An Overview of Lebanon’s Top Ski Resorts Part 2

This is the second part of a short series of posts highlighting the best aspects of Lebanon’s top ski resorts. We aim to give you an oversight of some of the options available to you when planning a skiing holiday in Lebanon. Whether you’re planning a return to the slopes, or are looking to try out something completely new, we’re confident that you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

In our last update we looked at the resorts of Laqlouq, Mzaar and the Cedars. You can read part one here.

Faqra

Faqra, also known as Faqra Club, is located some 50km to the North East of Beirut. This makes it easily accessible from the capital’s main airport and also makes it ideally suitable for shorter breaks for those operating out of Beirut itself.

Faqra is a smaller resort with around 4 lifts, but it has a lot to offer to visitors. The resort’s main hotel, l’Auberge de Faqra, boasts excellent facilities including a heated swimming pool, squash courts and a sauna – the perfect way to relax after a hard day on the slopes.

The resort has an unusual claim to fame – the remains of a Roman temple are located nearby. These historical relics are a testament to Faqra’s enduring popularity – even the ancients recognised it as a wonderful location!

Click here to read more about Faqra.

Qanat Bakish

Located close to Faqra, Qanat Bakish is a quiet, picturesque resort. While it doesn’t have as much to offer by way of nightlife when compare to some of the busier tourist hotspots, what it lacks in hustle and bustle is more than made up for by its tranquillity.

Home to just three lifts, it’s probably fair to say that Qanat Bakish is an acquired taste. If you’re looking for challenging runs or adrenaline pumping action, you’d be better off opting for a resort such as Mzaar.

But if you’re looking for the perfect place to get away from it all and relax with some gentle runs, this could be your ideal destination. Like Faqra, Qanat Bakish is near to Beirut, making it perfect for short breaks. Its relatively high altitude also ensures quality snow.

Click here to read more about Qanat Bakish.

Zaarour
The view across Zaarour

Zaarour

Out of all of Lebanon’s ski resorts, Zaarour is closest to the capital city of Lebanon. It’s easy to reach for those staying in Lebanon hotels and makes weekend ski breaks a distinct possibility.

Its north-facing slopes mean excellent snow and its multiple lifts mean that its easy to pack as much skiing as possible into a a single day.

Zaarour is also home to some outstanding cross-country skiing routes, giving you the chance to mix up your piste action with something slightly different.

Click here to read more about Zaarour.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief look at the highlights of Lebanon’s ski resorts. With winter just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to be planning your ski getaway. If any of these resorts have taken your fancy, we recommend getting in touch straight away to discuss how we can put together your ideal skiing holiday.

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The Wild West Comes to the Cedars

If there’s one thing a good skiier needs, it’s balance. And if there’s one thing that a cowboy on the back of a bucking bronco needs, it’s almost certainly the same thing.

It’s not very often that the passtimes are compared, but now with the arrival of first and – to date – only international rodeo competition to be held in Lebanon rolls into the Cedars later this month. The Cedar Stampede Rodeo And Wild West Festival 2011 will bring plenty of unusual forms of entertainment to an area of Lebanon that’s best know for, amongst other things, its ski resorts.

Ski Leb Wild West

The festival brings with it a wide range of exciting and different passtimes – and offers a great deal more than jsut the opportunity to brush up on your balancing skills. Stunt riders, performers and rodeo champions from around the world will be descending on the El Rancho resort to demonstrate their skills, and perhaps share some tips with those who come to try their hand.

Prices start from 30,000 LBP, but there are discounts available for kids under 10. Things kick off on August 26 and run until September 4.

Ghodras, the small village that will play host to the event, is ideally located close to a number of key cities and towns, making it easy to get to. Bcharre, the focal point for many of the Cedars hotels and ski resorts, is located a short drive to the North East.

Beirut, and its wealth of Beirut hotels, is located a 40 minute drive to the south. Tripoli is about the same distance away up the Mediterranean coast. The beautiful waterfront destination of Byblos is, however, the closest of all – mere minutes away from Ghodras.

Practicing staying upright on your board using a mechanical bull is certainly one option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix of adrenaline-pounding excitement during the summer months in Lebanon. Take a look at our summer activites page.

While summer entertainment is an interesting way to pass the time before the ski season begins, the mountains and hills of North Lebanon are known and loved by many for the fantastic skiing experiences that they offer.

