Ski Afghanistan


In a classroom just a few hundred metres from the towering niche that once housed a giant Buddha statue, someone has pinned up a poster detailing the attributes of a good ski guide: optimistic, articulate, patient, reliable, active, cheerful, punctual and extroverted.

Sitting around a table in the middle of the room, the 10 young men who hope to become Afghanistan's first ski guides are being taught how to avoid avalanches, and the importance of taking enough food and water on trips up the snow-capped mountains that loom over the town of Bamiyan.

They have all the poster's key attributes in spades. Indeed, it's hard to think of a more agreeable bunch of enthusiastic young men, who chatter in excellent English. The only problem is the one characteristic they all lack: the ability to ski.

Last week, they had their first taste of the rapidly melting spring snow, out on the slopes of the stunning Koh-e-Baba mountain range. Their motley collection of borrowed and secondhand skis had been carted up the lush valley on the back of a donkey. The rookie skiers had ignored the classroom guidance to layer up, and hit the slopes wearing jeans and fake designer tops. Soon they were shivering.

They had just half a dozen pairs of skis, two pairs of which were borrowed from an American couple, Chad Dear and Laurie Ashley, ski consultants who believe central Afghanistan has some of the best "outback skiing" in the world. The shortage of equipment is a problem, and the mix of Telemark and alpine skis had been partly supplemented by a few pairs of "bazaar skis", lethal wooden planks knocked up by enthusiastic local carpenters. With the bindings little more than a few leather straps and the undersurface wrapped with metal, the overall effect is terrifying, as I discovered when I tried them.


These are the deeply humble beginnings out of which Bamiyan, an impoverished but heart-stoppingly beautiful province, hopes to develop a robust ski industry. There is serious weight behind the plan to encourage winter "ecotourism" here, including the province's governor, the Aga Khan Development Network and the New Zealand government (the country has troops in the province).


There is much more.

I have often thought that Afghanistan had the potential to be a great ski area, but I suspect the Taliban would see the skiers as an opportunity to grab a headline with a mass murder attack. They were never ones with great vision on commercial opportunities outside the dope business.


  1. There are parts of Afghanistan that are very secure and are under little to no threat of Taliban attack. Bamiyan, and the Koh-e-Baba mountains just south of Bamiyan town, is one of those places. It is a big mistake to characterize the whole country as a war zone constantly under threat. Bamiyan is a world away from Helmand and Khandahar. The starkly different contexts in these places demands a different approach to development. Opportunities exist in Bamiyan that do not currently exist in other parts of the country. Hopefully the international communiyt can recognize this and help people in Bamiyan and other secure areas of the country capitalize on this potential.. These places can become models of development.

  2. My family and I love the snow and every winter holiday, we make sure we go to Jindabyne to have a grand vacation. It is also the bonding time for me and the kids. We snowboard hire at the foot of the mountain so that we won't be having a hard time carrying skis and snowboards from our apartment to the mountain and back.


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