Srinagar, Dec 4:
Sky running and mountain biking are becoming increasingly popular among athletes in Kashmir. Find them on Sundays, they will be either running or mountain biking on Zabarwan range hill as early as 7 in the morning when others are still waking up. The Sundays are busiest for them full of adventure and thrill.
At 7am, the athletes mostly from downtown in old city begin sky running on Shankracharya hill. They climb the hill from UN office in Sonwar and run to the top of the mountain through newly developed trails.
The runners after reaching the top of the mountain come down the hill through main metallic road completing 10 kilometers of speed run.
After completing the run, the they join the riders from Jammu and Kashmir Mountain Biking Association at Zabarwan Park and start mountain biking on Zabarwan Hill range.
This Sunday, Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez flagged off over 40 riders for mountain biking to Shankracharya hills
Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah, Deputy Director Tourism Riyaz Beigh were also present on the occasion. The riders paddled 16 kilometers through these newly developed trails. The MTB events are being organized by the department of tourism Kashmir in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Mountain Biking Association.
The trails on Shankracharya hill have been recently developed by department of forests for fire gaps.
However, the trails are used by the runner and the mountain bike riders to their advantage by organizing sky-running and also mountain biking events.
The runners cover 10 km distance while as they also join riders and complete 20km to 30km trail every Sunday.
Owing to the natural landscape and naturally built trails on Zabarwan hills, the athletes are increasingly joining the mountain biking sports to bring thrill to their life.
The events are being organized by the department of tourism Kashmir as part of its tourism promotional programme under the recently launched campaign Valley Weekends.
Secretary Tourism J&K Sarmad Hafeez said Valley Weekend not only promotes tourism but also engages youth in lot of activities.
He said the department wants to keep activities happening in the State so that tourists not only enjoy beauty but have local experience also.
Secretary Tourism said Mountain Biking is a good sporting activity which needs to be promoted among locals for healthy living and also helping in reducing the pollution levels.
Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah said Valley Weekend is generating lot of response from the locals and a positive image is also being sent across the country that Kashmir is a safe place to visit where locals are actively involved in many activities.
General Secretary JKMBA Riyaz Wani has been instrumental in making sky running and MTB popular in Kashmir especially among the athletes in Srinagar.
Riyaz Wani climbs these hills almost every day to identify and map the MTB trails for these events.
“We have identified many trails on Shankracharya hill and also on Zabarwan range where mountain biking can be done,” says Wani who along with Umar Nabi who rode on their bikes from Srinagar to Leh last year.
To make this mountain sports popular, Tourism department in association with JKMBA is organizing sky-running followed by mountain biking every Sunday in which over 50 athletes participate.
Many professionals including medicos, engineers, journalists, bankers and other government employees have also joined these Sunday events.
The tech-savy athletes don’t miss the opportunity to capture their adventurous moments in their cameras.
You will find some of them wearing latest gadgetry like gopro, gimbels to capture every moment and post them on social media.
Kashif Khaleel has been biking for many years and has almost rode on all the mountain ranges in Kashmir on his bike.
“Wherever we go, we shoot and post it on youtube. We have been blessed with mighty mountains and we want to explore them,” says Kashif who is working with Reliance Jio in Srinagar.