It’s never too early to start planning your next on-piste adventure!

Find Your Sea Legs With Lebanon Boats

The warm waters of the Mediterranean are a major draw for many visitors to Lebanon. There’s a truly huge number of ways to appreciate them, whether it be enjoying a coffee in a waterfront bistro, relishing the refreshing tang of salt as you explore one of the Lebanese coast’s many picturesque villages, or even soaring high above the waves in your very own airborne tour.

But when it comes to the sea, it can’t be denied that the best way to appreciate it is by partaking in a tried and tested pastime: messing around in boats. Luckily, a new site has been recently launched in order to help you do just that. www.lebanonboats.com offers visitors to Lebanon the chance to make the most of the country’s outstanding waters, whatever your personal preference.

Lebanon Boat Tours - Motor Boat Excursions

The sleek curves of a motor boat are irresistible to most. Offering a luxurious experience, combined with the thrill of a powerful vehicle, nothing beats spending a day sunbathing on the back of one of these beautiful modern vessels, before speeding back to shore as the last rays glitter off the sea. Feeling the wind rushing through your hair and the gentle hiss of spray as you cut through the waves simply can’t be beaten.

For those who like to take it a little easier but also enjoy a little sport, a Lebanon fishing trip is the perfect option. While a respected and important occupation for hundreds of generations, fishing for fun is a great way to spend some time out on the waves and, of course, to have something to enjoy eating at the end of the day. The waters off the Lebanese coast are home to species including Porkfish, Redcoat Squirrelfish, Common Pandora, Red Mullet and Baracuda. All are delicious, but you have to catch them first!

Love the Sea with Lebanon Boats

If you have some experience under your belt, a Lebanon sailing excursion might be high up on your to-do list. The weather in Lebanon lends itself very well to filling sails, and with a recent boom in yachting drawing more people than ever to the waters just north of Beirut you’re sure to find something suitable, regardless of your level of expertise.

Alternatively, if the itinerary for your holiday in Lebanon doesn’t allow for much time on the coast, why not consider a spot of rafting on one of the Lebanon’s major rivers. This is an exciting and fun way to get your water fix, and one that isn’t to be missed out on.

If you have any sort of love for the sea or boats in general, you owe it to yourself to check out www.lebanonboats.com. Whatever the excuse, find a reason to get yourself on those Mediterranean waves as quickly as possible. You’ll thank us later!

Licence to Roam: ATV Tours in Lebanon

The All Terrain Vehicle (or ATV) has, despite being a fairly recent innovation, rapidly become a very popular method of individual transportation and one that’s especially suited to summer tours and other outdoors excursions. By offering a fast-paced, exciting and independent experience for riders, ATV tours in Lebanon offer the chance to get the adrenaline pumping against a backdrop of some of the planet’s most impressive historical sites and geographical locations.

Visitors to Lebanon can enjoy a unique perspective on some of the country’s most famous destinations by exploring on the back of their very own ATV. These vehicles offer the perfect solution when it comes to either trekking between two sites or enjoying different viewpoints of a single famous landmark.

Lebanon ATV Tours

Some of the excursions on offer include:

1) Exploring the ancient ruins of Baalbek

Enjoy a six hour ride in the mountains around this legendary settlement. After exploring the ruins up close, you can blow the cobwebs away by discovering your own perfect view of the site. An incredible contrast between the awesome history of Baalbek’s stones and the simple thrill of being alive in the present day.

Experience an ATV tour around Baalbek

2) Trekking between Faraya Mzaar and Zahle

Following winding mining tracks, this route offers an exciting and dramatic view of the rugged landscape which local people have worked for generations. Glimpses of beautiful peaks and valleys along the way provide a constant incentive to push on and see exactly what’s around the next bend.

Try an ATV trek between Faraya Mzaar and Zahle

3) Ascent of Qornet Al Sawda

Conquering Lebanon’s tallest peak is no mean feat, even with an ATV. The feeling of accomplishment that washes over you as you arrive at the top of one of the Middle East’s tallest peaks – standing at 3088m in height – is beyond description. You truly feel on top of the world.

