New Aurora of Winter Sports in Pakistan

From deep sea ports to fertile plains, from the scorching hot deserts to snow covered heaven touching peaks and rushing ice cold streams, Pakistan is a land of Wonders which offers this soul touching nature round the year. The captivating landscape and the overwhelming hospitality offered by its residents makes it a dream destination for tourists from every nook and corner of the world. Pakistan is home to three of the highest mountain ranges in the world boasting five of the world’s highest peaks. Pakistan is a sports loving nation, and its players have brought laurels to the country in various sports such as Cricket, Squash and Hockey. Apart from these games, winter sports are getting popular among the youth, particularly in the mountainous region of this beautiful land.

Pakistan Air Force, other than its operational responsibilities also actively participates in Nation Building as well as promotion of sports in the country. PAF has been assigned the responsibility of organizing Winter Sports on national and international level. At present 4 ski setups are working in Pakistan; Naltar and Malam Jabba are packed with state of the art international facilities while those at Rattu & Kalabagh are learning facilities at a smaller scale.

 Close to the meeting point of Karakoram and Hindukush, and some three hour uphill drive from Gilgit city, lies Naltar valley, the birth place of all winter sports in Pakistan. It was back in 1958 when Pakistan Air Force decided to set up a Snow Survival School in Naltar Valley. Flight Lieutenant Shah Khan, who was given the responsibility to establish this school, introduced ski in its syllabus. Soon after, the locals started using improvised wooden skis after seeing PAF Officers practicing on slope. After getting the state of the art equipment and latest ski lift in 1962, competitions between civil & military teams became regular feature at this venue. PAF started to nurture the young skiers in this sport as well as provided them with education and jobs. Eventually this effort started to payback in 2010, when Mr Abbas a PAF employee participated in 2010 Winter Olympics making him the 1st ever Pakistani to participate in this prestigious event. Mr Abdul Kareem another PAF employee brought laurels to the country by carrying the national flag in 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Established under the patronage of Pakistan Air Force in 1990, Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan (formerly known as Ski Federation of Pakistan), is an umbrella of different organizational and regional ski federations. In recent years, WSF has also introduced snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating in its calendar. Although all of these sports require great stamina and balance but figure skating is a sport which not only requires extraordinary balance but also a unique skill of performing stunning moves on ice skates. WSF is keen to groom girls and young children in the fields of skiing, snowboarding and figure skating. In this regard, Sadia Khan Cup is organized every year which holds competitions between girls and young children in all fields. This competition is named after a young girl and an ambitious skier who died at the age of 25 in a tragic car accident. This winter, a young eleven year old girl Mallak performed some jaw dropping moves in the newly built ice skating rink and won gold medal in this discipline. To groom young children in this exciting sport, WSF is planning to hire a foreign coach to train the young players, heralding a new era of sports in the country.

WSF conducts international winter sports competitions in Pakistan on regular basis and the expertise gained from such events in turn helps in promotion of this sport in the country. The year 2017 was the year of revival of winter sports in the majestic valley of Swat as the Malam Jabba ski slope was put in shape again which was closed due to poor law and order situation in the area. An international competition, CAS International Karakoram Ski Championship was held in which more than 30 athletes from all over the world participated in the categories of alpine, slalom & giant slalom events. This gave the world a message that Pakistan is a peace loving nation and is capable of conducting international events at any venue all over the country.

WSF provides ski facilities and equipment free of cost to locals of these snow covered areas as well as desiring participants from all regions of Pakistan. Winter Sports have bright prospects in the country as WSF is working on multiple fronts to flourish the winter sports in this snow blessed country. WSF is soon inaugurating a full scale winter sports simulator in Karachi which will enable players from southern region to practice near their homes. In addition to this simulator, WSF is also looking forward to establish ski slopes on glaciers which will enable conduct of winter sports in summers also and ambitious athletes of our country won’t have to wait for winters to experience the thrill on snow. But a need is still there for more people to participate in such sports. Universities and schools need to introduce this sport to their students and encourage them to participate in this exciting activity. They can contact winter sports federation through internet or mail and get themselves enrolled. The efforts being made by WSF will not only help hunt for talent in Pakistan but also promote tourism and socioeconomic activities in these far flung areas leading to their prosperity and well-being.