There are no ski lifts in the remote region of Bamyan in central Afghanistan, no groomed slopes, no fancy ski huts and the skiers arduously trek up mountains to get their downhill thrills.
And until a Swiss charity brought in modern day ski equipment, skiers were crudely strapped to self-made wooden skis. Even so spirits are high and laughter is heard as those new to the sport clumsily tumble across the snow.
For two skiers in particular, these humble beginnings have provided a platform for competing on the global stage. Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Husaini starred at this year’s Ski World Championships in St. Moritz.
They’ve now set their sights on a greater goal: to become the very first Afghan Winter Olympians at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.
All this against a backdrop of the ongoing war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s the longest foreign conflict in US history, with little sign that the NATO allies can disentangle themselves from the country’s continuing problems.
‘We want to rebuild our country’
“I want to show all people in all countries that Afghanistan is not just war and explosions,” Husaini told CNN.
“I want to tell them we want to rebuild our country.”
A Sunni Islamist organization, the Taliban aims to impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Afghanistan and remove foreign influence from the country.
As a child, Husaini fled from Bamyan with his family to escape the Taliban. He returned a few years ago and has seen the region’s ski club steadily blossom in that time.
It was formed with the support of a Swiss non-profit organization.
This year saw the seventh Afghan Ski Challenge, a competition that helped Husaini and Farhang play an unlikely part amongst skiing’s elite in St. Moritz.
But this skiing fairy tale isn’t finished just yet; a historic appearance at the Olympics would cap off a remarkable journey.
From war zone to Winter Olympics would be quite some story.