Find out about the ascent of Qornet Al Sawda on an ATV

Lebanon ATV Tours - Qornet Al Sawda

These experiences offer a completely unique perspective and a sense of total freedom that are simply unavailable to most travellers. In the warm summer months when snow is limited, there is no better way to enjoy Lebanon’s striking terrain and incomparable views than on the back of your very own ATV. More experiences are available, so see which package would make your stay in Lebanon that little bit more exciting.

Birds Eye View of Beirut: Three Ways to Soar over the City

A city like Beirut is best beheld from every angle – including above. Imagine soaring like a bird over this ancient city, taking in a view of the iconic landmarks set against the coast. Dreams of flight can come true in Beirut, now in three amazing ways.

Birdseye on Beirut

1) Beirut by Plane

Hop on board a personal Cessna aircraft flight for the ride of a lifetime. Each person on board the will get a fantastic window view as the pilot points out the highlights – the ancient port city of Byblos, the Rawche rock formations, and tons of surprises! This tour has thought of everything: there is even music on the flight for maximum enjoyment and fond memories.

Check out the Beirut by Plane details.

2) Paragliding in Beirut

The best way to experience paragliding for the first time is a tandem ride with a seasoned professional, and what better place than Lebanon’s famous take-off mountain, Harissa? You’ll run and then soar into a beautiful Mediterranean panorama, remaining airborne for at least 20 minutes. The remarkable thing about Lebanon’s atmospheric conditions is that almost every afternoon is a great afternoon for paragliding. Book your ride today!

More information about Beirut Paragliding.

3) Hot Air Ballooning Above Mzaar Ski Resort

For a leisurely ascent and more time in the air, a hot air balloon ride might be the best way to go. You’ll float over the scenic Mzaar ski resort and take in a breathtaking view of the entire surrounding area. Plan ahead a few days for this one – you must reserve two days in advance, and the trip from start to finish takes four to five hours. This is a small apparatus, so keep your group size to three or less.

Read more about hot air ballooning in Beirut.

Above a city like Beirut, airborne and free is the way to be. Keep in mind, though, that there are more grounded activities, such as trekking, biking, and boat cruising for an active summer vacation in and around this beautiful Mediterranean metropolis.

Rebirth: Contemporary Lebanese Art

While skiing in Lebanon is undoubtedly an art in itself, the off season is the perfect opportunity to take in some art of a more conventional sense. A brand new exhibition of contemporary Lebanese art at the Beirut Exhibition Centre, promises to provide a scintillating insight into some of the country’s most exciting artistic talent.

Beirut Exhibition Center - Home to Rebirth:Lebanon XXIst Century Contemporary Art

‘Rebirth: Lebanon XXIst Century Contemporary Art’ – which opens today June 16th – is curated by Janine Maamari and provides a platform for 49 Lebanese artists, of diverse ages and backgrounds, to display their works.

The exhibits, many of which are receiving their first public appearance as part of this collection, make use of a wide variety of media – including painting, sculpture and photography – but all contemplate the theme of rebirth.

Artists that have contributed to the exhibition include Talar Aghbashian, Randa Ali Ahmad and Christina Alid. While many of those included live and work overseas, Lebanon is the common thread that unites them all. Scenes of everyday Lebanese life – particularly childhood – can be found throughout the exhibition.

The show runs until July 24th.

Lebanon has a particularly vibrant art scene – a result of its rich history of diversity and influences from a multitude of cultures. While many contemporary artists exhibit pronounced western themes in their art, the touch of ancient civilisations can also be detected.

If you’re also interested in history, there are plenty of destinations waiting to be discovered during a break from the slopes. Lebanon’s Five UNESCO World Heritage sites are a good starting point for budding historians, but simply walking the streets of Beirut, Tyre or Tripoli can be history lessons for the less adventurous.

 

Map to Beirut Exhibition Centre
A Map to the Beirut Exhibition Centre

Beirut Exhibition Centre is centrally located in the very heart of the city, close to a number of Beirut Hotels and the charming waterfront district. It can be found just off Mir Majid Arslan Avenue, which leads to the nearby Marina and is open every day between 11am and 8pm. Parking nearby is plentiful, but organising transport in advance is probably the easiest option for most travellers.

Our Beirut Airport Transfer service delivers you directly to the centre of the city, or any number of Lebanon Hotels according to your personal preference.

