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Skiing The Himalayas (Shangri-la)

SKIING THE HIMALAYAS, its still talked about in hushed tones, with a quick look to see if any one can first overhear. What was that “Gulmarg”, whats it like, when you first hear about the prospect of tearing down mountains amoungst the largest on the planet, a nervousness settles into your soul for you know the conditions will test the limits of your abilities.

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Arriving in Jammu/Kashgar has its own unique set of challenges, especially if you have set out with absolutely no clue  as to how or what travelling in this region entails, i was winging this trip.

First challenge is getting out of the airport, as the police will want to know where you are staying. With no accommodation booked and everyone pestering you to stay on their houseboat on the Dal or Anchar Lake in the middle of Srinagar, depending on the time of day, just get yourself to the lake and out of the airport and then make up your mind when you arrive.

I was traveling solo so for me i wasn’t keen to stay out on the lake as i was hoping for a little more people interaction and also information for getting around better, and i like a few sources just to feel out the options. It cost 700 Rupees for the taxi from the airport, which was steep in my opinion, so try and jump in with someone else. Once i got down there first things first tell the driver your not interested and find somewhere to eat, this is the place to leave your luggage while you scout out the best option of where you want to stay.

I sourced the cheapest option to travel up to Gulmarg, first catch a Rickshaw (about 250 Rupees) or local bus (about 8 Rupees)out to Batmalu , then a shared car/4×4 that takes you to Tangmarg (70 Rupees/per person), and finally another shared car that takes you to Gulmarg itself. (Also 70 Rupees/ per person). Quick note: 4pm is about the last call for getting out of Gulmarg back to Srinagar.

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Gulmarg sits on the rim of the Kashmir valley in the Pir Panjal range of the mighty Himalaya, close to the border of Pakistan. The worlds highest gondala takes you up to a altitude of 3960 Meters/ 12992 feet, from where you can access up to  2000 meters of vertical untouched lines. The terrain is insane, open bowls, ridges, chutes, tree runs and anything you can imagine, Skiing Gulmarg is a must bucket list destination for the adventurous skier or snowboarder, GO!!!!!!!

The place to stay here at Gulmarg, is The New Mount View Gulmarg, it’s a cool rustic comfortable hotel thats super clean and affordable, the staff are very friendly and are always there to help, ask for Tariq, he is super easy to deal with and an awesome character. Its right in the center of the village on Gulmarg Road, they have good quality ski and snowboard gear to hire so no need to take your own, in fact the gear they hired out was way better than the gear i lugged half way across the world with me.

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Now the juice, Skiing/Snowboarding Gulmarg, India. WOW WOW POW POW!!! I’ve snowboarded all over the world(Japan, Finland, The US, OZ, NZ, Europe…) and this hands down was the most challenging awesome place i have experienced so far. My impression is it’s like accessing Heliskiing quality runs, for something stupid like $15AUS each run. Its amaze-balls!!!!!!!

The possibilities are endless out there, it’s impossible to comprehend. There are 2 stages/gondolas that get you to the summit and another chairlift under the second gondola that gets you about 1/3 of the way up the second stage.

The first stage costs 400 Rupees and takes you just to the top of the tree line, there is a groomed home trail that winds its way through the trees to the bottom of the gondola, but off  piste here is a tree run heaven. Be sure to look at the terrain on the way up as there are some flat areas best to avoid through here that could have you trudging through some deep powder to find an exit. Through here is the pick when its snowing for when it snows here its dumping and the trees will offer a little protection.

The second stage gets you just under the summit of Mt Apharwat (4200 Meters) where you could just drop into the main bowl and ski back down to the second stage gondola. For those that don’t mind putting in a little effort for their lines, you have the choice of either hiking to the summit to access the bowls and ridges to the north of the range, or ski straight along the ridge and drop into any one of the bowls or valleys to the south, the possibilities are endless, and the rewards, OMG you will drop the best lines of your life.

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This is avalanche territory and its dangerous!!! One thing about Gulmarg to remember is you are in India, its dodgy when you compare the facilities to western ski resorts. Take caution, if you are confident with back country skiing and have the right equipment, no worries, if not it’s possible to hire a guide or run the gauntlet like me with the attitude “she’ll be right mate!!!” hahahaha

The other aspect to take into consideration here, is sometimes the lifts don’t open!! This is hugely annoying even border lying frustrating when all you want to do is tear up some fresh lines, and the lifts are closed for maintenance, arrrrhhhhh!!!!!!! I couldn’t figure out why this happened as I’m sure they weren’t doing the “maintenance” as said, with Jammu/Kashmir being a Muslim state the Après-skiIng is’nt fantastic, in fact there is hardly anything, my advice for this problem is to do 2 things.

  1. When you are in Srinagar stop at a hole in the wall (a nick name for a bottle shop) there are a couple on Boulevard Rd right on Dal lake, and buy a couple of cartons to lug up to Gulmarg with you, its possible to get beer/ect up on the mountain but this will save you some serious coin. Its also possible the staff will do a run for you but 1-2 westeners will have to sacrifice their day to do the mission, so its just easier to organize before you arrive.
  2. Another option to ski only if its in the middle of the season is to walk over to Gulmarg-Barbeshi Rd and lay some sihk lines through the trees back down towards Tangmarg to Gulmarg Rd. Talk with Tariq he can organize someone to drive down and pick you up when you get down there… its a cheap option and gets you amoungst it.

All in all if Gulmarg is on your radar go now, for it still has that pioneer charm to it and the adventure of traveling to this remarkable place nestled within the Himalayas will create memories that will stay with you forever.

 

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