Islamabad: The snow-covered valleys of northern Pakistan brought together thousands of skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports lovers to celebrate the winter games and enjoy the snowfall. The sporting events attracted both local and foreign athletes. Besides the contests, winter fun fair, shopping, food stalls, live music and bonfire were also among the attractions.
Two major winter sporting events were held at the picturesque winter resort of Naltar in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and the ski slopes of Malam Jabba in Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Winter sports in Naltar
The winter sports festival, held at PAF ski resort in Naltar located 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, included skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding contests. The five-day (January 19-23) event was held jointly by Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan and Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Gilgit Baltistan Scouts won the coveted 28th national ski championship trophy while Gilgit Baltistan Ski Association was awarded the trophy for winning the 3rd Ice Hockey Championship. Pakistan’s two-time winter Olympian Mohammad Karim was awarded gold medals in both Slalom and Giant Slalom categories of skiing while Waqar Junior of GB Scouts also won one gold medal and silver.
Pakistan – hub of tourism
President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi attended the concluding ceremony of the sports festival in Naltar. After witnessing the exhilarating sports events, President Alvi said Pakistan has some extremely talented and committed winter sportspeople and frequent sporting events would help the athletes reach their true potential. Sports festival would invite more tourists to Pakistan’s scenic Gilgit-Baltistan region that attracted around two million local and foreign tourists in 2019, he said.
Snowboarding festival in Malam Jabba
Pakistan International Snowboarding Championship also kicked off on January 23 at Malam Jabba ski resort, which is almost 9,000 feet above sea level. More than 40 national and international athletes, including players from Europe, are participating in the event. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority (KP-CTA) and the Samson Group of Companies have jointly organised the event to promote adventure and winter tourism in Pakistan. Besides snowboarding, traditional foods and a music event are also part of the festival.
Galiyat snow festival
The Galiyat snow festival in KP province offered another opportunity to local tourists to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and other activities like tug-of-war and snow race. The three-day (January 22-24) festival was held at different venues including Nathiagali, Ayubia, Donga Gali, Khanaspur and Mushkpuri top to introduce visitors to the various scenic tourist spots. KP government is “continuously improving the tourism sector to explore the immense potential of the industry and is developing new tourism spots” to make the region the perfect tourist destination in a way that helps local communities to benefit from ecotourism, said special assistant to provincial chief minister, Kamran Bangash.
Meanwhile, a four-day snow sports festival by the Hindukush snow sports club will begin in Chitral on January 29 in which both local and national teams will participate.