Summer is Perfect for Lebanon Essentials

The Lebanon Essentials tour takes you to the best ruins, grottoes, views, and wine country in Lebanon!

Picture this: in just five days, you can see the must-sees of Lebanon in the summertime, stay in a fine 4-star hotel in Beirut, and still have time left over to sit back and soak it all in at your own pace.  Sounds like a summer daydream, right? With skileb.com you can make it happen.  Check out the itinerary:

Day 1: Private airport transfer from the Beirut airport to your hotel.  You will be staying at the 4-star Parisian Hotel, or you can choose an equivalent Beirut hotel to use as your base.  Get settled in, enjoy an evening stroll and dinner in downtown Beirut, and wake up refreshed. Breakfast is included.

Day 2: A guide and private transportation will meet you at your hotel at 9am for a full day of guided site-seeing.  Prepare yourself for the mighty stalactites and stalagmites of the Jeita Grotto underground caves.  Then it’s up, up, up by cable car to the beautiful views of Our Lady of Harissa lookout point. The last stop is Byblos, an ancient heritage site with fantastic ruins of castles and temples.  You’ll be chauffeured back to the hotel around 5pm.

Our Lady of Harissa lookout point, Lebanon
Our Lady of Harissa lookout point

Day 3: This day is all yours.  Fill it with the activity that suits you best.  Options are plenty.  For the laid-back pleasure-seeker, there is a fine selection of spa treatments in Mzaar, a premier resort area.  Or for the active adventure-seeker, you can rent a boat or pursue other outdoor activities in Lebanon like water skiing, rafting, biking and hot air ballooning. Literally, the sky is the limit.

Day 4: Another fully day of privately guided and chauffeured site-seeing awaits.  Your ride will pick you up at the hotel at 9am.  First stop is the magnificent Roman ruins of Baalbek.  Afterwards, you’ll enjoy an afternoon of refinement at the Ksara winery in Lebanon’s own ancient wine country of Bekaa Valley, where wine-making is still very much alive today.  The day ends at 6pm, when you will be returned to the hotel.

Ksara winery in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Ksara winery in Bekaa Valley wine country

Day 5: Just let us know your flight time, and a stress-free private airport transfer will shuttle you back to the Beirut airport for you to catch your plane.

We really can’t imagine a trip that captures the essence of Lebanon more fully and leisurely.  Book your Lebanon Essentials tour with us today!

Powder Snow on the Mediterranean – Bathing and Boarding

Powder Snow German Team Feb 2003German team from PowderGuide.com

The glaring sun is reflected in the sea. At our feet: Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Behind us lies “Bekaa Valley” and in the North the Syrian Desert is stretched out. Our day started in a street café in Beirut. Over Arabian coffee and croissants we enjoyed the approaching spring’s first rays of sun.

In the meantime we are in the snow, on the “Dome du Mzaar” summit (2465m), the highest point in the winter sports resort of Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar). It is the height of winter here; there are over three metres of snow. We can hardly wait, to leave our tracks in the glistening powder snow. Already we have our boards strapped to our feet- everyone has picked their line for descent. The view is unsurpassable. On our descent enormous fountains of powder snow are shooting over our heads. We are plunging into the slopes and into pleasure – there is no stopping us. This is what snowboarding should always be like. After our first deep snow descent in the Middle East we can hardly believe it. We are a ‘mere’ four hours flight away from Germany, in a country that almost everybody knows. Hardly, however, for its perfect winter sports conditions, alas…. This morning we realised quickly that winter sports aren’t exactly the most widespread national sports.

On the way to the skiing resort we have to pass a Lebanese army check-point. We are permitted to pass. The cars parked on the parking space pompously flaunt the wealth of the ‘winter sports enthusiasts’. Even the fixation techniques, with which the – mostly state of the art – skis are transported on the car are extravagant to say the least: to our surprise they are fixed, by the aid of magnetic attachments, directly onto the bonnet. When we first saw this ski presentation we burst out laughing. We received friendly but irritated looks for this, and found out later that this appeared to be the common way to carry your sports equipment here. Yet sports do not play the major role here. What counts is to see and be seen. Nearly everybody is bustling around the main lift, close to the parking spaces and many are just using the lift to reach the sun terrace of the nearby restaurant. The other chair lifts are hardly in use; here, on the other hand, we find perfect freeriding conditions: untraced slopes of powder snow.

