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Ski Afghanistan @ 2nd International Ski Competition

Updated on March 6, 2012
Koh-e-Bah mountain and lower elevations in western Afghanistan
Koh-e-Bah mountain and lower elevations in western Afghanistan
Ski instruction at Afghanistan's ski competition
Ski instruction at Afghanistan's ski competition
Climbing Koh-e-bah
Climbing Koh-e-bah
Typical village
Typical village
Western Afghanis
Western Afghanis
Afghan's 2nd Ski Competition
Afghan's 2nd Ski Competition
Afghan improvised skis
Afghan improvised skis
The finish line and ski resort
The finish line and ski resort
Afghan ski competitor
Afghan ski competitor

I know. You thought there was a deadly war there. There is....but....there is skiing also. Skiing is truly a forgotten sport there because of the decades of war since 1980. First the Soviets, then then the Taliban, now the Americans. Prior to 1980, there had been skiing in Afghanistan and why not? Kabul is near huge, snowy mountains that easily equal renowned ski resorts at Tahoe or Sun Valley. Back then, in the 1960-70's, mostly foreign diplomats skied at Chowk-e-Arghandeh mountain, about 30 minutes south of Kabul. The ski lift consisted of two rope tows that dragged you to 2000 near vertical approach to a small stone ski lodge. That was it. Kabul was a far different place, full of hippies looking for hash and weed, local women preferred miniskirts than the burqa. It was a cool place-backwards, but cool. When the Soviets invaded in 1979, decades of war began and skiing became a "forgotten" sport.

It was not until 2009, that old-timers, who loved it, wanted to bring it back as those who were 20 or younger had never heard of this Western sport. That is when the Aga Khan Foundation, led by Shiite govenor, Habiba Sarabi of Bamiyan Province, decided to bring the sport back to life to a generation they knew nothing about it. The motive for it was simply to make money during the winter months and the new ski spot selected was the Koh-e-Baba Mountain (1500 ft).

Bamiyan Province is not really an ideal spot for this industry. The Taliban control the the roads to it to collect tolls, while its small villages and towns have no electricity and the cold is kept out using dung-fuel heaters. Comforts are nil. Houses could not be more rudimentary. Despite this, the area is safe and oddly attracts vacationers from Kabul (those who truly like to rough it). It is about 180 km west of Kabul. The ski run is a easy run of 7 km long.

Once the local authorities had decided to bring back the sport, it was a Swiss skier and journalist, Zurcher, who tried to create interest by having the first ski competition in 2010, which by all accounts appeared to be a disaster. Zurcher even used $5000 of his own money to sponser it (i.e., pay several peddlers to learn skiing). Training these wannabes lasted a month and perks included free lunch and cigarettes. The competition can be viewed akin to The Beatles skiing down the Alps in their 1965 movie, Help! (huh, you get the picture-crazy). Zurcher felt it had been a total waste of money.

Not so. The ski bug had bitten the young Afghans who had no clue about the "lost" sport. word spread and soon, Zurcher, had companies wanting to sponser the 2nd Ski Competition, such as, Swiss watchmaker, Tissot. Afghan teens, who had not skis, made their own using flattened tin cans and nailing them on wooden planks and using rope to tie their shoes to them. Not exactly a ski, but, high on interest.

The 2nd Afghan Ski Competition had 15 competitors, all had two months of training before the race. The winner was Khalil Reza, a 19 yr. old potato farmer, who received a trophy, a $745 Tissot watch and $650 Gore-Tex jacket. In second place was Ali Farhang, another teen farmer who got the ski bug when three foreigners skied into his village. He learned and is now on of Afghanistan's best ski guides. Several teen girls also got on the slope and also participated in the race.

Oh, forgot to tell you that all of the competitors had to climb up the 1500 ft. slope on foot, carrying their poles and skis. No lifts there.


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    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      This is generally a "safe" area LOL

    • ZandaDee profile image


      6 years ago from Sydney

      Great hub, I had never really considered skiing as a possibilty in Afghanistan. Hopefully the fighting stops, so we can focus on more important stuff like skiing!


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