A guided group of skiers from around the world are set to return to Afghanistan this winter with specialist operator Untamed Borders announcing a return of trips there.
“I was in Afghanistan with a group of (non-skiing) tourists in September and we have resumed cultural tourism in Afghanistan. The Taliban seem to be fairly ambivalent about whether tourists come or not. Certainly in Bamian (where the skiing takes place) the government is happy to see tourists and have stated that we are welcome to come and ski,” explained James Willcox who leads Untamed Borders.
Afghanistan has a skiing history going back almost a century and had a rudimentary ski area in the early years of the sport. However the main Afghan ski guides left Afghanistan as the Taliban took full control of the country in 2021. The Taliban had previously destroyed Pakistan’s only ski resort of Malam Jabba in 2007, although it has since been rebuilt.
Untamed Borders’ Ski Afghanistan 2023 trip will run for 10 days from 4-13th March, 2023. The trip starts in Pakistan where skiers will get their visas before flying to Kabul and then driving to Bamian where they’ll spend four days ski touring. The trip will coincide with a locally run Afghan Ski Race.
The group will be guided by a qualified international ski guide in the mountains as well as by local Afghan ski guides. The trip will include visiting a few highlights in the capital Kabul before driving into the beautiful Bamian valley to ski in the Koh e Baba mountain range. The group will also visit the remains of the world’s largest standing Buddha statues that overlook the town and the ancient cities of Shah e Zohak and Shah e Golghola.
Prior to the pandemic and Taliban take over, Untamed Borders have been running trips to Afghanistan since 2008 and ski trips to Afghanistan since 2011. This will be their first ski trip to the country since 2020.
An annual international ski touring race, the Afghan Ski challenge, had been established and two Afghans had trained to try and become the first Afghan winter Olympians (their story was made into a film). There had been a particular onus on creating sporting opportunities for women in Afghanistan with an Afghan Ladies Ski Challenge as well as a boy’s wooden ski race.
“The main ski guides were high profile and had worked on gender equality projects and so were seen as high risk by certain governments who agreed to assist them to leave Afghanistan. However those skiers that did not work on gender equality projects or did so in a lower profile way are still in Afghanistan. The majority of people in Afghanistan were not able to leave and so we will be working with some of the Afghan skiers who did not,” added James Willcox.
A lot of media attention is being given to the diminishing rights of women in Afghanistan,
“Women coming on the trip would need to dress conservatively and would not be able to walk around by themselves, they would need to be with the group. Women need to have a chaperone with them in the streets. This would have been the same as pre-Taliban although the need to be with the guide would be more from a security and safety aspect,” James Willcox said.
The basic cost for participating in the trip is $2,500 (US) per person with an optional single supplement of US$360 (US). The price includes all accommodation, breakfast, food when skiing, transport/transfers, guiding, the international flight from Pakistan (Islamabad – Kabul) and visa support but does not include travel to and from Islamabad from your place of origin, any necessary visas (Afghan visa in Peshawar should cost $80), insurance, international flights, entrance fees, lunch and dinner when not skiing, drinks and tips.
Participants are advised to bring all their own equipment and check in advance that their carrier to Islamabad will accept skis.
“Afghanistan has always been a magnet for the intrepid. The rugged landscape, the ancient history crossed with tough, yet incredibly hospitable people is an intoxicating mix. The chance to truly blaze a tourist trail is a rare opportunity,” Untamed Borders concludes.
9th February 2023 1:08 am
Is there availability on this trip? Would there be any issues having stamps in my passport and a visa from when I worked in Afghanistan in the army and after?