Monthly Archives: March 2010

Gulmarg History

Walkways in Gulmarg

Gulmarg has been a resort for the kings like Yousuf Shah Chak and Jahangir who used to visit frequently. The old name of Gulmarg was “Gaurimarg”, the name of Lord Shiva’s wife. Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, meaning the place of roses. During the early part of the 20th century the famous Central Asian explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862 – 1943), made his home here in a tent between his expeditions. It was a favourite summer holiday destination for the British stationed in India.

The surrounding areas were politically restive during the 1990s uprising in Kashmir, but since a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in 2003, the town has enjoyed a period of relative peace and quiet. The town is nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks, and lies within miles of the Line of Control. It receives heavy snowfall during the winter season and is a popular ski resort.[3].

With the abatement of militancy in the area, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the state’s most visited destinations. The slopes of the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalaya Chain boast one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. The total distance covered by ski lifts is five kilometres and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,950 m (12,959 ft), accessed by an aerial gondola (telecabine). The skiing project was inaugurated by the Chief Minister on 25 December, 2004. The entire hill is guarded by the army at all times. The army, which is seen everywhere in the cities of Kashmir, is not in the town or the actual hilltop. Frisking is only done midway on the access road at 3 places: Tangmarg, near an army camp on the road from Tangmarg, and 5 km before entering Gulmarg. Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests. Everyone else is required to leave the village by sunset, due to a curfew imposed by the army in 1990.

Heli-skiing in Gulmarg – 12,300 dollars per person per week

(Excerpts from a report by Izhar Wani (AFP), and ANI and others)

After securing government clearance, a Switzerland-based company started a heli-skiing service on Sunday, reviving a practice thwarted for years by violence and red tape that sees skiers taken by helicopter and dropped on remote peaks.

Heli-skiing is off-trail, downhill skiing that is accessed by a helicopter and not with the help of a skiing lift.

Priced at 9,000 euros (12,300 dollars) per person per week, trips will be available up to early April, forming part of a trend that has seen the violence-weary area revive its adventure sport industry as fighting declines.

The package includes flights from the client’s country (usually Europe and UK) and also hotel and local transportation.

This is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to experience something different to your average skiing holiday.

For anyone who has ever visited a skiing resort, or gone on a surfing holiday heli-skiing is the ultimate in finding spots that most skiiers would find difficult to reach by more conventional means.

Undisturbed snow, lovely scenic countryside, and breathtaking mountain vistas await the skier who is prepared to go the extra distance for a good route down the side of the earth.

French skier Andre Bianchini, a 48-year-old mountain guide from the French Alps, was one of the first to head out this week and he plans to come back.

“I’ve fallen in love with the mountains here. Unlike Europe, they’re mostly untouched and there are no crowds,” he told AFP. “The view of the valley from a helicopter is out of this world.”

Himalaya Heliski had been waiting for civil aviation ministry approval in the highly militarised zone since the start of the winter season.

Sylvian Sudan from Himalaya Heliski, which heads to isolated peaks in a different area from Gulmarg, said he had 30 clients booked for this year and expects “many more” next year.

The company started heli-skiing in Kashmir in 1988, a year before the eruption of an anti-India insurgency that has claimed 47,000 lives according to the official count.

It suspended its activities in 1990 and since then it has struggled to establish a permanent service. In 2007 its chopper plunged into deep snow — fortunately without causing injuries.

Next year a New Zealand-based company in collaboration with Gulmarg Heli-Skiing, a local company, will also step in to offer a competing service.

It had bookings from 200 foreigners for trips this winter, but was unable to get the clearances in time, said Abdul Hameed, the owner of Gulmarg Heli-Skiing.

Professional skiers from around the world gathered in Srinagar, on Sunday to take off on choppers and indulge in heli-skiing down the slopes of Gulmarg.heliskiing-gulmarg-kashmir

wildest, most frustrating, most liberating skiing

This interesting forum entry by “action goat” is a good narration of one person’s skiing experience in Gulmarg this year. All credits on Gulmarg TR to the forum post entry on

Just returned from Gulmarg after spending 17 days there. To sum up, it was probably the wildest, most frustrating, most liberating skiing I’ve ever had. Timed the snow perfectly – I often heard that the first week we were there was the best of the season so far. After a very poor start to the season, 3 metres fell in the week before arrival; the result was an avalanche that thundered down one of the bowls, killing 17 soldiers stationed nearby. The gondola, of course, was closed throughout the storm, but jeep-assisted runs to the nearby villages of Baba Reshi and Drung, as well as skinning up Monkey Hill, offered plenty of good turns until the gondola opened. When it did, the pow stayed good for more than a week before crapping out.

But while the snow was great and first tracks easy to score, Gulmarg definitely was at times exasperating. The lift ticket system was utterly ridiculous and time-consuming, the ATM rarely worked (and when it did it ate my card), and the upper gondola was frequently closed (meanwhile the lower gondola offered no reasonable skiing). Worst of all, the terrain was not particularly steep (something especially apparent now I’m back and have checked out a few piccies of recently posted Euro TRs). Here’s the thing though: most of these annoyances were kind of like gatekeepers; a slew of frustrations to keep uncommitted skiers away from the pow that awaited. Doubtless there’ll be plenty of skiers coming away from Gulmarg this season saying the place is crap—these frustrations become pretty hard to deal with if there hasn’t been any fresh snow for more than a week—but for those willing to roll with it, the place offers an experience like no other. And the Kashmiris are incredibly friendly, except perhaps when they’re throwing rocks at cops in Srinagar – the city got shut down several times while we were there (Gulmarg though felt utterly safe and removed from any disturbances)