Malam Jabba, Pakistan’s only ski area, was utterly destroyed by the Taliban in 2008. However, an enterprising group of locals rigged a makeshift ski lift on the Malam Jabba ski hill and this week are celebrating skiing with a week-long festival of competitions and fun called Skiing for Peace.
Malam Jabba lies in an area renowned for natural beauty, tucked into the scenic Swat region between the mighty Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges. Skiing, like dancing, is considered illegal by the Taliban. To ensure no sinful schussing, the Taliban destroyed the base area and the ski lift to the point that no sign of the lift remained; the base area is a hulking ruin.
But skiing has survived. With the Taliban ousted from Swat the skiers are trying again. Someone rigged a ski lift with a recycled motor, and some ski gear is homemade with skis made from wooden boards with old shoes nailed to them and sticks of wood for poles. Lucky skiers get their hands on real skis. Even 1960s ski technology is cutting edge in Malam Jabba.
Matee Ullah Khan runs the country’s only ski school, using it’s 15 pairs of battered skis to teach people to ski. In an article in the BBC, Khan explains that he sees skiing as an important part of the health of mountain people. In the BBC article he's quoted as saying:
"It keeps you alive - especially the spring skiing when the temperature starts to warm, and the snow starts melting, but at night the temperature falls and frozen ice crystals form on the top layer of the snow. When you start sliding down it in the early morning, breaking that ice, it produces a very good sound and you can feel it down your skis. We say that having one run on this spring snow makes you young for a year."
Kahn's may be the best words ever spoken about skiing...
For now, skiing in Malam Jabba will remain a ramshackle endeavor. The cost of rebuilding the resort has been determined by the government to be not worth the small volume of tourism it would bring to the area. Perhaps visionaries like Matee Ullah Khan will keep skiing alive in Pakistan long enough to see the area once again become a ski destination.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more moving story about skiing, nor have I ever felt luckier to live where I do. I’ve skied enough spring snow to make me feel young for several lifetimes, and am free to dance and ski to my heart’s content. Kahn should be inducted into Skiing's Halls of Fame, and somehow we should send hundreds of pairs of used skis, boots and poles to Malam Jabba.
"The children of the area are very happy that we are skiing again. It's a good message that peace has been restored or is being restored in Malam Jabba," says Kahn in the BBC article.
That says it all. I think my next dream ski trip will be in honor of the skiers of Malam Jabba.
How lucky are we? Photo of Heli-Skiing in Canada at CMH Bobbie Burns by Topher Donahue.
This coming weekend, February 2-4, the acclaimed Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC) is hosting a new event, ReTreat Yourself, at Red Mountain Resort, near Rossland, British Columbia. Rossland is just over two hours north of Spokane, Washington, and four hours south of the powder epicentre of Revelstoke, BC. Lead by a star-studded cast of inspiring women, ReTreat Yourself is a celebration of breast cancer survivors and all other women who find medicine in the mountains.
The ReTreat Yourself weekend is a healthful bonanza of skiing, snowboarding, yoga, meditation, music, discussions and journaling - with a couple of surprises thrown in here and there. The event leaders, shown clockwise from top left, include Linda Kennoy, a life councelor from Colorado, ski legend Kasha Rigby, pro snowboarder Megan Pischke, professional chef Marianne Abrahams, yoga instructor extraordinaire Kristin Campbell and pro snowboarder/Doctor of Chinese medicine, Kendra Starr:
To find out a bit more about the event, part of B4BC's Shred the Love Tour, I talked to Megan Pischke, the spiritual leader of ReTreat Yourself.
TD: How you take these things that most people view as sports and turn them into medicine?
MP: It’s definitely one of the most valuable lessons I took from my sport of snowboarding- it healed me, and it continues to do so. From my experience, nature is healing, the air, the trees, being in “Gods” space if that’s what you want to call it. Its where I can disconnect to anything that doesn’t serve me, and connect into what I really am and where I came from and where I will go- my belief is that this in everyone, if they could just let go of what maybe their mind is telling them (especially about trying new things, not having time for it, etc.) , and FEEL the connection to their true selves within nature, and THEN adding a sport is a bonus, As there is no time for lists, phone calls, even worries, and your focus becomes in the moment. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, or even an hour from now, pure concentration on the NOW. This is where the mind/body connection comes in, and this is where I believe all healing begins. And then of course the endorphins, the excitement, the overcoming fears. Gosh, the list goes on…
TD: Rossland, one of the favourite stops on the Powder Highway, seems like a great place to hold this event. Where are the 10 "survivors" from in general? Are they travelling far to attend?
