Lebanon’s remote hillsides offer a multitude of white trails perfect for snowshoeing escapades
From December until mid March, some years even until April, Lebanon’s remote hillsides are ideal destinations for snowshoe enthusiasts in search of pristine snow. The best places for snowshoeing are the country’s nature reserves, such as Horsch Ehden and the Chouf Biosphere Reserve, both just stunning when blanketed with a layer of white. The forest’s high towering cedar trees covered in snow are a sight to be seen and the trails that pass through rate from easy to hard. The trees offer welcome shelter during a snowstorm and the forests are home to a variety of animal species such as wolf, fox, hyena, and wild boar. Though rare to spot in broad daylight, in winter their tracks are a wonderful sight, visible on the snowy trails.
At Horsch Ehden and the Chouf Biosphere Reserve it is possible to rent snowshoes and book the services of a forest ranger for a guided snowshoe tour; a good idea if you are a novice. Apart from the reserves there are many other nature spots to head out to. Snowshoeing gives you the ability to reach remote hills and avoid the crowded ski resorts and packed roads leading up to them on the weekends. Unlike skiing, snowshoeing is not a risky activity and doesn’t call for much gear, just the snowshoes themselves, plus waterproof footwear and clothing. It’s just you and nature, no need to rely on ski lifts or perfect snow and weather conditions – often the best snowshoeing trips are when it’s snowing and the elements are out in force. The weather can be unpredictable and fog can apppear suddenly, so always go with a partner and carry a mobile phone with you in case of an emergency.
“It’s more tiring maybe than skiing as you are constantly moving but you quickly get the hang of it”
“I went snowshoing for the first time last winter as the ski slopes did not open due to the lack of snow,” says Christine Codsi, co-founder of Tawlet, an open kitchen, where different cooks prepare traditional food from their region. “I just went with a group and we hired snowshoes in Lalouq and walked on the hills. It’s more tiring maybe than skiing as you are constantly moving but you quickly get the hang of it. Keeping up a good pace is a great work out.” The stillness of the hills, breathing fresh winter air and taking in the stunning views over the plains of Lalouq is an incredible boost for the mind after a long week in the city.
To extend the winter wonderland experience, an overnight stay in the mountains after a snowshoing trip is highly recommended. In Horsch Ehden there are little wooden lodges, located right at the Nabeh Jouit entrance, which can be booked for the night. While there, make sure to ask the manager Ramonda to serve up her special hrisse, a creamy wheat and chicken stew oozing with cinnamon and nutmeg. At the end of the day, energised by the hearty broth, you may just feel like putting your snowshoes back on again and heading out for a walk in the snow lit up by the moon and the starry night sky. It’s just magical.
SNOWSHOEING IN LEBANON
Tourism consultant and managing director of tour operator, 33 North, Gilbert Moukheiber, shares his tips for snowshoeing in Lebanon
Essentials for a day of snowshoeing include a backpack, solid waterproof hiking boots, warm clothes (breathable and waterproof), a first aid kit equipped with a survival blanket, shovel, snow probe, headlight, water, hot drink (avoid alcohol), and energy bars.
There are no trails adapted to snowshoeing in Lebanon, but any dirt, agricultural road or footpath above 1500m of altitude can be used as a snowshoeing trail during wintertime. Alpine ski stations are good destinations for novice snowshoers who want to experience the activity safely
2. Upper highlands: Laqlouq, Aqoura, Tannourine, Hasroune, Hadath El Jebbeh, Becharre
3. Ehmej has a two snowshoeing trails
4. The highest summit in the Middle East: Kornet es Sawda 3083 m
5. The upper mountains of Akkar, Hermel and Donniyeh offer a wide range of free terrain with picturesque scenery
WHO TO GO WITH
– 33 North (71 331138, 33-north.com)
– Dale Corazon (70 986118, dalecorazon.com)
– Decouvre LB (03 373711, decouvrelb.com)
– Beyond Byblos (09 540857, byblosandbeyond.com)