Srinagar: During the harsh winter months when the isolated villages of Zanskar in Ladakh region would get cut off from the rest of the world, the residents especially children of the area would remain confined to their homes.
Heavy snow made communication and travel almost impossible between the remote villages in Zanskar, also known as ‘Little Tibet’. However, that is when Mohammad Amin Zanskari introduced the region to skiing to be used as a means of transport in 1995.
Zanskari recently died an unsung hero but the J&K Mountaineering and Hiking Club (JKMHC) presented a lifetime achievement award to him on the International Mountain Day celebrated here on Friday.
“He deserved more accolades but getting this lifetime achievement award will at least give some recognition to this unsung hero of mountaineering and alpine skiing. Travelling around Zanskar is difficult and travelling out of Zanskar is a feat in winter. Even in summers, it takes 10 hours to reach Zanskar from Kargil. Amin Zanskari helped his folks revolutionise winter travelling by training them in alpine/cross-country skiing in this extremely cold and very remote valley,” West Himalaya explorer Wiqar Bashir told The Kashmir Monitor.
Counted among the coldest inhabited places in the world, around 10,000 people live in isolated villages spread across Zanskar where temperatures in the winter months plummet to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Wiqar said the children got ‘wings’ through the non-profit Zanskar Ski School co-founded by Zanskari and British geologist Ben Stephenson in 1995.
“Local travel helps people stay connected for necessities as the outside world is inaccessible for months due to heavy snow blocked passes and severe freezing conditions. He gave wings to the children of the area by co-founding the school,” he said.
Amin Zanskari’s son Tufail Zanskari, who received the lifetime achievement award on behalf of his father, said Zanskar remained cut off for half a year and skiing was the only option to move around between the villages.
“During winters in Zanskar, it is very difficult to even walk on snow and skiing is the only option to go from one place to another. That is why my late father trained the locals in Zanskar that gets cut off for up to seven months in winters. Communication between the villages is also difficult due to deep snow,” Tufail told The Kashmir Monitor.