One of the major attractions for adventure loving tourists is skiing in the Himalayas. Gulmarg, the best ski resort in the Himalayas, was first established by the British in 1927, when two British Army Officers, Maj. Metcarp and Maj. Hadow had setup the Ski Club of India at Gulmarg.
Skiing had become very popular during the pre-independence years and Gulmarg used to host two main events, one each during Christmas and Easter. In 1938-39 about 500 skiers are reported to have participated in the Christmas and Easter ski races. Gulmarg’s atmosphere can generally be identified with 1940’s and 50’s European skiing—‘the Alps of good old days’. It has good sunshine as well as good snow.
Gulmarg holds a position as one of the highest lift-served ski resorts in the world. This is due to setting-up of a Gandola Cable Car Lift from Gulmarg to Apharwat top. Presently, only the first section of the Gandola, from Gulmarg to Kongdori is operational, giving a downhill ski run of about 3 kms. In addition, three ski lifts and one chair lift also service the resort, which are suitable for beginners and intermediate-level skiing, respectively.
The skiing season in Gulmarg usually commences before Christmas (around middle of December) and continues till middle of April. In January-February, 1998 the first National Winter Games of India were held at Gulmarg, for which the facilities were enormously improved and upgraded. The resort acquired two Kasse Bohrer snow beating machines used for preparing skiing slopes, and five snowmobiles, which can be made available for going up the mountain. Good quality equipment, including skis, boots, sticks, gloves and goggles are available on hire on the spot from the Government-run ski shop. There are also trained instructors available for guiding the tourists. Gulmarg is ideally suited for learning skiing, as it is probably the cheapest ski resort in the world.
Some time back, the famous French skier Sylvain Saudan, had started Heli-skiing in the Himalayas for European skiers. He would take the skiers by helicopter on top of Gulmarg mountain and other peaks in the area from where they would ski down the immense Himalayan slopes. This programme has been suspended for the time being.
The most enjoyable aspect of a winter sojourn in Gulmarg is the friendly atmosphere. It is like being in a family where everybody knows every one else.