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Skiing at the top of Lebanon (Video)
Mzaar Kfardebian
By Andreanewilliams
18 Jan 2015

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!

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Skiing at the Top of Lebanon
Kfardebian
By Andreanewilliams
17 Jan 2015

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.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 011
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
20 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Ski equipment in a guest house in Bamiyan, where the Afghan Ski Challenge takes place every year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 009
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, with homemade skis made out of wood. "Our village, Jawzeri, consists of approximately 65 houses. Around 30 people from here are trying to learn how to ski, but only 10 really know how to do it well. We don't have any proper equipment and nobody is here to teach us, so we simply ski on the slopes around our village with our homemade skis made out of wood."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 010
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, with homemade skis made out of wood. "The first time we saw skis in our lives was in 2011 when foreigners from the US and Switzerland came to Bamiyan to ski here. We saw their equipment and wanted to try it as well."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 008
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, with homemade skis made out of wood. "Our village has never received proper ski equipment, but we wanted to learn it and had to be creative. So one boy in the village had the idea to make wooden skis with plastic underneath. We cut all the wood ourselves and shape it, it takes two days to finish one pair of skis."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 007
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, "Most villagers in Jawzeri think that skiing is a very good sport and exercise. We are really keen to learn and keep practicing, and our biggest dream is to have proper equipment one day and represent the village - or even Afghanistan - in different ski competitions."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 004
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, "Here in Jawzeri you can find a lot of enthusiasm and motivation for skiing, despite that fact that we don't get any support for this new sport. In Bamiyan village, for example, there is a group of young Afghans who participate in the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place every year. They have proper skis, equipment and support from some foreigners - hopefully we will be able to participate one day, too."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 006
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Villagers stand and watch the skiing. Sultan Ali, 18, "Here in Jawzeri, in our village, we only have one real pair of skis and boots which we got from foreigners some months ago. But that's all we have, we have no ski boots, no skins for the skis to be able to walk up the mountains and no poles. At least the skis we can make out of wood and plastic."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 005
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, "Some older people in our village, let's call them the traditional ones, are a bit skeptical about skiing. We don't have any doctors here and if we fall and get injured we would have a serious problem. At the beginning, most of them didn't like the idea of skiing at all, but now they start to open up and pray with us to get proper equipment."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 002
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, tries on his homemade wooden skis. "We are the first ones who started making wooden skis. Nowadays we have around 10 wooden skis in our village. The second village is called Chap Dara and they also produce their own skis made out of wood...but here at Jawzeri we were the first".

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Skiing in Afghanistan 003
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali, 18, "Some months ago, there was a young man from New Zealand who came to the village with proper ski equipment and taught some people here how to ski. He used to come 2-3 times a week, he worked temporarily in Bamiyan. But now he has returned to New Zealand and nobody really comes to Jawzeri as we are quite off the beaten track."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 001
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
19 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sultan Ali tries on his homemade wooden skis. "Our wooden skis are not professional at all but they do the job. The bad thing is that we don't have skins to put underneath so that we can walk up the hills easily. We don't have ski-lifts in Afghanistan, so at least we would need some ski skins like the boys have in the Bamiyan village." Sultan Ali (18 years, Jawzeri, Afghanistan)

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Skiing in Afghanistan 029
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans gets ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge which takes place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 028
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Spectators from the village watch the group of young Afghans skiing in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 022
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Member of the Afghanistan ski team Sajjad Husaini, 22, says, "Skiing in Afghanistan was introduced by American and Swiss foreigners about 5 years ago. All the equipment we have here in Bamiyan was brought by foreign skiers, and now we have almost 20 skis and proper equipment as poles, boots and skins which is fantastic for us."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 023
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 012
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Member of the Afghanistan ski team Sajjad Husaini, 22, "Here in Bamiyan you can ski from January to March and every winter foreigners come and teach us how to ski properly. Four of us locals are now even working as ski guides for other Afghans interested in learning how to ski. There is no test you have to pass here in Bamiyan, you become a guide by experience."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 027
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sajjad Husaini, 22, member of the Afghan ski team, "We, the serious skiers from Bamiyan, want to become professional skiers and guides and represent Afghanistan in international competitions one day. We have been participating at the annually Afghan Ski Challenge here in Bamiyan and I even won the boys challenge last year. Unfortunately, there is no ski federation, infrastructure or real support yet in Afghanistan."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 026
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Sajjad Husaini, 22, member of the Afghan ski team, "We, the ski guys from Bamiyan, have been skiing for around 3 years now and teach more and more to locals who want to get into skiing. Many of our foreign friends from Switzerland, the US, New Zealand and Italy support us, and the Afghan Ski Challenge is getting more and more popular every year. We have hope that the Afghan ski business will get big and flourishing in the future."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 025
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year. Member of the team Rahimullah Attayeezada, 20, said "From January to March we go skiing regularly here in Bamiyan, we have to train for the Afghan Ski Challenge. This year was the 4th ski challenge and there are also participants from other countries. But usually the locals win as we are faster running up the hill."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 021
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. Rahimullah, 20, "I am very happy to have the possibility to ski here in Bamiyan, and I am aware that most of the people here don't have access to this sport and lack proper equipment. Now even the girls participate at the Afghan Ski Challenge, we have a boys and a girls competition. Believe me, that is big step forward for my country."

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Skiing in Afghanistan 024
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 020
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 019
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 018
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan A young villager watches the group of Afghans skiing.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 017
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Spectators watch the group of young Afghans skiing in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 016
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 015
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 014
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Young Afghans getting ready for their ski trip. They train on a regular basis for the Afghan Ski Challenge taking place once a year.

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Skiing in Afghanistan 013
Bamiyan
By Christina Feldt
17 Feb 2014

Bamiyan, Afghanistan Member of the Afghanistan ski team Sajjad Husaini, 22, "I spent 12 years of my life as a refugee in central Iran. When I returned to Afghanistan, my uncle introduced me to Gul Hussain Baizada, one of the local supports of the Afghan Ski Challenge. That was in 2011, and since then I have been skiing and training with all my passion. In the evening I go to university to study law, but I wish to become a professional skier to represent Afghanistan in the future."