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On the previous evening we were in Beirut and had arranged to meet Judi, a snowboarder on the Lebanese snowboard team, for dinner. When he picks us up from the hotel in Beirut he proudly presents his new car which he had just gotten for his 18th birthday: Mercedes S- Class, black with lots of leather. Later on George, a friend of Judi’s, arrives on the scene. His car is substantially smaller – he drives a Porsche.

After dinner we plunged into Beirut’s nightlife. Lebanon is a cultural mix of Islam and Christianity. But this, we had not expected: Clubs that are elaborately styled by designers and party addicts that dance light-heartedly until the early morning. And the people of Beirut have a lot to catch up on; girls in mini-skirts dancing on aquaria in which piranhas are swimming. The whole front of the bar is made of glass, which is nothing out of the usual, really. However between the panes of glass a multitude of exotic fish is swimming. This is roughly how I visualise a pet shop for the super-rich. Unluckily the prices for drinks easily reach the level of Munich. But we don’t want to miss the experience – we have to pay the penalty the next morning.

During the atrocious civil war, Lebanon rose to a sad prominence; Beirut, above all, where fierce riots took place. Before then Beirut was known as the ‘Paris of the east’: splendour and glamour in Arabia. Within a short period Lebanon became synonymous for desperate civil war, and we too primarily associated fanatic Hisbollah fighters, road blocks and completely bombed out houses with the small country.

When we heard about the Lebanese ski team of the Olympic Games in the seventies we had become curious. Somewhere these athletes must have practised back then, and these mountains must still be there today. Here, snowboarding and bathing on the same day is supposed to be possible. Curious, we set out. ‘We’ meaning, the former world-cup pro rider Burgel Heckmaier, the freeriders Lars and Sven Gitterman, photographer Thorsten Indra and myself. After having arrived in Beirut, we still have some time: we dive into the cultural life of the pulsating capital. Beirut is once more beginning to bloom. You can feel and see the outset everywhere. When we first ramble through the city the influences of the different cultures become apparent and we are greeted with effusive cordiality:”Where are you from? “, we are often asked. The reactions to our answers are exceedingly friendly: “Oh Germany, welcome to Lebanon, have a nice journey! “. At first I was rather surprised at the friendliness and was even a little diffident after some previous (zum besseren verständnis der vorzeitigkeit) negative experiences in Arabian countries. Later on I feel ashamed of my initial mistrust. Nobody wants to sell us anything or con us. The people here are simply unbelievably friendly and obliging!

On the way to the beach we discover the district of ‘Centre-Ville’. It was almost completely destroyed in the civil war and used to be the cultural centre of Beirut. The mixture of Arabian and Italian Baroque architecture was rebuilt lovingly over a long period of reconstruction. The first street cafés and shops are already bringing new life into the city centre and the horrors of the war are hard to imagine. In the cafés you can deem yourself to be right in Paris and especially at the sight of the attractive Lebanese ladies. If you go another two streets further, however, to the ‘Place of Martyrs’ the traces of the house-to-house fighting are still to be recognised – and suddenly the thought of war doesn’t seem so far any longer.

Our driver picks us up at the hotel and first of all we get stuck in the traffic chaos of Beirut. Innumerable Mercedes-Benz cars – from 1950ies models to the newest s-class. I have never seen so many cars by the brand with the star. Seen them so concentrated. ‘Made in Germany’ seems highly in demand here. From the ‘Avenue de Paris’ we see the snow covered mountains that loom beyond the city for the first time. It is only the end of February but the temperatures are t-shirt adaptable. We can hardly imagine to go snowboarding the next day.

From Beirut we travel through hilly landscapes. The snow covered mountains are glistening in the sun. Slowly they are growing. Too slowly for our liking, we can hardly wait to arrive there. Eventually (geändert da sonst das konzept der vorfreude weg ist) we reach Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar), the biggest ski resort in Lebanon. There is snow here, luscious three metres of it! The enormous walls of snow along the roads are keeping us from seeing too much, we are driving through an ‘open air tunnel’. Although we are so far south, astonishingly there is more snow than in the Alps. The resort of Mzaar is relatively modern: 16 lifts, of the newer design and plenty of room for descent. From the highest peak of the region (2500m) we set out on our first off-piste descents. The Mediterranean powder snow is so unbelievable to ride that we proceed right down to the road. There however we have to realise that we are now situated four metres above the road. It is only with great difficulty that we reach the street below. We make it in the end and immediately make for the lifts again. It is one of the best days of this winter, and this although each one of us spends about 100 days on the snowboard each winter. We have arranged to have dinner with Sara, Judi and George from the Lebanese snowboard team. Antoine, their coach comes especially from Beirut to meet us. He and his brother Habib import snowboards to Lebanon, organise snowboard races and attend to the young snowboard talents. The two don’t look like they have money troubles.