MP: Rossland is amazing - its off the beaten path and “out there” compared to other places I have held these retreats. And love it for the adventure! We have gals coming from Squamish and Vancouver, BC, Jasper, Alberta, as well as Kansas, and even from as far as Tennessee.
TD: When you've done these events before at both surf and ski destinations, how does the dynamic of the group change over the weekend?
MP: You know, honestly women are great at making friends, being open to the experience, and very comforting to eachother. Interestingly enough, I have not seen a group that doesn’t start off powerful - really, every time I am humbled and blown away from the beginning. And I would say, there are beautiful lifelong friendships and camaraderie formed by the time it comes around to goodbyes.
TD: How good of a rider do you need to be to really reap the rewards of this program? I see you suggest intermediate to advanced, but where is the sweet spot in ability level - if there is one?
MP: The suggestion this time around was based on the fact that Red Mountain is known for its intermediate/advanced terrain (this place really does kick ass!), and really this was more for the general public who we also invite to attend. We of course welcome all and any levels - and appreciate the fact some gals want to take advantage of the fact that we have fully certified mountain instructors to help them try snowboarding vs. skiing and vice versa. We have never-evers, and I love it that some want to just go for it - regardless of their age or ability. And of course, we always have intermediates/advanced who want to take it to the next level, and also why I bring my pro athletes in (and because they are amazing in their own rights!), to inspire these gals, and encourage the push.
I shared the news of ReTreat Yourself wth a close friend of mine who on Friday underwent an operation to remove breast cancer. With the wounds from the operation not yet healed, she will not be able to attend this weekend, but upon learning of the event she replied: "I would do it this weekend if they'd let me! It's important. Not just for fun, but to meet other people who are going through it and do something together that is good for you in this life."
She'll be there next time.
The B4BC Scholarship Fund, sponsored by The North Face, is providing 10 fully-paid ReTreat Yourself spaces for breast cancer survivors. While the 10 sponsored spaces are already spoken for, there are still ReTreat Yourself spaces available for paying guests. For more information, contact Megan Pischke at email@example.com, or to support the cause, contribute to B4BC.
There's no question that participating in winter sports is a great way to stay fit and enjoy the long Canadian winters, but sometimes choosing the right gear and learning how to ski or snowboard can be intimidating for many women.
“Being active outside during the cold months is a great way to work in fitness, stress relief and fun,” says Ellen Slaughter of CMH Heli-Skiing. “But learning about a new sport, and how to fit something else into our already busy lives can be overwhelming. We created Women in Winter as a way to get women in Calgary together to learn about winter sports in a fun, engaging place.”
Women in Winter aims to inspire women to stay fit and active and have fun throughout the winter, and to connect women with other women looking to get out into the mountains and play. This innovative event is the brainchild of the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) in partnership with CMH Heli-Skiing and Ski Cellar Snowboard, and hosted by Calgary media personality Nirmala Naidoo.
Women in Winter, encompasses many elements of winter sport; from fashion to gear fittings, as well as learn about various programs available at independent operators. Attendees will also be entered for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes, including ski gear, winter clothing, vacation packages from RCR and a grand prize of a complimentary spot on the CMH Girl Po(w)der 101 ski trip this March 14 - 18 in Revelstoke, British Columbia.
“The goal of Women in Winter is to get women out to share a fun afternoon with friends, to meet new friends, to be encouraged to put themselves and their health first by staying active and fit,” explains Jean Hunt, Manager, Ski Cellar Snowboard . “Too often women put themselves last - they often spend their time ensuring that their kids are participating in winter sports without discovering the pleasures and benefits of our spectacular mountain playground for themselves."
Women in Winter takes place Sunday, October 14, 2012 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at Mount Royal University in the Ross Glen Hall. Parking is free, and the $5 admission fee at the door will be donated to the Canadian Avalanche Foundation. Space is limited – participants must register online at www.cmhski.com/womeninwinter by October 9, 2012.
The snow has started to fly in the Bugaboos so that must mean that ski season is on it's way. What that also means is that CMH Heli-Skiing is on the way to a city near you to spread the 'stoke.
We hope you'll join us for some good food, the launch of our new ski movie "Ascension" and some great ski chat with CMH Heli-Ski guides and our local reps.
October 5 - Denver, CO
-First Friday at the Artwork Network, 6-10pm. No RSVP required.
October 11 - Washington, DC
-Winter Kick-Off at the Navy Memorial, 6:30 - 9:30pm. RSVP & Details here.
October 14 - Calgary, AB
-Women in Winter in partnership with RCR and Ski Cellar/ Snowboard, 1-4pm. RSVP & Details here.
