Faraya Mzaar is the skiing capital of the Middle East. It has around 80 kilometers of ski runs and 15 ski lifts. There is a wide variety of slopes, from easy ones for beginners to quite difficult ones. Off piste skiing is also possible. The Mzaar peak is a little less than 2500 meters.
Equipment: There is a bunch of places renting equipment for around USD 8 to 12. Bring your own if you are too particular about what you use.
Ski passes can be obtained from selling points at the Warde and Jonction car parks, as well as at the bottom station of the Refuge lifts near the Intercontinental. Most skiers have a pass for the Warde and Jonction Domain, but not for the Refuge Domain. The reason is simple: you pay a lot more to get access to the two (uninteresting) Refuge lifts. The difference is an unexplainable US$ 15 per day in the weekends! On weekdays, the difference is small (only US$ 3). Most hotels offer their guests a free shuttle service to the Jonction or Warde car park.
Even if you buy a 6-day lift ticket, you have to get youself a new pass every day. The lift passes are no more that a simple sticker. The people at the counter stamp two or three letters on it. The letters differ from day to day. When you have obtained you pass, someone else from the lift company will hang it to you ski jacket with a metal wire. It's rather clumsy and old-fashioned, but probably cheaper than Swatch Access or another Skidata system..
VT member Allouc (Alex) from Nikosia, Cyprus, informed me that you can also buy a ticket for a number of consecutive days. They are available form the resort's office, about 100 meters from Mzaar. These passes should be about 15% cheaper. I guess I had to obtain a new ticket every day because I booked with www.skileb.com (?).
Because of the short distance to the Mediterranean, Faraya Mzaar often receives fresh snow. There are plenty of modern grooming machines that prepare the runs quickly and professionally. One of the very good things is that they don't groom all the trails, but leave a few ungroomed. By doing so, they offer the skiers off-piste opportunities ON THE PISTE! That is obviously a big asset, especially if you are not familiar with the terrain or with off-piste skiing in general.
The Faraya Mzaar ski lifts are of a surprisingly high quality. Almost all lifts are 3 seater chairlifts. The are of the so-called fixed-grip type. Contrary to detachable chairlifts, fixed-grip chairlifts do not slow down at the station, nor do they accellerate in between. This is about the only negative thing to say. The condition of the chailifts is very good, with no signs of poor maintenance. The oldest chairlift was constructed in 1993, the newest in 2002.
There are also some poma lifts, which just serve beginners. The poma lifts only give access to runs that are also accessible from the chairlifts.
The Jonction Domain is the heart of the Faraya Mzaar ski area. It includes the lift with the highest vertical ascent: from the car park to the Dome Jabal Dib is 407 m. Besides the Jabal Dib chair lift, also the Piste Rouge and Nabil chair lifts offer challenging runs, mostly classified red. Like anywhere in the Faraya Mzaar ski area, there are excellent off piste opportunities.
The connection to the other main part of the ski area -- the Warde Domain -- is suitable for skiers of any level except for absolute beginners.
The Warde Domain is the eastern part of the ski area. It has an own car park, where 5 lifts depart: 2 tow bars and 3 chair lifts. There is also a big restaurant with public toilets (free of charge).
Apart from La Cabane chair lift (see my separate tip), the Nord chair lift is the best one for experienced skiers in the Warde Domain. Although the views from the Jonction Domain are generally better, there are still some very good pictures to take from the fascinating landscape and its wonderful shapes. And don't forget: you can see the Mediterranean from everywhere in the ski area! Besides, the Warde Domain offers the best views on the Bekkaa valley and Syria.
The connection to the Jonction Domain goes via the Lac chair lift and is suitable for skiers of any level.
The Dome du Mzaar (2,465 m) offers some of the best off piste skiing of the area. When you arrive at the top station and go off the chair lift, just follow the other skiers for about 10 to 15 m. After that, go to the left (you cross the chair lift) and keep on going in that direction for anything between 50 and 500 m (after about 200 m, there is a sharp but pretty safe trim). Anywhere you will see excellent snow fields on your right, and it is virtually impossible not to go back to the bottom station of the Mzaar chair lift.
The Mzaar chair lift goes to the highest point in the ski area: the Dome du Mzaar (2,465 m). It offers stunning views on Syria, Israel, Beirut, the Golan Heights and the Mediterranean. The runs from Mzaar back to the car park and the village are mostly classified red. The runs from Mzaar back to the village are about 3.5 km with a vertical descent of 600 m.
The Rocher chair lift -- a 2 seater that runs from 2,087 to 2,296 m and ends on the top of Dome Jabal Dib -- offers a short but steep slope (classification is black). The run is most attractive when fresh snow has fallen, as the lift company does not groom this trail!
As an alternative to the black run, there is an easier blue run. Which is very necessary for beginners and intermediate skiers: Rocher is a necessary part of the connection between the Warde and Junction domains!
The Cabane 3 seater chair lift (1,960 to 2,347 m) was constructed in 2002 and is the newest lift of the area. There are three slopes, all classified as red (intermediate) to black (expert). Even with higher temperatures, the snow stays very good in this part of the ski area thanks to the orientation of the slopes. Snow permitting there are excellent off piste opportunities on both sides of the ski lift (within the view of the people sitting in the lift, so you may receive applause).