SKI WITH A CAUSE – NEPAL
Fenshoke Sherpa is studying tourism in Kathmandu. She is very excited! For the first time she will be on skis. “Our family business lives from trekking and mountaineering,” she says. Her father was an Everest guide and now has a small agency, and she considers skiing as a possible future for both her family’s business and tourism in Nepal. And she hopes that the Nepalis can lead these tours themselves.
Fenshoke wants to learn to ski in the Himalayas. Despite the many snowy mountains here, this is something special.
With 7 Austrian and German ski instructors and 20 Nepalese participants we are on the way to the Annapurna base camp. Our goal: to put Nepalese ski tourism on a local footing. Fenshoke is one of the female participants who make up a third of the Nepalese students on our trip.
Rajani and Shanti also have young children and when they are in the mountains as military service crew, their husbands take care of the kids. This lived equality may surprise you in a third country, but the right to vote for women was introduced in Nepal already in 1951.
The immersion in the constantly changing society, in which you really get to know the local participants over a longer period of time and the opportunity to support them in pursuing their dreams, make this trip something very special.
Most of the local participants work as trained trekking and high-altitude guides or study tourism.
We shoulder the backpacks, which are now bulky due to the attached skis and ski boots, and start walking towards Annapurna through wonderful, ever-changing landscapes. Rice fields with water buffaloes pulling the plow, meter-high bamboo, ferns and blooming
We only arrive in one of the lodges when it is already getting dark. We ask about the location of the guesthouse after we have lost the connection to the leading group due to chatting too much: “Did you see some people with skis like us?” And point to our backpacks. “This way, this way!” The skis stand out! We are often asked by the locals what is sticking out of our backpacks. We are eyed with curiosity and admiration, the latter of course applies the most to the local Sherpas in our group, who proudly report on their project. Even if I don’t understand Nepali, the big eyes of the listeners and proud gestures of the narrators are enough.
Skiing in Nepal? An idea that seems very far away from sponsored expeditions. But the Nepalis also want to learn to ski, not least in order to guide ski tours themselves and to expand their tourism with the trend sport. Or simply to have fun yourself!
The earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015, has set the country’s development far back. The country has lost a lot of tourism since then and is limited by the monsoon in its tourism-heavy months. To change this, a local NGO was founded, the NSSF (Nepali Ski and Snowboard Foundation). “Here in Nepal we have the snow and the mountains, we just have to learn how to ski”! said the Nepalese tourism student Utsav, one of the co-founders, to his Munich friend Jalle Seidenaer, who has given him incredible support since then.
According to the vision of the NSSF, sustainability and independence from foreign ski guides should shape future ski tourism in Nepal.
After four long ascent days, on which we looked forward every day to the well-deserved evening Dal-Bhaat (rice with lentils and vegetables) and in which we had to send two participants back due to height adjustment problems, we give the first ski lessons. The Nepalis learn quickly, but skiing at an altitude of over 4200 meters is a real effort, especially for us Europeans. We encourage a leisurely pace: “Bistari” means slowly. Every evening we make it our duty to ask all participants if they are well or if they have any physical complaints. Since they enjoy skiing so much, nobody wants to admit when they are not doing so well.
Drink a lot, and preferably eat garlic soup for breakfast – this is the local home remedy for optimal height adjustment and it helps!
The view of the surrounding eight-thousanders is overwhelming and incomparable. Who has ever been skiing with such a view?
Unbelievable with what perseverance and willpower the beginners trudged uphill again and again. Also how to climb sideways with the skis had to be learned. In such conditions, one could probably not inspire anyone in Europe to ski.
Meanwhile, the advanced skiers went on a short ski tour every day. We also taught avalanche awareness on a daily basis and practiced with avalanche transceivers.
With Vacations with a Cause we now offer professionally guided ski tours in Nepal and combine this with ski lessons for the locals in cooperation with the NSSF. Great slopes are climbed with a professional guide, including advanced Nepalis, and after the tours ski lessons are given for beginners Sherpas. The tour participants have a plus through professional guiding and experience a close-up insight into the Nepalese culture and an individual exchange with the locals that is unique.
In doing so, we want to establish a sustainable solution in the long term, to teach Sherpas how to ski.
The newest area that Vacations with a Cause is now offering as a trip is Humla. Jalle, one of the co-founders of the NSSF, first explored the area in February 2019.
The remoteness of Humla is not only due to the border with Tibet, as is the case in many districts of Nepal, but above all because of the lack of roads. A road from the border town of Hilsa to the district capital Simikot has only recently been built. For us, however, it currently means untouched mountains and original culture.
Equipped with four sets of ski touring equipment, Jalle traveled to Simikot by plane. He was amazed that he was the only human passenger on board, surrounded by ovens, stoves, rice sacks and other food. The approaching winter with large amounts of snow meant the last preparations for the population.
In order to welcome winter, traditional mask dances were performed at the village square.
After the predicted snowfall had started, Jalle and his friend Abinash immediately started training on the large, relatively flat potato field next to the village square.
The villagers took turns so that several could use the ski equipment. They helped each other. Pratak felt that his friend Mingma was too slow to climb the slope, so he quickly decided to carry him so that he could use the skis again as soon as possible.
The children used the fresh snow to whiz down the slope with their self-made wooden sledges and made fun of driving in front of the skiers in order to literally bring them out of balance. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of joy.
Due to the western disturbances, the massive weather systems, which bring the winter rain on the Terai and the snow on many glaciers, the precipitation is highest in the west. After all the years that Jalle had been teaching Nepalese skiers and snowboarders, he was incredibly excited to be able to do his first tree run in Nepal.
Another region in Nepal has now experienced the first joys of skiing. Access to equipment and skills is a matter of course for us!
The feeling when the glittering powder slope spreads out in front of the skis and only waits for our turns is familiar! But how much nicer it is to share this joy!
Vacations with a Cause supports Nepalis in learning to ski and helps establishing a long-term ski tour tourism led by Nepalis in Nepal.
Be there! accompany us to the still untouched region of Humla, where we climb unknown peaks and try out new runs!
March 11th – March 27th 2020 Humla
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