Mountain skiing has emerged and its popularity is growing. We are far from ski resorts with ski lifts. However, a craze has been felt with a generation seeking new outdoor experiences and love for nature. A certain revival for discovery and life in the mountains on this island known for its lifestyle and its superb beaches. Both among Greeks and tourists from all over Europe.
The southernmost island of the European continent is seeing its tourist development year-round now. The pandemic has slowed the pace in 2020, but that does not prevent the next few years from being promising. The peaks of the snow-capped Mount Psiloritis and the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) south of Chania are attracting more and more interest as snow is found there from December to April. Accumulations of 4 to 5 meters of snow in the summits of these mountains which persist until the end of May on occasion.
The White Mountains are famous for their access to the famous Samaria Gorges from May to October to reach the sea in the south of the island. These Gorges are the longest in Europe and a main tourist attraction in Crete. Despite the hot and dry summer climate, western Crete has more rainfall per year than most parts of northern Europe. It may only rain 50 days a year but when it rains, it is in abundance!
You will not find established facilities for mountain skiing. Fairly rudimentary. The joy of living in its natural state. A movement has been underway for a few years. In fact, a young Greek from California, Constantine Papanicolaou is one of those who contributed to this new interest. He is an extreme ski film producer and in 2008 set out to document skiing in different regions of Greece, while reconnecting with his Greek roots. “Frozen Ambrosia” is his first film and I had the opportunity to see it first in Heraklion in 2017. Since then, a new production has been released in 2019 called “Crete Arising”, presenting the charms of an island endowed with three mountain ranges.
A mountain skiing event was created in 2014 and it is growing in popularity with each edition. “Pierra Creta” is the southernmost ski mountaineering event in Europe! The 2019 edition had more than 200 participants from all over Europe. It is a team ski mountaineering race that takes place every two years consisting of two routes with a vertical drop of between 900 and 1800 meters in altitude.
The village of Anogeia is the starting point of Pierra Creta giving access to Mount Psiloritis. After enjoying the mountain ski course, you will have the pleasure of going to the tavernas and cafes of the village to savor authentic dishes with local flavors and a few drinks of raki at the end of your meal. Nothing better to complete an extraordinary winter experience on an island that offers all its natural charms year round.
By Patrick Hadsipantelis