Four years ago, I travelled to the Altai Mountains in northern China to help Nils Larsen document the remnant use of primitive skis as travel and hunting tools. We spent six weeks in the area exploring and connecting with the local, semi-nomadic people of the Altai Mountains. Our trip exposed us to a very small slice of a ski culture that most people thought was long overcome by the modern world and the evolving lives of remote populations. Our trip is documented in the film Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan.
Nils has returned to the area several times since our first trip in a effort to further document the use of skis and the importance of skis to the culture of the people in the Altai Mountains. In fact, Nils is in the Altai again, right now. I got word from hime via email last week that he had arrived safely in Beijing.
Here is what he had to say upon his arrival in Beijing:
…the most snow I have ever seen here – They have cleaned the streets by hand (shovel and push cart) and continue to shovel the piles in little carts and haul it away. Cold too.
I head to Urumqi tonight and Ayken (interpreter) will pick me up and hopefully head out with me tomorrow for Altay City and the first ski race (traditional). Lots of snow and lots more in the forecast for the next 4 or 5 days – looking forward to it. We are winging it from there, but it appears Ayken will head into the mountains with me. I have heard the roads are all close to vehicle traffic again due to heavy snow so we will be doing the chana (horse drawn sled) thing.
I hope to get an update from him once he returns from the mountains.