What’s New in Faraya and Mzaar Hotels

As if the climax of ski season weren’t enough, here are two more good reasons to plan your ski trip to Lebanon this month. We’re pleased to announce the opening (and re-opening) of two hot new hotels in Mzaar and Faraya. Come be the first to premier these highly fashionable new lodging options in alpine Lebanon.

Urban Faqra hotel deluxe room
Deluxe room at Urban Faqra

Urban Hotel Faqra

Want a taste of chic downtown style and Beirut-esque design, far away in the mountains near Mzaar Ski Resort? Yes, you can haven it both ways. Walking into brand-new Urban Hotel Faqra is like stepping into a metropolitan boutique hotel. It’s an unexpected and completely entrancing surprise in a small ski resort town.

The thoughtful décor at Urban Faqra is both cozy and contemporary at the same time. In the rooms, surfaces of soft whites and beiges complement accents like sharp black skylines, creative lighting, and colorful throw pillows. In the lobby, textured arched passageways in stark white are reminiscent of an arctic underground, warmed by a pop-art fireplace.

Urban Faqra lobby fireplace
Pop-art fireplace in the Urban Faqra lobby

The real highlight of Urban Faqra is the restaurant and bar, with fine dining options that you would expect from downtown Beirut but set in front of a magnificent mountain-scape view. The menu presents a sophisticated array of breakfast, lunch and dinner items, not to mention the drinks menu and tantalizing desserts. Opt for French-inspired Fondue, raclette, charcuterie and bliss out on the nuanced flavors, but don’t forget to enjoy the snowcapped alpine panorama at the same time. The perfect way to end a great ski day.

San Antonio Hotel, Faraya

For a more classic ski lodge feel, check out the renovations at newly-reopened San Antonio Hotel, ideally located just between the Mzaar ski lifts and Faqra Club resort. It’s everything a rustic ski lodge should be, from the cozy lobby fireplace to the deep wood paneling and dark leather upholstery.

San Antonio Hotel in a snow storm
San Antonio Hotel in a snow storm

Now, the updates and enhancements will ensure total comfort. Here, you’ll also find an in-house dining option at the San Antonio restaurant. Come see what’s new!

Planning a ski trip to Lebanon? Book online with SKILEB.com for the best deals and discounts to be found on the internet. And don’t forget to join our big, vibrant community at SKILEB.com Facebook

Share the Love – Help a Friend Hit the Slopes

It’s already a pretty bumper season of snow on Lebanon’s top ski slopes and we hope that many of you have already managed to make your way out onto the pistes to enjoy some of the outstanding powder that’s fallen so far this year.

If you’re a ski lover, have you considered spreading a little joy? Maybe you’ve got a friend that you’d like to introduce the experience to or maybe you want to stage an intervention and get someone out of their office and onto the mountain.

Flowers to Lebanon - New Gift Service

Luckily, there’s a great new way to share the wealth. Flowers to Lebanon is a great new gift service that allows you to purchase holiday experiences for your friends, colleagues and family. If you feel like playing the guardian angel, you can arrange for one of the very special packages to be sent directly to your lucky recipient.

In addition to gifts and presents, you can get your friends onto the slopes with a full day lift pass for the Mzaar resort. Or if you’re feeling especially generous, you can sign them up for the full ski experience package – plucking them out of the daily grind in Beirut for an amazing trip to the slopes.

Perhaps you’ve got a buddy who’s not so keen on skiing and you want to keep them out of your hair while you get some time to yourself? Why not help them gain a skiier’s appreciation for the breathtaking local scenery by having them hop on the back of a skimobile for a tour. You get to hit the slopes and they get a taste for powder while keeping their feet dry at the same time. Everybody’s a winner!

Of course, there are plenty of other gifts available for delivery if you want to send your commiserations to a friend who can’t get the time off from work to come skiing with you. Perhaps a nice bouquet of flowers or even a cake will be enough to cheer them up!

Share the love, share the fun and tell us about it on Facebook!

An Overview of Lebanon’s Top Ski Resorts – Part 1

The season is nearly on us once more and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start planning your next ski vacation in Lebanon.

