Imagine you’re a young girl living in Padum, a small village in the remote Zanskar region of the Northwest Indian Himalaya. It’s one of the highest and coldest inhabited places in the world. Winter temperatures of -22°F are common, and heavy snow keeps your village cut off from the rest of the region for 8 months of the year. Communication and transportation are difficult, if not outright impossible.
This is the world that Heather Chrystie and Cara McGlashan, two young women from the UK, trekked 100 km into two years ago. After spending several years skiing and working at ski areas around the world, they decided to work as volunteer instructors at the Zanskar Ski School, a small non-profit school set up to teach the children of the region how to ski. Its mission: to provide communication, transportation, rescue, and job opportunities for the people of the Zanskar Himalaya through skiing. Yet with one trail only 492 feet long and no lift, Zanskar offers only limited opportunities for learning advanced ski techniques.
Heather and Cara want to change this. They’ve started the Zanskar Ski Project to bring five dedicated students to Gulmarg, a larger ski resort in the Indian Himalayas, where they can benefit from a gondola, more instructors, and more intensive teaching. The journey will involve walking over 100 km on a frozen river, four flights over the Himalayas, and almost 300 km of jeep travel on mountain roads.
Yes, a big trip, with a price tag to match.
So Heather and Cara have done what a lot of people are doing these days to raise money: they’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign. Right now they’re about a quarter of the way to their goal of $3,500 (Canadian). Which means they have quite a way to go before their deadline of October 15.
Here’s what the two have to say about the project, from their website:
Learning to ski effectively really can revolutionise communication links and transportation in this remote and isolated town. The five dedicated students that we bring from Padum will return home able to share their knowledge and experience with the other students. They will also be able to take more responsibility in the running of the ski school, ensuring its continuation. Their long-term prospects of finding a good job will be vastly improved, and in the short-term they may be able to travel to school more safely and easily.
For Cara and I, the deciding moment was when we asked Padma, the 13 year old daughter of our host in Padum, what she would think about the possibility of going to Gulmarg to ski. For a girl who has never left this remote corner of the Himalaya, and who has hiked for every ski turn she’s ever made, this prospect was mind-blowing. Her face was a picture of incredulous excitement, and left us in no doubt whatsoever. We would do everything we could to bring these children to Gulmarg and share the joy and usefulness of skiing with them.
And here’s a video about the Zanskar Ski School:
For those of us who view skiing as a recreational activity, it’s hard to imagine the impact it can have on these people’s lives, as well as how difficult it is for them to receive good instruction. Sure, I love to ski, but I don’t have to rely on it for communication or transportation. Heather and Cara aren’t just trying to teach some kids how to take gates faster; they’re trying to give them the tools they need to improve things we Westerners take pretty much for granted. So how about giving them a hand? Visit Heather and Cara’s Indiegogo page to make a donation.