Skiing In Greece

Feature by Willard Manus

Skiing in Greece has come of age. Thanks to the development of the Mt. Parnassus ski center, the sport now attracts not just Greeks but Europeans and even some Americans.
Mt. Parnassus is located about two hours north of Athens, not far from the famed tourist site of Delphi. Standing at an altitude of 2200m., Parnassus is the home of the Homeric gods and their mythological intrigues. Not only does it have undying beauty and history, it catches snow from November to April. While the skiing here will never be in the same league as the Alps--there are no breathtaking runs to compare with, say, the six-mile-long Courmayeur-Zermatt downhill route on the French-Swiss border--much good sport can be enjoyed here.

There are several steep (but short) runs that even an expert skier will find challenging. The other trails, though, have been designed with intermediates and beginners in mind. Here, on these wide, gently sloping flanks of the mountain, both adults and kids can schuss and slalom the day away without fear or stress. Mt. Parnassus is a family-friendly ski resort.

There are many other unique things about skiing on Parnassus. First and foremost is its intimacy. A typical weekend day might find perhaps five hundred people on the slopes. That means no traffic jams at the lifts or on the trails; the mountain feels as if it belongs to you. The prices are congenial as well, about a third of what one would pay at such trendy ski resorts as Kitzbuhel and Courmayeur.

Then there is the weather. It snows mostly at night on Parnassus, followed by warm sunshine during the day. This often means being able to ski on light, crispy snow while clad in jeans and a T-shirt.

The Greek National Tourist Organization operates the Mt. Parnassus ski resort, which includes a restaurant, snack bar, ski shop and terrace. The view is superb from the terrace: one can see all the way across the Pindus mountains to the Gulf of Corinth. Many Greeks spend the day up here, eschewing skiing in favor of games of backgammon and cards.

With the beaches of Corinth only half an hour away, some Greek and European travel agencies sell Parnassus with advertising slogans like "Snow ski in the morning, Water ski in the afternoon."

As for Mt. Parnassus's apres-ski life, it takes place in the nearby towns of Delphi, Arachova, Amfiklia, Polydrosso and Agoriana. Hotels, pensions and studio apartments abound; bars, discos and boutique shops as well.

When it comes to dining, there are innumerable small, wood-burning tavernas where the ambience is relaxed and friendly, the cuisine indigenous. Game (mostly pheasant and partridge) is a local specialty; it is served with side dishes of beans and vegetables, retsina out of the barrel, chunks of brown bread, apples as big and red as a Dutch girl's face. And all the while, a musician plunks away soulfully on a bouzouki.

That's what skiing on Mt. Parnassus is like. It's truly an experience fit for the Gods.