Despite huge snow, scenic beauty and glaciers making Sonamarg a perfect winter tourism resort, this famous destination has been closed for any tourist activities due to lack of a all-weather road and other infrastructure required for winters.
With road leading to Sonamarg is closed from Gagengar onwards, hundreds of tourists, who come to visit Sonamarg have to return back a disappointed lot from this place.
The Sonamarg which remain abuzz with the huge flow of local as well as non local tourists in summers receives heavy snowfall during winter months but remains closed during winters for any tourist activity as well as traffic movement.
"We had come to visit Sonamarg only to experience snow there in its mesmerizing settings, but we are not allowed to move ahead from here" said a tourist, stranded at Gagengar village, 8 kilometers ahead of Sinamar.
Another group of tourists also had same thing to say. " We fell disappointed as we couldn't go to Sonamarg, adding that we have been to Sonamarg in summers a couple of times but this time we had planned to visit here during winters and see snow" said one of the group members.
These tourists, reluctant to move back to Srinagar and other places wanted to spend their picnic day at Gagengar itself, as it is also a beautiful spot and snow bound.
However, majority of the tourists complained about the lack of infrastructure including absence of accommodation, refreshment spots and lavatories.
"We actually had come to visit Sonamarg however as the road is closed, we spent some time here at Gagengar and enjoyed but surprisingly we couldn't spot any restaurant for refreshment" a tourist from Bangalore said.
The visitors also complained of lack of public convenience points at the spot.
The villagers of Gagengar, who are dependent on the tourism sector have urged the government to develop the area and tap its potential. "We are totally dependent on the tourism season in Sonamarg during summers and remain idle during winters. But form last few years hundreds of tourists visited here which gave us a sigh of relief as we offer them sledge and horse riding and earned handsome amount to sustain our family.
However, lack of facilities is disappointing the visitors," Irshad Ahmed, a local said.
They alleged that the government only prefers to promote Gulmarg and Pahalgam and neglects Sonamarg.
They said that the Tourism Department holds events outside the state to attract tourists but the department has failed to upgrade infrastructure at these places.
Meanwhile experts believe that Sonamarg has a huge potential for the winter tourism particularly the adventure tourism but the government has failed to tap its potential.
"Sonamarg has huge potential that it can be turned into hub of adventure tourism not only in valley but worldwide" says President Adventure Tour Operators Association Kashmir (ATOAK), Rauf Tramboo. Sonamarg has been bestowed with the best of the ingredients like water, air and surface required for the adventure tourism, he added.
He said that they have already taken up the issue with the government but nothing substantial has been done yet.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director Tourism, Mehmood Ahmed Shah said that Gagengar village has already been declared as the tourist village and facilities are being upgraded in the area.
"We have already build some infrastructure at Gagengar for the convenience of the visitors, however their outsourcing, functioning and maintenance is being looked after by the concerned Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA)" Shah said.
Deputy Commisioner Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganie said that the Sonamarg road has been closed from Gagengar as the area from there is prone to slides, skidding and avalanches, adding that to avoid any mishap the road is closed every year during winter months.
"The tourists can go upto Gagengar, adding that to make Sonamarg round the year destination the Z morh tunnel is being constructed on which the work is going on" the DC told Greater Kashmir.