Afghan ski race fuels optimism for the future
BAMIYAN (AFP) - The road to get there may not be safe and local attacks may be at a decade high, but an annual ski race in the Hindu Kush offers Afghanistan the glimpse of a better future, organisers say.
Under the beady eye of Afghan police armed with machine guns, a reminder of the country's war, local and Western skiers compete in a gruelling test of physical fitness in the mountains 180 km west of Kabul.
"Organising a ski competition seems frivolous, but it has a symbolic dimension," said Mr Christoph Zurcher, the event's Swiss founder. "People here can think that Afghanistan is going somewhere instead of going down."
There are no ski lifts in Shaidan valley, Bamiyan province, so the 30 participants in last week's "Afghan Ski Challenge" first had to clamber up a steep ascent on a course ranging in altitude from 3,200 to 3,480 m.