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
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.