The resort that never was - Part 1

AlbaniaSki+board / November 2017

What’s it like to turn up in a ski area that doesn’t exist? In Albania it’s not so rare "What are you going to do in Albania?" asked the guard on the border between Kosovo and Albania, peering at us through the open car window. As the blast of cold air hit our faces, he studied our features carefully, comparing them to our passport photos, as if they might provide a clue of our intent. “Skiing,” we chorused dutifully. This seemed a fairly safe answer. While in Communist times...Read more

Captivated by Kim

KoreaCaptivatedbyKim5smSki+board / October 2016
'North Korea'

When on February 9, 2018, the 23rd Winter Olympics open in Pyeongchang, South Korea, it can safely be assumed that athletes from North Korea will not be there. This isn’t due to lack of preparation — teams from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have participated in most of the Winter Games since 1964, when they won silver in Innsbruck for speed skating. But it boycotted the Summer Olympics in Seoul and will do so again, so ingrained is the ill-will between the two halves of the country. This is a shame, because since the resort of Masikryong opened in 2013, the poor cousins of the north have embraced alpine skiing with gusto. Not that my decision to visit it was met with equal enthusiasm by those around me. “You go to North Korea?” asked the jolly Beijing taxi driver in disbelief. “You are not afraid to be abducted?” I had read stories about North Korean scuba-divers taking girls...Read more

On the trail of the first skiers - PART 3

Siberiapart3smSki+board / December 2015

More than 5,000 years ago, when mammoths still roamed the northern hemisphere, the Tuvans, a tribe of hunters, carved mankind’s first skis. At least that is what ski historians such as John Allen from Plymouth State University report. These stone-age skiers carved out a living in the Altai mountain range, which stretches from Siberia to Mongolia and China. And, according to recent reports, they have never stopped skiing since. Schorsch Schichl, my Austrian mountain guide, and I planned to seek out our Asian skiing ancestors and — if possible — ski with them. Having covered thousands of miles by car, on foot and on skis, we did meet Tuvans, sure enough, many of them in Siberia and more in western Mongolia. Alas, none of them had ever skied.This last part of our quest to find the world’s oldest skiers — this time venturing into the Chinese part of the Altai...Read more

On the trail of the first skiers - PART 2

Siberiapart1smSki+board / November 2015

Having failed in Russia’s Tuvan republic to find a tribe that has beenskiing for 8,000 years, Andreas Hofer crosses back into Mongolia.
Recent research suggests thefirst skiers came not fromScandinavia, but the Altaimountains, in Russia, Mongolia andChina. And reports have emerged thatthe Turkic-speaking Tuvan people stilluse home-made skis for hunting andherding 8,000 years on. Theoreticallythis makes it possible to ski with theoldest skiing race… on stone age skis.I add the word theoretically becausethe logistics of visiting the cradle ofskiing are daunting. Having gatheredtwo 4x4s to transport myself, a localguide, ski guide, driver, two mechanicsand a mountain of camping gearfrom Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatarto the Russian border, I was promptly forced...Read more

On the trail of the first skiers - PART 1

Siberiapart1smSki+board / October 2015

Recent studies suggest the original skiers were not Nordic, but came from central Asia. Andreas Hofer went on a three-stage odyssey to find the Tuvan nomads — and ski with them — starting in Siberia.
Where did the world’s first skiers live? Ten years ago, the answer would indisputably have been in or around Scandinavia. Preserved skis found in Norway, Sweden and northern Russia date from between 3,000BC and 5,000BC as do cave paintings of skiers there. And this is the tradition that started modern skiing. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pioneered downhill skiing in the Alps he ordered a pair of skis from robed...Read more

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