Peak Conditions: Mount Hermon Celebrates 50 Years Of Activity

In winter, the news that snow has accumulated on Mount Hermon is cause for celebration.

Cars packed with eager skiers, snowboarders and people looking to play in the fresh white powder will head up the winding roads of the Golan Heights to the northernmost and highest point of Israel, as soon as the news arrives that it’s snowing. the mountain.

“We are finally open for the snow season and it’s great. I am very happy to see all the people come to Mount Hermon ”, Refael Nave, CEO of the Mount Hermon Ski Resorthe tells NoCamels. “I grew up here and yet every time the first snow comes, it’s a pleasure to see it and the adrenaline starts to pump.”

The Carmel winter storm, which hit Israel this week and brought a month’s worth of rain in just a few days, also gifted about 25cm of snow accumulation to the bottom of the Hermon complex, prompting the site to announce its Opening December 23 for sleigh rides and other activities.

Cable car on Mount Hermon. Photo by Dvir Lahar.

In the first four hours of the site opening Thursday, about 2,000 visitors had come to play in the snow, Nave tells NoCamels.

While for people outside of Israel, reading about an accumulation of two dozen centimeters of snow may not seem like a big problem, in Israel, Mount Hermon is the only ski resort in this country where more than half of the surface total terrestrial is a true desert. .

Indeed, this week’s opening of the Hermon site to winter visitors was cause for celebration. And next week, Monday, December 27, there is an even greater reason to celebrate: Mount Hermon is marking 50 years of activity.

History of Mount Hermon
Visitors to Mount Hermon in 1971. Courtesy of Golan Archives.

“Fifty years of activity means a lot to those who know the history of the site,” says Nave.

The Mount Hermon site was first opened to the public on December 27, 1971. It opened as the first and only ski resort, which it still is, when skiing was a hobby few Israelis knew or shared. Today, the 600-acre site is home to about 450,000 total visitors, of them about 50,000 skiers / snowboarders.

The ski season in Israel is short, usually around 50 days. When there is enough snow on the mountain, there are 45 kilometers of trails to choose from, 11 chair lifts and T-bars, a ski school, a roller coaster, cable car and options for sledding.

Mount Hermon 1971
Mount Hermon in 1971. Courtesy of Golan Archives

In 2019, the site, which rises to an altitude of 2,040 meters above sea level, inaugurated a new ski lift.

“The dedication of the new ski lift closed in 2019 was one of my favorite memories and a personal achievement that meant we are here to stay,” says Nave, who grew up in the alpine-style community of Neve Ativ on the mountain slopes.

“We are not Europe,” says Nave, fully aware that any comparison with a ski resort in the Alps or the Dolomites would be ridiculous. “But this is a tourist site with so many activities, it is a tourist destination for locals and foreigners.”

mount hermon
Skiing on Mount Hermon. Photo by Shai Kedar.

In fact, Mount Hermon is one of the unique tourist sites in the country, attracting local and international tourists alike. And while it started out as a winter activity destination, it’s much more than just a quirky ski hill in the Middle East.

“The Golan Heights and Mount Hermon provide an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in Israel,” says Elisa Moed, CEO and founder of the travel agency. Traveluya. “I love the tranquility and nature [particularly the hiking] and it makes me feel at peace. The mountains and lookouts … the wine and vineyards, the waterfalls, the unique and tasty Druze food at Majdal Shams at the base of the mountain, and the Jewish, Christian and Islamic history found in the area, just toast the perfect opportunity for an adventure that leaves you satisfied and happy at the end of the day. ”

“In recent years, especially, we have invested a lot in the Hermon as a year-round destination,” says Nave. “Everybody knows this is a local ski site. But this mountain has many other options and we are adding new activities all the time. When a family arrives in this area, there is a full day of activities waiting for them. This is a tourist destination and there are many reasons to come here ”.

When the snow melts, a new tourist season of activities awakens at the top of the mountain, with its incredible views of the Golan Heights, Syria, Lebanon, Galilee and the Hula Valley.

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Extreme sledding on Mount Hermon. Photo by Dvir Lahar

There are plenty of trails for walking, walking, and biking. An alpine roller coaster with thrills for anyone to ride. There are dry tubing and karting activities for family fun. Ornithology fans and nature lovers will also enjoy the distinctive flora and fauna. Here you can see the Syrian serin (a brightly colored finch) and the horned lark, which nest on the ground. Watch out for the Lebanon Viper. And prepare to be impressed by the turkey oak or the pretty mountain horned poppy.

“There are so many treasures that have yet to be fully explored,” says Moed.

Tourist sites around the world have had to reinvent themselves in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mount Hermon has also adapted.

Now it is essential to pre-book a visit to the site. Nave says this measure has helped reduce waiting time and reduce queues.

“In the next 10 years, we have plans to build a hotel on the site, create additional ski slopes, and generally double the activity area,” he says.

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The Mount Hermon cable cars operate during all seasons. Photo by Shai Kedar.

Additionally, Nave and her team left for the US last year to meet with travel agents and leaders of the Jewish community to “promote the idea of ​​Hermon as a tourist site” and secure a visit to Mount Hermon as a destination. a must see. travel checklist when visiting Israel.

“We are a center of attractions for anyone visiting northern Israel,” Nave tells NoCamels. “We hope that once the borders are open for tourism again, more people will come to visit this unique site.”

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