A blizzard in Israel: Skiing in the Middle East

This winter, Israel’s Ski Hermon ( centre celebrated 50 years since opening its first ski lift, on land captured from Syria during the 1967 war. Of course, this was a freaky winter. Covid-19 kept the resort closed for half the season. Then, Israel’s successful vaccination campaign coincided with a meter of new snow in mid-February, and the resort opened on February 21.  

Israel isn’t the only country in the Middle East to offer ski slopes, in fact, most of the region’s 17 nations now offer snow skiing of one sort or another, and for some, they have been doing so for over a century.

In 1913, after young engineer Ramez Ghazzoui returned to Lebanon from his studies in Switzerland, he introduced his friends to skiing on the slopes near Aley. By the 1930s a national ski club had been formed. 1953 saw lifts installed at the Cedars (, one of half a dozen centres that now exist in the country. Proximity to the Mediterranean means you can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon.

In Iran, German railway engineers introduced skiing around 1930, and grew popular especially among young men returning from studies in France and Switzerland. One such student even manufactured skis in Tehran beginning in in 1938. The first ski lifts were installed in 1951. With mountains rising over 14,000 feet, Iran has probably the most extensive lift-served skiing in the region.

Iraq’s Korek ski centre ( owes its existence to the country’s ethnic battles. As they gained autonomy, the Kurds have sought to broaden their economic base beyond oil drilling. The Korek gondola may not draw international tourism yet.

Where there’s no natural snow (or mountains), indoor skiing is booming. Egypt, Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait have created snowdomes, so you can find lifts turning in 10 Middle Eastern nations. And for its part, Syria has announced plans for a resort on Mt. Hermon – if it can get the land back from Israel. –Patrick Thorne

Photo: Mt. Hermon by Noa.

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