A note from James Willcox, Founder
One of the mantras of Untamed Borders is that a trip can only be considered a success if both our guests and the people of the countries they come to visit have a good time; that everyone benefits from the experience.
This can obviously be measured in tangible increments such as how much money we spend in the local community. However, it is those intangible benefits that are often just as important. We have been proud to be a part of the development of ski tourism in Bamian in Afghanistan. The progression of the ski guides has been a fantastic thing to witness. When we first took skiers to Bamian in 2011, guides such as Ali Shah and Sajjad had only been skiing a few weeks. I remember seeing Ali Shah as a slightly shy but hard working and capable young man getting to grips with the maintenance of ski equipment and the concepts of ski touring. By 2012, when we visited with the crew of White Silk Road – Snowboard Afghanistan, I thought I would have to bridge the cultural and knowledge gap between Ali Shah and the Aussie snowboarders to explain locations and conditions. After 30 seconds it was clear that Ali Shah was already way ahead of me in the way he described routes and variables to the crew.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the Afghan ski guides now look and act the part. Their knowledge of the mountains is great, their skiing has come on leaps and bounds and as Sajjad says, “We love it that the foreigners come to ski but if they did not we would still ski and still train the boys from the villages.”
Supporting the ski program by bringing ski tourists to Afghanistan has given dozens of our guests some wonderful experiences, has brought money to Bamian in the winter season when work is of short supply but perhaps even more than that - it has given a few guys in Bamian a profession and a passion that will stay with them forever.
For photos of our ski trips check out some snaps on our Facebook page here or check out this video by Newsweek. In March 2014 we guided journalists from Newsweek to cover the 4th annual Afghan Ski Challenge.