Of course you have heard about how Lebanon is the only place on earth where one can ski on its slopes in the morning and swim in its sea that same afternoon. In all fairness, it is true, Lebanon indeed offers the best of both worlds but now that beach season is over, with rains and hail pouring down intermittently all through winter, we turn our sights to skiing and all the options currently available.
Lebanon enjoys a moderate climate which it makes the best use of, with December to April being optimal ski periods although snow is at its thickest sometime between January and February. Most of the ski resorts are a short drive away from the coast making it pretty easy to get around and not waste your day on the road. Frankly, ski resorts are one of the country’s best kept secrets.
The Lebanese have long enjoyed the sport of skiing, with its introduction coming by way of a Lebanese engineering student who had just returned from Switzerland back in 1913. Ramez Ghazzoui was keen to show his friends how it was done and they would practice in the mountains near Aley. Then in the 1930's, the sport really took off across the country with ski lifts becoming available in the 1950’s in the Cedars resort. In fact, it became so popular that from the year 1962 to 1975, an annual World Cup Competition would take place in the Cedars where the world’s biggest ski champions would meet. The event only stopped with the advent of Lebanon’s civil war.
A few years ago in 2014, Lebanon’s skiing community witnessed quite the scandal and publicity with the #stripforjackie campaign in solidarity with Jackie Chamoun, a Lebanese Olympic skier.
Today, Lebanon boasts six ski resorts: the Cedars Ski Resort, Mzaar, Faqra Club, Laqlouq, Qanat Bakish, and Zaarour, with the Mzaar Kfardebian resort and the Cedars capturing most of the attention thanks to the first-rate setup of the former and the lure of the latter.
Mzaar Kfardebian, formerly Faraya Mzaar, is the largest resort in the Middle East, with 42 slopes and 80 kilometers of groomed tracks, all within a mere hour from Beirut. Whether you’re an amateur skier, a professional, a snowboarder, or a lover of snowmobiles, you will definitely enjoy this resort as it has something for everyone. It benefits from a number of cross-country trails and several lifts. If you want some peace and quiet, head there on a weekday (except on Fridays) to avoid the big crowds and have more time to engage in other snow activities such as snowboarding or snowmobiling.
Many Lebanese take a day off from work on Fridays to go skiing in order to avoid the weekend’s crowded pistes. The Intercontinental Mzaar has a wide array of restaurants and a great spa, with the famous Le Montagnou restaurant nearby as well. If you happen to stop by there, the four-cheese fondue is a must try.
Of all the ski resorts in Lebanon, the first ever to open was the Cedars resort which received its first ski lift back in 1953. Located in the north of Lebanon, this resort is roughly a two-hour drive from Beirut. Due to its higher altitude, it has a longer season than the others, at times as early as the beginning of November. This resort is undoubtedly beautiful with its lifts sprawling over a huge basin and its off-piste skiing and adventures going down all the way from the top of the mountain, making the experience very thrilling. Gentle slopes are also available for the first timers among you. If you happen to go there, don’t miss going on a snowmobile trip or even better, taking part in some cross-country skiing.
To those who aren’t big fans of skiing, fret not. You can still benefit from other snow adventures or après-ski activities à la Libanaise. Lebanese do love the après-ski scene almost as, or even more, than the ski scene itself. Snow activities such as snowboarding have become quite popular with the younger crowd. Lots of activities are available and you can rent out all the equipment at somewhat reasonable prices from many local stores. Even better, rent out some beach buggies and take a thrilling ride around the area.
Some great deals to take advantage of before 2018 knocks at our door are available with Mzaar’s 5 star Intercontinental Mzaar Hotel offering 5 nights starting at $1760. Meanwhile, the 4 star Hors Piste Hotel has a 4-night package as low as $1200 while the L'Escale du Mzaar offers you 3 nights starting at $600. Faraya Moonset’s 3 night- offer of a bedroom for 2 starts at $750 whereas Cedrus Hotel at the Cedars Ski Resort offers 2 nights starting at $600. Keep in mind that these accommodations are for at least two people. Happy skiing