Nominee – Ski and Snowboard Foundation Nepal
The Ski and Snowboarding Foundation Nepal helps teach Nepalese youngsters to ski, snowboard and skitour. This is achieved with the support of a consortium of Austrian, German, Swedish and Swiss ski instructors who are keen to share their skills and knowledge with Nepalese tourism students. The foundation also trains mountain guides how to conduct skitours securely with tourists and at the same time encourages Nepalese students and youngsters to learn how to ski and snowboard. This capacity building project has led to a strong empowerment of rural mountain communities, created new jobs and expanded the tourism season.
Vision, goals and objectives
The Ski and Snowboarding Foundation Nepal (NFSS) is a non-governmental non-profit organization, founded in January 2016 by Utsav Pathak and Julius Seidenader collaborating with other friends with the aim of developing snow sports in Nepal. The Foundation aims to promote the Nepali tourism sector by developing sustainable ski and snowboarding, while protecting the sensitive mountain regions in Nepal. After the devastating earthquake which hit Nepal in 2015, Nepali students and mountain guides initiated the Ski and Snowboarding Foundation Nepal. In a next step, 50 sets of used ski tour sets were collected and imported to Nepal. Currently there are around 70 sets of skis, snowboards, split boards, skins, avalanche beacons and probes available.
The Foundation has the vision to teach Nepalese youngsters skiing, snowboarding and skitouring. With the support of a consortium of Austrian, German, Swedish and Swiss ski instructors that were keen to share their skills and knowledge with Nepalese tourism students we started a dual track ski school project. The foundation trains mountain guides how to conduct skitours securely with tourists, and at the same time encourages Nepalese students and youngsters to learn how to ski and snowboard. This capacity building project has led to a strong empowerment of rural mountain communities, created new jobs and expanded the tourism season. Furthermore, NFSS raises awareness of the drastic temperature changes in the Nepalese Himalayas by showing the world the changing mountain landscape and the ever quicker retreating glaciers. By engaging in this capacity building efforts the foundation has a strong focus on preserving the pristine and unique mountain environment in Nepal.
In addition, NFSS is teaching professional avalanche search and rescue courses to all its students to mitigate accidents, to build the necessary capacities for ski guides and raise awareness of the risks to the whole mountain community.
The objective was to use the existing tourism infrastructure of the lodges and trails in the Nepalese Himalaya, which are not being used in the winter season, without building new ski resorts. So far, the Foundation created a new tourism season, new jobs and successfully promoted a new and sustainable sport in Nepal.
Expected implementation and outcomes
In the last five years NFSS has conducted over 14 comprehensive and systematic ski courses with more than 400 students from all over Nepal. The beginner’s course, Level 1, covers the basics of skiing or snowboarding and was the most popular format. This training is usually offered at the gentle slopes of Kalinchok (3400m) in Dolakha, a 6-hour drive from Kathmandu. Moreover, one Level 1 ski course has been conducted in the far west of Nepal in the district of Humla. Possible funding would go into the sustaining of the ski gear used at the site at Kalinchok. Ski wax, new boots, climbing skins and other items that are hard to obtain in Asia and require a lot of maintenance.
Level 2 is an advanced component and requires a theoretical and practical course followed by an examination. It includes an introductory course into probing for avalanche victims, search and rescue and avalanche mitigation. Usually, this course is taught in the Annapurna Base Camp (4100m) which requires a 3-day trek. There are perfect conditions to not only learn to ski but to ascent on skis and safely learn how to judge the slope and snow conditions to assess avalanche conditions. Additional funding could contribute to the purchase of additional avalanche beacons and probes which are extremely scarce in Nepal.
Level 3 is the second-highest and most demanding course that requires not only ski skills, but also has an advanced avalanche and crevasse rescue component. This is required for skiing / splitboarding on glacial terrain and other more exposed mountain regions in Nepal. This course usually takes place on the slopes of Mera Peak (6474m) which offers the perfect slopes for advanced skiers and perfect conditions for crevasse and avalanche trainings. The course has also been implemented at Khang La Glacier (5600m) where the Nepal Mountaineering Association NMA usually trains on for one of their components of the Mountain Guide training.
