Skiing gaining ground under PAF patronage

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COMMENT – Skiing has been in Pakistan a very long time. Not considered a sport, local residents used improvised wooden skies to commute in winters in the northern snowy mountains. The Pakistan Air Force formally introduced skiing as part of the snow survival training for its aircrew. Gradually, the sport gained popularity and PAF finally decided to patronise it in the country.
Consequently, in December 1990 the formation of Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) was the first modest step by PAF towards promotion of skiing in the country. PAF also offered this facility to government departments, sister services, civilians and students at its Ski Schools at Naltar and Kalabagh (Nathia Gali).
Having Air Chief Marshal, Rao Qamar Suleman as its patron and PAF’s vice-chief Air Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt as the president, the SFP at present has 18 member associations. These are: four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, federal capital, the three Defence Forces, Northern Area Scouts, Higher Education Commission, Adventure Foundation of Pakistan, Pakistan Telecommunication Limited, Citi Bank, Civil Aviation Authority, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and Alpine Club of Pakistan.
The Federation is affiliated with the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and is a member of its executive council. It is also a recognized body with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). Internationally, it is affiliated with the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the Asian Ski Federation (ASF). Through these organizations, the SFP is linked to the national federations and ski clubs of all member countries.
The SFP’s aim is to promote winter sports, particularly skiing, in Pakistan. Today, there are several hundred ski enthusiasts all over the country. National championships are held annually and Pakistani skiers have also represented the country in international competitions. Through SFP’s efforts a landmark in sporting history of the country was achieved when for the first time Pakistan qualified for the Winter Olympics 2010 at Vancouver and PAF’s Muhammad Abass became the first Pakistani winter Olympian.
Recently, the National Ski team brought laurels to the country by securing second position in the South Asian Winter Games 2011, held in India. In ladies event of the competition, Wali sisters made their mark by bagging one gold and two silvers. Mir Nawaz won one silver and one bronze in two different events. As an incentive, the air chief awarded cash prize of Rs 500,000 to each medal winner.
The SFP not only organizes and offers ski courses in winter for the beginners but also plans and conducts annual national championships. The skiing season in Pakistan usually starts in January every year and has a calendar spread over various competitions. These include National Ski Championship, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Cup, Shah Khan and Sadia Khan Tournament. So far the SFP has arranged 18 national championships.
Skiing is an exciting sport, for those who practice it and for the spectators. Not only does it fine tune physical skills and mental coordination, it also provides the thrill of speed, excitement and adventure. And to a skier it provides an opportunity to break the monotony of extremely busy mechanized urban life, and be close to nature. Skiing can broadly be categorized in two types, Alpine and Nordic.
Alpine entails downhill skiing whereas Nordic is linked to cross-country format. Both types of skiing are common in the world but Pakistan has only Alpine Skiing facilities available, at present. These include slalom, giant slalom, super G and down hill skiing. The competitions that we most commonly see on the television are in the field of Alpine skiing. The most popular events in which competitions are held are Downhill, Slalom and Giant Slalom.
In all these events, the competitor’s ability to cover the distance on a set course from start to finish in minimum time is considered. The three events require different techniques and differ from each other in various aspects. The Ski Federation of Pakistan, under the auspices of PA, is pursuing its goal of producing skiers of international quality and repute by promoting the sport and encouraging the Pakistani youth to participate.
For this purpose, the SFP has chalked out a comprehensive plan to provide selected boys and girls with ski gear and equipment, arrange appropriate coaching and exposure to famous ski slopes of Pakistan. The SFP also sends skiers abroad for professional training, in order to improve their skills and inculcate competitiveness, furnish them with an outlet to nurture and fine-tune their physical and mental coordination.
Recently two national skiers were sent to attend an international training camp on cross-country organized by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Czech Republic. This will not only help Pakistan ski team to qualify for cross-country event besides the Alpine skiing in Olympic Winter Games’2014 (to be held in Sochi, Russia) but is also a pioneering step for establishing cross-country skiing in Pakistan.
The SFP under the PAF leadership would continue to make endeavours to promote skiing among the youth and bring laurels to the country.