Naltar: A cradle of winter sports in Pakistan

F.P. Report

NALTAR: Mother Nature has blessed Pakistan with the loftiest mountain ranges that proudly present eight of the world’s tallest peaks. The abode of these magnificent mountains is known as Gilgit Baltistan which is famous for snow peaked mountains and enchanting valleys. Situated in the majestic Karakoram Range is the jewel in the crown of Gilgit Baltistan, the captivating valley of Naltar. This spectacular and picturesque valley is indeed a heaven on earth, famous for its Turquoise coloured lake, entrancing pine trees and tastiest potatoes. It has as an elevation of fifteen thousand feet and is connected with Gilgit by a 40 Km long jeepable road. The journey leaves tourists spellbound as it offers breath taking scenes on its way up to this enchanting resort.

Naltar would have been a hidden treasure for ages, had it not been selected by Pakistan Air Force as a winter sports resort. Pakistan Air Force started snow survival training of its aircrew at Naltar in 1958. Skiing gained popularity among the locals and PAF decided to harness the hidden talent of the local youth for this exhilarating winter sport.  Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan (formerly known as Ski Federation of Pakistan) was formed in 1990 and the facility was offered to other departments and organizations. Pakistan Air Force started patronizing the budding skiers of this remote area and they were inducted in PAF as sportsman to alleviate their financial constraints. WSFP, under the auspices of Pakistan Air Force selects talented youth for this winter sport and provides them equipment and proper coaching.

They are not only trained within the country but also sent abroad for training with the best skiers of the world. The Valley has also produced talented skiers such as Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Karim. The duo brought laurels to the country when Abbas made history by representing Pakistan in 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver, Canada, while Karim carried the national flag in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Women folk of the area have an inherent talent of Skiing as well and Wali sisters have proved it by bringing Gold and Silver Models in the South Asian Winter Games in 2011.

Infrastructure development of this area in general and Naltar Ski resort in particular has remained paramount for the Pakistan Air Force. It has initiated various welfare projects for the children of this area, including free of cost education and ski training. Moreover, a new chairlift has also been acquired from Switzerland to make it a world class Ski slope. WSFP has also procured a Snow-Making machine to make it less dependent on snowfall in the area. Installation of this chairlift and the procurement of snow making machine has made it an international standard Ski Resort, equipped with facilities and amenities, comparable with any winter sport destination across the globe.

This year, Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan has chalked out an elaborate calendar of events for the season. Some exhilarating winter sports have already been conducted at the picturesque resort including Saadia Khan & Children Ski Cup and Inter Varsity Ski Championships for men and women. Another important event was the introduction of Figure Skating for the first time in history of Pakistan. Eleven Year old Girl, Mallak from Dubai showcased some extremely elegant and swift moves in the ring, surprising the audience with her superb performance. WSFP also plans to open a full scale indoor Simulator in Karachi to facilitate the Skiers and Enthusiasts from Southern chapter and develop ice skating rings over all the frozen lakes in Gilgit, Skardu and KPK region.

The cherry on the cake was the convergence of 38 international skiers from all over the world on the mighty Karakoram mountain ranges, who participated in different categories of international ski races at the picturesque PAF Ski Resort Naltar (Gilgit). It was indeed be a landmark event as high ranking international skiers from twelve countries including Greece, Afghanistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan participated in the FIS races on the slopes of enchanting ski resort. These athletes took part in the races in slalom and giant slalom categories of CAS International Karakoram Alpine Ski Cup. Top national skiers from various regions and ski associations of the country were also seen in action on the treacherous slopes of Naltar Ski resort. Competing in the FIS races against the highly ranked skiers of the world offered them an excellent opportunity to Pakistani athletes to showcase their talent at international level and learn from their competitors’ experience.  Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan, in collaboration with Pakistan Air Force is earnestly working for the promotion of winter sports in the country and holding such events would not only boost the tourism industry in the magnificent mountains and valleys in the Northern areas of Pakistan but also help in projecting a positive image of the country all over the world.