Level 4 trainings have been conducted in India, Gulmarg. Two female students joined the level 4 training, Phenchoke Sherpa and Kelsang Shrestha are already providing level 1 courses to Nepalese Students. However, due to the Corona Virus Pandemic and the closure of the ski resort in Gulmarg in 2019 due to the armed conflict in Pakistan/India this training abroad has been terminated for now. Possible funding would contribute to travel costs for our advanced students to India.
Currently the Foundation is still working on a Level 5, instructor course. The attempt to obtain visa for a number of trained Level 3 students to get German/Austrian ski instructor certificates in Germany/ Austria wasn’t successful as visa applications have been rejected several times. Once the training of Nepalese instructors is finalized the project will be completed, and the last milestone achieved. Tentatively this could be in 5 years from now in 2026.
Climbing, mountaineering or outdoor sport focus
The project has a climbing and mountaineering focus as the Foundation has trained dozens of Nepalese mountain guides, who completed NMA courses, SkiMo, Splitboard, alpine risks, high altitude mountaineering, ice climbing workshop, Avalanche workshops, first aid workshops, exploration of new Ski Mo areas.
Moreover, members of the project achieved the first ski descent of Ramdung Go (5995m) in 2016. One year later, the Foundation successfully completed the first Nepalese Ski Expedition to Mera Peak (6474m). In April 2021 Mahan Pandé managed to complete the first Snowboard descent of Mera Peak. Moreover, Sukdev Thapa and Mahan Pandé have explored the region of Mustang/Muktinath, in the context of a feasibility study, and conducted several first descents on ski and snowboard of 4000 and 5000m peaks.
Hence, the project has contributed to a new momentum in the Nepalese Climbing community by empowering stakeholders and through capacity building. In the last years the organisation could witness first descents on skis by Nepalese mountaineers, the exploration of new areas for ski mountaineering and a fast progress in the realm of avalanche awareness and rescue skills for dozens of former students. This supports a broader trend of Nepalese Climbers professionalisation in mountaineering. More technical first ascents, incredible sports climbers and a new attitude towards safety and new gear are other factors that have contributed to the growth and popularity of mountain sports for Nepalese. Skiing and Split Boarding are mainstream sports in America and Europe, but hardly in Asia. Nevertheless, through capacity building, workshops on safety and new gear this can change over time.
Best practice in mountaineering and mountain-based sports for mountain protection
The project is unique because not only does it use recycled skitour gear and use the existing infrastructure in Nepal, but it furthermore, is the first and only ski school in Nepal that offers snowboard and ski trainings. At the same time it is the highest ski school in the world and have a unique training ground. The Himalaya is currently facing some of the fastest temperature changes caused by climate change. Even in altitudes above 5000m these drastic changes can be witnessed. Raising awareness for the climate crisis by facilitating trainings also does make the Foundation stand out from other ski schools around the globe. There are almost no avalanche beacons available in Nepal and only few trained rescuers. Improving the avalanche awareness, search & rescue skills, and tour planning is crucial for anyone in the mountains. This capacity building is extremely important for villagers, trekking guides and mountain guides on expeditions.
Moreover, NFSS does not only facilitate Skitour racing, but promotes systematic and structured training to villagers in remote areas, youngsters, and professional mountain guides. In total more than 400 students have been taught how to ski on a level 1 basis. At the same time, the Foundation has collected and maintained a significant amount of ski tour and split board gear and transported it to Nepal. In this context it is the Nepal Ski and Snowboard Foundation that represent Nepal in the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) and in the World Snowboard Federation (WSF). The Foundation has organized and implemented the first Ski Mountaineering and Snowboard races in Nepal’s history and is planning to carry out more events in the future. With the possible inclusion of Ski Mountaineering in the Olympic Family of winter sports, students are already dreaming about participating in vertical races at the Olympics 2026 in Milano.
The main work consists of the structured trainings offered to all Nepalese age groups, without discriminating for gender, cast or ethnicity. This work has also strongly empowered girls and women that have undergone the training activities and provided a lot of positive feedback.
To discover more about the UIAA Mountain Protection Award please click here.
Please note that the content published in this article is courtesy of the Award nominee. The UIAA has made minor revisions to the original submission.