All but a regular ski touring race, this one is trying to bring the joy of skiing to a region that is suffering from decades of war and the destruction of their world famous cultural monuments.


Bamiyan, once known worldwide for its giant Buddha statues, is now a poor region in Afghanistan - despite its unspoiled nature and mountains as high as 5000m.

It has been untouched by the war since 2001, still, after the destruction of the antique statues, the amount of tourists visiting shrank from 150,000/year to almost none.


Thanks to the northern exposition and a very dry climate, it offers perfect skiing conditions. Last year, a small team formed from employees at Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper and local ski enthusiasts from Afghanistan decided to found the Bamiyan Ski Club and launch the first Afghan Ski Challenge - a backcountry ski touring race in the remote Bamiyan region.


Without working cell phones, with poor medical facilities and very rustic accommodation, ten local participants learned how to ski and competed in the race.


This year, it will be the first race with international competitors. There's also a corporate sponsor in the shape of Canadian clothing Arc'teryx.


"We are happy to be one of the main supporters of this event that brings some sports spirit into a battered region," said a statement from the company.


Entry fees will be charged only from non-locals and donated to local sports and educational projects in Afghanistan.