Skiing in Lebanon
Every visitor to Lebanon (Capital: Beirut) has heard that this is the only country in the world where one can ski on snow in the morning and swim in the waters of the Mediterranean in the afternoon. This is due to the fact that Lebanon's mountain range rises up above a very narrow coast. Even the highest resorts are only a short drive from the coast. On clear days a particularly spectacular view can be seen from the top. From the top of Mzaar, the highest point above the resort of Faraya, the Bekaa Valley and the Anti Lebanon mountain range can be seen to one side, and to the other, the city of Beirut and other towns along the coast.
In 1935, the French Army established the first ski school at Le Grand Cèdre Hotel in the Cedars forest in northern Lebanon.
The school moved two years later to a high mountain barrack that later became known as the Military ski School.
Michel Samen, in 1947, raised the Lebanese flag at the championship in Chamonix. One year later, Mounir Itani, Jean Samen, Abdelwahab El Rifai and Ibrahim Geagea, competed in the Winter Olympics at Saint Moritz.
1961 saw the official establishment of the Lebanese Ski Federation under President Dr. Emile Riachi. It started the golden era of Ski in Lebanon that lasted almost 30 years.
Lebanese skiers participated in the Olympic games and World Championships: Innsbruck (1964), Greece (1967), Sapporo (1972), Innsbruck (1976), Grenoble (1969), Lake Placid (1980), Calgary (1988) and Albertville (1992).
In 1967 and 1972 the Lebanese Army team won the World Championship of Military Ski.
From 1962 until the eruption of the civil war in 1975, a World Cup Competition named “Semaine Internationale du Ski aux Cedres” took place yearly in The Cedars and attracted the world’s most prestigious champions
Lebanese skiing history was at its peak in 1967 when the 26th annual International Ski Federation (ISF) conference was held in Beirut.
Cross country skiing
Nordic skiing or cross-country skiing in Lebanon has become more popular after the year 1990 and is also being adopted by the young Lebanese generation, seeking tranquility, away from the crowded ski slopes. Amazing as it sounds, high plateaus in Mount Lebanon are ideal for cross-country skiing, and most of them lie in the neighborhood of the ski resorts. The average skiing period stretches four months easily as from mid December.
Lebanon has six ski resorts with groomed slopes, catering to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Beyond the skiable domains await you kilometers of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails waiting to be discovered; Lebanon has something for everyone. Each of the ski resorts has a different flavor; however, it is Faraya Mzaar (Kfardebian) that offers the best infrastructure and facilities for the tourists. The Cedars resort is ideal for nature getaway seekers, and Laqlouq is suitable for families with levels up to intermediate.
The Cedars area is utterly beautiful but it is better as a cross country ski resort. People enjoy The Cedars for the ambience and the spectacular views particularly on the Kadisha Valley. The Cedars is at the north end of the Mount Lebanon Range. The resort is a 2 hour drive from Beirut, but only an hour from Tripoli, which is definitely worth a visit. The drive up to the Cedars is through some of the most beautiful scenery in Lebanon.
In 1935, French entrepreneurs established the first ski school at Le Grand Cèdre Hotel in the Cedars forest in northern Lebanon. The school moved two years later to a high mountain barrack and became known as the Military ski School. In 1959, the Lebanese army established the first one seat chairlift that extended to 2700m. Later on, more ski lifts were built by the Keyrouz family and the Cedars became the preferred ski resorts for the Lebanese and International Gotha in the 1960's and early 1970's (until the break out of the civi war in 1975). Famous international movie stars, President and Kings (including the Chah of Iran) have enjoyed the pleasurs of skiing in the Cedars Basin and cubbing in the Mythical "le Chalet" Hotel (Closed since 1975)and its eccentric owner, Dede Taleb.
The resort is in a huge basin and it is impossible to get lost. Half a dozen of ski chairs and ski lifts have been upgraded recently and more lifts are expected in the future. The resort is at 2150m with a chairlift that extends up to 2800m, leading to a wonderful plateau, with an ltitute between 2800m and 3100m.
The off piste around the basin is challenging, with a circuit leading to the old “Chalets” quarter passing through the multi-century old cedars forest.
With this resort there are wonderful hikes in the Kadisha Gorge. People can treck along the side of the gorge and climb into the ancient Maronite chapels (built in caves in the rock face), which is an experience in itself.
Faraya Mzaar Kfardebian or Faraya-Mzaar (Arabic: فاريا مزار), also known as Ouyoune el Simane or Aayoun Al Simane, is a ski area in Lebanon.
Faraya-Mzaar was founded in the late 1950's by Cheikh Salim El Khazen who built the Mzaar hotel and the chair lift initially known as "Le Telesiege". Simultaneously, a group of pioneers, including Sami Geammal, Robert Nassif, Dr Georges Zebouni and Pr Emile Riachi, started the development of the ski resort, building the very fist ski lifts, including the "Le Refuge". The group started building the first residential "Chalets" designed by architect Raoul Vernet, kicking off a period of undiscontinued real estate development in the whole area of Kfardebiane. In the early 1980's, the Saudi-Lebanese al-Mabani Group leaded by Fouad Rizk and Nehme Tohme acquired the majority of its shares and took over the development of the resort.
The ski resort has 42 slopes and 80 kilometers of groomed tracks. The skiing season in Lebanon is similar in length to that of the Alps stretching over a period of 4 months]. The peaks of the Faraya Mzaar mountain range vary between heights of 1913 and 2465 meters. The tallest peak, Mzaar, as well as the Nabil and Warde peaks, offer challenges for the experienced skier or snowboarder. Three other peaks are well suited for beginners, and even more are adapted to skier of intermediate level. Skiing ranges between heights of 1310m at Faraya, 1850m (Ouyoune el Simaan) to 2465m on the peak above Mzaar. In addition, there are a number of cross-country trails. From the top of Mzaar, there is a view over the Bekaa valley, Mount Hermon of the Anti-Lebanon and other peaks like Laqlouq and the Cedars. Coastal towns and the capital Beirut can be seen on a clear day.
Situated at an elevation of 1550m at the feet of Faraya-Mzaar, Faqra has monuments which included: temples, columns, altars and rock cut tombs. The temple of Faqra is partly cut out of the living rock. On the way to the ruins of Faqra, one can see a bridge called "Jisr al-Hajar" or the "Stone Bridge" with an arch measuring thirty eight meters.