Indo-Pak LoC tension takes toll on Heli-Ski in Kashmir

Half Season Past, Defence Ministry Yet To Grant NoC

ABID KHAN

Srinagar, Jan 31: It seems that recent Indo-Pak Line of Control (LoC) tension has taken its toll on the third season of Kashmir Heli-Skiing as the Defence Ministry is yet to grant a No-Objection Certificate (NoC) to the organisers for the current season’s operation despite the fact that half of the winter season has already gone.
 The Kashmir Heli Skiing run by local well known extreme skier and guide Billa Majeed Bakshi were all set to start their third year of operation in Gulmarg in first week of January. However, their plans have been hampered by the delay in getting required NoC from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The organisers were expecting NoC till January first week but are yet to receive that.
 “We don’t know what is going on. We applied for an NoC with MoD in June last year and were expecting it in first week of January but nothing has come yet and we have already lost too much of time sitting idle, waiting for NoC,” said Billa.
 “During the past two seasons, we were granted NoC without any hiccup in the first week of January. With the permission we were able to run Heli-Skiing operation throughout the season. We were also able to promote Gulmarg as the best extreme skiing destination around,” he said.
 Billa says that due to delay in NoC, his company is facing huge financial losses and also earning bad name for the whole Kashmir Heli-Skiing. “We have been working hard to lure high end (luxury class) extreme skiers to the Gulmarg. We were successful in our efforts due to our quality service during last two years of operation. This year we have around 1700 advance booking for the whole season which is almost double of the last year. But all this matters little as in absence of NoC, we are not able to run single flight”.
 “Our hard efforts are now turning into bad publicity for the whole Gumarg as we have to cancel our bookings. The Heli-Skiing customers are executive class tourists who take very little time out of their busy schedule. After coming to know about cancellation of booking, they get shocked and pledge not to ski with us again” he said.
  He said that the company is ready with two choppers at Gulmarg from first week of January along with whole crew.
 “Two choppers are stationed in Gulmarg along with two foreign and one local pilots besides we have four foreign skiing experts who are known all over world for their trade and also around 10 local guides and all of them have been sitting idle” Billa said.
 When asked is recent escalation on the Loc between India and Pakistan armed forces can be the reason in delay of NoC, he said, “I don’t think so because MoD is not categorically rejecting NoC. He however said that sometime they tell that they have mailed about it already” he added.
 He said ,” we can’t be victims of LoC tension as we hardly operate along LoC and mostly keep our operations confined to Gulmarg, Banihal, Yousmarg and Sonmarag mountains”.
 Launched in 2011 at Gulmarg by the JK Government, Heli-Skiing run by Billa Majeed has become hit all over the world and has attracted some of the well known extreme skiers and personalities.
 Apart from making the virgin turfs of different sections of Pir Panjal mountain range accessible, the skiers are also able to get access to those peaks and slopes which were out of bounds for the adventure sports lovers.
 “Himalayas are known for remarkable deep dry powder snow. The high quality curry powder snow, with perfectly spaced pine trees, open alpine bowls and mighty peaks of the Himalayas makes the experience best in world. Our Alpine area holds a variety of exceptional terrain for all abilities from wide open bowls to virgin peaks of Himalayas. Tree line skiing is a complete adrenalin rush during bad weather days,” he said.
 Pertinently it was Sylvain Sudan in late 70’s to start Heli-Skiing in the Valley and he is known as pioneer 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.
 Billa questioned that if Amarnath Yatra and other chopper services in the state are granted NoC’s promptly why others are being made victims. “We are concerned about boosting of Sports and Tourism which constitute essential part of JK Economy” he said.
 Despite repeated attempts, Tourism Minister, MoS Tourism and Director Tourism could not be contacted.

Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 1 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST




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