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.”


From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

Updated 25 April 2019
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From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

  • Race will start in Jeddah and make a stop in Riyadh before ending in Qiddiya
  • Take a look back at the most momentous moments

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.