Israelis flood Hermon as ski season begins

Thousands of people went to the slopes of Mount Hermon as the ski season began.

 Israelis flooded the Hermon Friday (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Israelis flooded the Hermon Friday
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

Thousands of people flooded the slopes of Mount Hermon on Friday as the ski season began on the mountain which overlooks the Sea of Galilee and the Golan. The large winter storm Barbara had dumped several inches of powdery snow on the peaks that tower over Majdal Shams, the Druze town on the Golan that is synonymous with winter sports.

When the short ski season begins, it is crowded on the mountain during the weekend. This Friday was no different. There are different theories about the best way to get to the mountain on time, braving the endless traffic that tends to clog up Majdal Shams. Last year, we slept in one of the Druze towns in the Golan and got up at five in the morning to go wait in line to enter the Hermon site. There is a gate at the bottom of the road that ascends the site and is located above Majdal Shams.

This year's trip

This year we drove from Jerusalem, also getting up at five in the morning, but arriving around 9:30am. This was, in some ways, ideal because the morning crowds had already got in, but you still have to wait. We ordered our passes ahead of time online, as you need to do. We rented our ski equipment from a store in the town, rather than at the site. The cost comes to around 400 NIS. You also have to pay for the ski day pass which is around 280NIS. There are lots of options for kids as well, to go sledding and play in the snow. It’s possible to play in the snow in Majdal Shams without going through the endless traffic to the mountain.

The ski slopes are open until around 4 in the afternoon, and if you wait until then to leave you’ll also run into a lot of traffic leaving. Buses take people from their cars to the actual site itself.

The Hermon is a kind of winter wonderland when it snows. The sides of the mountain are pristine and untrammeled. There are rocky outcroppings and short trees dotting the mountain. The actual ski slopes include at least one easy slope for beginners and then two cable cars to routes higher up. There is also a little hut mid-way down the slopes where one can buy beer and sometimes bits of food. When we were there, they were out of food but at the base of the ski area, where the lifts begin, there is a nice cafe, places to buy food, rent gear and buy souvenirs. 

Seth Frantzman at the Hermon. (credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)Seth Frantzman at the Hermon. (credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

Overall the Hermon is always a unique experience, because it is so other worldly from the rest of Israel, this little alpine area that is at the very northeast of the country on the Syrian border. 

The site isn’t open that often. When the weather heats up after a storm, the snow quickly begins to melt so conditions can be intermittent, either storms or some snow.  The verdict this Friday was that the conditions were very good. Some of those we spoke to on the bus thought the fresh snow was superior to their experiences in Europe. Considering the limited options here for winter activity, that’s not a bad verdict.