Skiing is relatively new to Afghanistan, writes Charlie Faulkner in The Guardian. Women taking part is even newer. But Nazira Khairzad, 18, and her sister Nazima, 19, are excited to compete in the Afghan Ski Challenge. They even have a whole pre-race ritual. They kiss their fingertips and touch them to a framed picture of their grandfather, they kiss the Quran, then their mother waves money (which will later be given to the poor) over their heads for good luck.
They’re going to need it. Skiing is now booming in the Bamiyan region and competition is fierce. “I’m very sporty” says Nazira. “I play volleyball, hockey and I run.” But skiing is her favourite. Why? “Because there is an element of danger.” She means the virgin slopes of the Afghan highlands, where there isn’t a chairlift in sight. But there are other dangers: just two decades ago, the Taliban blew up the giant Buddha statues that Bamiyan was known for.
The Taliban were officially toppled in 2001, but Afghanistan is still a highly conservative Muslim country. “Young ladies ploughing snowy slopes” don’t go down well with everyone. “I am criticised by my relatives… for allowing my daughters to take part in sports,” says Nazira’s dad. “But I just ignore them.” He’s proud, he says, and he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. On race day, Nazima falls at the final gate, but Nazira carves out the winning time, winning 10,000 afghanis (£95) as her prize. Dad throws in an extra 3,000 afghanis from his own pocket.
Read the full article here.
River deep, mountain high
Most people wouldn’t consider the kayak an all-terrain vehicle, but Spaniard Aniol Serrasolses begs to differ. He rode one from the top of a snowy Chilean volcano into Lake Villarrica. His 15-mile descent, which reached speeds of up to 60mph, took in snow, the forest floor, a river and a waterfall – and he managed kayaking’s first double kickflip on his way down.
Watch Serrasolses below 👇. The kickflip is at 2 minutes 15 seconds.