The Middle East’s Best Ski Slopes
Lebanon is called the Switzerland of the Middle East because its mountainous summits reach heights of more than 10,000 feet. A skiing trip to Beirut offers a singular experience; sometimes it’s possible to ski on the slopes in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon. If you factor in the warmth and hospitality of the Lebanese people with the great skiing, you get a most memorable vacation.
The ski season generally runs from December to April. Lebanon has several ski resorts, each one displaying a different flavor. Resorts cater to alpine skiers of all levels, as well as cross-country skiers, snowmobile fiends, and snowboarders. Although Mzaar Kfardebian and The Cedars get the most attention, all of the resorts provide exceptional winter sports fun. They offer something for every preference.
“It’s possible to ski on the slopes in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon.”
Mzaar Kfardebian is the largest ski resort in the Middle East. Only one hour from Beirut, it boasts world-class infrastructure along with 80 kilometers of ski tracks and 42 slopes. Beginners will find the wide, gentle slopes ideal, while advanced skiers will appreciate the challenges of the highest peaks. The resort is home to several ski clubs affiliated with the Lebanese Ski Federation.
When you want to take a break from skiing, visit the local attractions and sample the cuisine. Notable sights include Faqra Temple and Jisr al-Hajar, a natural water-crafted bridge. The region has plenty of cafes and restaurants. Or stop at one of the cozy restaurants in Faraya village, where you’ll find tasty traditional foods.
A two-hour drive from Beirut, The Cedars has gloriously beautiful scenery. Its gentle slopes are perfect for beginners, but more advanced skiers might find them too easy. The area is a paradise for cross-country skiers due to the charm of the surroundings.
Nature lovers take great delight in this resort, partly because of the forest of ancient cedar trees in the heart of the village. A local spot of interest is the museum of Gibran Khalil Gibran, a repository for Lebanon’s most noted artist, poet, and novelist. Another fascinating attraction is Qadisha Grotto. This cave features halls of stalactites and stalagmites in a kaleidoscope of colors. Monasteries and Maronite churches in the Kadisha Valley are also worth a visit.
Laqlouq is one of the best resorts for alpine and cross-country skiing. This family-favorite year-round resort, an hour-and-a-half drive from Beirut, is encircled by ridges adorned with thousands of trees.
Taking time to explore the area is very rewarding. Don’t miss the abyss of Balou’, one of Lebanon’s most picturesque and scenic areas, with a dramatic waterfall and natural arches. Other sights to put on your list are the legendary cave of Afqa and the Monastery of Saint Charbel. Laqlouq provokes a feeling of enchantment that sets it apart from the rest.
The closest ski area to Beirut is Zaarour. The resort’s north-facing slopes provide the advantage of superior quality of snow and panoramic views of Mount Sannine and the Valley of the Skulls. In addition to alpine and cross-country skiing, it offers many other winter sports activities including sledding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. Zaarour has slopes for all ski levels along with a mountain biking trail, hiking trail, and food court.
Scenic and quiet, Qanat Bakish is a little over an hour’s drive from Beirut. It’s known for great quality snow and open slopes that are suitable for families with young children. As is the case with most of the other resorts in Lebanon, Qanat Bakish is frequented by skiers who prefer slopes that aren’t crowded. Be sure to stop at the adjacent village of Faraya – one of the most well-preserved towns in the country.