Two decades ago, Powder Magazine featured Lebanon’s ski country as the next big worldclass ski hotspot.
Not much has changed since then, said avid skier and cardiologist Dr. Walid Alami.
Lebanon’s white slopes still have the potential to join the ranks of the top ski destinations. Although regional political and economic turmoil have slowed resort development, Mount Lebanon is the best place to ski in the region, says Alami.
From December through mid-March, white sheets of snow cover Mount Lebanon, with its highest peak 10,000 feet above sea level.
Its northern peaks offer enjoyable skiing, says Alami. As a ski destination, it has three major advantages going for it—beauty, spectacular views and location.
Spectacular beauty and breath-taking views
Mount Lebanon’s breathtaking beauty has been praised since Biblical times. “Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from the mountaintops?”,the Prophet Jeremiah asked rhetorically.
The natural beauty of sunny, white Mzaar, above Faraya, with its spectacular view of
Beirut and the Mediterranean, is thought to be the milk in “the land of milk and honey.” Faraya is Lebanon’s best equipped and most popular ski resort.
And the view! At its peak, one side overlooks the Bekaa Valley, the other the Mediterranean. “On a clear day, you have two spectacular panoramas,” said Alami.
Lebanon’s second ski destination, the Cedars, has its own distinctive aesthetics.
The prophet Isaiah sang its praises in Isaiah 35:2, calling the cedar trees for which the area is named, “the glory of Lebanon.” Today the remaining 400 cedar trees are preserved as a national treasure, some of them thought to be more than 1,500 years old.
The huge cedar trees, softly draped in fresh fallen snow, make a magical Christmas card scene next to modern chalets. A nearby lift whisks skiers up the mountainside.
Day trips to the ski slopes
One thing unique to Lebanon is that you can ski in the morning, visit the beach in the evening and enjoy Beirut’s restaurants and clubs at night. “It is so easy because you can get to Faraya in less than an hour. You can check the weather, then decide whether to ski that day or not,” said Alami.
Consequently, on winter weekends it may seem that all Beirut is on the slopes. High school and college students thrill at the “rush” of the downhill runs.
A run or two, then they’re sipping hot chocolate or coffee, chatting with friends in a slope-side café.
Serious skiers also hear the slopes calling them. Alami, who began skiing when he was five, came from a family of skiers. Two of his uncles were competitive skiers of Olympic caliber, competing in the Olympics and international events in the 1960s.
“Mom was among the first females to ski in Lebanon in the 1940s,” he said.
“There were no lifts. She had to put her skis on her back and hike up the mountain.
That meant she could do two runs a day.”
Major expansions in the 1960s, 70s and 90s made Lebanon’s white slopes the main Lebanese attraction that it is today, for locals as well as tourists.