A Ski School Rises after Fall of Taliban

AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

The Taliban destroyed Pakistan’s only skiing school. Matee Ullah Khan built it back up again.

“The security situation was terrible under the militants, everyone was living in fear,” Khan confesses to the BBC. “We were completely cut off. We saw many schools destroyed, there was no life for the children, they couldn’t even go out and play or live normally.”

With a few skis, poles, and boots, Khan’s students near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border used old shoes nailed to pieces of wood to glide down hills. But then Westerners, hearing of Khan’s venture to reach kids through skiing, began donating equipment. The specter of terrorists targeting his students shifted to the reality of bureaucrats holding up the donated materials. Khan calls receiving the gifts “very difficult.” He says, that “there were the costs of transportation, customs duties to pay, the logistics were a problem, and we had no money for all the taxes.”

After agreeing to give some of the skis to the country’s air force, Khan received his goods. The skiers still don’t have a lift to move them to the top of the hill or a cozy chalet waiting for them at the bottom of it. But at least more of them wear proper skis.

The instructor sees his sport as cathartic and inspirational.

“There are certain sports that make you brave,” Khan tells the BBC. “The thrill of coming downhill at high speeds makes you joyful, but it also makes you bold, it gives you courage. It gives you vigour to go forward and do other things in your life too.”