Hindustan Times (Jammu)

Ski enthusiast­s back on Gulmarg slopes after snow

- Ashiq Hussain letterschd@hindustant­imes.com

After widespread snowfall over the Himalayas in Kashmir over the week, skiers and snowboarde­rs are back on slopes in the valley.

The iconic ski resort of Gulmarg in the western Himalayas, near the Line of Control (LoC), has turned into a vast expanse of snow, mesmerisin­g visitors.

“Things are back on track. After a prolonged dry spell, there was good snowfall and we have hit the slope,” said Farhat Naik, a snowboardi­ng instructor who hosts foreign adventure tourists in Kashmir valley.

Jammu and Kashmir reeled under a prolonged dry spell amid harsh winter conditions, with barely any precipitat­ion from December till late-January. Experts had attributed the weather shift to climate change, scarce western disturbanc­es and El Nino phenomenon.

Gulmarg’s slopes had turned barren and sun parched due to the high temperatur­es, shooing away the tourists. Foreign tourists, who usually start arriving by Christmas, had continued to stay away from the Valley.

Relief for tourism industry

The intermitte­nt snowfall last week has brought some relief to the parched landscape and the tourism industry.

“The enthusiasm has definitely come back. Many bookings that were cancelled because of no snowfall are happening again,” said Mukhtar Shah, a prominent hotelier of Gulmarg and former heard of the Gulmarg Hoteliers Club.

“The rush is more from the domestic side. The foreigners would mostly plan their trips on Christmas and New Year,” Shah said.

Gulmarg provides adventure to every type of visitor, from a novice to a ski expert with vast meadows, virgin peaks and dry curry powder snow, attracting the majority of the tourists pouring into the Valley.

The Gulmarg Gondola, a flagship attraction of Kashmir and India’s highest ropeway, takes people to two mountain stages – the first phase takes to Kongdori bowl at a height of 2,650 m and second phase soars to sky-touching Apharwat at a height of 3,980m.

After using the cable car to reach the mountain peaks, the skiers slide down the slopes to reach back to the Gulmarg bowl.

In 2022, the Valley had seen the highest-ever arrival of tourists at 26.73 lakh. Of these, 15.42 lakh made it to Gulmarg. Last year, the number crossed the 16.5 lakh mark in Gulmarg.

Farhat Naik said that the skiing would usually start by midDecembe­r, but this winter, they lost 40 to 45 days of business.

He, however, said that things are changing as he was hopeful of foreign tourists also returning later this month.

“Currently majority of the tourists are domestic as most of the Internatio­nal tourists cancelled their trips here and went somewhere else. But some of them are showing interest. If the condition remains the same and there are some more spells, they may return by the second half this month,” he said.

Naik, 30, has done a postgradua­tion in tourism.

 ?? HT PHOTO ?? Kashmir valley had reeled under a prolonged dry spell from December till late January, adversely hitting the tourism industry
HT PHOTO Kashmir valley had reeled under a prolonged dry spell from December till late January, adversely hitting the tourism industry

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