On our first day in Lebanon we heard about this guy named Johnny. Some locals stopped us mid-run and said we had to meet this guy. They said it’s a small mountain and we’d run into him soon enough. Sure thing, next run we met Johnny. We hung out with him and his homies every day after that. They showed us around the mountain, showed us some of Lebanon’s best restaurants, and also showed us one hell of a time at the bar on our last night.
Johnny is basically the ambassador of snowboarding in Lebanon. He runs a snowboard shop in Beirut and an ill apres spot across from the resort. He was a friend from the moment we met and I’ll bet he’d extend the same hospitality to you when you visit. And you should.
How would you describe snowboarding in Lebanon? What's the terrain like? What's the snow like?
Well the snow fall starts in Lebanon from mid Nov till March; resorts open around mid Dec till end of Easter holidays. The most popular resort is easily accessible from the capital Beirut with over 15 lifts and a 500m vertical, from 2400m to 1900m with lots of wind lips, cornices and natural bowls. Further north is the second biggest resort with 800m vertical from 2800m to 2000m, sick riding with fresh powder but not as varied as the other resort. Fresh snow is kinda heavy but super sweet and quality varies with the weather conditions, one day you'd be riding with the most technical gear on and the day after a lightweight flannel will do. Something worth mentioning is the "huge" potential in the "back country", all on a small scale and almost avalanche risk free, that's where we spend most of our time, it's kinda of a natural freestyle park.
How have you seen the snowboarding scene change in Lebanon? What's the biggest change? What hasn't changed at all?
A lot of kids are into freestyle but the general view toward our sport hasn't changed at all, you see in Lebanese (Arabic dialect) we say "badeh elaab aal snowboard" translated it means "I wanna PLAY on a snowboard" so for the elders it's a fun game, of course it is, but there's no local respect or support unless big money is involved and it's kinda of a promotion for some big sponsors (not related to the sport). So the level of the local riders hasn't changed at all but there's a huge potential in the kids.
We've been committed to pushing the level of riding and supporting the sport, from the first Slope style event in 2008 to investing into a BigAirBag and attempting to tour the resorts, we were welcomed in one, the others wanted us to pay them to set it up, and now the first indoor park with an artificial ramp for snowboarding that lands on the BAB and a box for skateboarding all of this funded by our own money and with the support of many core riders. Next season we're planning a Leb Tour to promote snowboarding.
Is snowboarding growing in Lebanon?
Well the number of riders has risen big time in the last few years and it's still on the rise, nowadays you gotta get up really early to catch the first virgin pow lines, some boys hike up before the lifts open.
What's the biggest challenge about being a snowboarder in Lebanon? What's the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge would be to be able to live your passion and make a living doin it, some riders live off giving few lessons during the season to afford lift tickets and some grub. The biggest reward is the close distance of the snow covered terrain and the natural bowls (our park) though small but super sweet…oh yeah and there's no snow patroller that can catch up with us…hahhahaha.
How often do you see other snowboarders visiting from the US or Europe?
Oof (Lebanese expression), very often…
It seems like people in Lebanon put a lot of value on recreation, do you think this is true? And if so why do you think this is the case?
Yeah we do and I guess 'cause we like being out and active plus there's a lot to do in the Leb…
Would you encourage snowboarders to come visit Lebanon?
Hell yeah…the terrain is small but varied and Lebanon definitely has something different to offer from being on the slopes and 45mins later you're in the capital's busiest night life streets, to ancient historical ruins (Baalbek, Byblos…) and it's all mixed in a unique Leb culture (really it's unique I'm not bias…maybe a li'l), oof…plus the Lebanese food rrrrrrrocks.
What'd you think of Nick, Jarad, and Louif?
What do you mean??? I'm not gay!!! Then again….hahahah. They're super awesome guys, from the moment we met on the slopes you could tell they're down to earth though they were stomping huge tricks, plus it was amazing to see how they looked at the terrain from a different angle…it really opens our eyes to appreciate more what we've got.
Where can people find out about your shop?
Seriously? You're gonna shout that??? Sweet… log onto www.CIRCL8.com or go to CIRCL8 on Facebook.com groups
If you're in Lebanon give us a buzz on +961 (3) 007 346 or drop by:
CIRCL8 shop, Blom Bank center, Jeita Grotto exit, Zouk Mosbeh, Kesrwan, Lebanon
Be sure to check out the January Issue of TranWorld for the full-story on Lebanon