My Lebanese ski adventure: Enjoying a snow and city break in Beirut

17-March-2013 – Daily Mail by Neil English

After making my first turns on Lebanese snow seven years ago, I made a pledge to myself to return one day. After all, the chance to ski at the Middle East’s largest resort, Faraya-Mzaar, in the morning before swimming in the Mediterranean near Beirut in the afternoon is difficult to resist.

My second visit to this warm and friendly country was just as wonderful as the first. Despite the current troubles blighting neighbouring Syria, Lebanon is still considered a safe tourist destination by the Government.

Skier in Mzaar resort
Skier in Mzaar resort

This time around, I opted for a properly planned city/ski twin destination holiday, rather than just snatching a few hours on the coast.

Mzaar sits in a wind-protected section of Mount Lebanon, and the ski terrain altitude ranges from 6,069ft to 8,087ft.

There are nearly 50 miles of groomed pistes here, and the terrain, with far-reaching views over the Bekaa Valley, is mainly suited to beginners and intermediate skiers.

At the sushi bar inside my base, the Intercontinental Hotel at Faraya-Mzaar, I met Georges Salemeh, who has represented Lebanon at the Winter Olympics. I had first spotted him practising slalom turns on a steep pitch just behind the hotel.

‘You’re welcome to come and train with me if you’d like but my own track is hard and icy so you might want to sharpen your edges first,’ said Georges. I politely declined and instead asked what he thought of Mzaar’s slopes for locals and tourists.

A view of Beirut's harbour from a balcony at the Phoenicia Hotel
A serving of sunshine too: A view of Beirut’s harbour from a balcony at the Phoenicia Hotel

‘They provide not just the best skiing in Lebanon, but the best in the Middle East,’ he replied.

While there are no shortage of good hotels in the Middle East, there simply cannot be many boasting private ski lift access from a sun-deck to the slopes. I would also recommend the Intercontinental for its spa and fine restaurants but, due to regular power cuts caused by fluctuating energy supplies from the government, I refused to use the hotel lifts. Anyway, using the stairs helps strengthen your ski legs.

One night I opted out of the hotel’s very good Lebanese buffet and headed to the nearby Le Montagnou restaurant, which specialises in… fondue. I suppose this must be a throwback to the days when the French occupied these parts and introduced some of their preferred mountain dishes.

Imposing: The capital's Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque
Imposing: The capital’s Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

I have to admit the four-cheese fondue and house specialty of fried eggs on halloumi cheese were up to Alpine standard.

After three days, which is plenty of time for an experienced skier, I moved on to the second phase of my adventure. I took the Intercontinental’s shuttle bus (it costs £30 for the 75-minutes journey) along pot-holed roads to Beirut.

My destination was the handsome Phoenicia Hotel, which is also part of the Intercontinental Group. The hotel, which has recently undergone a multi-million-pound refurbishment to mark its 50th anniversary, overlooks the city’s famous boardwalk, the Beirut Corniche. The nearby harbour was full of the type of huge yachts more often seen moored in Cannes during the film festival season.

The Phoenicia’s suites and banqueting rooms have long played host to heads of state (both good and infamous), along with celebrities and discerning tourists from all corners of the globe. The opulent, ground-floor lounge is still one of Beirut’s most popular meeting places – it is always busy with locals gossiping over a late-morning coffee, businessmen cutting deals over lunch and tourists enjoying an aperitif.

I could have happily whiled away my two days and nights exploring the Phoenicia’s world-class spa, choice of superb restaurants and shops, not to mention the finest collection of rare whiskies from all over the world that I have ever seen. However, I was here to savour the whole city, so I hired a guide who organised a lightning tour.

The itinerary included visits to the National Museum of Lebanon, which houses the sarcophagus of the ancient Phoenician king Ahiram; a shopping area dubbed ‘the Greenwich Village of Beirut’ due to its wealth of chic boutiques; and places of worship, including the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

At lunchtime, we headed for the superb organic restaurant Al Tawleh, where fresh mezze dishes such as white and green bean salads, houmous with cress, onion, rocket and beetroot, and sausages stuffed with de-thorned thistles from the Lebanese mountains delighted our tastebuds. All these were washed down with some heavenly Bekaa Valley wines.

Beirut is packed with romanticlooking streets adorned with enticing pavement cafes, food markets, high-end boutiques and art galleries.

At night, the city comes alive once more, as live music is played in a host of bars and clubs.

The highlight of my trip, however, was having dinner at the Al Falamanki restaurant. This is where a real cross-section of Lebanese society convenes for games of cards, and to listen to gentle music while drinking delicious Lebanese wine and eating a stream of Mediterranean delicacies. Simply brilliant. Until the mid-Seventies when Lebanon was plunged into civil war, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. I’m glad to say it has deservedly reclaimed its title.

