BEIRUT: Winter activities abound for those looking to conquer the snow but unable to ski or snowboard.From adrenaline-filled snowmobiling to scenic mountain snowshoeing, the country’s various ecotourism groups and mountain resorts offer guided trips or trails to do your own activities in the snow.
And for those who’d rather keep the cold at a distance, low-altitude hiking trips during winter include the backdrop of Lebanon’s impressive, snow-covered mountains.
Snowmobiling Snowmobiling offers the rush of winter’s extreme sports without the learning curve of downhill skiing and snowboarding. “It is an activity where you can explore the snow, for example, even if you don’t know how to ski,” said Viviane Karam, owner and managing partner of Adventures in Lebanon. “It’s very popular.”
The ecotourism group Adventures in Lebanon plans snowmobiling trips across the country’s mountain terrain throughout the winter.
Instructors give quick pretrip lessons on maneuvering the snowmobile and then guide the group for an hour-and-a-half ride, Karam said. The trip’s cost covers the Ski-doo snowmobiles, helmets, insurance, transportation and lunch including beer.
Adventures in Lebanon’s next snowmobile trip will take the group through Faraya on Feb. 3. Participants can choose to share a snowmobile or ride alone.
Karam advises against bringing young children, as snowmobiling is an intense activity that requires adult supervision and know-how. “It’s not a kid’s activity,” she said. “You have to have some strength to turn the wheel – you have to be stronger.”
Still, snowmobiling is very safe, Karam said, safer in many ways than off-roading on an ATV – a summer activity offered by Adventures in Lebanon. The snowmobilers must wear helmets, if trip-goers fall off their vehicle, snow provides more cushioning than the hard ground, according to Karam.
Other snowmobiling opportunities include Mzaar resort-area trips by Cheers on Top and Mission to La Cabane snowmobile tours. Snowmobiling starts at around $120 per person.
For more information about Adventures in Lebanon snowmobiling, call
71-443-323 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., or visit the company’s website at
www.adventuresinlebanon.comSnowshoeing and hikingThough scenic and relaxing, snowshoeing offers a tough cardio workout as hikers trudge through powdery mountain trails.
Snowshoes are long, flat footwear that are strapped to snow or hiking boots. The shoes distribute a person’s weight over a larger area, allowing him or her to walk on top of the snow without sinking.
Vamos Todos, another ecotourism group, will break out the snowshoes every Sunday for the next month or so. The trips include transportation, insurance, snowshoes and guides.
This weekend Vamos Todos will travel to Ehden to walk through the Horch Ehden Nature Reserve, 1,450 meters above sea level. Other snowshoeing trips are to Laqlouq and Qanat Bakish near Faqra.
Each trip splits into two different difficulty levels. The easier level guides snowshoers on mainly downward slopes and gives them time to take pictures during small breaks along the way.
The easier level also requires less professional snowgear, according to Mark Aoun, founder of Vamos Todos. “They can wear jeans for the easy level and we provide plastic bags to avoid getting their shoes wet,” he said.
The more difficult level is for hikers looking for a real workout, and allows little-to-no time for breaks or picture taking.
Snowshoeing requires no experience and is a relatively low-impact sport along easier trails. But it is also a better workout than regular walking. A person burns around 600 calories per hour snowshoeing, according to Adventures in Lebanon, which also offers a number of snowshoeing trips throughout the winter.
People going snowshoeing should be prepared for freezing temperatures, wind and possibly precipitation – nothing’s worse than getting stuck in the cold without proper attire, Aoun said.
“In case there is bad weather, they need to be well-equipped,” he said.
Another way to appreciate the snow without leaving the warmth of seaside areas: winter hiking.
Vamos Todos offers a number of winter hiking trips with the snowy mountains as a dramatic backdrop.
These winter hiking trips take place across clear paths between 200 and 800 meters above sea level. One of the most beautiful hiking trips takes place in the valley that separates Akkar from Donnieh, along the Nahr al-Bared river. The higher-altitude, more intensive hike promises an uphill climb and a beautiful view once at the top.
Another hike takes place 700 meters above sea level in Jbeil’s mountainous Bentael area. The hike is full of Lebanese cultural heritage, passing through centuries-old churches, hermitages and Roman ruins.
For more information about Vamos Todos visit www.vamos-todos.com or call
03-561-174.Cross-country skiingCross-country skiing is another way to take in the snowy scenery without the fear of plummeting down a steep mountain side.
Cross-country skiing requires little-to-no experience and can be picked up relatively quickly on the first go. Rather than using the gravity of a mountain to pick up speed and barrel downward, cross-country skiers traverse flat mountain plateaus, pushing off and gliding across the slick snow at a slow-to-moderate pace, said Ron Sayegh, founder of skileb.com.
“It’s easy; it’s much, much easier than skiing,” Sayegh said. “You have much more time to learn.”
Cross-country skiing also requires special skis that are thin and long to better disperse weight and allow the back of the foot to come off the ski.
Though cross-country skiing has become more popular over the last two decades, it hasn’t attracted enough interest for guided tours, Sayegh said.
Interested cross-country skiers can find flat terrain around a number of mountain ski resorts. Laqlouq plateau, at 2,000 meters above sea level, houses flat trails more than 20 kilometers long, according to skileb.com. The Cedars and Mzaar resorts also house plateaus with tremendous views and dozens of kilometers of terrain.
For more detailed information about accessing these plateaus visit skileb.com.
And for those uninterested in spending money for guided tours and fancy equipment, sledding is that ubiquitous winter pastime for all those wanting to have some sort of fun in the snow.
“You can purchase a sled from any sports shop; it’s a very cheap sport,” Sayegh said.
Once equipped, snow lovers of all ages can zoom down mountain hills. Sayegh said that plenty of sledders can be seen among resorts’ many skiers and snowboarders. “It’s very popular,” he said. “There’s no specific place people go – you can go anywhere to sled.”