After 3 yrs, JK revives Heli-skiing
Ropes in veteran french skier
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Mar 7: After a gap of three years, the government has revived the Heli-skiing in the state with an eye on tourists from the West.
In its bid to promote adventure sports and attract tourists, the state government has engaged Sylvain Saudan, the three times prestigious Guinness Book record holder and one of the pioneers of extreme skiing,
Known as a ‘skier of the impossible’, for his dare-devil skiing feats in Alps and other peaks in Europe and Asia, the 74-year old Swiss born French Heli-skier Saudan was considered to be instrumental in launching Heli-skiing in the Valley in late ‘70s.
He continued his date with Kashmir even during the years of conflict by bringing skiers.
However, Sudan stopped to come to Kashmir after his helicopter crashed in a mountain range on way to Sonamarg in 2007. The skiers in Heli-skiing dive from a helicopter on top of mountains.
It is considered to be an extreme form of skiing offering the ultimate powder skiing experience.
The Heli-Skiing was formally launched when the tourism minister, Nawang Ringzin Jora flagged off a helicopter here on the banks of Dal lake with five skiers including Saudan on board, to Sonamarg mountains.
“I have been eager to visit Kashmir again and start Heli-skiing. I share an emotional bond with mountains here and I would like to explore and conquer them,” visibly-elated Saudan told Greater Kashmir before the take off.
Saudan has skied from some of the highest peaks and mountains, including Mount McKinley, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro and Nun Kun. “But the virgin snow on mountains here represents the surface of the North and South Alps combined. Though this time I started with a small group, but I intend to bring hundreds of skiers to Kashmir in coming years. Owing to its towering mountains, the Valley has the potential to become one of the best destinations from Heli-Skiing,” Saudan said.
However, he maintained that the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg doesn’t need Heli-skiing, as it has the Gondola to carry the skiers to mountains. Sudan is also planning to organise ski and golf championships at the Royal Springs Golf Club together.
Mary Josy, a skier from France and Sudan’s long time associate, said the situation in Kashmir has improved. “Besides promoting Heli-skiing, our objective is to project Kashmir as a safe tourist destination. We will also plan to expose the skiers to heritage and monuments here,” she said.
A US based Gujarati skier, Asit Rathod, who is on his first visit to Kashmir, said he had a pleasant experience skiing in Gulmarg. “I have skied in various countries but enjoyed a lot on Gulmarg slopes. I didn’t face any problem here and believe that Kashmir is a victim of negative publicity by some media outlets. I believe if anything has to happen, it can happen anywhere in World. My message to aspiring tourists and skiers is come and enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of Kashmir,” he said.
The deputy director Tourism, Mehmood Ahmad Shah said for assistance of the Heli-skiing, a ski-patrol team had been kept on stand-by in Srinagar. “The team is laced with latest gadgets to rescue the skiers in event of any exigencies or avalanche. Its members are trained in rescue and relief operations have managed to save lives during recent avalanches in Gulmarg,” Shah said.
Earlier, Tourism minister said government was extensively marketing mountains of the Valley to woo skiers. He said as part of the endeavour, journalists from prominent foreign media outlets will be invited to Kashmir on familiarization tour in April.
“There is lot of scope for Heli-skiing and Kashmir has tailor made mountains for the adventure sport. We will welcome and even support endeavours to bring skiers here,” he said.
The Director Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah said with the help of ski-experts, new destinations for skiing and Heli-skiing will be explored in the Valley.
“Efforts are on to put the Kongwathan in south Kashmir and Tosmaidan in Budgam district on the skiing map,” Shah said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 8 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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Ropes in veteran french skier
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Mar 7: After a gap of three years, the government has revived the Heli-skiing in the state with an eye on tourists from the West. In its bid to promote adventure sports and attract tourists, More
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