Weekend Warm-Up: Pakistanis Take to the Slopes in ‘A Journey About Sharing’

Two hundred and thirty million people live in Pakistan, in the shadow of some of the world’s tallest, most celebrated peaks. But only around 3,000 Pakistanis participate in winter sports.

This astonishing fact opens A Journey About Sharing, a film by European-based non-profit Zom Connection. The organization is committed to equipping the inhabitants of northern Pakistan with the skills and gear they need to get out and enjoy winter.

two skiers climbing up a slope

Pakistanis take advantage of their incredible mountains. Photo: Screenshot


“When I go snowboarding, I feel independent. It’s like giving yourself a chance to test yourself. How good are you? And everywhere you go, you get respect from it. And while riding a snowboard, you feel free,” says one young man early in the film, over shots of Pakistani children riding and skiing on crude boards and homemade bindings.

a young girl rides a snowboard

Shred the gnar. Photo: Screenshot


The film is a whirlwind tour, delivering vignettes from all over the country as it seeks to describe Pakistan’s burgeoning winter sports culture. In one isolated valley, school lets out for two months every winter, and snowsports are an excellent way to keep children occupied in positive ways.

In another, a man named Hasham created The Hindukush Winter Sports Club. Hasham is the descendent of the area’s former rulers, from before the region became a part of Pakistan in the 1970s. With deep ties to his native soil, Hasham is committed to tapping into Pakistan’s incredible natural resources to bring economic wealth to the area.

a wide, birds eye view shot of children skiing and snowboarding

Children in one of Pakistan’s isolated valleys enjoy downhill snowsports over their long winter break. Photo: Screenshot


Skinning up is hard without skins

“So when we talk about the potential of skiing and winter sports in the Hindu Kush, we’re only talking about beautiful mountains to ski on,” Hasham says in an interview midway through the film. “There’s no lifts. In the next 10 years, if we can develop winter tourism and winter sports activities, then I’d say our goal should be to develop all this without disturbing and destroying nature. We will need lifts. But all of this needs to happen at a gradual and natural pace, without destroying the environment. It’s going to take a very long time.”

a helmet cam POV shot of a snowboarder with mountains in the background

Riding in Pakistan. Not bad! Photo: Screenshot


In the meantime, if you want to take some turns, you’ve got to do it the hard way: by skinning up first. But skinning is pretty hard without, you know, skins.

When British military officers first brought downhill winter sports to the region in the 1920s, the equipment of the day was long slabs of heavy wood. While the downhill tech has changed considerably since then, many rural Pakistanis are still using skis that would be recognizable to those long-ago officers.

a young boy walks out of his house holding a snowboard

Having the right gear makes everything more fun. Photo: Screenshot


A meandering journey

That’s why Hasham started looking for a way to modernize some of the equipment used by his fellow downhill enthusiasts. He reached out to a group of winter athletes in France’s Chamonix Valley, and Zom Connection was born.

There’s no doubt that “A Journey About Sharing” functions first and foremost as a 50-minute commercial for Zom Connection. Lacking a through-line or characters to follow for more than a few minutes, it’s best viewed as a meandering journey through a country many Europeans and North Americans know precious little about, especially when it comes to its winter sports.

But that doesn’t mean it’s short on adrenaline. Between interview scenes and shots of French athletes hand-delivering recycled outdoor equipment, there’s plenty of stunning footage of adventurous Pakistanis ripping up and down some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.

a wide shot of someone skiing down a mountain

Hard to beat these turns. Photo: Screenshot


That alone makes it worth a watch. But beyond the scenery and heart-warming vignettes, the powerful theme remains: the destinations that wealthy or sponsored athletes flock to in search of epic skiing, riding, and climbing are more than just destinations. They are the homes of real people, complex cultures, and storied societies.

Click here to watch the full film on YouTube

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).