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A young boy skis in the powder snow at the top of the ski resort in Malam Jabba, Pakistan, on January 18, 2020. Image Credit: TCKP

Islamabad: The valley, once deprived of basic services, is now emerging as Pakistan’s top tourist destination. Hundreds of local and foreign tourists flocked to Swat, known as Pakistan’s Switzerland, for winter sports festival 2020, despite heavy snowfall.

“I am excited to be back in Pakistan and participate in the festival. I love the facilities here,” said Mallak Faisal Zafar, a 12-year-old figure skater. She has travelled all the way from Dubai (UAE) to attend the festival as more tourists flocked to the snow-capped resort this year to enjoy snowfall. “I am here to make figure skating and winter sports bigger and popular in Pakistan especially among young girls” Mallak, who is recognised as the Pakistani figure skater, told Gulf News.

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The three-day winter sports festival was held at Malam Jabba ski resort, almost 9,000 feet above the sea level, to promote adventure and winter tourism in Pakistan. Image Credit - TCKP Image Credit: TCKP

She was enthused to see the passion for winter games in the region where local girls tried skating for the first time. “Encouragement from the family and support from the government can transform these girls into brilliant athletes” Mallak’s mother, Nesrein Sadawi, told Gulf News.

The festival featured several winter games including skiing, speed skating, ice hockey, sledding and tobogganing. Music show, food stalls, and art and culture exhibit were also part of the event. The visitors transformed the white snowy field into a vibrant sports and entertainment arena.

The three-day winter sports festival was held at Malam Jabba ski resort from January 17-19, almost 9,000 feet above the sea level, to promote adventure and winter tourism in Pakistan. Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP), Swat district administration and the ski resort management jointly organised the gala.

“The sports extravaganza offers multiple adventure activities and best facilities to attract more tourists to the region,” says TCKP Managing Director, Junaid Khan. To boost the tourism potential of KP province, the organisation is actively involved in reviving the country’s scenic spots, rehabilitating the archaeological and heritage sites and providing more tourism facilities. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, he said, is a region gifted with lush green valleys, snow-capped mountains, rivers and streams, landscapes, rich cultural and traditional heritage, which makes it one of the top tourists destinations in all seasons.

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Malam Jabba ski resort in the scenic valley transforms into a white wonderland, offering tourists multiple adventure opportunities. Image Credit: TCKP Image Credit: TCKP

The improved security in Pakistan has brought a revival of winter tourism to Swat Valley and the whole region, which is great news for the local people. “It will create new opportunities for the residents and whole province” the tourism official said.

To promote winter sports and engage youth in healthy activities, the Malam Jabba’s Ski School has enrolled some 70 aspiring youth including 11 girls in its current training programme to give local underprivileged youth exposure to skiing, said Umair Sami, CEO of the resort.

In the first week of January, a winter sports camp was organised in Chitral, the farthest most district of KP, which was attended by 50 adventurers. Locals say such events not only help introduce fun winter activities in far-off northern valleys but also open new avenues of opportunities for locals with the promotion of winter sports and tourism.