There’s no denying that the ski slopes of North America and Europe can provide us with wonderful skiing holidays. But for those of us who combine a bit of Wanderlust with our passion for skiing, looking further afield for slopes that combine great ski experiences with the prospect of exploring new lands and cultures will turn up some exciting options.
Take the Middle East, for example. Turkey, Iran, and the countries of the Fertile Crescent are all located in the northern hemisphere and have mountains covered with snow during the winter months. Why not get to know some of the outstanding ski resorts in these regions? Combine a skiing excursion with a cultural tour of the Middle East, and you’ve got the makings of a spectacular holiday. Here are just five of the ski resorts in the Middle East that are well worth checking out.
Mt. Uludag, Turkey
Easily accessible from Istanbul, Mt. Uludag forms the pinnacle of Uludag National Park, a region of extraordinary natural beauty and great historical monuments. Uludag rises to 2,543 meters and is Turkey’s most popular ski resort. There are several dozen hotels and other accommodations available, a tourist area with shopping and dining, a health center, and facilities for classes and ski-related events. A number of package tours take skiers from Istanbul to the slopes for a quick weekend trip, or holiday makers can book longer stays at one of the hotels on site.
It takes about two hours to drive from Istanbul to Kartepe, making this area, like that of Mt. Uludag, a perfect location for a sky holiday cum sightseeing tour. The ski resort is constructed at 1650 m. up the slopes of Mt. Kartepe (the name means “Snowy Hill”) in a region of great unspoiled natural beauty. The 5-star Green Park hotel dominates the ski center, but visitors will find plenty of places to stay along with some interesting restaurants and food stalls.
Lebanon’s Mzaar Kfardebian can boast the largest ski resort in the Middle East. It’s easily accessible from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital; the drive takes about an hour. The resort consists of 42 hills, ranging in height from 1850 meters to Mzaar’s peak at 2,465. The slopes have something for both beginners and accomplished skiers, as well as a number of organized entertainment events. Sightseers can enjoy not only the rich natural beauty of the area but several archaeological and historical areas that attest to the area’s popularity in antiquity.
Shemshak and Dizin, Iran
Located in Iran’s Alborz Mountains, the Shemshak resort is only about an hour’s drive from Tehran. The slopes here are breathtaking but challenging, making it an area mostly reserved for skiers of advanced expertise. Nearby Dizin is a larger resort, with slopes that are much more amenable to beginners.
Mt. Hermon, Israel
The Mt. Hermon Ski Resort lies in the part of the Golan Heights under Israeli occupation. A nature reserve surrounds the resort, and there are many nearby historical and archaeological sites worth visiting. As for skiing, the resort boasts 14 pistes and 8 lifts. Although there is no town associated with the resort, there are still a number of good restaurants on the site along with many family-oriented activities in addition to skiing.
Once you’ve decided on your resort, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind, especially if you’ve gained most of your ski experience on North American and European slopes. Be sure to pack a dehydrated food kit when you’re going out; the calories are necessary for anyone undergoing strenuous exercise, and you can’t always count on cafes and food stalls close at hand. And of course you’ll want to leave room in your luggage for the souvenirs you’ll be collecting on your holiday, since the Middle East is filled with irresistible cultural treasures. If you purchase textiles, however, take care about oriental rug cleaning to remove bugs when you get home.
The Middle East has so much to offer visitors: historical monuments, natural wonders, and world-class resort experiences. You won’t regret booking your next ski holiday at one of these great resort areas.