The second annual Iraq Ski Rally staged earlier this month brought international skiers from the United States, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Finland and Slovenia to Choman, Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

They joined a group of skiers from around Iraq, including as far away as Baghdad, to compete in a backcountry ski race event. 20 skiers competed in total and the event included a long course and short course in the Zagros mountains of Choman, near the border of Iran.

The goal of the event was to shed a new and positive light on the recreation and tourism opportunities of Kurdistan, and to bring together a global community around the sport of skiing. The 1st Iraq Ski Rally was held in the same location in 2018 and this year expanded upon the success of the first.

The Ski Rally was coupled with the Choman Winter Sports Festival, which was attended by over 300 people who came to spend a day in the mountains celebrating winter. The Festival included live music, dancing, sledding and food and showcased the biggest snowman in Iraq.

Participation in the Rally by international skiers was organised by travel company Untamed Borders.

The Iraq Ski Rally also included a ski demonstration with the Free to Run Ski Club, a ski training program for refugee and internally displaced girls living in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The girls, aged 13 to 19, are new to skiing and participated in 3 weeks of ski training with a professional ski instructor. The goal of the ski training program is to provide women and girls living in areas of conflict with life skills training and confidence building through the use of adventure sports.

Images credit: Zanyar Sad Sarnawsy