Ski challenge creates hope and enthusiasm among Afghans

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The second Afghan Ski Challenge last week.

In a country where circumstances of war have been the source of great disruption, an unusual mountain event has taken place and is largely responsible for generating a new breed of skiers in the mountains surrounding the Bamiyan valley of Afghanistan.

This area of the country which has remained untouched by the ongoing effects of the war, is the setting where proud Afghans came out of the woodwork to take part in the second edition of the Afghan Ski Challenge  on March 3rd.

On a pair of a borrowed hand crafted wood skis Khalil Rezahe climbed up almost half a kilometre and skied down an ungroomed mountain well before the handful of Europeans and Americans who travelled specifically for the event and was declared a champion with a $600 prize.

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Competitors taking a break.

The result of the race is transforming hopeful Afghans into skiers and driving them to test their skills in this event that has been put together by the Aga Khan Foundation and two Swiss journalists from the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

The overall area was largely untouched by the war but after the destruction of antique statues, the number of tourists shrank from about 150,000 per year to almost none and as a result formed the Bamiyan Ski Club and went on to create the challenge in this remote region of Afghanistan. The danger that continues to haunt this country keeps the peaks relatively pure from the skiers and snowboarders drool over its undiscovered snow conditions, “bowls’’ and ‘chutes’.

This year the race garnered more attention as the event enlisted its first Canadian sponsor, Arc’teryx.

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