The first attempt at skiing in Lebanon took place in 1913 on hills
neighboring the Aley region. Also in 1923, French officers seized the
opportunity and "invaded" the slopes of the Baidar, Knaisseh and Mzaar (Sannine)
The former Faraya-Mzaar caretaker Naffah Khalil, nicknamed "Jeddo" says that
before the installation of the first lift, French skiers used to come to Faraya
and climb the snow-packed mountain on donkeys while villagers carried their
Other inhabitants of the region have their own anecdotes to share. Nassif Fares
Khalil, now 77 years of age, tells with enthusiasm and some nostalgia the story
of his beginnings as an operator of the first chairlift at Mzaar, including the
day he found himself wedged on a cable.
He also remembers when a dozen children were lost on the slopes of Jabal El Dib
and thankfully found by army helicopters curled up in the refuge of a cave. He
tells us about the "Cabane des Français" at the peak of Mzaar which was
frequented by the trailblazing skiers the French soldiers.
With great expressiveness he depicts how the snow melts, feeding the rivers of
the region and turning them into the colors of honey (Tilal El Assal) or white (Naba
El Laban), depending of the color of the stone at the bottom. Local legend says
that when the flow of the river stops, the goats stop giving milk.
Tanios Bakhous Khalil, a former farmer, today aged 81, was the local Hercules.
He was known to be able to bend horseshoes and lift the cylinder of a
steamroller with one hand.
Khalil carried the skiers' gear to the summit and for this effort, he was paid
half a Lebanese pound a day. He too remembers the skiers coming to the present
resort by donkey and foot, and gliding down the hills until dusk fell. The can
list off the names of every hill to Baalbeck.
He also remembers more difficult times, such as when Bechara El Khoury was not
able to reach sheikh Salim El Khazen because a certain Said EL Erd had destroyed
the only bridge of access.
We can find even more history at the summit of the Mzaar- ruins of a small
fortress can still be found, a place that is said to be a landmark between
Baalbeck and Byblos, and a summer refuge for the inhabitants of Faqra's Roman
The first ski club in Lebanon, Le Club Libanais, was founded by Andree Khasho,
Aimee Kettaneh, Maurice Talbet and Mounir Itani.
In 1935, French entrepreneurs established the first ski school at Le Grand Cèdre
Hotel in the Cedars forest in northern Lebanon.
In 1937, the school moved to a high mountain barrack and became known as the
Military ski School.
At this time, the first ski competitions began taking place in Lebanon in
Dahr-El-Baidar, Laqlouq, Kneisseh and the Cedars.
The renowned clubs of the day were the ENB, Alpes Françaises, Lebanese Danafill
and the Becharreh Team.
In 1947, Lebanese skiers went abroad to compete in international competitions
for the first time. Michel Samen raised the Lebanese flag at the championship in
In 1948, the Lebanese team, consisting of Mounir Itani, Jean Samen, Abdelwahab
El Rifai and Ibrahim Geagea, competed in the Winter Olympics at Saint Moritz.
This led to the prevalence of the Lebanese skiers on the world stage: Innsbruck
(1964), Greece (1967), and Olympic Games in Sapporo (1972), Innsbruck (1976),
Lake Placid (1980), Schaladming (1984), Calgary (1988) and Albertville (1992).
Furthermore, in 1967 and 1972 the federation cooperated with the Lebanese Army
to lead them to victory in the World Championship of Military Ski (WCMS).
A highlight of the Lebanese skiing history also took place in 1967 when the 26th
annual International Ski Federation (ISF) conference was held in Beirut. It was
then the idea was born to host the World Ski Championship and bring the best
skiers in the world to Lebanon.
The successful event took place yearly until the was began in 1975.
Nevertheless, during the Lebanese war, the
Lebanese Ski Federation continued to
organize competitions and send skiers abroad. The Lebanese Championship
eventually resumed after 16 years of disruption.
In 1999, the International Ski Week was re-established leading to the
participation of the Lebanese team in the World Championships in St. Anton and
St. Moritz, and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Recently, Lebanon further increased its presence on the skiing world stage.
In 2002, at the ISF conference in Portoroz the Lebanese delegation headed by Mr.
Camille Rizk gained additional right to vote at the ISF General Assembly (for a
total of two votes).