Pakistan’s first-ever ice hockey match was played on Saturday in Naltar, the hilly snow resort run by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in Gilgit-Baltistan. Image Credit: APP

Islamabad: Hundreds of local and foreign tourists are attending the snow festival in Malam Jabba ski resort in the scenic valley of Swat, known as ‘Mini Switzerland of Pakistan’ surrounded by snow-capped mountains and green valleys. Swat was destroyed during the height of militancy but successful military operation and improved security in recent years has brought peace and tourism boom in the region.

“Pakistan’s beautiful valley of Swat was occupied by militants only a decade ago who turned this paradise into a hell” remarked Commissioner Malakand Division Syed Zaheerul Islam at the opening of the winter festival. “We are thankful to our armed forces and people of Swat Valley who fought the war on terror with courage and wiped out terrorism from the region,” he said.

The two-day snow festival (December 29—30) being held at the ski slopes Malam Jabba, a hill station atop 9,200 feet above sea level and located nearly 300 kilometres from Islamabad, welcomed tourists from all over Pakistan as well as foreign countries. Different competition and activities including snow tubing, ice skating, snow sculpture as well as concert, cultural events and fireworks are part of the festival organised by District Administration Swat in collaboration with Samsons Group.

Talking to Gulf News, Assistant Commissioner Charbagh Swat Muhammad Hamid, said the stunning hill station of Malam Jabba has the potential to become a major winter sporting and adventure tourism destination. “The area offers best scenic views and has much to attract tourists due to its rich culture and natural beauty.”

To promote local culture and entrepreneurs, “the festival also included several stalls of traditional dresses, food and handicrafts which was an added attraction for the tourists and advantage for the locals”, Hamid said. The aim of the festival is to attract domestic and foreign tourists to the picturesque spots in Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. Deputy Commissioner Swat Saqib Raza said the government was determined to build all link roads to tourist spots to attract maximum number of local and foreign tourists.

A large number of foreign tourists from UK, France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia also attended the snow festival. A tourist from Sweden, Nickas Kitt, said she had not seen such a beautiful valley in her entire life. “I have travelled to more than 20 countries but this valley is incredible. Not only the people are hospitable, but the landscape and the facilities provided to foreign tourists are amazing,” she said.

Pakistan’s first-ever ice hockey match held in GB

Along with winter festival in KP province, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is also witnessing some thrilling winter sports. During the sports gala in Naltar Valley in GB, Pakistan’s first-ever ice hockey match was played between Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts teams on Saturday. Ice hockey has been introduced to continue the legacy of a traditional game in GB region called ghatal, which is played with two sticks and a ball.

Difference sports including ice hockey, snowboarding and ice-skating, for both children and adult, are part of sports festival being held at winter resort of PAF Naltar in GB. Top international skiers from across the world as well as national skiers are participating in different ski racing categories. The winter sports festival in GB has been organised by Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan to promote adventure tourism in the region.