A week-long snow festival, ‘Ski and Smile in Swat’ opened in Malam Jabba on Saturday, aimed at attracting tourists to the popular ski resort.
The festival was inaugurated by Cecilie Landsverk, the Norwegian envoy, in a ceremony attended by civil society members, army officials and a large number of tourists.
Intended to uplift people’s spirits in the region and attract the government’s attention towards winter sports and skiing, especially in Swat, the festival has been organised by the Pakistan Army in collaboration with Right to Play, an international humanitarian organisation.
“We not only want to revive tourism and the livelihood of thousands of people, we also wish to restore smiles in Swat,” said Operation Commander Malakand Maj. Gen. Ghulam Qamar.
Landsverk appreciated the efforts of the organisers, adding that she hoped the festival would help raise awareness about the region and associated winter sports.
“We (Norwegians) are crazy about mountains, but the mountains here exceed the beauty and wonder of ours,” she said. “With over 1,000 years of skiing culture, Norwegians hope to see the culture expand beyond their own borders.”
She invited tourists from all over the world to witness the beauty and serenity of Swat valley for themselves.
Landsverk and other embassy officials later visited the skiing track, impressing spectators with their skiing skills. Paragliders also displayed their talent, diving down from atop Malam Jabba.
Communication Assistant for Right to Play Ali Khyam told The Express Tribune that the festival is an attempt to “support Swat’s skiing school and promote winter tourism, because of the incredible employment opportunities it offers to locals whose livelihood have been crippled by terrorism.”
The festival, which will continue for seven days, offers many other related activities including snow trekking and competitions for children. It has been co-sponsored by the Norwegian embassy.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.