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Lebanese skiers flock to Faraya for fleeting snow.

Summary: Doused in spring snow, Faraya relished a much-needed influx of visitors this weekend. Scores of tenuous snowmen dotted the resort area over the weekend as people flocked to enjoy the fleeting conditions.

FARAYA, Lebanon: Doused in spring snow, Faraya relished a much-needed influx of visitors this weekend. Scores of tenuous snowmen dotted the resort area over the weekend as people flocked to enjoy the fleeting conditions.

The storm last week brought snow to the area, which had languished through an uncommonly dry season. The five running chairlifts were packed Sunday, with long lines trailing into already thinning snow at the base of the mountain. And Monday, Mzr's live webcam showed early-bird skiers on the slopes by 10 a.m.

Snowfall across Lebanon's higher altitudes allowed the country's three major ski resorts to open: Mzr, Laqlouq and the Cedars.

Before last week's storm, Laqlouq had been the only resort to open this season, for a brief 24-hour run before Christmas. The resort opened for another blitz lasting 48 hours, closing its trails again Sunday night. Mzr and the Cedars continued to operate, with limited trails open Monday.

The Cedars of Lebanon, the resort's official Facebook group, posted pictures of a crowded mountaintoplodge Sunday and a dramatic shot of the slopes dissolving into the foggy clouds that often hang around Ehden and the Cedar reserve there.

At Mzr Sunday, slope patrolman Abdo Zgheib estimated that approximately a thousand people had purchased tickets for the slopes.

Ski instructor Bernadette Khalil was disappointed by the turnout.

"We were expecting much more," she told The Daily Star.

"We're in springtime, it's the end of the season. That's why people didn't come."

Still, the mood was light as many snow-deprived denizens enjoyed their first, and possibly last, runs of the season.

"I just got a chance to snowboard once this year. There wasn't any snow. It's been a weird winter," George Hakim said as he descended from the slopes, snowboard in hand.

While this season's weather has left much to be desired, the conditions Sunday at Mzr were decent, most said.

"On the slopes, it's not bad," George said. "But off the slopes, there's ice."

"It's been sunny for quite a few days, so it's a bit sticky. But you have to deal with it," Jad Chemaly said.

"It's spring skiing. ... It's a bit warm," said Ron Sayegh, founder of Skileb.com, which monitors snow conditions around Lebanon.

Many visitors, however, were unconcerned about the snow's quality. Near the closed lifts, adults smoked nargileh with music blasting from their cars as children sledded down nearby bunny hills.

Others cruised in all-terrain vehicles, leaving muddy tracks in the fast melting snowdrifts.

"We're not here to ski, just skidoo and drink," said Sara, gesturing to a bottle of rose wine packed in snow.

For those working in Mzr, the late season snowfall was desperately needed.

Peter Moughani, who works at a snowmobile rental operation, said Sunday was just the third day this season he could rent out machines. "We didn't have snow," he sighed.

However, nearly all his company's snowmobiles had been rented out Sunday.

The Daily Star was able to briefly contact Marc Aoun, who runs an ecotourism group and said he was busy leading a group of 70 on a snowshoe hike.

Many working and skiing at Mzr are concerned that the meager season is flickering fast.

"If it's warm, they will close after three days," Sayegh said.

According to Sayegh's website, Mzr had approximately 60 cm of snow Sunday.

As he left the ski slopes, George Nasser said he was sure Mazr would begin transitioning to the summer season in the coming weeks.

"It may last like one week, two weeks max," he said. "Hopefully, next season will be better."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Mar 18, 2014
Words:642
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