How Pakistan develops winter sports with unique characteristics
Published: Jan 31, 2022 10:31 PM Updated: Feb 04, 2022 08:38 PM
People stand in front of the snow-covered Pir Chinasi shrine in the hilly area of Muzaffarabad, Pakistan on January 16, 2022. 
Photo: AFP

People stand in front of the snow-covered Pir Chinasi shrine in Pakistan on January 16, 2022. Photo: AFP

How Pakistan develops winter sports with unique characteristics

How has Pakistan, a country with a diverse climate - hot in the south and mountainous in the north - developed winter sports with its own unique characteristics and attracted tourists and athletes from home and abroad?

If Pakistanis want to see snow, they will go to the northern mountainous region of the country, whose altitude is among the highest in the world - five mountain peaks have the altitude of more than 8,000 meters among the total 14 in the world.

The mountainous climate in the region has offered the most fantastic opportunity for snow sight-seeing.

For example, in Murree, 60 kilometers north of the capital Islamabad, the altitude has risen sharply in the mountains which commands a fine view of the entire Punjab plain. After the British colonists were driven away, the Pakistanis discovered the beauty of Murree - the beauty of snow in winter.

Murrees snow is only visible in the middle of winter. On a clear day, the capital Islamabad is still bathed in the warm winter sun, but looking at the skyline north of the city, Murree can be seen, which seems to be hanging in the air, wrapped in silver. The white snow on the distant mountains embellishes the capital, which is known as the "garden city". Under the warm sunshine, one can enjoy the snow scenery, which makes you feel refreshing.

Walking northward from Murree, one can see two large rivers flowing out of the valley and converging in the valley city of Muzaffarabad. In the distance is the perpetual snow on Nanga Parbat, one of the highest mountain at the western end of the majestic Himalayas.

In 2005, it was the epicenter of a 7.6-magnitude earthquake. After the disaster, Chinese engineers arrived to help rebuild houses and schools. They also built a dam to help tame the Neelum River and solve the problem of the natural disaster caused by the severe uneven flow of the river in winter and summer, and brought clean energy to the region.

Many Chinese people working there told reporters that they could never forget the snow scenery on the moonlit night in the region.

On the north side of Nanga Parbat, the altitude continues to rise. This is the junction of the Himalayas, Karakoram Mountains and Hindu Kush Mountains. It has also been an important gateway for communication and exchanges between Chinese, South Asian and the Middle Eastern civilization since ancient times. Here, snow poses the biggest challenge for those who dare to challenge the road.

There is an important town on the Karakoram Highway, which is also called the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, the only road connecting China and Pakistan.

In the 1970s, 82 Chinese engineers were buried here after building the road, which symbolized the friendship between China and Pakistan. From Gilgit to the north.

The end of the road is Khunjerab Pass in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with an altitude of 5,314 meters. Every winter, heavy snow freezes the road, and it can only be open to traffic again in the spring in the following year.

In the northeast of Gilgit stands Karakoram Mountains, the second highest mountain range in the world. This is the "snow mountain" in the minds of climbers. Since the 20th century, only 377 people have successfully made it to Mount Chogori, the peak of the Karakoram Mountains.

In recent years, Pakistan has begun to attach importance to the promotion of winter sports. In January 2021, the first Winter Sports Festival was held at the Nalta Ski Resort, where skiing, ice hockey and snowboard competitions were included. Pakistani President Arif Alvi attended the closing ceremony.

In the same month, the FIS Snowboarding World Championships was held in Maram Jabba ski resort at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with more than 40 domestic and foreign athletes participating.

At present, the Pakistani government is paying more and more attention to the development of winter sports, and the public shows greater interest in taking part in winter sports, which helps boost the development of the tourism industry.

The Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan is the national governing body to develop and promote winter sports in the country. Winter Sports Federation of Pakistan was formed in December 1990 with Chief of the Air Staff, PAF as its patron-in-chief and the Vice Chief of Air Staff as president of the Federation.

National Championships in alpine and cross-country ski events are held annually and Pakistani skiers are also regularly representing the country in international competitions. The Federation is affiliated with the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the Asian Ski Federation (ASF).

President of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Syed Arif Hasan said in an interview in October 2021 that the Northwest part of Pakistan has abundant winter sports resources, and Pakistan will welcome tourists from all over the world once the pandemic recedes. 

Pakistan's northern mountainous area, which borders China's Xinjiang, has an area twice that of Switzerland. It's the best place for winter sports, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, who is visiting China, said at a seminar with Chinese scholars on Friday. [Development of] our northern region has just started, said the Prime Minister.

A unifying factor

Pakistan also endorsed the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is himself a sportsman, attended the opening ceremony of Beijing Winter Olympics on February 4.

In a letter the Khan sent to the Global Times that published on January 28, the Prime Minister said that "In the next few days, I will be arriving in Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games. Being a sportsperson myself, I can very well relate to the spirit that sporting events like Olympics instill in a nation. I strongly feel that sports should be a unifying factor and should transcend politics. I congratulate the leadership and people of China for hosting this mega event and wish all participants safe, healthy and successful games."

Pakistan's top skier, Muhammad Karim, is all set to represent his country at the Games in Beijing in February. Karim, 26, is eyeing his first Winter Olympic medal, and is hopeful that the Beijing Winter Olympics will play a significant role in his career and boost his confidence given the event's scale and audience.

"The Winter Olympics is a major event, and athletes from many countries are trying to improve their skills to hold a good position in the Olympics," he told Xinhua in an earlier interview.

"A top Pakistani skier is participating in Beijing Winter Olympic, if he is able to win a medal, it could help boost winter sports in Pakistan. Prime Minter Imran Khan will also attend the opening ceremony of Winter Olympics, which will add a new impetus to the sports. The PM himself is a sportsman, he will also like to promote winter sports in the country," Asghar, a Pakistani reporter who is based in China, told the Global Times.