Israel has one ski area located on the 9,232 foot Mount Hermon, the northernmost point in Israel. The Israelis we spoke with were very free with their opinions about how small and crowded the ski area is. We decided to give it a try anyway, just for the novelty. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised!
We can only surmise that Israelis must be comparing it to the Alps. The Hermon is comparably much smaller. But when compared to New England skiing, it’s of similar size but with far better terrain.
Does this look like Israel?
We drove up on Saturday afternoon. It’s about a 2:45 drive from Ra’anana.
We rented our equipment that afternoon so that we’d be ready to
roll ski first thing Sunday morning. The inside of the lodge was dated, but really not bad.
And the rental equipment was plenty adequate for the day. They even rent ski clothing (jackets, pants, etc.) which I suppose makes sense in Israel.
We spent the night at a rustic but charming lodge close to the ski area. Next morning, up we went!
Danielle skiing in the French Alps compared with Danielle skiing in Israel. These two photos don’t look radically different:
Right next to the top of several chairlifts were military bunkers and look-out posts. These served as stark reminders of where we were. Mount Hermon is located right on Israel’s border with both Lebanon and Syria. One can clearly look directly into both of those countries from virtually anywhere on the mountain. As a result, the area is closely monitored. There is a dedicated IDF Alpine Unit specifically assigned to the region. The unit consists of reserve soldiers who, during their active duty, served in elite infantry units. It did seem strange to see soldiers dressed in white army fatigues skiing alongside us with machine guns strapped over their shoulders!
Skiers enjoying lunch on the deck of the base lodge and another Alpine Unit soldier keeping us all safe.
Regarding crowds, the ski lifts and trails were empty. There were usually 4-5 empty chairs between us and other lift riders. And we were often the only skiers on our section of trail.
In Israel, Sunday is considered the first day of the week (like Monday in the US). So most people are back at work and the kids back at school. In fact, our kids’ school may be the only school in all of Israel that has off Saturdays and Sundays. Those looking for an extended weekend are far more likely to take off Friday and Saturday than they are Saturday and Sunday. This has provided a nice benefit for us when we travel within Israel as popular sites are often quite empty on Sundays.
There were still many visitors that day. However, only about one third were there to ski or snowboard. The majority were there to play in the snow and enjoy the many other winter activities offered such as sledding, tubing and a mountain coaster (like an alpine slide). They even have a dedicated chairlift for non-skiers that want to hike and play in one of the large snow-filled “bowls” at the top of the mountain.
A view below of the base lodge area from the chairlift and a pic of families playing in the snow in front of lodge:
This experience was another reminder of the incredibly diverse climate within this tiny country. Thirty minutes after leaving the ski resort we were already driving alongside tropical palm trees. The kids all wore shorts to school the next day as temperatures hit nearly 80 degrees Monday in Ra’anana. Israel is one of only a few places in the world were you can quite easily ski in the morning and spend the afternoon at the beach.
Such an amazing place with so much to offer.