A large number of skiers have flocked to the picturesque valley of Gilgit-Baltistan
GILGIT: Naltar Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan is all set to host some thrilling winter sports starting from today.
Skiers from across the country have converged on the picturesque resort to participate in skiing, figure skating, snowboarding, ice skating and ice hockey competitions.
The events will start with the Saadia Khan and Children Ski Cup Friday.
Besides, the Shah Khan Ski Cup, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee championship and National Ski championship are other important events.
Charged up skiers participated in practice runs on a pleasant sunny day on Wednesday and Thursday.
The athletes said that competing with the famous skiers of the world would provide an excellent opportunity for Pakistani athletes to learn from their competitors and improve their performance in this game.
Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan and the PAF have chalked out an elaborate calendar of events for the season.
Other than these events, Malam Jabba Ski Cup and CAS International Karakoram Alpine Ski Cup, featuring international skiers would also be held at Naltar and Malam Jabba Ski resorts.
Gilgit-Baltistan is blessed with eight of the world’s tallest mountains. Gilgit-Baltistan is famous for snow-peaked mountains and enchanting valleys.
Situated 40km from the capital city of Gilgit at an elevation of 15,000 feet in the Karakoram Range, Naltar Valley is the jewel in the crown of Gilgit-Baltistan, famous for its turquoise-coloured lake, entrancing pine tree. The 40km-long journey leaves tourists spellbound as it offers breath-taking scenes on its way up to the enchanting resort.
Pakistan Air Force started snow survival training of its aircrew at Naltar in 1958. Skiing gained popularity among the locals and PAF decided to harness the hidden talent of the local youth for winter sport.
The Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan (WSFP) (formerly known as Ski Federation of Pakistan) was formed in 1990 and the facility was offered to other departments and organizations. PAF started patronizing the budding skiers of this remote area and they were inducted in PAF as a sportsman.
The Federation selects talented youth for the winter sports and provides the equipment and coaching. They are not only trained within the country but also sent abroad to hone their skills with the best skiers in the world.
The valley has also produced talented skiers such as Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Karim. The duo brought laurels to the country when Abbas made history by representing Pakistan in 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. While Karim carried the national flag in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia.
Women of the area have an inherent talent of Skiing as well. Wali sisters have proved it by bringing gold and silver medals in the South Asian Winter Games in 2011. Their third sister Umama Wali and Gia Ali, another young girl from Naltar, are particiapating in different championships this year.
Misbah Hina, an emerging skier from the region has won a gold medal in last year’s intervarsities competition representing Punjab University. She is also heading the women’s wing of the Islamabad Ski Association, where she provides ski training to young girls.
Moreover, a new chairlift has also been acquired from Switzerland to make it a world-class ski slope. The WSFP has also procured a snow-making machine to make it less dependent on snowfall in the area. Installation of this chairlift and the procurement of snow-making machines have made it an international standard ski resort, equipped with facilities and amenities comparable with any winter sports destination across the globe.
Another important event was the introduction of figure skating for the first time in the history of Pakistan. The WSFP also plans to open a full-scale indoor simulator in Karachi to facilitate the skiers and enthusiasts from the southern chapter and develop ice-skating rings over all the frozen lakes in Gilgit, Baltistan and KP regions.
The convergence of 38 international skiers from 12 countries on the mighty Karakoram mountain ranges, who would be participating in different categories of international ski championships. These athletes will be racing in slalom and giant slalom categories of CAS International Karakoram Alpine Ski Cup. Top national skiers from various regions and ski associations of the country would also be seen in action on the treacherous slopes of Naltar Ski resort.
Competing in the FIS races against the highly ranked skiers of the world would provide an excellent opportunity for Pakistani athletes to showcase their talent at the international level and learn from their competitors’ experience.