The old hands and experts will undoubtedly already have their favorite destinations when it comes to choosing a resort, but for all the new people who are yet to experience the rush of a Lebanese skiing holiday, we’re here to give you a run down on the best resorts the country has to offer.

The View from the peak above Mzaar, Lebanon
The incredible view from the peak above Mzaar, Lebanon

The Cedars

Sharing its name with the country’s national emblem, The Cedars Resort is a great destination for those who love nature, or are looking for a relaxing break in (relative) isolation.

Located at an elevation of 2000m, the resort enjoys a slightly longer season than some of the country’s other resorts. In addition to multiple runs, visitors also have access to great hiking routes and incredible views.

The Cedars has plenty to offer to both beginners and experts, with pistes ranging from entry level all the way up to challenging black runs.

Click here to read more about the Cedars Resort.

Laqlouq

Situated at a slightly lower altitude of around 1600 m, Laqlouq is a more accessible resort. In addition to being easy to get to, it also has a range of courses that are slightly more beginner-friendly than other destinations.

While the traditional skiing is excellent, Laqlouq is also known for the quality of its cross-country runs. If you like to complement your pistes with level courses, this is an excellent choice.

Click here to read more about Laqlouq.

Mzaar

Also known as Faraya Mzaar – Faraya being a nearby village. This is Lebanon’s most popular resort and has a huge variety of skiing on offer.

The Intercontinental Hotel, Mzaar
The Intercontinental Hotel - one of Mzaar's most popular accommodation options

Those who love a challenge will be impressed by the sheer number of options available to them, while newbies who are just starting out will receive an excellent introduction on the gentler slopes.

Mzaar is a bustling and welcoming resort with plenty going on. This is an excellent all-round destination and particularly appealing to those who enjoy the après-ski aspect as much as the slopes themselves.

Click here to read more about Mzaar.

Next week we’ll round off our overview of Lebanon’s best ski resorts. Until then, do you have a particular favorite? We’re always keen to hear from you! Leave us a comment below.

Remember, you can also follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to be in with a chance of snapping up some great early bird offers!

Best of SKILEB.com on YouTube

To get you pumped for ski season and ready to take advantage of our 10% off early bird ski package special, we’re going to watch some YouTube. Have you checked out the skileb.com YouTube channel? Be sure to check out skileb.com on YouTube, where you can find rad footage of skiing, or check out our extreme summer sports like paragliding, ATV, and rafting.

Below are some of the most popular videos on the channel. Remember that ski season will be in full swing before you know it, but until then, it doesn’t hurt to daydream about winter and the white powder to come. These videos will send you to the slopes virtually until you can get there for real.

1) Listen to the skis (Ski Lebanon)

This video is from March of 2010, capturing a mind-blowing run from the top of Jabal Dib all the way to the chairlift base. It is brought to you by one of our very own skileb.com team members. You didn’t really think we sit at the computer all day just running a ski website, did you?

2) Ski Lebanon by SKILEB.com

As if you weren’t already convinced that a small little country on the coast of the Mediterranean could offer world class skiing conditions and facilities, just take a look at this video. Who knew? Apart from being a premier sun and sand destination, Lebanon is also an alpine fantasy land for snow sports in the winter. Choose between resorts like Mzaar (also called Faraya), Faqra Club, and The Cedars and find your favorite slope in Lebanon.

3) A ski chase in Mzaar resort by SKILEB.com.

Let’s cut to the chase. Skiing is a high-speed sport. In this film, we’ve using the head cam to show you what it’s like to try to keep up with speed demon Alain on the Jonction slope of Faraya Mzaar resort.

If this footage doesn’t get you in the mood to plan your ski trip to Lebanon now, then
a) check your pulse, and
b) check out our early bird special deal. If you book your ski trip any time between now and the end of September, you will get a 10% discount off the total price of your booking.

Do you have some amazing YouTube footage of skiing in Lebanon? If you think you have what it takes to be on the SKILEB.com YouTube channel, send us a link to your video and we’ll add it to our collection. See you on the mountain.

