“To friends and skiing,” Simartenia Paraschaki hailed her cohorts, before clipping in and pointing her skis down a 3,500-foot vertical face of perfect corn.
Later, at Father Andreas’ house, which doubles as a taverna, a group of Livadia elders and local skiers debated the future of skiing on Crete. There will be work to do, Father Andreas conceded. For starters, they need public toilet facilities and better parking, he said.
“And lifts?” someone asked, which touched off a heated discussion.
“The experience of skiing Crete is about nature and about freedom, it should stay this way,” urged Dimitris Meliopolis, an instructor from Karpenissi on the mainland, who spends much of the winter and spring teaching and skiing on Crete. “If you want lifts, you can go to many other places.”
“And why would I?” Mr. Niktaris, the plumber and ski shop owner, chimed in. He has never skied anywhere but in the mountains behind his house. “It is so good right here.”
If you go:
You’ll need a knowledgeable ski guide, who knows the slopes on the island’s three mountain ranges, and, ideally, can also advise and organize other details: travel to Crete, hotels and transportation on the island. The Hellenic Mountain Guide Association
has almost two dozen mountain guides. Be sure to find one who skis and knows skiing on Crete.When to go:
Late February through March, and intro April. Local skiers are friendly and keen to share their love of skiing on Crete. The Pierra Creta ski race is as much a festival of Cretan ski and mountain culture as it is a competition, and would be a good time to visit. It is scheduled this year for the first weekend in March.Gear:
Bring everything you need. There’s a small ski shop in Livadia, with ski-touring setups, but selection is limited. If you have a layover in Athens, you will find several good ski shops. Klaoudatos
focuses on ski touring, with a knowledgeable staff and a complete lineup of skins, touring bindings and boots, maps and backcountry safety equipment for rent.Where to stay:
The harbor town of Chania, with dozens of hotel options, is a charming and convenient base, a short drive from the skiing in the Lefka Ori range. Some hotels close for parts of the winter and early spring. Chania’s historic, polished Domus Renier
remains open; double rooms with views of the harbor run about $170 a night. Close to the slopes around Psiloritis, the beautiful stone, wood and stucco Enagron
“eco village” in the traditional village of Axos, has sunny, cozy rooms and apartments, and delicious food in a dramatic valley setting.Travel tips:
You’ll need a good car or van. These can be rented on Crete or brought over on the ferry from Athens.