Nayla Tawa, Producer/Director
Born in the French Alps to an Egyptian father and French mother, Nayla was destined to be a citizen of the world. An explorer at heart, she has trotted the globe as a traveler, not a tourist. She donned her first pair of skis at the age of three and has lived for the mountains ever since.
Why Kyrgyzstan? Crazy as it sounds, endless winters and travel adventures weren’t enough for Nayla. She was searching for a way to transform her inherently selfish passion into something positive for the world. That’s when Krygyzstan found her.
In her words: “To me snowboarding is not just an obsession, it is an insatiable craving that has lead me to discover new cultures, speak new languages, and form irreplaceable friendships.”
Lexi Dupont, Professional Freeskier
When it comes to positive energy, Lexi charges at a speed few can match. Whether slaying massive Alaskan spines, stomping deep pillow stacks, or building her pre-season fitness via crushing workouts, she leaves most— including most of the boys—in her dust.
Why Kyrgyzstan? Lexi was inspired not only by Nayla’s story of recovery and resilience, but the idea of using skiing for positive change in a third- world country.
In her words: “Despite her life-changing accident, Nayla was going back to Kyrgyzstan. She still wanted to use skiing for a positive purpose. I wanted in!”
Charles Tawa, Medical Trainer
Possibly the most loved doctor in Boulder, Colorado, there is simply no one quite like Charles. Embodying what it means to live a life lead by kindness, at 68, he still shreds on his snowboard, grows his tomato garden, and is a friend to anyone who needs it. And don’t even think about out-stylin’ this man; his steeze will give anyone a run for their money.
Why Kyrgyzstan? After Nayla’s accident the first time she went to Kyrgyzstan Charles wants to join his daughter this time as a medical resource for her team but mostly, to teach the local guides and villagers about first aid techniques an immediate care of mountain-related injuries.
In everyone else’s words: “Charles is the MAN!”
Donny Roth, Backcountry Guide
Donny travels life’s path on human-powered skis. His primary passion is guiding ... as his numerous certifications and awards reveal. He believes that a great ski guide must have a tremendous amount of experience – but all that experience must fade into the background so each skier can create their own experiences and chase their own unique dreams.
Why Kyrgyzstan? Donny was part of the original Kyrgyzstan project, but canceled his plans after receiving news of Nayla’s accident. He has since made it clear that when Nayla was ready to go back, he would be there.
In his words: “I want to inspire people to find themselves in the wild mountains of the world.”
Jon Mancuso, Cinematographer
Jon has made his life about adventure storytelling, whether in Nepal, Africa, Alaska, South America, or his home in Sun Valley, Idaho. His love for the mountains is only matched by his passion for creating inspiring visual media.
Why Kyrgyzstan? When Jon heard about the Return to Kyrgyzstan project, he immediately knew it was an opportunity not only to tell an incredible story, but to do so with a passionate and committed group of people.
In his words: “Nayla's commitment to this small community in Kyrgyzstan is an inspiring story worth telling. It is a true testament to the human spirit, and our ability to overcome the most adverse circumstances in order to achieve our goals.”
Jerod Anklam, Photographer
Put a board under his feet and a camera in his hand, and Jerod’s warm Midwestern smile might just melt the snow he loves so much. Send him on an adventure that combines snowboarding and photography, and he’ll wonder if he’s gone to heaven.
Why Kyrgyzstan? Jerod was the photographer on the original Kyrgyzstan project and is looking forward to finally returning and completing the mission they didn’t get to start. He’s especially excited to share his love of snowboarding with kids who are new to it.
In his words: “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to give back to a humble community, learn more about their culture and explore new landscapes."
Hayat Tarikov, Local Expert
An Arslanbob native, Hayat has spent much of his life working to improve life in his small community. He has a strong passion for preserving the environment and for creating sustainable opportunities for the local people.
Why Kyrgyzstan? It's his home and he loves it.
In his words: "Arslanbob is like paradise!"
We are athletes. We are adventurers. We are guides. We will accomplish many incredible things through this project.
We endeavor to bring equipment to locals so they can advance their goals and livelihood.
We endeavor to bring training driven by their needs and their desires with a focus on medical and outdoor survival basics.
With these philosophies at the forefront of the Return to Kyrgyzstan project, we are bound to successfully deliver sustainable tools that will help Arslanbob and the local community advance in a positive direction.