Events Not To Miss This March

March is almost here, and that means the weather is getting just a little bit warmer and events are rolling in. This March, don’t miss these events!

mzaar winter festival 2013

 

Mzaar Winter Festival 2013: Welcome the month of March with the Mzaar Winter Festival which happens to fall on the first Saturday of this month. Enjoy a full day of snow and ski fun at the Mzaar Refuge slope and stay into the night for free night skiing and fun activities.  For more info click here.

 

 

 

Red Carpet Classic Auto Festival 2013

Red Carpet Classic Auto Festival 2013: Mid March, make sure to attend this year’s Red Carpet Auto Festival where you can enjoy a classic car fashion show on the mountains of Kfardebian. Enjoy the beautiful weather, stunning view, and refreshing atmosphere! For more info click here.

 

 

Book your hotel in Mzaar Kfardebian to enjoy the full experience!

Mzaar Winter Festival 2013

Mzaar Ski Resort and Skiing Society, in collaboration with Chabab Loubnan, present the Mzaar Winter Festival 2013, a day full of fun on the snowy Mzaar mountains. Join your fellow snow and ski lovers on Saturday March 2, 2013 for an unforgettable day of entertainment and fun!

At 10:00 am, witness, Air & Style, a competition featuring the international team, Atomic. Watch the Lebanese Army perform a spectacular ski show at 3:00 pm. Later, at 7:00 pm, don’t miss out on the band that will have the Mzaar mountains ringing with music. Finally, starting at 8:00 pm, enjoy free night skiing!

There will be an alcoholic bar on site for your refreshment needs. A DJ will warm up the atmosphere and there will be prizes worth $4,000 including a Ski Season pass. Entrance is free of charge.

Why not book a room in one of the prestigious hotels in the area to enjoy the full week-end in Mzaar! Click here for more details.

mzaar winter festival 2013

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Ski Trips To Lebanon For Schools

Round up your students and give us a call. We’ve got the perfect School Ski Package for you!

Since 1998, we have been organizing ski trips for schools abroad wishing to give their students a taste of Lebanon and its winter sports.

The Mzaar ski resort is the most well-known resort in the country. It stretches between 1730 and 2465 meters.  Check out the interactive map  of ski slopes to learn more.

SKILEB.com works with only the best and most qualified ski instructors able to offer students a well-rounded experience. Each child will be treated and instructed according to his or her personal skills and strengths. Lessons are provided for groups of up to 8 students. The levels are: Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced, Professionals.

Check our our website for more information on the matter. Click here.

SKILEB School Trips to Lebanon

Ski Resorts in Lebanon

Lebanon is known for its mountain chain which, by summer, is an escape from the city heat and chaos, and ,in winter, is the perfect snowy haven for skiers and snowboarders. There are 6 major ski resorts scattered atop Lebanon’s mountains. Each resort  is known for a certain characteristic specific to its location and surroundings.

ski-lebanon-resorts

 Cedars: 
The Cedars is 130 km away from Beirut. Its top altitude is 3086 m! The Cedars has 5 ski lifts and a range of different slopes with some suitable for beginners. You will also find numerous restaurants, pubs, and clubs to enjoy your apres-ski experience.

Laqlouq:
Just 62 km away from Beirut, Laqlouq has a an altitude of 1920 m at its highest peek. There are 9 lifts on-site and all levels of expertise are welcome to enjoy the snow. You will also find on-site restaurants where you can enjoy your lunch break between ski runs.

Mzaar:
Mzaar is just 46 km away from the Beirut International Airport. It boasts 18 lifts and 42 slopes with 82 km of ski tracks. At 2465 m altitude, the view from Mzaar’s mountaintops is breathtaking! There are slopes suitable for amateurs as well as expert skiers. Check out the area’s attractions; there are plenty of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and clubs to keep you busy after your ski adventure. Check out some hotels in Mzaar; it’s never too early to reserve your room!

Faqra:
Faqra is 43 km away from Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. The ski resort is built on privately owned land and has been around since 1974. With an altitude of 1980 m, Faqra is a great choice for your ski getaway. Make sure you leave time to enjoy the region’s other attractions such as restaurants and nightlife hubs.

Qanat Bakish:
45 km away from Beirut, Qanat Bakish, at 2050 m high, is an old village that built its first ski lift in 1967. This well preserved town is a great place to enjoy your secluded ski getaway. There are many restaurants where you can enjoy a nice lunch and snacks throughout your day.

Zaarour:
The closest ski resort to Beirut, Zaarour is one of the smallest yet fun-packed resort in Lebanon. With an altitude of 2000 m and 7 ski lifts, Zaarour ski resort is a privately owned ski club. There are slopes constructed for all levels of skiing and snowboarding skills.

10 Rules For The Slopes

This upcoming winter, as you’re getting amped up for the ski season, you should keep these 10 simple rules in mind!

