Naltar in Gilgit district and Malam Jabba in Swat valley are hub of ski activities in Pakistan. Skiing activities also take place in Astore valley, Nathia Gali, Shimshal (Hunza), Deosai planes and Fairy Meadows near Nanga Parbat. With two 800 metre ski runs and four chair-lifts for skiers and a 60-room five star hotel and ice skating rink under construction, Malam Jabba is likely to emerge as an international level ski resort in near future.
Skiing is a delight for senses. We love what we feel when we ski. We love what we feel when we see another skier make a great run. Since 1998 the sport has undergone a revolution. The modern-day skis are now cut with an accentuated hourglass shape whose curvature has a radius that is 60 percent smaller than their predecessors.
Skiing is a winter sport. It requires supreme physical fitness, complete understanding of biomechanics and laws of forces acting on the body of a professional skier. Janica Kostelic of Croatia, one of the greatest skiers of all times who won three world cup titles, three slalom titles and six Olympic medals including four gold, and five world championships, says she emerged as a great skier because of her understanding of all fundamentals and her ability to maintain contact with the snow through the transition with perfect flexion moves so that she could get pressure on the edge early in the turn. Her technique, coupled with the precision of her line judgement, enabled her to ski consistently clean runs without needing to make recoveries or line corrections.
Janica, who also coaches skiing, says skiing is very technical, involving discussions on the course. Forces, motions and movements are negotiated. The skier must know about the internal forces generated by his muscles and also the external forces like gravity, friction and wind resistance. All accomplished skiers use the force from the snow as their gyroscope. They feel for it, balance it and judge the quality of skiing by it.
None but a fighter pilot can understand the effects of force during a sharp turn or when a fighter plane takes a sudden and steep climb. A skier experiences the effects of forces against the body expressed in Gs. Good skiers usually take 30 to 45 degrees and slalom turns from 60 to 70 degrees. A professional skier thus experiences 1.4 Gs at 45 degrees, 2 G at 60 degrees and 2.9 Gs at 70 degrees.
If we compare a skier to a sports car, we can say that a skier’s upper body is the car’s body and chassis, the skis are the wheels and the legs and boots are the suspension and steering components that connect the wheels to the chassis. Remember that a car won’t run properly if suspension and steering are not aligned. The same is true for skiers.
Your ski boots are thus of paramount importance. For a racing car to be competitive, its suspension must be tweaked and turned to provide just the right handling. Similarly, the recreational skier boots will perform adequately if they match the right make and model of the skier.
Unfortunately, so far we have not achieved this specialty in Pakistan. The bigger the skier the stiffer the boot, and if you carry more mass around your hips than in your upper torso, consider wearing a softer boot. Similarly, if you spend more time in cruising, skiing fast, skiing in very soft snow or in big moglus, a softer forward flex will work better. Most of the professional ski racers use softer boots for downhill than for slalom and giant slalom. If one skis on hard snow or like making short, quick turns, more beef in the front of the boot is helpful.
Skiing becomes very lively when the skier lets the mountain take the lead and enjoy skiing from moment to moment, making tactical decisions based on natural snow conditions and terrain.
The snow condition is another important factor in skiing. Ice is the most demanding surface to ski on. It is the calibrator that measures the ability and spits back the judgement immediately. Moguls add wonderful variety to skiing. The loose snow skiing is carried out on powder, curd and slush where it is difficult to move side ways and a lot of torque is required to make turns. Last but not the least are steeps when a skier is pitched against slope. The slopes vary from 35 to 45 degree. This is most thrilling as it unhooks your body from emotions.
Pakistan Ski Federation is trying to popularise the winter sports to the best of its ability and resources. However, skiing can only be developed in Pakistan if subsidies are given on importing ski equipment and coaching is extended to locals living in snow-clad areas of country.