Jan 2002 – Ski.com.au – Australia Snowsport Website.
|Description||There are 6 main ski resorts in Lebanon, offering varying degrees of difficulty. Equipment hire is available at all resorts, and the cost is reasonable. All resorts are within a 2-3 hour drive of Beirut in the Mt Lebanon Range|
|Location||Resorts are NE of Beirut|
|Altitude||Resort bases range from 1650m to 1950m with the peaks from 1920m to 3080m. Vertical varies from 350m to over 100m|
|Season||Peak season Jan – Feb|
After years of unrest, Lebanon is regaining its former reputation as ‘The Switzerland of the Middle East’. The weather is always moderate, the prices reasonable and the Lebanese hospitality legendary. Lebanon is the only country in the world where one can ski in the morning and swim in the waters of the Mediterranean in the afternoon. Lebanon is definitely back and a worthy ski destination with unlimited unspoilt possibilities.
Lebanon is located at the meeting point of three continents, and over the centuries it has been the crossroads of many civilisations whose traces are readily evident today. Its countryside is a place of mountains,valleys, cedar trees and magnificent ruins that look down from the mountains to the sea. It is a compact country of 1045 square kilometres with a population of 3.2 million. The Lebanese people are renowned for several things: their business savvy, their food and their hospitality. Life for the Lebanese revolves around having a good time; and food and entertainment are central themes.
Skiing in Lebanon has developed rapidly since its introduction in the 1930s largely due to the French Army who established an army ski school in the area of the Cedars in the north of the country.
Lebanon has 6 main ski areas: Mzaar (previously known as Faraya Mzaar), Qanat Bakish, Zaarour (closest resort to Beirut), The Cedars (in northern Lebanon), Laqlouq and Faqra Club, one of the world’s first private ski resort/club.
My personal experience has been in the Mzaar resort (ex Faraya-Mzaar) in January and February 2000. Mzaar is the best equipped and most popular resort in Lebanon. Skiers, snowboarders, snowmobile addicts, cross-country lovers and paragliders come to Mzaar from all parts of the country. The season starts in late December and lasts until April. None of the resorts in Lebanon have any snowmaking facilities, however with up to 5 metres plus of natural snow, there’s plenty for all.
Starting at 1850m, you can reach the 2465m top of Mzaar and enjoy the breathtaking and stunning views over the Bekaa valley, Mt. Hermon of the Anti-Lebanon and other peaks like Laqlouq and the Cedars. On a clear day, Beirut and the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean and if your lucky, even Cyprus can be seen. I have seen stunning views from Lake Tahoe, Kitzbuheul and Val d’Isere but nothing comes close to the views from Mzaar.
Mzaar is divided into 3 domains and ticket prices are based on which areas you want to ski or on combination of areas. Half day tickets are available after 12:00. In recent years foreign investment and French and German technical assistance has ensured good well run facilities. Except for beginner areas, lift lines are hard to find even on the busiest days (weekends and public holidays). Most Lebanese appear to spend more time at the restaurants being seen than on the slopes. Snowboarding appears to be more popular among the younger generation than skiing. Off-piste skiing, especially after their frequent half metre dumps are simply incredible. The out of bounds areas at Mzaar extend for kilometres in all directions, except to the west. It seems it would take forever to explore all the powder possibilities. Avalanche prone areas are well marked in the resort areas, and if common sense prevails they shouldn’t be too much of a problem for sensible skiers (a rare breed). Mzaar has the slopes surrounding it to build a mega-ski area like those in the Alps or Colarado, unfortunately, no plans exist at the moment.
My family stayed in Auberge Suisse, a small cozy hotel at the base of Mzaar was worth every cent – nice people, good food and great service. The manager, Mr. Berge, is extremely friendly and helpful and has family back in Oz. Whilst there are numerous places to stay at varying prices form the dirt cheap to 5 star accommodation, the night life is pretty dead and our kids (ages 11 and 13) found it pretty boring. After a few days we opted to staying in Beirut, enjoying it’s legendary night life and getting a taxi up each morning and back in the evening (45minutes – hour depending on traffic). I looked at renting a car, however the costs are high and the taxi service cheap and the service excellent.
Skiing in Lebanon has to be experienced to believe it. The best source of info for skiing in Lebanon with excellent up-to-date info on ski resorts, costs, trail maps, accommodation, ski conditions, activities (winter & summer) etc. can be found at Ronald Sayegh’s SKI LEBANON web site (www.skileb.com).