After the meal its party time. We are still knackered from the long night, in Beirut, when we had a few drinks to the coming days. The exuberant mood of our Lebanese friends is highly infectious – and there was a bad weather forecast for the next day anyway: we could sleep late.

Burgl cracked the joke of the evening when she asked Sven and Antoine whether all Muslims were Christians. First she caught some irritated looks for her religious knowledge, then everyone broke out laughing and we all had a giggle for the next couple of hours on account of this slogan. Whacked and tired we leave for the hotel late at night. Burgl, our party-girl and religion-expert wants to keep partying and remains at the club. It is still snowing and we are glad to get to bed.

We are standing on the summit with our Lebanese friends. It has snowed heavily during the night, over 30 cm. Instead of the predicted bad weather, our short sleep was disturbed by our early-bird Lars’ triple roar: “Suuun! Poooowder! Get uuup!”. Our ears are still booming from the disco-night. Yet, Lars is right. Within record time we are set to go. Luckily the packing is an automatic procedure – every motion practised a thousand times.

The dignified Lebanese winter athletes don’t seem to care too much about powder snow. They prefer to use the ski-runs: how lucky for us. Again our Lebanese friends are shocked when we tell them that, on no account will we use the runs, even though they are, as our Lebanese argue, so magnificently prepared. Having been freeriders and powder snow enthusiasts for so many years, we simply can’t miss our chance in these dream conditions, much as we’d like to. We fell for the Lebanese powder, the view of the sea and of Beirut regularly taking our breath away: we never want to leave… unhurriedly we are drawing our tracks in the powder slopes. We find numerous snow cornices going down along the gullies. We each get our own gully and we can let off steam to our heart’s content.

We are on our way to Cedars the second largest winter sports resort in Lebanon. A stop at the 7000 year old seaport of Byblos is an absolute must. We have a meal in a traditional Lebanese restaurant. In the restaurants there are up to 40 different hors d’oevres which are consumed with flat bread. Olive oil pickles, sesame pastes, grilled vegetables, different sorts of salad etc. This is so opulent that no one is hungry anymore when the main course is served.

We continue towards ‘Cedars’. The mountain pass weaves through innumerable mountain villages up the valley. In the full moon we reach the high valley of Cedars. The village lies at an altitude of 1950 metres and is surrounded by snowy peaks of around 3000 metres, brightly illuminated by the moon. ‘Cedars’, was mainly famous for its cedar woods. Sadly, the woods were almost completely cleared and the valuable wood was exported. What remained is a small forest which is now protected by nature conservation. New cedars are planted again. The trees can reach an age of up to 1500 years, but only grow very slowly. It will take a very long time until there are prospering woods once more.

The resort of ‘Cedars’ is not as big and modern as that of ‘Mzaar’. There are but a few, rather ancient lifts, although the highest one reaches up to 2800 m above sea level. “Why are the other lifts not in use?” I ask the owner of the lifts. He looks at me uncomprehendingly, points to the plane practise lift and tells me how wonderfully the slope is prepared. At my repeated question concerning the closed lifts he explains that the only lift that goes up the mountain is an army lift and is therefore reserved to the soldiers who are practising to ski there. This is getting a bit much, we think: we are supposed to snowboard on plane terrain just because the Lebanese mountain infantry is practising to ski? “There is, however, always a possibility”, he says, grinning broadly, and writes us a letter of reference. At least this is how we understand the scrap of paper written in Arabian. The lift manager hardly speaks any English.

