Let it Snow
Living in the Middle East needn’t mean missing your annual ski holiday, or forking out for plane tickets back to Europe. We’ve tracked down the top local spots to feed
Previously Faraya Mzaar, now simply Mzaar, this Lebanese resort is an open secret among Dubai’s winter sports fans. Great skiing, gorgeous scenery and fantastic nightlife make it a popular spot for a weekend break, and it’s only an hour from Beirut.
Stay: The five-star Mzaar InterContinental (intercontinental.com) has a ski lift thatwhisks you right on to the slopes. But if you can’t stretch to the luxury option (as you’ve blown all of your money on Christmas pressies) there are plenty of three and four star hotels in town. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Eat: The options are endless, with everything from traditional Lebanese classics to sushi available in the resort. For something traditionally wintery, we love the fondue at Le Montagnou (montagnou.com).
Party: Head to Igloo in Mzaar for the kind of Beirut-style partying that could ruin your skiing the next day. Don’t worry, they serve food too.
Good For: Beginners right through to intermediate skiers will be happy here.
Ski Pass: From Dhs130 a day.
When To Go: Mid-January to mid-March is best.
Fly: Go for Emirates (emirates. com) or FlyDubai (flydubai. com), prices start from Dhs900 return.
Turkey: Uludag, Bursa
Uludag is the Marmite of ski resorts – you’ll either love it or hate it. But it’s still one of Turkey’s most popular spots. Beautiful scenery and great family skiing, combined with the handy location that’s not far from Istanbul, it’s a great spot to try when you’re based in the GCC.
Stay: Try Le Chalet Yazici Uludag (grandyazicihotels.com) that’s right in the middle of Uludag National Park. This small hotel manages to squeeze a restaurant, a night club, a ski school and sauna within its four walls. But the biggest selling point of this venue is that you can ski from the back door right on to the slopes. Email info-uludag @ grandyazici.com for the latest prices.
Eat: All of the hotels in the area are fullboard. Le Chalet Yazici’s restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes that are sure to tempt your tastebuds. Spend your lunch hour on the hotel’s terrace catching some rays, then spend the evening carb-loading in the restaurant while swapping tales of your adventures.
Party: Again, everyone seems to stick to their own hotels. Luckily, yours has a nightclub, so you’re all set if you fancy a late night.
Good For: All levels of skiing.
Ski Pass: Around Dhs30 a day.
When To Go: December to April.
Fly: Fly to Istanbul with FlyDubai (flydubai.com) from Dhs900, then hire a car for the three-hour drive to this mountain resort.
Powder, powder and more powder… If you love your skiing, this is the place to go. Okay, the night life is non-existent and the trip from Tehran to the mountains is scarier than a ride on the Jumeirah Sceirah at Wild Wadi, but the trip is more than worth it. Two other things to note: you’ll need to throw a beanie or headscarf in your bag – as you must keep your head covered at all times if you’re female – and forget about using your foreign credit card here. They only take Iranian cards or US dollars, as the SHAPE team found out.
Stay: There are only two hotels and a couple of chalets in Dizin. We’d recommend the Dizin 1st hotel - just beware of the ‘local’ and ‘tourist’ rates, if you’re not booking through an agent. As you’d expect, the latter are much higher, so be prepared to bargain. Expect to pay around Dhs300 a night for a double room (persianvoyages.com).
Eat: There are five restaurants in town. The food’s not great, but it’s perfectly adequate after a hard day on the pistes.
Party: This is Iran, so there’s not much of a nightlife scene and definitely nodrinking. On the plus side, you’ll never be cloudy-headed on the slopes.
Good For: From beginners right through to advanced. There isn’t a board park, but there is a half-pipe and plenty of snowboarders can be found on the slopes.
Ski Pass: Dhs75 a day.
When To Go: November-March.
Fly: Emirates fly direct to Tehran from Dhs2,105 (emirates.com). It takes around and hour and a half. You can then hire a car and drive the two-hour journey to Dizin or jump on a coach (seirosafar.com).
Described as the top spot to ski in the Himalayas, Gulmarg is the place that should be on any skiers hit list. Gorgeous views, snow to die for, and only a short flight from the UAE via Delhi. It’s still a relatively new spot – the resort’s only been popular for five or six-years – so don’t expect party-central, just topnotch snow and reasonable prices.
Stay: Take your ski bag to the Hotel Highlands Park (nivalink.com), for a bitof post-colonial luxury. It’s right next to the local gondola so you can save yourself that early morning walk. Prices start from Dhs662 a night full-board.
Eat: It’s best to eat in the hotel, after a long day on the slopes. The food’s not half-bad, with plenty of healthy options, and the views are breathtaking.
Party: It’s not the place to party. Enjoy a nightcap and admire the beautiful scenery instead.
Good For: All levels, except for young children.
Ski Pass: Dhs500 for the week.
When To Go: January to March.
Fly: Qatar Airways fly to Srinagar via Delhi (qatarairways.com).
Russia: Krasnaya Polyana
Shortly to be home to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Krasnaya is Russia’s top ski resort and close enough to Dubai for a mini-break. It’s quite a pricey spot, but the pistes are well-maintained and the après-ski is pretty impressive.
Stay: There’s a Radisson SAS Peak, if you want luxury. Otherwise, you can grab a three-star spot, like Rodnik for around Dhs300 a night (booking.com).
Eat: Try traditional Russian dishes at Ivan-da-Marya in the Peak Hotel (booking.com).
Party: Munchhausen is a popular après-ski spot, if you fancy a Russian style evening. Luckily, they serve food too, so you shouldn’t be too bleary-eyed in the morning.
Good For: Good for all levels and great for snowboarders too.
Ski Pass: Dhs100 a day.
When To Go: December to March.
Fly: Flights to Sochi via Moscow with Emirates from Dhs3,600 (emirates.com) and then on with Aeroflot (aeroflot.com).