International skiers take to the slopes in Pakistan

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The Naltar Ski Resort in the Karakoram mountain range where the competition took place is at the heart of Pakistan's attempts to build up its winter sports tourism industry. (AFP)
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Dozens of skiers in late January took part in a rare international competition in Pakistan, which boasts some of the world's highest mountains but remains off-piste for most winter sportsmen due to years of insecurity and lack of infrastructure. (AFP)
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The CAS Karakoram International Alpine Ski Cup was taking place at the Pakistan Air Force-owned and operated Naltar Ski Resort, some 25km north of Gilgit in Pakistan’s remote mountainous north. (AFP)
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Skiers at the Naltar event were hosted by the Pakistan Air Force. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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International skiers take to the slopes in Pakistan

  • Pakistan is home to several peaks higher than 8,000 meters including K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world
  • Security has dramatically improved across Pakistan following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years

NALTAR, Pakistan: Skiers descend in long, rhythmic swoops down pristine white slopes in northern Pakistan, braking in a spray of snow as soldiers carrying semi-automatic weapons watch impassively.
Dozens of athletes took part at a rare international competition in the South Asian country, which boasts some of the world’s highest mountains but remains off-piste for most winter sports enthusiasts after years of conflict and a lack of infrastructure.
Nestled in the Karakoram mountain range, the Naltar Ski Resort has been at the heart of Pakistan’s efforts to draw winter sport tourists since the first international competition was held there in 2015.
“Pakistan has a lot of things to learn but with every year it’s getting better,” said Ukrainian skier Anastasiia Gorbunova, who admitted she used to think it was a “pretty dangerous country.”
“Now I know it’s a cliche because as I saw, people are sweet, they are nice, they try to make you feel like you’re at home and I appreciate that.”
Security has dramatically improved across Pakistan following a crackdown on militant groups in recent years.
Authorities recently re-opened another resort in the nearby Swat Valley that had been closed for years by insurgent activity, while other ski facilities are being developed elsewhere in the country.
Laura Moore, a representative of the International Ski Federation with the Azerbaijan team, said Pakistan boasted unrivalled ski conditions.
But she added that lengthy road travel and the regular grounding of flights during inclement weather made access to ski fields a tricky prospect — “off-piste and maybe with a helicopter.”
“I think it’s definitely more for the adventurer,” Moore said at Sunday’s competition.
Pakistan is home to several peaks higher than 8,000 meters including K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world.
Skiers at the Naltar event were hosted by the Pakistan Air Force, who own the ski resort and facilitated their transport from the capital Islamabad.
“Not all countries have mountains like this,” Berkin Usta, a Turkish skier who won the men’s Grand Slalom event. “It’s really good.”


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.