There are two soldiers sitting in the lift hut, scrutinising us grimly. They read the note and, after a short discussion, they give us a day ticket. We queue up at the lift. To say that we stood out, with our colourful snowboard gear, would be understated. The soldiers, in their uniforms resemble a motley crew of mercenaries. The ride up with the lift is a very special experience. The lift is at least 50 years old and doesn’t seem to have ever been maintained. Half way up there appears to be the regular place of disembarkation. But I don’t want to get off before the steep part! This however is just what the wildly gesturing ‘disembarkation-soldiers’ are signalling me to do. I decline just as vehemently and point further up. They jump aside at the last moment and clear the way, shaking their heads. Arriving at the top I find out why: the ramp at the end of the disembarkation platform is missing! I jump off the lift and come to a halt just before the abyss. Luckily part of the catwalk is still there on the one side. From here I can warn the others of the danger of crashing; by means of shouting. From the highest point of the resort it is not far to the ‘Quorned as Sawda’. With 3087 metres it is the highest peak in Lebanon. With snow shoes we climb towards the peak. The way turns out quite strenuous and long. It takes us over three hours to reach the summit.

The ascent was worthwhile. We enjoy the marvellous view of Lebanon. From the Mediterranean the green hills rise and become alpine in the high valley of Cedars. In between the canyon of Kadisha Valley is bedded. Below us lies ‘Cedars’ with its last cedar trees. Towards the east we overlook the barren ‘Bekaa Valley’. It is the biggest viticultural region of Lebanon. The wine is especially fine, the Romans already started to grow wine there 2000 years ago. The snow cover extends down to 1200 metres – it only comes to an end where it reaches the first olive groves. In the distance we can make out ‘Baalbek’. Here there is one of the biggest and best preserved roman temples. ‘Baalbek’ was the most important Roman base in the Middle East.

The view reaches to the ‘Anti-Lebanon Mountains’, lying opposite, a little lower but also snow covered. To the north we see the Syrian Desert. Unbelievable! From the deeply snowed up summits we perceive all imaginable climatic zones from the desert to the sea. Time is pressing. We reach a ridge dropping towards the east and are looking for a suitable descent that will lead us back to ‘Cedars’. At the end of the ridge a gully drops down over 1100 metres of altitude: steep and interspersed with rocks. From the sea clouds have gathered. The atmosphere in the evening sun is becoming mystical: the valley is glowing under the low sun; the clouds reach up to just below ‘Cedars’. Everyone picks their line. After a breathtaking descent we reach the village tired and content. Our landlord welcomes us with hot tea, the traditional Lebanese water-pipe and local culinary delights.

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On the way back to Beirut we pass the famous Kadisha Valley. At our feet the Mediterranean is glinting invitingly in the sun. A little later we reach the nearby beach of ‘Tam Tam’.

Now we want to find out: boarding and bathing on the same day?

So, here we are; just back from snowboarding at a level of 3000 metres with descents of over 1000 metres of altitude. From ‘powder-high’ to ‘paddling-fun’.

Now we want to dive into the still quite wintry waters. We just have to get in there now. After having shown off in front of our friends: “We’re going to Lebanon, bathing and boarding, in February”. We make Lars go first, he had always had the biggest mouth of all. With a running start and a loud “yeaaaah” he jumps into the water and dives into the first wave. As there are no visible signs of ‘frostbite’ on his face we dare to go in too. And with a temperature of 19° C the water is really quite tolerable, even pleasant, warmer than a mountain lake in summer, after all!

Before the civil war broke out it was considered chic to combine winter sports with a seaside holiday in Lebanon. 30 years later we can state that this combination is unique.

Back in Beirut we meet up once more with our friends from the Lebanese snowboard team. Within a short time we had become friends in spite of all differences. Together we go to one of the most fashionable clubs in Beirut. The ‘BO-18’ is the club of the party-crazy youth. The name ‘BO-18’ was taken over from a bomber-plane that dropped bombs regularly on the Lebanese capital during the war. The roof can be lifted automatically, which it is at night. Under the starry sky there is partying and dancing until early in the morning. The Lebanese have their own ways of coping with events of the past – and partying wildly certainly is one of them.

Although the wounds of the long civil war are just starting to heal, we are leaving Lebanon with a feeling of hope. In spite of all the horrors of war, the Lebanese seem to have managed to leave the shadows of the past behind them. On the road to a peaceful future the Lebanese could become an example for the crisis and conflict stricken Middle Eastern region.