Pakistan’s winter sports festival attracts thousands

Thousands of tourists and skiers head to snow-covered northern Pakistan

Video Transcript

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MOHAMED VALL: In Nouroz [INAUDIBLE] Skardu, capital of the northern Pakistani province of Gilgit-Baltistan, a festival that marks the coming of spring dates back to ancient Persia.

But during the last days of this region's harsh winter another equally joyful event takes place. It's the extreme winter sports season. Participants and tourists pour in from around Pakistan and abroad.

KHALID KHURSHID: This area is a gift to all humans around the world. The scenic beauty of the area, the glaciers, the mountains and the natural habitat, the environment, the forests. The tourism is number one.

I think if we talk about the private sector in Gilgit-Baltistan, 70% of the businesses are related with the tourism.

MOHAMED VALL: Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of the greater Himalayan chain with snowy peaks that range from 7,000 to 8,000 meters in height. Skiers and mountain climbers come here to test their limits.

RAJA NASIR: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: Ice traversing is unique in northern Pakistan. Skiers from Italy took part in making this possible. They also came to pay tribute to Pakistan's legendary mountaineer, Ali Sadpara, and to showcase the natural beauty of this area to attract more tourists and benefit the locals.

SAMUEL CONFORTOLA: I am part of a team of six Italians who came here to cross the Deosai National Park to do some ski touring. What we found was a unique landscape, a high-up wild adventure, something that I think a lot of people would be interested to do. Very unique place, special memories.

MOHAMED VALL: This year's winter and spring events are held in memory of Pakistan's famous climber, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, who went missing last month while trying to scale the world's second highest peak in the Karakorum Mountain Range, otherwise known as K2. He was officially declared dead after several rescue missions by Pakistan's military failed to track him.

At the foot of the mountain range, the town comes alive with visitors. Every imaginable type of goods could be seen on display here, from art to machine guns.

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The festival lights attract the old and the young, and there are hardly any signs of the COVID-19 restrictions and prevention measures seen elsewhere. For many, this remote region is an escape from the pandemic and a place to enjoy the traditions of old and new.

Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera.