BEIRUT (Reuters) – Skiing in Lebanon has long been a luxury for the well-off, but the eastern Mediterranean country’s financial meltdown has thrown most people into poverty and made taking to the slopes even more exclusive.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019.
“Skiing is a hobby for the dollar class, not for us,” said Mohammad Atwi on a recent visit to the mountains. “We came here to sit and have shisha. The most we spend is 200,000 pounds ($10).”
Prices for ski passes at the Mzaar ski resort, which boasts panoramic views over the Mediterranean, are listed in dollars in a country where the vast majority earn in pounds.
An all-day pass runs at $35 on weekdays and $50 at weekends, according to a website listing prices. That equates to between 700,000 and a million pounds – more than the current monthly minimum wage and a sizeable chunk of an average salary.
Lebanon is mired in its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, with banks imposing tight restrictions on how much cash savers can withdraw, forcing even those with money to think more carefully before they spend.
Still, the slopes are packed at weekends with those who can afford it.
“Skiing has become expensive, especially if you have many kids, but at the end we want to live,” said Delphine Markarian as she walked through the snow with skis strapped to her back.
“When the weather is nice like this, you ski with your children, they enjoy it and that is what we look for – an experience to be happy with our children. That’s the most important thing.”
(Reporting by Issam Abdallah; Writing by Timour Azhari; Editing by Nick Macfie)