Special Deals for Skileb.com Twitter Followers

It’s that time of year again, when powder-thirsty ski fans start looking forward to the upcoming season with real anticipation. Winter is coming, and Lebanon is gearing up for yet another session of outstanding skiing, snowboarding and general snow-based fun.

Now’s the perfect time to start planning your next ski break in Lebanon. For many, a skiing vacation in Lebanon is a no-brainer; hundreds of people will be making their way back to pristine slopes, such as those found at Mzaar and The Cedars, to re-experience the rush of carving lines on familiar territory.

For those who are yet to experience a ski holiday in Lebanon, there are tonnes of reasons to try something a little different and opt for this unusual and yet rewarding destination. In addition to the quality of the pistes, snow, accommodation and company, the thrill of experiencing skiing is such a unique environment is something that you’ll remember for years to come. With the waters of the Mediterranean and its picturesque coastal villages mere kilometres away, taking a ski holiday in Lebanon is almost like taking two breaks for the price of one!

Follow skileb.com on Twitter

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the Lebanese slopes or a newbie looking for something a little different, we have something very exciting to offer. In anticipation of the start of a new season, followers of our Twitter account – @skileb – are going to be the lucky recipients of a number of very special offers. All you have to do to get your hands on them is follow us!

In addition to delivering savings via tweets, we’re sticking with the avian theme by delivering a number of great ‘early bird’ offers on our homepage. Repeat visitors will know that Skileb.com consistently offers great prices on ski holidays in Lebanon, but eagle-eyed users will soon be able to pounce on all-new deals.

Keep visiting Skileb.com to keep on top of everything that’s happening and remember to follow us on Twitter. Only followers will be able to receive these great offers, so sign up now to make sure you’re on the list.

Don’t forget that you can also visit our Facebook page to keep up to speed and to ask us questions. We’re happy to help.

We at Skileb.com are hugely excited for the new season and we want you to be too! Start planning today!

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.

Lebanon Keeps its White Christmas to Itself

Dec 2001 – The Daily Star – Tiare Rath

Snow blanketed Lebanon’s mountains early this year. The white Christmas brought with it the gift of open slopes and hopes for a long and lucrative ski season. Unfortunately only the Lebanese and local expats are aware of this. With mountains up to 3,090 meters in height, and a climate mild enough to let you actually enjoy playing in the snow, Lebanon is a prime destination in the Middle East for winter activities. The problem, critics say, is the same that afflicts tourism generally, the country just isn’t selling itself. The world needs “sort of a brainwashing” when it comes to Lebanon, argues Pierre Abi Aoun, general manager of Wild Expeditions, a Hazmieh-based company that organizes outdoor excursions.

Lebanon Whote ChristmasIn the United States, says Abi Aoun, who spent time there as a youth, Lebanon is perceived as “a desert with people in a bunch of tents waiting for an American to come so they can shoot him.” The image is not much more positive in the rest of the world, which knows little about Lebanon beyond its reputation as the birthplace of the car bomb. Those who know that Lebanon is bereft of desert, that it is in fact home to six ski resorts and numerous cross-country ski trails, are in the minority. “When (foreigners) discover this, they want to return, and they do return,” says Ronald Sayegh, the founder of SKILEB.com. It is imperative, Abi Aoun argues, to get them here. “The government needs to do more campaigns. It’s a must.”

The number of people who visited Lebanon in 2001 during the height of the ski season ­ January, February and March ­ was 60 percent less than those who arrived in June, July and August. Parliament recently approved $1 million for the Tourism Ministry to promote the country, but in the past, skiing and winter activities have been only a small part of the ministry’s campaigns. Brochures on skiing in Lebanon were printed in Spanish, Italian, French, English, Arabic and German two years ago, but the ministry has few copies left and has not yet reprinted any. It sent the brochures to its embassies and left it up to them to promote Lebanon abroad.

