Imagine swooshing downhill across ice-white powdery snow, sun beaming down out of a deep blue sky, with a backdrop of the highest mountain range in the world. You can do this at Gulmarg, one of India’s premier ski resorts, only 35 miles from beautiful Srinagar in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Skiing was introduced to Gulmarg by two British Army officers who established the first ski club at this hill station in the 1920s, but it is only in the past decade that this popular destination has really taken off as a first-class attraction for skiing enthusiasts. In the winter, the extreme and varied terrain combined with very heavy snowfalls, create a snow destination that is among the best in the world. In 2011 CNN voted it in the Top 5 Asia Ski Resorts.
The word ‘Gulmarg’ translates ‘Place of the Roses’ or ‘Meadow of Flowers’. According to Gulmarg Tourism, the old name of Gulmarg was “Gaurimarg”, the name of Lord Shiva’s wife. Its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers.
Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Mogul Emperor Jehangir, who collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. However, it is the amazing snow conditions in winter that bring in thousands of skiiers and snowboarders throughout the winter months.
The total distance covered by ski lifts is five kilometres and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,950 m (12,959 ft), accessed by an aerial gondola (telecabine) the world’s second highest. Nick Parks describes a typical day on the slopes for Ski Gulmarg here. “Views across to Nanga Parbat 8125m the ninth highest peak in the world are enough on their own to justify the £2.50 lift ticket but it’s the 2300m of skiing terrain below your skis that really make it. You’re spoilt for choice: ridges, bowls, trees… Aperwhat Mountain has it all.”
There are runs for all levels with natural, wild, backcountry and off-piste skiing for intermediate to expert level skiers and snowboarders. At the top station, skiers can take on challenging runs with Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest peak, as a backdrop. The official Jammu and Kashmir website gives daily weather updates throughout the winter.
We arranged for journalist Ianthe Butt to stay in the lovely Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa in Gulmarg whilst she explored her family roots in Kashmir. Read her review for British Airways High Life magazine here.
If this has whetted your appetite for a seriously different winter experience, let us organise your ideal ski holiday with our luxury ‘Ski India Tour’ This 9-day trip includes overnight stays in Delhi and Srinagar, transfer by private Jeep to Hotel Grand Mumtaz or Hotel Pine Palace and 5 days’ skiing in this stunning resort. More information here.
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