While skiing in Kurdistan, our group participated in the 2nd Iraq Ski Rally. The rally is a winter festival centered around back country ski races and enjoying Kurdish culture and mountains.The first ski rally was put on in 1952, but was shut down by the Saddam Hussein reign. In 2018, the rally started up again with the aim to promote tourism and media coverage of the area.
The event was covered by multiple eager news crews, who were super excited to be participating in this event, especially with foreigners and skiers.
Participants in the rally included our group traveling with Untamed Borders, two Danish skiers who decided to come for the weekend, a few locals that knew how to ski and a group of young IDP (internally displaced person) and refugees girls.
Decked out in new Eddie Bauer jackets and ski equipment that almost fit, these young ladies showed off their new ski skills to everyone watching. My new friends, Ashley and Ana, put them on skis for the first time only a week before.
The Choman Ski Club is a club that teaches locals to ski. The refugee and IDP ladies were invited to participate with the club as part the FREE TO RUN organization. Free to Run is “an organization empowering women through adventure sport. Focusing on women who come from difficult circumstances and would have otherwise never given them a chance to participate in these sports and running”.
Watching these young ladies ski, was hands down my favorite part of my trip. I am obviously all about the positivity and goodness that comes from outdoor recreation. But skiing, (at least in my opinion) is not just any ordinary outdoor recreation. Sliding down snow allows you to conquer new terrain at a way faster rate than you would otherwise. Which is empowering. And freeing. And fun. And makes you feel good. And something that these girls would have never been exposed to without this awesome opportunity.
This is why skiingistheanswer
In only its second year back from the long hiatus, the ski rally has some things to figure out and growing to do, but has the potential to be something big and incredible for the people of Kurdistan. It is a great opportunity to show off the welcoming Kurdish hospitality, culture and mountains of the region to outsiders while, at the same time as bringing new ideas and experiences to the locals. The brains behind the rally are working hard to expand the rally so it can reach more people. More people, means more media coverage, and with that comes sponsorships and money. Money that would be designated for programs like Free to Run that helps refugees and IDP living in camps get outside.
Check out the link to Free to Run http://www.freetorun.org/
Here are links to more videos about the Rally and the girls training.