Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Despite billions of dollars in international aid since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, the province is still one of the poorest in the country, with crops such as wheat and potatoes providing much of the population’s income.
The organizers and backers of the skiing project hope that the province’s slopes could lure tourists back to the region.
Skiing is not new to Afghanistan. Before the Soviets invaded, male students at Kabul University and foreigners had several ski clubs close to the national capital.
Additionally, local people already have the required fitness for skiing thanks to a lifetime of walking their animals up mountainsides to graze or working in the fields.
And other locals share in the enthusiasm. ‘It is a fun sport for the boys and at the same time it is a career through which one can learn and earn money,’ said 14-year-old Murtaza Jahfari. ‘I want to become a ski guide and make money.’
But formidable challenges lie ahead.
Bamiyan itself is one of the country’s safest provinces. But the possibility of deteriorating security in other areas spreading there weighs heavily on the war-weary population.
Memories are fresh of how their region was almost destroyed during the civil war and influx of Taliban fighters after the Soviet-backed regime fell in 1992.
There are no commercial flights to Bamiyan, and the two main roads linking Kabul to the province are vulnerable to robbery and insurgent attacks, leaving the handful of tourists reliant on flights operated by the United Nations and some Western embassies.
In the absence of chairlifts, synthetic seal-skin is attacked to the underside of the skis, allowing skiers to walk uphill – an old-school but exhausting technique that could be offputting to some leisure-seekers.