  1. Respect Others – Do not endanger your fellow skiers!
  2. Speed Control – Monitor your speed as to not put yourself or others in danger!
  3. Choice of Direction – Always make sure your path ahead is clear of other skiers.
  4. Overtaking – Make sure there’s plenty of room when overtaking another skier!
  5. Entering & Crossing Slopes – Check to make sure there’s no one in your way!
  6. Stopping – Stop somewhere safe for you and for others!
  7. Walking Up or Downhill – Keep to the side of slope and out of others skiers’ way!
  8. Respect for Signaling –  Signs and signals are for safety purposes. Respect them!
  9. Assistance – Provide help to anyone who has fallen or injured themselves!
  10. Identification – You must identify yourself to the rescue team whether you are a part of an accident or even just a witness!

10 Rules for the Slopes | SKILEB.com |

 

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!

Let it snow … man.

Are the lifts open yet? When are the lifts going to open? These are the questions on everyone’s mind at skileb.com, and the answer is: yes and no. The lifts at The Cedars ski resort were the first to open, but it’s still early in the season, and there’s still a lot of grooming and preparing to do. The folks over at Mzaar ski resort are holding out until conditions are just right, so the lifts over there haven’t opened yet. But that hasn’t seemed to stop some audacious riders from walking to the top with their boards to make the first tracks on the mountain.

As always, the biggest variable is snowfall. It’s about time to start wishing, praying, chanting, snow dancing, or whatever it takes to bring about that final snowfall needed to get the slopes up and running. So, this week, we’ve found some snow-provoking humor as a tribute to the gods of snow up there who decide when we can start skiing again.

Let it snow … man.

Uh oh. Courtesy of flickr/onefish2
hillarious_snowmen_14
Oh deer. Courtesy of acidcow.com
snow woman
Oh la la! Courtesy of flickr/Dr. Max
homeless ski bum
Homeless ski bum. Courtesy of acidcow.com

If you’ve been following skileb.com on Facebook, you know we like to sprinkle things with a little snow humor sometimes. Silly snow cartoons and photos make it onto the wall, right up there with awesome photos of snowy Lebanon, insider information, and hot deals. So if you’re not following us in Facebook, get on it! Join the fun.

And seriously, let it snow. We want the green light on all of Lebanon’s ski lifts!
Want to know what’s open when? Follow skileb.com on Twitter to join the conversation, or just check our website for the most recent updates from the ski lifts themselves.

Find out what lifts are open at Mzaar ski resort
Find out what lifts are open at Cedars ski resort

Ski smart. Ski Lebanon.

 

Top Five Ski Gadgets for 2012

As you get ready for ski season in Lebanon, which will be starting any day now, take a moment to think wishfully about the coolest ski gadgets out there. Here are a few awesome little items to drool over while you’re booking your Lebanon ski trip on skileb.com and making your wish list for the holiday season that is also just around the corner. For yourself or the avid skier you love, these fun accessories will make life on the ski slopes even more fun!

HD Hero 21) The HD HERO 2 head-mounting waterproof action camera. You Previewknow when you’ve just had an epic run, shredding through powder and making the first tracks on the mountain. Now everyone else can know it, too, because you can capture cool Lebanon ski videos and upload them to the internet in a snap. Check out the market leader in head-mounting cameras, the HD HERO 2, now with even more power and versatility than ever.

 

walkie talkies2) Motorola Walkie Talkie Twin Pack. Tired of using precious cell phone battery and racking up your phone bill in order to find your friends and family while on the mountain? Why not head to Mzaar ski resort or The Cedars ski resort with these light and agile T5 PMR Radio Twin pack? These twins were built for the outdoors, as they are shock proof and waterproof to survive even the roughest tumbles and keep you in contact all day long.

 

Recon goggles3) ReCon GPS Googles. Wanna feel like James Bond on skis? These “Real Zeal Transcend Goggles” are the most futuristic eyeware out there.  They come from Recon, with features you will not believe. There’s an LDC screen inside the googles that displays loads of information, such as current temperature in Lebanon, time vertical skied, distance traveled, altitude, and speed. It also has Bluetooth capabilities to keep you in tune and in touch on the mountain.

 

Footwarming system4) Foot Warming Systems. From the folks at Conform-able comes an amazing line of high tech foot warming gadgets to keep your feet toasty warm on even the coldest days on the mountain. Browse their liners and insoles that will enhance your ski boots, not only keeping your feet the temperature you choose, but also adding other ergonomic benefits like arch support  that will help distribute your weight more evenly and keep you more comfortable for a longer day on the lifts.

 

Soul Poles5) Soul Poles. This ski accessory is perhaps the most futuristic in its design, because it’s all about sustainability. Bamboo ski poles that not only look really cool, they’re also eco-friendly. They’ll turn heads on the slopes. The natural bamboo shafts are 100% biodegradable, and the straps are made of hemp. These poles also deliver big-time in performance and style. Give your ski attire an earthy edge while enjoying the great outdoors.

 

Yes, some of these items are priced even steeper than the Jonction Slope of Mzaar ski resort but it’s fun to dream, isn’t it? Once you have your gadgets and gear in place, book your Lebanon ski holiday online at skileb.com, where we hook you up with the best deals and packages to be found on the web. See you on the slopes!