Arguably the best known of the winter resorts in Lebanon, Mzaar, used to be named Faraya Mzaar, is actually two places: The picturesque village of Faraya below, and the smaller village of Mzaar above, where the ski slopes are. This resort is among the best in the country, with modern ski lifts besides the five-star luxury InterContinental that dominates the Mzaar area.
The skiable area includes no less that 42 slopes, amounting to 80 kilometers of ski tracks between mid December and mid April. The snow is not only enjoyed by skiers, but by snowboarders, snowmobile enthusiasts and para-gliders. The skiable terrain begins at a height of 1850 meters, rising all the way up to 2460 meters at the highest point of the Mzaar area. This peak looks down majestically to the Bekaa Valley on the other side of the Lebanon Mountains, beckoning as well to Mount Harmon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains across the valley. Lucky skiers may glimpse some of the coastal towns on a clear day, if not the capital Beirut itself.
Advanced skiers will need a couple of days to cover most of the resort before attempting to find tracks that are off the beaten path. They can also hire talented local guides from the ski school to take them on a more exclusive tour. Nonetheless, the resort has much to offer to intermediate and beginner skiers as well, who will delight in the vast expanses at the foot of the mountain range. Finally, there are other attractions worth visiting in the area, such as the natural 30-meter bridge in nearby Kfardebian, as well as the remnants of a Phoenician temple at Faqra and a Roman tower.
The Cedars combine a venerable skiing experience with an unparalleled cultural one. Nature seekers will find this resort the most rewarding, as they discover why the Cedar tree is the emblem of Lebanon, embedded gracefully on its flag.
Popular since the 1920s, the Cedars resort lies a couple of hours away from Beirut and is somewhat higher than other resorts, giving it a slightly longer skiing season than other resorts that begins as early as mid November. In addition, the old T-bar ski lifts, installed by the government in 1953 at 2000 meters, have recently been replaced by three new chairlifts which extend the skiing area considerably and take skiers to the top of the mountains. Cross-country skiers will also revel in the large expanses of level terrain surrounded by beautiful evergreens, while skidoo enthusiasts will find the area a paradise to explore.
There are plans to create a cable-car that will take visitors to the highest peak of the Cedars at 2870 meters, where a new ski station is being built. A terrace with telescopes that will be able to observe as far as Cyprus are another exciting addition that's on the way.
On the nature side, the Cedars forest and the charming villages around are also worth discovering. There is Bcharreh, the birthplace of famous poet, artist and writer Gibran Khalil Gibran, which houses a museum in his name. The area has a spiritual dimension as well, with many Catholic/Maronite churches and monasteries tucked away in the countryside and across the Qadisha Valley.
The Faqra resort, which is more commonly known as the Faqra Club among Lebanon's skiing jet set, is a conglomeration of architecturally appealing villas or glorified chalets that surround the Auberge de Faqra hotel. This is considered arguably the world's first private ski resort and club, as the club itself owns the terrain with the area's ski lifts.
Although the resort was established in 1974, it still looks as modern as it did then, with immaculate surroundings all year round.
Most activity centers around the Auberge de Faqra, which boasts a heated swimming pool, sauna facilities, tennis courts, squash courts and a fitness center.
Outside the resort and only a few minutes away, there are the remains of a venerable Roman temple, with Greek inscriptions (the lingua franca then) from 43 AD, referring to the Roman Emperor Claudius. Besides this sanctuary lies the temple of Atargatis, a local godess, as well as cenotaphs and other historical ruins.
Known best for its cross country skiing, the Laqlouq resort also offers skiers plenty of Alpine skiing tracks. The resort roughly lies between 1750 meters and 2000 meters in altitude, surrounded by sharp ridges and crevices.
The Laqlouq resort saw its first ski lift in 1958, when the government developed the ski tracks for tourism and established a reputable ski school. What differentiates this resort from others is the absence of any construction, villas or buildings in the immediate vicinity, giving it a more "one-with-nature" atmosphere.
Like other ski resorts in the country, there's more to Laqlouq than just skiing. To begin with there is the legendary Afqa cave that's only 15 minutes away by car and certainly worth a visit if you like to revel in nature's wonders. The natural abyss leading to an underwater cavern called Balou Balaa, complete with a thin natural bridge that crosses the abyss and that's popular with daring nature lovers, is also a site worth visiting. Other enchanting attractions include the 2300-meter peak of Qornet Saydat Al-Qarn, as well as the village of Annaya which is popular with Christian pilgrims who seek solace at the Monastary of St. Charbel. It also has a museum of curios attractions.