Monthly Archives: January 2006

Beauty of Gulmarg bewitches foreign skiers

ARIF SHAFI WANI – GreaterKashmir

Gulmarg, Jan 13: The snow-clad slopes of Gulmarg are these days home to a large number of professional skiers, including many from Europe and United States.
A high profile six-member team of mountain and skiing experts from Sweden is presently on “Mission Gulmarg” to enable smooth conduct of ski events on Apharwath.
“We’re here to teach the in-service skiers rescue operations during skiing,” Jorgen Karstrain, an expert in mountain guiding and member of the team told Greater Kashmir.
Having been to various ski-resorts around the Globe, Jorgen was all praise for the mountains of Gulmarg, often called ‘Switzerland of Kashmir’ for its stunning beauty.
“The mountains are ready made for skiing. They are unique in a sense that there are long ridges and slopes, and they provide ample opportunities for conduct of skiing and other snow activities,” says Jorgen as he glanced up a mountain.
“Due to Gulmarg, Kashmir has the potential to become one of the best ski-resorts of World,” Jorgen asserted.
Federation of International Skiing, after survey of the mountains has already given green signal in its report for conducting skiing on Apharwat.
“We’re able to conduct cross-country ski racing last year, and preparations are on to host national and international ski events,” said G.M Dar, incharge Tourism department Gulmarg and Mountaineering and Skiing instructor.
Dar said enquires about the new skiing spots in Gulmarg were pouring in from across the globe.
Nina Garmen, a professional skier from US was “inspired” to ski on the mountains of Kashmir. Garmen says she could not resist coming here, after seeing mountains of Kashmir and the ski opportunities they offer, in a video on extreme skiing ‘Tangerine Dream’ produced by the US-based Teton Gravity Research.
“It seems like the mountains have been carved out for skiing. I visited in summer here to see the slopes closely and eagerly waited for the snow. And now I’m here enjoying while skiing,” an elated Garmen said.
Mari Van, a skier from Holland said “I feel safe and at peace here. Gulmarg has soul-healing power.”
Many local kids and students of various Srinagar schools are also participating in the ski-training program amidst ski-experts.
Shiekh Burhan, 11, a student of Tyndale Biscoe School was skiing with impeccable skill. “I want to represent my state in international ski events. Every Kashmiri should know skiing, as it can prove helpful in rescue and relief operations in winters,” Burhan said as his instructor shouted at him to ride down the slope.
“All the students have donated Rs 100 for the program and we’ll have fun,” two girls said.
Savita Koul, an ace ski instructor said 43 students are participating in the training program. “The local students are picking the art of skiing very fast. You would be amazed to know that a student of kindergarten, Madeha has already outshined others in skiing and she’s doing it according to the book,” Savita said while pointing towards Madeha far away on the slope.
A team of Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering (IISM) is also camping in Gulmarg to oversee the ongoing skiing training program and up gradation of ski infrastructure.
“We’re planning to introduce para-ski gliding, ice hockey and skiing on snowboards courses in our training programs. Let’s hope for more snowfall,” said B.S Bajwa a member of IISM.

Valley’s tourist graph on high

JAMMU, JANUARY 9: Miles away from Hyderabad, where Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is trying to attract investors and tourists, record number of foreign tourists are visiting the valley for the first time in the last 16 years of turmoil. Last year, India had more than 13 per cent increase in foreign tourist arrival with maximum visiting (435, including 200, from Europe and North America) Kashmir in December. A jubilant Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) is trying best to attract more tourists.
Moscow-based adventure sports company Skies Himalaya will bring tourists from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and UK for a 42-day trip in Srinagar on January 14. Besides, German ski company Flory-Kerl will also arrive with a big group for 15 days on January 12. Twenty-six members of Alexandria Group from Moscow who returned on December 31 will arrive again in next month. Many more companies from outside India were requesting JKTDC to arrange for holidays, said an official.

Groups from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia and other countries are going to throng Kashmir to enjoy skiing amidst the enchanting beauty of Gulmarg slopes.

A package of Rs 6,990 per head for a group of minimum six persons grabs attention of domestic tourists from across country. The package includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, transportation from Srinagar Airport to Gulmarg and dropping back, and stay at cottages.

“The package is getting very good response from domestic tourists, and since December, hundreds of groups have been entertained by JKTDC. And, as the winter season is there to stay for another two months, this time record number of tourists are going to visit the valley during winter,’’ said Shamim Ahmad, Deputy General Manager, JKTDC.

Never before during the past 16 years of turmoil in the state, such a great influx of tourists, whether domestic or foreign, was witnessed. Since 1947, for the first time foreign tourists are coming in such a large number, he added.

Shamim said that to attract domestic tourists, they have different kind of packages according to their needs. He said that a package of 10 nights and 11 days offered at Rs 11,000 per person was the best one, which had even many awards for the JKTDC.