October 17 - Denver, CO
-Winter Kick-Off, Battery 621, 7-9pm. RSVP & Details here.
October 19 - Marblehead, MA
-Ambassador event with Dick Knight, 7-9pm. RSVP & Details here.
October 25 - Montreal, PQ
-Winter Kick-Off, 5:30 - 8pm. RSVP & Details here.
October 26-28 - Seattle, WA
-Seattle Ski Fever and Snowboard Show. Details here.
October 27 - Toronto, ON
-With Skiis & Biikes, 7-9pm. RSVP & Details here.
We hope to see you out and about this fall. We have lots of great stories to tell, including the launch of CMH K2, Private Weeks, Women's Powder Intro and more. Subscribe to The Heli-Ski Blog to stay ontop of our 2012 Roadshow Schedule - November dates to follow soon!
David Copperfield, the famous magician, rents his resort on Musha Cay in the Bahamas for $325,000 per week.
The Presidential Suite in the Hotel Cala di Volpe in Sardinia costs $34,000 per night - and you’re charged extra for using the internet!
These rates, for experiences far less life-affirming and memorable than a week of heli-skiing or heli-boarding, make just the aprés ski at a CMH Lodge seem worth the cost of the entire trip. In fact, after looking at the kinds of things people spend bank-loads of money on, it seems to me that CMH Heli-Skiing is charging just for the aprés ski, and taking people heli-skiing for free just to get them ready for the main event!
Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not that much. To me, these other top-dollar experiences pale in comparison to a well orchestrated mountain adventure, and the aprés ski with CMH is an unforgettable experience.
There are moments of the CMH aprés ski that will stay with a person forever - one part isolation, one part the afterglow of a day in the mountains, and one part CMH Heli-Skiing’s incredible staff that always seems to take hospitality to another level. Three of my favourites are:
Bugaboos, 2005 - Coming in from a day of full-throttle skiing - on huge runs through some of the most spectacular alpine terrain on the planet with powder on the north faces and corn on the south faces - to a private cocktail party in the sunshine below the famous Bugaboo Spires. Bugaboos Manager Dave Cochrane, mountain host extraordinaire, chatted with everyone and discussed the finer points of spring skiing - while riding a unicycle.
Adamants, 2009 - We’d skied so much vertical that even a granola bar would have tasted great, but we were greeted with a sushi buffet served on a snowboard.
Galena, 2012 - It had been snowing for weeks. Everyone’s cheeks were tingling with a thousand face shots. The last night of our week in ski paradise, the staff built a bonfire on a hill above the lodge. The orange flames painted the surrounding winter wonderland in dancing, stark contrasts of shadows and light. Some people joined the party for a few minutes between enjoying the spa and a massage, but many stayed for hours, savoring both the warmth of the fire and the chill of the winter air, the cold beers in the snow pillow, and wishing the moment might never end.
Any CMH Heli-Skiing veterans out there with favourite CMH aprés ski stories?
Aprés ski photos by Topher Donahue.
Afraid that you'll have nothing to look forward to after you've rung in the New Year? Fear not, skiing friends. CMH Heli-Skiing is teaming up with our friends at Surefoot to offer on-hill ski days in both Steamboat and Squaw Valley, followed by some apres-ski fun in-store. Ski with the CMH team and you'll have all day to ask them questions about Heli-Skiing in BC,Canada. The most common question we are asked is "Am I good enough to Heli-Ski?" and a day with the team on your local hill will give one of our senior heli-ski guides a chance to evaluate your skiing and give you a definitive yes or no.
Here are the details:
Ski Day at Steamboat
When: Sunday, January 8, 2012
Where to Meet: 10am at the Surefoot Store
Apres: 5-7pm at the Surefoot Store
Who: Open to all! Come join CMH Galena Heli-Skiing Guide Mike Welch and CMH'er Brad Nichols.
Ski Day at Squaw Valley
When: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Where to Meet: 10am at the base of Funitel
Apres: 5-7pm at the Surefoot Store
Who: Open to all! Come join CMH Galena Heli-Skiing Guide Mike Welch and CMH'er Kirsten Clark-Rickenbach.
*Note that lift tickets are not included for the ski day in either location. Participants will be required to purchase their own.
Wine & Cheese in Tremblant
When: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 5-7pm
Where to Meet: Altitude-Sports Mont Tremblant
Who: Open to all! Join CMH Representative Pierre Verot for an informal evening of ski talk.
RSVP: No need!
As always, if you have questions about any of our events, just drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Banff office at 1.800.661.0252.
What ski resorts would you like to see us visit in the future? Let us know in the comments section below!