A fantastic first afternoon on the slopes.
As we were in a self catering apartment, we needed to go and source supplies and also stretch Lenny’s knee out (as well as grab an apres ski beer) so we took a walk down the slope towards the Intercontinental hotel for said beer and also because there was a small supermarket downstairs. I think they thought all their Christmases had come at once as we bought up quite a bit of necessities. In hindsight I am not sure why we did, because after a few beers and a plate of chips between us in the hotel lobby bar, we then walked to the ‘big’ supermarket for more supplies. It was as we left the Intercontinental and the sun had gone completely, that we realised just how cold it had become!
Stupidly we had only come out in T-shirts and hoodies, no gloves or jackets and the wind was biting cold. I can safely say that the walk up the mountain was quite unpleasant. So much so, that I was struggling to breathe when we got back to the apartment. Needless to say, I didn’t go out again without full jacket, gloves and hat!!
After such an early start, it was hard to stay awake much beyond 8pm. However, as Morwenna and Matt were coming in on the later flight, didn’t feel it was fair to all be in bed when they got here. Having said that, I was basically asleep on the ‘Fat Boy’ cushion in the living room. Matt Wilson and Annalisa were playing a game on the iphone. Lenny was tending to his sore knee and desperately wishing he could also go to sleep! The guys arrived as planned and having worked a full day beforehand were quite tired, so a welcome drink or two then we all hit the hay in preparation for our first full day on the slopes!
Great start to the weekend.
*MzaarVille Panoramic Chalets starting $215/night including taxes.