Snowfall beckons tourists to Gulmarg

Jan 6, 2005 Gulmarg,PTI: 
 Even as most people in Kashmir valley are loathe over the heavy snowfall due to hardships caused by it, people around this world famous ski resort are happy as ‘white flakes’ from the skies have attracted adventure tourists to support their livelihood.Nearly 70 foreign tourists have arrived here after the heavy snowfall on the New Year day, Assistant Director Tourism Abid Ahmad Bhat told PTI.

He said the number was a significant increase from just five foreign tourists on December 28 last year. Asked about the activities of the tourists, he said they were mostly into skiing and snow-boarding from high altitudes of Afferwat and Kangdoori.

The snowfall has also boosted the arrival of domestic tourists to the snow-bound valley with nearly 300 of them visiting everyday. However, most of the local tourists prefer to return to Srinagar after enjoying here during the day, Bhat said.

The tourist arrivals have brought smiles on the faces of the residents of villages around Gulmarg like Tangmarg, Kunzer, Chandiloora, Ferozpora and Baba Reshi.

“The arrival of tourists means livelihood for us. We act as guides or ski instructors to the tourists, which supports our families,” Farooq Ahmad Bhat, a resident of nearby Tangmarg village, said.

He said a ski instructor can earn anything between Rs 200 to Rs 500 per day depending on the type of services sought by the tourists.

“Besides Rs 150 for the skiing equipment, we charge Rs 350 for the whole day to teach the tourists basics of skiing.

However, an hourly service at the rate of Rs 100 is also available for those who just want to get the thrills without any seriousness about learning the sport,” Bhat said.

The sledge pullers are also doing brisk business as they charge Rs 130 per hour from the tourists to show them around the Gulmarg valley.

The main route for the sledge tour starts from Gondola cable car and passes through the church, golf course, club house and back to the cable car. The tourists then take a ride in the Gondola to Kongdoori or Afferwat, Mohammad Yaseen Khan, a sledge puller said. |

Khan said most of the sledge pullers turn ponnywallas during summer which meets much of their monetary needs but the tourism in Gulmarg should be year round so that people associated with the trade can think about turning it into a full time job.

“We are not demanding government jobs or any concessions from the government but it should ensure that tourists keep thronging this place so that we don’t have to worry about our future,” Ghulam Rasool, another sledge puller, said.

The hotel owners also agree that Gulmarg had the potential to develop as an all year tourist destination but the state government needs to promote it more aggressively within and outside the country.

“The guests have started turning up as per their schedule and we expect a bumber winter tourism season,” Abdul Rashid, General Manager of Hotel Hill Top, said.

Business picks up in Gulmarg with snowfall

Gulmarg, Jan 1:While people in the summer capital and other areas of the Valley are literally shivering in the cold, snow and chilling breeze has brought happiness to picturesque Gulmarg.
“Snow means life to us as it’s our only source of income in Winter,” says an elated Irfan Ahmad, 22, while taking a tourist for a ride on wooden sledge he pulls.
Irfan daily treks about 15 kilometers from Batu Tangamarg to earn his livelihood. “ For an hour I charge Rs 130 and if the tourists are happy after the ride they give me tip,” Irfan says.
Like Irfan, nearly 1,000 people are directly and indirectly associated with sledging business. “At last God heard our prayers for snow. Our sledge business is wholly dependent on snow as during the season as horses can’t be set to task,” said Muhammad Yousuf.
Photographers too are enjoying a brisk business with the snowfall. Sajad Shah a photographer is busy since morning taking the photographs of tourist. “I photographed mostly newly wedded couples and families with snow in the background. With snowfall business has picked up,” Shah who works in Shaheen Studios near Gulmarg bus stand told Greater Kashmir.
Tourists who visited this hill-resort for the first time were fascinated on seeing the carpet of snow covering the landscape. “ It’s really beautiful… I can’t express my happiness. I have seen artificial snow only in Refrigerator but today I am standing amidst it,” said Jyoti Sen of Kolkatta who had come along with her family.
Hoteliers say cold conditions were not hitting the business.
“We have made special heating arrangement in the wake of heavy rush of tourists and snowfall,” said Altaf Ahmad, a hotel owner at Gulmarg.
“ We expect our hotels to remain occupied throughout the season as skiers will now throng this place,” he added.
Director General Tourism, Muhammad Salim Baig said snowfall was vital for tourism trade during the season.
“Snowfall is the life line of Kashmir, especially Gulmarg in terms of tourism,” Baig observed. “You can’t think of good tourism in Kashmir during winter without snowfall.”
Presently, he said nearly 2000 tourists were present in Gulmarg. “Every thing is functioning nicely,” he added.