Category Archives: Skiing

CNN – Gulmarg in 10 top ski resorts to visit this winter

CNN International has listed Gulmarg as one of top 10 downward thrills in asia.

The list is:

  1. Appi Kogen, Tohoku, Japan
  2. Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
  3. Rusutsu Ski Resort, Hokkaido, Japan
  4. Alpensia Resort, Pyeongchang, South Korea
  5. Yongpyong, Gangwon-do, South Korea
  6. Jisan Forest Resort, Icheon, South Korea
  7. Gulmarg, Kashmir
  8. Alshan Alpine Ski Resort, Mongolia, China
  9. Yabuli Ski Resort, Heilongjiang
  10. Nanshan Ski Village, Beijing

Gulmarg, Kashmir

In the 19th century Gulmarg was a hill station for British colonials to escape the summer heat. These days, it’s a world-class ski resort blanketed with fresh, light powder from the Himalayas, attracting ski bums tired of Alpine lift queues and fondues.

The resort’s claim to fame is the Gulmarg Gondola, the highest ski lift in the world at a dizzying 3,979 meters. At the top station, skiers can take on challenging runs with Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest peak, as a backdrop.

Gulmarg is intermittently plagued by insurgency, resulting in security lock downs that can stretch on for months, but it has not deterred the 400,000 intrepid skiers who took the Gondola last year.

Getting there: Gulmarg is 35 miles away from state capital Srinagar. Visitors can take a taxi into Gulmarg from Srinagar airport, the journey takes around two hours and costs Rs 1,200-1,500 (US$26-33).


Its heartening to see an international magazine of repute recognizing Gulmarg in its recommended list. Truth is Gulmarg’s pure ski-natural potential easily makes it one of the best in the world; the whole hearted acknowledgement by the world is just waiting for the political temperatures to cool down, and a ‘little’ better management of infrastructure and marketing by state and private businesses.

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)

Avalanche takes a big toll

Sad news from Gulmarg – there are reports of 5 to 17 Army personnel, including an officer getting killed when a snow avalanche struck Khilanmarg, at an altitude of more than 2,700 meters at 11am (0530 GMT).

A group of 350 armymen were setting up a winter warfare camp at Khilanmarg near Gulmarg, when the snow avalanche struck the region. 70 of them were rescued, while some others could be still trapped there.

The officer, who was killed, was identified as Lt. Prateek. The army personnel were from an advance camp of the Army’s prestigious High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS). Some of those seriously injured are in a critical condition in a hospital in Gulmarg.

An Indian soldier makes his way by truck towards the site of an avalanche which engulfed a military school in Kashmir, killing at least 17 people Photograph: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Indian ski guides, who normally are hired by the burgeoning numbers of foreign skiers, worked into the evening to help with rescue efforts, according to local ski outfitter Yasin Khan. No tourists were hurt.

A combined rescue team composed of military personnel, police and tourism officials, working in fog and snowfall more than two meters deep, took several hours to recover the bodies of those killed.

Officials said there was little chance of any tourist being trapped as the avalanche was triggered at an altitude higher than the popular skiing slopes. About 400 tourists skiing in the area were safe.

Heavy snow blocked Kashmir’s main highway, the only road link to the rest of the country, for the third day Monday.

Over the weekend, skiers in Gulmarg had expressed concerns that days of intense snow were creating risky avalanche conditions.
The website warned Friday of “HIGH potential for climax avalanches,” adding: “when strong winds on Sunday and Monday create slab conditions, expect widespread natural avalanches from this weak interface throughout the alpine region.”

Authorities say an avalanche warning had been issued after several days of heavy snowfall.

It’s not clear yet what precautions, if any, the military took in the face of the warnings. The avalanche was triggered when 70 troops were taking a skiing test.

A vehicle carrying Indian Army rescue team is on its way to Gulmarg, via Tangmarg, northwest of Srinagar, 08 Feb 2010 (AP)

The Army produces skilled alpinists who occasionally trade potshots with the Pakistanis in the nearby Siachen glacier region, dubbed “the world’s highest battlefield.”

They also are sending India’s only two Olympic skiers to Vancouver.

The High Altitude Warfare School is the Indian Army’s primary institute for such training and was set up more than 60 years ago initially to teach skiing to front-line infantry troops.

In April last year, another avalanche hit an Indian army post close to the de facto border, killing seven soldiers and injuring at least eight others.

About 400 people, including 30 civilian workers, were at the training centre, but the avalanche hit only one part of the facility.

Kashmir – the powder paradise

“A couple of years ago stories about Kashmir started to spread through the ski bars of the Alps, rumours of a powder paradise, where a metre of fresh, light snow falls like clockwork every week throughout the winter. And could there be a more compelling subject for a traveller’s tale? Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir (who, when asked on his deathbed if he wanted anything, whispered “Kashmir, only Kashmir”) to Salman Rushdie (who spoke of “the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony”) and Led Zepellin (“Ooh my baby, let me take you there”).”

In his travel article published in The Observer, Sunday 31 January 2010, “The call of Kashmir”  Tom Robbins talks about how this troubled corner of the Himalayas has gone from war zone to ultimate ski destination. To his dismay, this year, as he chose to go all the way to India, to ski in the Himalayas, he found out that for the first time in 15 years, there’s no snow.  Well almost none.  But then as he begins to head back, it does start to snow…

He goes to Gulmarg, and can’t miss reminiscing about the “Raj” – the period of British rule in India. He’s given an interesting read on all that he is comes across. Read here his account of the journey to the new so called powder paradise