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pakistan skiing federation, skiing, malam jabba, malam jabba ski resort, Swat valley, Swat
“We have organised this event to let the world know that the situation has come back to normal with peace prevailing in Swat. Swat is no longer off-limits,” said president of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Ski Association Mateeullah Khan. -Photo by AP (file)

ISLAMABAD: The spectacular week-long skiing competition held at the picturesque Malam Jabba Ski resort marked the revival of tourism in the scenic valley of Swat that was once termed the 'Switzerland of Pakistan' but fell into the hands of militants, thus damaging its trade and travel activity for a couple of years.

Swat's Pioneer Skiing School, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (Parrsa) jointly organized the Peace Ski Gala 2011, which concluded today.

Eight teams, including Swat Red Club, Swat Green Club, Swat Tiger Club, Malakand Division Club, Hazara Division Club, Swat Blue Club, and Swat Shaheen Club participated in the event which was attended by hundreds of skiing enthusiasts.

The event organizers hoped the successful completion of the gala would once again bring the focus back on Swat as it dusts its self off and looks ahead to a future without the bombings and the threat of militancy.

“We have organised this event to let the world know that the situation has come back to normal with peace prevailing in Swat. Swat is no longer off-limits,” said president of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Ski Association Mateeullah Khan.

The Malam Jabba resort, which was captured by militants in 2006 and later destroyed,  has now been rebuilt by the Pakistan army and is fully operational. But the damaged chairlifts, installed by the Austrian government in 1988, are yet to be fixed and caused some discomfort to participants.

“I feel very good but it is very hard this time. There is no chairlift to take up the players or hotel to accommodate participants,” Zafar Ali Shah, who won a gold medal in Piece Downhill Senior, told Central Asia Online.

But all in all, it seemed locals and foreigners alike were pleased to see the steady stream of activity that the gala brought to the tourism hub of Pakistan.

Tourism constitutes a significant source of income for Swat and its residents. Prior to activities being interrupted by militancy, Swat and its environs attracted a good number of visitors from across the world as well as other parts of Pakistan. The area was in particular favoured by trekkers and mountaineers.