Extreme Skiing, Middle East Style: Mzaar, Lebanon

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on May 27, 2009 12:31 pm

Skiing, like surfing, is a vehicle for exotic travel and exploration.  Unique places off the beaten-path become landing spots based on a simple answer to a simple question: Is there good skiing there?

“The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.”

Well, that wasn’t part of our simple question.  However, in Lebanon, you might be surprised to learn that there is indeed some seriously good skiing.  It’s not on par with Alta or Whistler, but what is?  If you’re an East Coast ripper, Lebanon’s wide open bowls above tree line will definitely be a step up.  A ski vacation can be an opportunity to expand your cultural horizons.  The more you see and experience directly equates to a better understanding and empathy for those that differ from you.  In 2009, understanding and empathy are an undermined resource.

“While Lebanon enjoys periods of relative calm, the potential for a spontaneous upsurge in violence is real.”

Hey, a “potential for a spontaneous upsurge in violence” is possible anywhere.  I live in Venice Beach, and recently a guy was shot at the liquor store across the street from my apartment.  That could most certainly be deemed “a spontaneous upsurge in violence.”  Is the State Department issuing travel warnings for Venice Beach?

Onward Lebanon! 

There are six ski resorts in Lebanon from which to choose.  Mzaar, formerly known as Faraya-Mzaar, tops the list with its top-notch lodging and facilities.  The Intercontinental Mzaar Lebanon Mountain Resort and Spa (say that five times fast) is the one 5-star hotel in the region.  A mix of modern and Swiss architecture, the hotel is pure luxury and boasts a host of restaurants, an indoor pool, and a night club.  All within steps of the base of the resort.  The nightlife and bar scene in Mzaar is definitely poppin’ with renowned DJs providing the night time beats.

“On May 7, 2008, Hizballah militants blocked the road to Rafiq Hariri International Airport.  Full access to the airport was restored on May 21, 2008 when hostilities subsided.  However, the United States remains concerned about the potential for violence, with little or no warning.”

Militants blocking access to the Beirut airport?  Avalanche often blocks the road out of Alta and Snowbird, providing for an extended ski weekend.  When it comes to missing work, militants are a much better excuse than an avalanche.  Can’t leave, but can continue to ski!

Mzaar is a short hour drive from the Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut.   A buff 2000+ feet of vertical await, accessed by 22 well-maintained chairlifts presided over by a team of French experts.  Safety has always been a big priority at Mzaar.  Militants are one thing, but lifts breaking down?  That would be too much!

“Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.”

State Department warnings always error on the side of extreme caution.  The advice dispensed could be compared to that of an extremely protective mother.  A landmine warning is good advice for travel in certain parts of Lebanon, but ski sojourners need not worry about landmines.  Geez, mom!

Back again to our initial question: Is there good skiing there?  Mzaar is ranked the #1 ski resort among Asia and Middle East resorts.  Top notch, wide-open bowls, magnificent views from the top of the resort down to the Bekaa valley, first class accommodations,  seriously fun nightlife, and the chance to tell friends that you skied Lebanon all make Mzaar a worthy destination for the adventurous traveler.  

A “spontaneous upsurge in violence” is possible once you step outside your front door.  A ski trip to Mzaar offers great rewards that easily outweigh the exaggerated risks.  Similar State Department warnings about El Salvador did not keep me from experiencing one of the best surf trips of my life.  The chance to experience the best skiing the Middle East has to offer?  Militants be damned, I’m headin’ to Mzaar!

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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