Skiing is a popular sport and holiday activity in Lebanon. During the winter season, the mountain resorts are not just attracting Lebanese residents, but also visitors from other parts of the Middle East.
Each resort in Lebanon has a different flavor, but Faraya Mzaar (Kfardebian) – the biggest ski area in the Middle East – is a favorite among many, offering good infrastructure and facilities for both tourists and locals, no matter the age. Other popular resorts – the country has six in total – are Laqlouq and Zaarour. The slopes at all resorts are serviced with qualified instructors who teach everyone from first timers to advanced skiers and boarders.
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Then there is the Cedars resort, which is ideal for nature getaway seekers, offering a greater challenge for intermediate cross-country skiers at the north end of the Mount Lebanon Range. The resort is no more than a two-hour drive from Beirut, and only an hour from Tripoli. If you are looking for a spectacularly beautiful view on the way up, the Cedars offers one of the most beautiful sceneries of Lebanon.
"Suddenly, all the passengers started moving to one side of the plane and pointing out the windows," said Mrs. Raida Idriss. "I got curious and somewhat concerned, so I looked, only to find the Lebanese mountains covered with snow. It was a breath taking view!" the 55-year old added, recollecting her first experience admiring the view from a plane as a child.
It is little surprise that Lebanon, which is a mountainous country with summits reaching over 10,000 feet, is now being referred to as “The Switzerland of the Middle East.”
After a long day of hitting the slopes, it is highly recommended to stop at a restaurant on the way down to refuel and avoid the returning traffic. Many stop for sandwiches and some warm hot drinks and discuss the day’s skiing experiences with their family and friends over a hookah, a water pipe also referred to as an arguileh, which brings people together no matter the time, place, or weather.
"Skiing in Lebanon is popular," says the 21-year-old former Lebanese resident Kamal Takieddine, now living in Canada. "But nothing is as popular as the smoking arguileh ritual."
Most people have heard that Lebanon is one of the few countries in the world in which it is possible to go skiing in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon. The ski season typically runs from mid-December to April, depending on the length and depth of the snowfall. In spring, you sometimes hear of people going skiing in the morning and driving to the coast in the afternoon to water ski. However, the skiing-to-beach concept strictly depends on the time of the year and the weather across the coast. But yes, it is common and there are those that enjoy the rest of the evening relaxing on a boat in the Mediterranean after a long day in the snow.
Everyone in a group of Lebanese skiers that Your Middle East met on the slopes agree that although you can ski for days in other countries, you cannot find the cozy, comfortable, and friendly environment that exists in the Lebanese resorts. Skiing and snowboarding has especially gained popularity with the younger generations here in Lebanon as a sport and hobby, and a way to socialize.
“I love skiing in Lebanon,” 18-year-old Lily Farhat responded. "I have skied in Switzerland before moving to Lebanon, which is very different. But like everyone says, it is the environment and atmosphere of the people around you that changes your experience. The view is amazing and there is a slope for every type of skier, from beginner to professional.”