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International skiers all praise after Naltar ski competition

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“I think it’s definitely more for the adventurer,” comments one international skier.

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Turkish and Ukrainian skiers make their way to a slope to compete in the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup, at the PAF Naltar Ski Resort, some 25km north of Gilgit. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Skiers descend in long, rhythmic swoops down pristine white slopes in the northern areas, braking in a spray of snow as soldiers carrying semi-automatic weapons watch impassively.

Turkish skier Berkin Usta takes part in the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup, at the PAF Naltar Ski Resort, some 25km north of Gilgit. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)
Ukrainian skier Anastasia Gorbunova takes part in the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Dozens of athletes recently took part at the rare international competition in the country, which boasts some of the world’s highest mountains but remains off-piste for most winter sports enthusiasts after years of conflict and a lack of infrastructure.

Iinternational skiers practice ahead of the competing in the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)
Children ski on a snow-covered street — with wooden sticks set up to practice the slalom — next to their homes near the slopes where the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup at Naltar Ski Resort. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)
Local children ski on a snow-covered street — with wooden sticks set up to practice the slalom — next to their homes near the slopes at Naltar, some 25km north of Gilgit, the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Nestled in the Karakoram mountain range, the Naltar Ski Resort has been at the heart of Pakistan’s efforts to draw winter sport tourists since the first international competition was held there in 2015.

Ageneral view of the snow-covered homes in the Naltar Valley. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

“Pakistan has a lot of things to learn but with every year it’s getting better,” said Ukrainian skier Anastasiia Gorbunova, who admitted she used to think it was a pretty dangerous country.

A security personnel looks on during the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup at Naltar Ski Resort. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

“Now I know it’s a cliche because as I saw, people are sweet, they are nice, they try to make you feel like you’re at home and I appreciate that.”

Security has dramatically improved across the country following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years.

Authorities recently re-opened another resort in the nearby Swat Valley that had been closed for years by insurgent activity, while other ski facilities are being developed elsewhere in the country.

Laura Moore, a representative of the International Ski Federation with the Azerbaijan team, said Pakistan boasted unrivalled ski conditions.

But she added that lengthy road travel and the regular grounding of flights during inclement weather made access to ski fields a tricky prospect — “off-piste and maybe with a helicopter”.

“I think it’s definitely more for the adventurer,” Moore said at Sunday’s competition.

Azerbaijan skier Nurlan Abdulov takes part in the CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup, at the Naltar Ski Resort. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Pakistan is home to several peaks higher than 8,000 metres including K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world. Skiers at the Naltar event were hosted by the Pakistan Air Force, who own the ski resort and facilitated their transport from the capital Islamabad.

“Not all countries have mountains like this,” Berkin Usta, a Turkish skier who won the men’s Grand Slalom event. “It’s really good.”

Also read: https://www.dawn.com/news/1136906/naltar-valley-skiing-on-the-magic-carpet

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