Skiers and snowboarders converge on the slopes of central Afghanistan


Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

The 4th Afghan Ski Challenge promotes winter sports in the mountains of Bamiyan, central Afghanistan. About 50 men and women skiers gathered at the Koh-e-Baba mountain range for the competition.

You may not expect a ski race in central Afghanistan. But Bamiyan Province has been holding March ski competitions since 2011, in an effort to promote skiing and tourism in the area.

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This year's Afghan Ski Challenge mainly attracted skiers, snowboarders and aspiring skiers from various parts of Afghanistan, along with a handful of international competitors from as far away as the US, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, France and the UK.

Kawoon Khamoosh, with the BBC's Persian service, traveled to the remote slopes of the Koh-e-Baba mountain range to take part in the competition. He said the skiers and snowboarders enjoyed clear blue skies and amazing mountain views this year. And while there was plenty of enthusiasm, there were no lifts anywhere in sight.

So everybody hiked up the slopes to get to the top, skis and snowboards in tow. As if to prove that this isn't quite Olympic-level competition, many of the racers turned up in everyday clothing.

Alishah Farhang was the first place finisher in the main race. "I tried hard to achieve this," Farhang said as he stood on the modest winner's podium.  

Khamoosh said it was his first time skiing in Bamiyan — or anywhere, for that matter. He flew into Kabul because Bamiyan is quite remote. Add to that the danger of driving the roads leading from Kabul to Bamiyan, where insurgents and Taliban can stop cars, looking for anything that might bother them.

But the event, he added, felt safe — especially since the slopes were guarded by armed policemen.

Skiing remains a foreign concept for most Afghans. And it's wildly expensive. But the Afghan Ski Challenge is introducing more people to the sport. And Khamoosh said the event was a success, judging from the smiles on the faces of the skiers who made it to Bamiyan this year.

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    The Afghan Ski Challenge attracts seasoned skiers, amateurs and even some total novices with homemade wooden skis.

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    The day begins with a long climb up to the top of the mountain, because there are no lifts.

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    This skier at the 2014 Afghan Ski Challenge knows a little about how it's done.

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    Afghan women wait, ready to take to the slopes on Day 2 of the Afghan Ski Challenge

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    Lots of fresh powder awaits the skiers.

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    Credit: Kawoon Khamoosh/BBC Persian

    Spectators gather at the finish line of the 2014 Afghan Ski Challenge, in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan