By Fazal Khaliq

MINGORA: The just-ended Malam Jabba International Alpine Ski Cup in the scenic Swat valley has surely opened up future opportunities for Pakistan to host major skiing events while the slope, the facilities and the lush surroundings have impressed the competing ski players.

Many of the international skiers here termed the Malam Jabba slope as a skiers’ paradise and one of the beautiful slopes in the world. They also held out hope it would be a permanent site to play host to national and international ski championships in the future.

The international ski championship was held at Swat’s Malam Jabba from Jan 26-30, 2016 for the first time in history with the championship seeing about 60 skiers (50 males and 10 females) from nine countries, including Pakistan, Morocco, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Greece, Afghanistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Tajikistan participating.

The prize distribution ceremony of the international ski championship will be held on Friday (today).

“This is, no doubt, a very beautiful ski slope surrounded by beautiful forests and I really like it. I must clarify that the event met all FIS [International Ski Federation] standards as the site is a world-class ski slope in Pakistan,” said Anthonios who is the FIS official observing the international alpine ski event.

He, however, urged the government to construct the shabby roads leading to Malam Jabba.

On the other hand, national ski champion Ifrah Wali praised the local people for their hospitality and said that the slope was very fine. “Everything in Malam Jabba was good from ski slope to chairlifts and people,” she told Dawn while expressing hopes that local skiers would now have tremendous opportunities to learn and play ski on the slope.

“Locals must avail the facility and represent Pakistan in international championships,” the national champion further said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s skier Fatma, also competing here, said that she has been inspired by the scenic beauty of Malam Jabba as the slope there is good and the environment very serene.

“It is really a dazzling site with green forests as surrounding areas and having very hospitable people,” she told Dawn.

Another skier Bahruddin who is from Tajakistan also praised the beauty of Malam Jabba and the facilities provided to them.

The organizers of the championship said that the successful holding of the event proved that Pakistan and Swat valley were not only beautiful but also peaceful.

“We have shown to the world that Pakistan is one of the beautiful and safe countries where tourists from across the world can come and enjoy the scenic beauty and hospitality of the people,” said Air Commodore Shahid Nadeem.

He said that the Malam Jabba ski slope is nearer than the Naltar ski slope, adding that one could easily reach the mountains of Swat in less than six-hour drive.

“We have to shift the ski events to Swat, since this year Naltar has received less snow. Nonetheless, it is good that we have now two international standard ski slopes in Pakistan,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2017