"Ski It If You Can" has long been the bumper-sticker-calling for the Mad River Glen ski area, challenging skiers to take on the Fayston ski area's terrain. This year it is taking on a whole new meaning as the cooperatively owned ski area's community rallies to help jumpstart a fledgling eco-tourism effort in the Bamiyan region of Afghanistan.
Bamiyan is a mountainous region located in central Afghanistan (about
150 miles from Kabul) and lies on the ancient Silk Road and was an
important crossroads on the famous trade route between China and the
Middle East. It is also the home of the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan
destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
With towering 10,000-foot mountains of the Hindu Kush and Koh-i-Baba ranges looming over the surrounding valleys, the region has long been a tourist destination and is the home to Afghanistan's first national park. The Swiss-based Aga Khan Foundation has created the Bamiyan Ecotourism Project to develop infrastructure, train guides and raise awareness of the region's natural attractions.
One element of this effort is to take advantage of the mountainous terrain and promote backcountry skiing. That's where Mad River Glen and their Vermont friends come in. Jonathan Hoffman, a former Mad River Glen employee, started Direct Aid International, a small nonprofit organization. Over the years, he has funded and contracted the building of 14 schools and a library and provided tens of thousands of notebooks and soccer balls to children.
This summer Huffman approached Mad River Glen as well as his contacts at the Vermont National Guard about the idea of promoting skiing in Bamiyan. The Vermont Guard's mountain troops have long used Mad River Glen as a training site so there was a natural connection to develop a working relationship.
As part of this effort, Mad River Glen has created foreign language versions of the Ski it If You Can stickers. The first round of stickers are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian and Greek. More esoteric versions in languages such as Hebrew, Russian, Dari, Finnish and Farsi among others are also in the works. Proceeds from the sale of these stickers will be donated to Direct Aid International.