Afghanistan’s snowy hilltops now draw skiiing youngsters

Bamyan (Afghanistan), Jan 18 (IANS) When the Gunbadak hilltops are snow-capped, covering their usual mud and dust, dozens of children flock to the peak which lies 30 minutes away from Bamyan city, the capital of central Bamyan province, to enjoy skiing, a fun-filled pursuit not often associated with the conflict-ridden country.

Zahra Nuri, a 13-year-old girl, is one of more than four dozen skiers who regularly visit the Gunbadak hilltops once a week to improve her capability and proficiency at skiing.

Donning the right ski gear from head to toe and carrying all the necessary equipment and accessories — from eyewear and thermals to boots, bindings and poles — the young girl told Xinhua new agency that she absolutely loves skiing and enjoys hitting the slopes near Bamyan most Fridays, as they are a weekly holiday in Afghanistan.

“I have been learning to ski here for nearly a year and a half and my dream is to become a professional skier and to compete at international level and bring honour to Afghanistan,” the ambitious young skier said.

Located in Afghanistan’s highland region, the central Bamyan province is widely regarded as the most peaceful province in the insurgency-plagued country.

Taking advantage of the peaceful environment, the people of Bamyan have spared no efforts in developing their province and expanding in different fields to attract global investment for the region’s further development, said Mohammad Afzal Nuri, the head of the Ski Federation in Bamyan.

“Bamyan is not just peaceful, it’s wonderfully picturesque and is suitable for the development and promotion of all kinds of sports, including skiing,” Afzal Nuri told Xinhua, as dozens of happy skiers zig-zagged by.

Skiing is a relatively new sport in Afghanistan, arriving in Bamyan in just 2011, Afzal Nuri said.

“We started the federation here in Bamyan with the participation of 11 teenagers in 2011 and currently we cater to more than 150 boys and girls who are all members of the skiing club here and practice regularly to improve their skills and techniques,” Afzal Nuri explained.

The peaceful environment and convenient geographical location, as well as the great conditions on the snowy hilltops for skiing at this time of year, have seen the numbers of youngsters coming here to ski rise exponentially over the past few years.

So far, six skiing competitions have been held in Bamyan and the seventh competition is expected to be organised this year, the skiing federation chief said.

“Each Friday we come here in Gunbadak area to enjoy the snow and hone our skiing skills, techniques and professionalism as future skinning tournaments are approaching,” a young enthusiast, Nasrullah Adili, told Xinhua with a beaming smile, the snowy scenic backdrop reflected in the youngster’s goggles.