GULMARG: all set for big thrill

Tourism department finalizes its winter sports calendar for 2012-13

WINTER TOURISM

MUHAMMAD YUSUF

When we talk of Sun, Snow and Ski the only word that comes to mind is Gulmarg. Gulmarg is considered the best ski destination in India because it receives highest quantity and the finest quality of snow among all winter sports destinations of the country. From middle of December to middle of April every year, the green slopes turn into natural white snow turf for the action packed winter sports here. 
Gulmarg is situated amidst Pirpanjal range in the huge bowl shaped meadow in northwest of Kashmir at an altitude of 2730 mtrs just 52 kms away from summer capital Srinagar. Appreciably it is now recognized as best ski resort in the entire Himalayas. Gulmarg is famous for many other reasons.  The bowl shaped resort is guarded by mountains all around. The surrounding mountains restrict exterior cold winds to enter inside the meadow thus keeps it warmer as compared to other resorts in Rockies and Alps, the sun that shines even during harsh winters, the commanding view that it catches of the entire Kashmir valley with many majestic peaks in the distant horizon running from Kishtwar to PAK including Kashmir and Zanaskar, its naturally groomed ski slopes for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers. No doubt Gulmarg is a preferred tourist destination for all seasons in Kashmir but the winter sports enthusiasts and athletes like it most in winter.  Besides there is a wonderful view of whole Kashmir valley beneath which make Gulmarg a wonder land of the Great Himalayas..
The neighboring Sunrise, Sunset and Tatakoti peaks in the central Pirpanjal range add to its beauty. The snow that we have here is of finest quality world over, while many foreign skiers call it the Himalayan Powder. Gulmarg is also famous for its highest Gondola in the world and longest in Asia. With the installation of state-of-the-art Chairlift at Kongdori last year by J&K State Cable Car Project Gulmarg has qualified for hosting major ski championships at International level. The slope here was already approved by FIS but in the absence of Chairlift no such championship could be conducted. Gulmarg is in fact an enchanting abode of snow. These unique features make Gulmarg Asia’s premier ski resorts.
Notably Gulmarg can accommodate too many winter sports athletes as it has so many well groomed and challenging ski slopes of different gradient from 8500 feet to 13,500 feet. Due to heavy snowfall the two subsidiary skiing spots, Kongdori and Khilanmarg remain snow bound till early spring.  The ski slopes at Kongdori and Khilanmarg are rated as one of the finest in the world. Usually Skiing starts here from Christmas day. Behind Mount Apharwat, Gulmarg has many other unexplored ski runs along upper reaches of Ferozpur Nallah. Much appreciably the Chief Executive Officer Gulmarg Development Authority, Mr. Mahmood Ahmad Shah has trekked on this route in summer this year to make further exploration. He has also explored the route from Gulmarg to Baramulla. Both these routes offer great ski-touring. 
This is unfortunate that we have always focused our attention on Alpine Skiing only but have neglected other winter sports in the valley. With the personal efforts of foreign enthusiasts the snowboarding and cross-country skiing is promoted and developed here. In fact we have tremendous potential for ski-touring, bobsledding, luge, ski-jumping, Olympic rodeo, biathlon, curling tobogganing and Nordic skiing. We need to lay tracks for luge, tobogganing, bobsledding etc. so that more tourists could be attracted. Similarly we need to construct ramps for ski-jumping and make an indoor all weather ice skating rink.
To run the winter sports activities smoothly and successfully this winter the Tourism Department has made all necessary arrangements in this regard. Several Committees like Organizing Committee, Technical Committee, and Disciplinary Committee etc. have been formed. The winter sports calendar has also been chalked out after holding series of meetings at Gulmarg.
The activities are going to start with the conduct of Ice-Skating camp from 3rd week of December. During New Year celebrations many small activities like cracker show, sledge race, snow sculpturing, alpine and nordic skiing, night ski demonstration, snow cycling, snow marathon and zorbing events etc. will be held to attract more tourists there. From 15th to 18th January Sub-Junior, Junior and Senior Ski championship will be held at Kongdori. The winners will be awarded cash prizes. This will be followed by Ambassador’s Cup, Champions coaching camp. The Gondola Ski Cup and Gulmarg Global Derby will be held from 28th February to 1st march. It is highly commendable that the Tourism Department is first time organizing the ski-touring championship from Drung (Tangmarg) to Gulmarg.  The first three winners will be awarded cash prize of Rs.15000, Rs. 11000 and Rs.9000 respectively. Ski-touring though not a competitive event will give a big boost to this event as well. The Tourism Department must consider sponsoring few ski-touring expeditions in other areas like Lidder and Sindh valleys and Mount. Mahadev in Srinagar district, which would help to promote winter sports in these areas as well. Exploration of other ski resorts in Kashmir is need of the hour. Not only the department also holding a Veteran’s Ski cup.
The environmentalists are not happy with the cracker show at Gulmarg as it will scare the wildlife and there is also apprehension that it may cause avalanches in the gullies of Mount Apharwart. They have urged the Tourism Department to avoid the Cracker Show. Besides Tourism Department activities, the Winter Games Association of J&K shall organize many other sporting events at state and national levels. The Winter Games Association of India, the controlling body of winter sports in India, has entrusted responsibility of hosting the National Alpine Junior and Sub-Junior Ski championship to WGAJK, which will probably be held in the last week of January. The other promoting agencies like J&K Youth Services, Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, Tyndale Biscoe School, State Sports Council and some other organizations shall organize several short ski courses for hundreds of trainees. There is need of holding many such feedback competitions for local youth and children to prepare them for major events. The J&K State Sports Council must encourage the spirit of competitions and must take the Winter Games Association of J&K under its wings.
It is also laudable that Tourism Department has involved the Gulmarg Development Authority and J&K State Cable Corporation and some private agencies including Hoteliers Club, Hotel Grand Mumtaz, Khyber Resorts, Hotel Pine Palace, and Magpie Hydel Project for sponsoring these sporting events this winter.
It is good that Tourism Department is trying its best to raise infrastructure for winter tourism but there is a need of installing some more ski-lifts at Gulmarg while the old require intensive repairs. No doubt some luxury hotels have been commissioned here recently but there is need of providing affordable accommodation to local youth. Construction of a youth hostel is badly felt for long.  There is also need of procuring more winter sports equipment by Tourism Department to pool it with other promoting organizations. It is now time to introduce more winter sports events here like Luge, Bobsledding and Tobogganing etc.
The author is Director (Operations) Adventure Call Tours and Travels and can reached at adventurecall@hotmail.com

Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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