Skiing at the top of Lebanon (Video)

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January 18, 2015
Mzaar Kfardebian, Lebanon

With 18 lifts and 18 kilometers of slopes, Mzaar Kfardebian is one of the biggest ski resorts in the Middle East. Located between 1600 and 2 800 meters of altitude and only 44 kilometers north from Beirut, the station is also one of Lebanon’s greatest open secrets. It host up to 100 000 visitors each year, including many tourists from Arab countries. “Lebanon is special because the sea is very close to the slopes. In April, you can go skiing in the morning and to the beach in the afternoon”, explains Christian Rizk, Executive Director of the station, proudly. “Mzaar Kfardebian can be compared to a small ski resort in Europe”, he adds. Open since the beginning of the sixties, Mzaar Kfardebian was developed into a modern resort in 1992, after the end of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991). It’s owners have since then invested millions of dollars to make it as modern as any ski resort in the Alps, although the resort has kept its Middle Eastern charm, with visitors tanning while enjoying a shisha and playing “dabke” (traditional Lebanese drum) at the bottom of the slopes.
Article available upon request in English and French.

TRANSCRIPT:

Christian Rizk: Executive Director of Mzaar Kfardebian (French)

00:33 - 00:51 Mzaar is the biggest ski resort in lebanon and in the Middle East. We can compare it to small ski resorts in Europe. Our security norms are quite high and we try to be look like French ski resorts as much as possible.

00:51 - 1:16 Everything in Lebanon is affected by the [political] situation but so far we were lucky in winter. We were not really affected because the majority of our clientele is Lebanese. We have very few foreigners. Lebanese already know the country and they know if they can come or not. That is why we were not affected.

1:16 - 1:24 We are lucky to have snow and the sea. So in April people come and ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon.

Maher Abu Haidar, Ski instructor (English)

8:57 - 9:11 I used to live in Switzerland, I studied there and I used to ski on a daily basis as well. But the fact that I do not have the beach near me is not the same sensation I do have over here. And plus I have all my friends as you can see.

Wassim Mhanna, Mayor of Kfardebian (English)
9:27 - 9:41 We need the slopes to begin. We need the ski season to begin. The slopes are very important for the people of Lebanon. All the people. When the slopes are gong on, all Lebanon works.

Rami Abou Laba, 25 years old, from Saida. Lives in Oman (English)

10:34 - 10:44 We come here to spend and enjoy our time and play in the snow and make snowmen. We love to ski. Now we are coming trip to enjoy shisha and talking, chatting to each other. To spend time.

10:44 - 11:07 Faraya is the most popular (unknown word) in Lebanon, especially for snowing and skiing. And good place because all Lebanon coming to this place so we can meet everybody here.

Ali Issa (left), Snowboarding instructor, Walid Medawar (right) Founder of Republic of Snowboarding, Mzaar Kfardebian snowboarding school.

12:10 - 12:24 Walid Medawar: What is so cool about snowboarding in Lebanon is that you have lots of sunny days. You can go up, no avalanche risks, nothing dangerous. The slopes are very easy. Maximum blue.

12:24 - 12:25 Ali Issa: We have a couple of blacks.

Walid Medawar: Yeah, couple of blacks...

12:26 - 12:43 Ali Issa: One of the best things about snowboarding in Lebanon is that you have a closed knitted community. Everyone knows each other. You are going to be riding on the slopes, you are going to have tens of people screaming your name, calling you: I want to ride with you! You never ride alone. You ride in groups of twenties. We are a pack of wolves on the slopes.

12:44 - 12:45 Walid Medawar: Privacy is bye bye you know.

12:46 - 13:13 Ali Issa: We live here during the whole winter and we do not feel any of the negativity that the city has. We do not feel any tensions among people. We do not have any of that. I mean, the most we get is the skiers having some bad times with the snowboarders. The snowboarders having some bad time with the skiers but you do not get any fights over here. Everyone is happy. You cannot not smile.

13:14 - 13:24 Walid Medawar: The idea is, in Beirut really, it is like a different country. You are up here, you are isolated from all the news, all the traffic, all that stuff.

13:24 - 13:28 Ali Issa: From all the politicians! I don't see no politicians here, thank god!

13:38 - 13:44 Walid Medawar: So up here you are in the mountains, doing your things. It is not that far away from the city. 30 minutes and you will be here. Different planet. It is a different country.

13:44 - 14: 02 Walid Medawar: Up here it is a different planet seriously. You do not feel the tensions in Beirut, you do not feel the political life you know. You are here you are safe. Skiing here is amazing. Good quality snow. Please come join us!