For visitors already here, there are few resources from the government. A glance inside the tourist information bureau in Hamra reveals only snippets of material regarding Lebanon in winter, and those must be sought out. The ministry is running a spot on Lebanese satellite television stations featuring ski resorts, snowball fights and the always-beautiful Lebanese gliding down slopes. It was made in Arabic, no doubt to target other Arab countries, which remain Lebanon’s largest market. Their contribution to Lebanese tourism has grown even more important since the attacks on New York and Washington and visits to the region plummeted.

“After the events of Sept. 11, all of our groups were canceled,” Abi Aoun says. “Imagine that.” “In terms of business, there is potential,” he adds. “But it’s extremely related to the political situation.” Informing people that Lebanon actually has mountains and snow “is the easiest part,” says Sayegh. “What’s hard to accomplish is the trust. People wouldn’t trust to come to Lebanon, especially now.” Abi Aoun and Sayegh maintain that there is a major untapped market, and that is foreigners living in the Arab world. They’ve got the money and, considering that they reside in the region, are more likely to consider Lebanon as a winter destination ­ and one that’s closer than Europe. “Arab people, they are not into the outdoors. They’re getting more and more aware of this, but I’d say 75 percent of our people are expats in the region or Arabs in Europe or the States,” Abi Aoun says.

The Cedars boast the highest peaks in the country, but the prime ski resort is Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar), which reaches as high as 2,465 meters. Because most of its equipment is modern ­ particularly the chair lifts ­ and because the town has managed to market itself as a place enjoyed by skiers and snow bunnies alike, The Mzaar resort is seen as having the most potential for international tourists. “Mzaar actually is the most equipped (resort) in the Middle East,” Sayegh says. “In the end it does beat certain resorts in Europe.” Mzaar Inter-Continental banked on foreigners coming to Lebanon when it opened its resort two years ago. It expects full occupancy through New Year’s, although less than half of the guests ­ 40 percent will come from abroad.

In terms of lift tickets, ski rentals and even hotel stays, Lebanon is often cheaper than Europe and one of the few places in the region ­ besides Turkey, Iran and Cyprus ­ to ski. But because there are no winter packages offering airfare, accommodation, lift tickets and ski rentals, Lebanon is “one of the most expensive (ski destinations) in the world,” asserts Jean Keirouz, an associate with the Cedars Ski Lift Society, which runs the Cedars resort. The company is expanding lifts to the top of the Cedars and is involved in plans to build three or four hotels by next year, but its top objective in terms of attracting foreigners is to arrange package deals, Keirouz says. “It’s not enough to say there’s skiing in Lebanon,” Sayegh agrees. “They need a full package, from the airport to the airport.”

Abi Aoun and Keirouz both see potential for winter tourism beyond the slopes. Skiing “needs to be combined with cultural tourism so even if there’s bad weather other activities can be taken advantage of,” Keirouz says. “Even if it’s good weather tourists can visit heritage sites.” With all of the hurdles, then, does Lebanon have a future as a winter destination? “In the long-term, yes, definitely,” Abi Aoun says. “Because things are improving.” As for the short term, he says, “We hope so.”

The competition Lebanon is one of the few, but not the only, country with ski slopes in the region. With mountains that practically touch the heavens, Iran has arguably the best skiing around. Five ski resorts are located near Tehran ­ the farthest and best of which is Dizin, 120 kilometers from the capital. The highest ski slope peak in the country is 3,850 meters, and Dizin boasts a peak of 3,600 meters. Skiing is dirt cheap, as well, with lift tickets running about $4. The sport has changed somewhat over the last few years, when the Islamic Republic changed its policy and actually let both sexes ski on the same slopes. According to a BBC report last year, though, signs were still hoisted warning men not to glance at ladies unless they were family members.

Turkey has half a dozen resorts, with the highest peak of 3,100 meters at Erzurum in the eastern part of the country. The Turks like to brag that in March and April in Antalya, a southern city that brushes against the Mediterranean, it is possible to ski and swim in the same day.

The ski-swim combo is also touted in Cyprus. Troodos is the only ski resort, its highest peak at 1,950 meters being on Mount Olympus. Skiing in Cyprus isn’t considered great because its slopes aren’t exactly steep, but daily lift tickets are priced at about $15, making it one of the few affordable activities on the tiny island.