By Pravat Adhikari
Despite being a mountainous country with some of the areas covered by snow all the year round, ski mountaineering is still at a nascent stage in Nepal. Nepal holds immense potential for development of ski activities in the country. Many areas of the country are still to be explored. If we become successful in linking ski with trekking and mountaineering activities, we will have endless potentials. Nepal can be the world leader in accessible high altitude skiing.
The main goals of skiing in Nepali context are to promote Nepal as a winter sports destination so that we can attract tourists in the winter thereby increasing revenue in the tourism sector; to encourage Nepali outdoor individuals (trekkers, guides etc.) to learn skiing and then choose it either as a hobby or a profession, and it can lead to internal tourism as well in the winter; to integrate with locals by experiencing mountain culture by skiing in high valleys as well as to teach local kids skiing to create awareness of the possibilities that may be there.
Mera Peak, Island Peak, Mt Putha, Yala Peak, Mt Dhawalagiri, Throng la Pass, Dhorpatan and Annapurna Base Camp can be some of the excellent destinations for skiing in Nepal. Similarly, Muktinath area in the Annapurna region can be an excellent area to promote ski-mountaineering on the basis of a feasibility study conducted by Himalayan Ski Trek. The study was conducted in January 2017 by Nepali and British ski instructors.
Ski tourism has become a huge part of adventure tourism in the world arena like high altitude expeditions, peak climbing and trekking. Climbing the mountains on foot and coming down by skiing is a good way to get thrills and adventure. For professional skiers, there is no thrill beyond skiing off-piste in the Himalayas. Nobody can describe in words the adventure of skiing at such a high altitude.
Ski mountaineering and ski trekking packages can make Nepal a year round tourist destination in the international tourism map. Skiers and ski lovers can visit Nepal to get thrills from adventurous skiing and mountaineering throughout the ski season.
Trekking packages in Nepal mainly run through October, November and December. Most of the tourists visit Nepal in these three months. If we devise and promote ski packages, winter tourism is possible from December till April. As trekking areas get huge snowfall in these months, these four months can be the best time for skiing. Thus, ski trekking and ski mountaineering could play a big role in enticing tourists in the off-season. It is good for the country’s trekking and mountaineering guides, hotels, local community, businesses and various economic sectors as it helps in creating more jobs.
Skiing is also good for health. Medically, it has been proved that skiing is good for health. Skiing requires a good flexible body. But this adventure sport can be enjoyed by people of all levels of fitness, particularly youth. Skiing, like yoga, can help to avoid muscle strains and sprains. As a lot of the work involved both in downhill skiing and ski mountaineering relies on legs, legs can get a great workout during this sport. Stability is the key when skiing downhill, and the leg muscles are constantly making adjustments to balance in order to stay upright.
The government, mountaineering stakeholders as well as private sectors need to work in tandem to open a new chapter in Nepali adventure tourism sector. Ski mountaineering will not only be another tourism product. It can contribute to the country’s economy and help to promote Nepal as the adventure tourism capital of the world.