Skiing in India - The new frontier

From one of the oldest skiing nations to what for many will be one of the newest. France and India may have as many similarities as they do differences, when it comes to skiing.
As with much of modern skiing and mountaineering it was not just the British who got there first but British army or ex-army who were at the forefront. Chamonix and Meribel both owe their current standing to a strong early British presence. India is no different.

Gulmarg, the Kashmiri village nestling in the Himalayas, below Mount Apharwat’s 4124metres, saw it’s first skiing courtesy of two British Army officers. These intrepid pioneers formed the local ski club in 1927, mirroring the Army’s winter sports influence in France and Switzerland (St Moritz). The military influence is extended around Gulmarg because of it’s location in the disputed border region, claimed by both India and Pakhistan.


There are distinct similarities between this Indian ski resort and it’s better known European counterparts. The Grande Motte tops out at around 3,500m, whilst Gulmarg’s skiers can reach 3,979m, also helped by a French-built gondola, which opened in 2005 after a 16 year build! This is in fact the highest ski resort gondola in the world. Although still relatively small, the resort does have an expanding lift system, with a new chairlift added last year by the Jammu & Kashmir Cable Car Corporation.
Unlike the well (some would say over) developed Euro-resorts, Gulmarg is still growing, and with the economic and territorial uncertainties is not immune to growing pains. However, the delights of skiing in the Himalayas are not to be ignored. The resort now boasts it’s own heli-ski operation, a full week of heli-skiing (which promises 35,000 vertical feet of skiing) will set you back €7,000, while single runs start from €263.

 

The boss of British niche ski operator Alpine Elements and iGOSKi ski weekend (who provide ski weekend and short breaks) James Hardiman, was intrigued after reading an article in a newspaper (Tom Robbins, The Observer). “The juxtaposition of such an amazingly rich culture and history with such a modern sport was fascinating.” Asked if he would consider expanding into India Mr Hardiman believed that “There is definitely a market for those who feel they have skied Europe and want to look for further experiences. It is certainly an area we will keep a close eye upon.” Although not suitable for a ski weekend it is definatley worth considering over skiing in the USA or Canada. There are already a handful of small operators who offer skiing holidays to Gulmarg. These can often be extended, allowing guests to visit many other fascinating areas of the sub-continent.

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