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India's Winter Paradise

  Gulmarg covered with ice

Gulmarg, nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks receives heavy snowfall during the winter season and is a popular Ski Destination. The town has quickly become one of India’s most visited ski resort. Here, the slopes of the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayan Chain boast of one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. The total distance covered by ski lifts is five km and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,950 m (12,959 ft), accessed by an aerial gondola. The place is just 52 km away from Srinagar and has the potential to nourish your soul.

Gulmarg, meaning ‘Meadow of Flowers’ is a wonderful tourist destination in Baramula district. Gulmarg a resort for king like Yousuf Shah Chak who used to visit it frequently. The old name of Gulmarg was ‘Gaurimarg’ the name of Lord Shiva’s wife.

Historically a favorite haunt of Emperor Jahangir, Gulmarg today is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty-it also turns into India’s premier ski resort in winter. The famous shrine of a Baba Reshi, a highly revered Kashmiri Sufi saint, is another attraction of Gulmarg and is thronged by thousands of devotees all year round. The Gondola Cable Car offers rides to the upland meadow of Kongdori and beyond to the Himalayan peaks in summer and for downhill skiing in winter.

From Gulmarg, a pony track leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and Seven Springs, a couple of hours by pony, longer on foot. From here, across the Apharwat-the peak which looms up from this point-is Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake, frozen till late June. For horses riding afficionadoes, Alpather Lake makes an exciting day’s excursion, starting early morning and returning late evening. Slightly lower than Gulmarg is the Shrine of Baba Reshi, a Muslim mystic saint, whose shrine is visited by people of all faiths. Gulmarg also has one of the world’s highest green golf course, as well as a club house which is a historical building in its own right. For the world-be Golfer, there are golf sets on hire, pros to instruct one in the game and temporary memberships. Naturally these facilities are available to players as well except that serious golfers usually carry their seats along. For a fun-filled ride of a most unusual kind, Gulmarg’s newly constructed gondola lift from high above Gulmarg through pine-clad slopes is exhilarating.

  A tourist skiing on the slopes

In winter Gulmarg acquires a new persona that of the country’s premier skiing resort. Skiing to many who watch it on TV, seems like a very elitist sport, requiring a high level of training and expensive equipment. They are surprised, when they visit Gulmarg for a day’s exception to “see the snow”, that others with the same level of physical fitness and training are skiing down slopes.Gulmarg hold a position as one of the highest lift served ski resort in the world. This is due to setting up of a Gondola Cable Car Lift from Gulmarg (8700 ft.) to Apharwat top (13400 ft.).

The skiing season in Gulmarg usually commences before Christmas and continuous till middle of April. Good quality equipment, including skis, snow-boards, sticks, gloves and goggles are available on hire form the government run ski shops. Trained instructions are also available for guiding the tourists. Gulmarg certainly is the most affordable ski resort in the world.During the skiing season, rescue and avalanche mitigation operations in Gulmarg are carried out by a Ski Patrol Team. The most enjoyable aspect of their winter sojourn in Gulmarg is the friendly atmosphere. It is like being in a family where everybody knows every one else. Gulmarg is the ultimate beginners skiing resort. You do not even need heavy woolens, as in Gulmarg you’ll be able to hire snow boots, lufflers, woolen Socks, windproof jackets and caps. You’ll also be able to drift to one of the many ski shops and hire skis, sticks and goggles, find yourself a ski instructor takes a picture of you with your camera! Neither do you need to exert yourself climbing up slopes; the most gentle slope of 200 metres is linked with a ski lift which helps you to go up.

  Aerial view of the peaks from the cable car

When you graduate to intermediate levels which will happen after the first few days of practice, there are other slopes, longer and steeper, which are connected by chair lift. The longest ski run in Gulmarg is provided by the Gondola Cable Car which allows a ski run of 2,213 metres.

  A tourist enjoying snow bike


For accommodation, there are many hotels, two of them being luxury, several hotels being comfortable in addition to JKTDC’s winterized fully furnished huts which are great value for money. J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) runs a number of self-contained alpine cottages and bungalows in Srinagar and Gulmarg. Srinagar has a wide variety of accommodation, including deluxe hotels, guest houses and houseboats.

How to Reach

By Air: All major airlines operate regular daily flights to Srinagar from New Delhi and other major cities of India. Srinagar Airport is 14kms from the city.

By Rail : Jammu Tawi is a major railways junction of the Northern India and Srinagar’s nearest railhead, its receives a large number of trains from most parts of India. Srinagar is also connected by rail with Jammu.

By Road : National Highway, 1-A, connected to many parts of North India, including New Delhi. The famous Jawahar Tunnel and Banihal pass fall on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway.

  A spectacular view of Gulmarg

(For full stories read SAFARI INDIA)