Srinagar, Dec 9: Skiing now won't be the exclusive domain of world famous resort of Gulmarg as authorities have decided to open the virgin slopes of Yusmarg for winter sports.
This is first time that skiers will test their skills on the peaks of Yusmarg, which has remained a favorite trekking and picnic spot. "Yusmarg has tremendous potential as a ski-destination owing to its slopes. We will organise training camps and one-day ski competition there in February," Farooq Shah, Director Tourism told Greater Kashmir at the sidelines of a function here Saturday.
"It will definitely help to boost tourism and winter sports. After development of infrastructure, it will become one of the best ski-resort."
Situated at an altitude of 7,500 ft, Yusmarg, which has beautiful meadows, is surrounded by Pir Panjal Range of mountains and is just 47 km from Srinagar.
"Yusmarg is next to Gulmarg in terms of skiing potential. It's best suited for ski-touring and cross-country skiing which is favorite in Europe. Yusmarg has many valleys where skiers can go on ski-tours for weeks together," said Rauf Tramboo, a veteran skier and general secretary of Ski and Mountaineering Association.
"I recently took a French group to Yusmarg and they were all praise for its beauty and skiing potential. But the only problem is the bad roads leading to it from Char-e-Sharief," Tramboo said.
"Not only Gulmarg but other places like Pahalgam, Shopian, Dudhpathri and Sonamarg have tremendous potential to become ski-destinations. From the tourism point of view, it is good that Yusmarg has been opened for skiing," Muhammad Abbas, a ski expert, said. "New destination will definitely attract more tourists and skiers."
Earlier, Farooq Shah, as president of Winter Games Association (WGA) of Jammu and Kashmir unveiled the winter sports calendar for 2006-07. "Winter sports is the only game which has huge potential in Kashmir. We can sell winter sports," Shah told reporters during a news conference.
"For summer tourism there are many destinations in the world but during winter Gulmarg is the best skiing resort in the world. Its plus point is quality of slopes and weather," he said.
Shah, who has served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gulmarg Development Authority, said, "Gulmarg is affordable ski destination of the world."
He said if a person comes to Gulmarg for skiing he has to spend 800 pounds including airfare, equipment and accommodation and lifts and in Europe this expenditure he would have to incur for a day.
"Gulmarg can accommodate one hundred thousand skiers in a season if infrastructure is upgraded infrastructure. In Europe, it takes eight hours to reach ski-destinations but in Valley there are at an hour's distance," he said.
Stating that WGA has an important role to play in the development of winter sports in the Valley, Shah said, "We have immense talent in the shape of young skiers and the association will ensure that they are groomed as best skiers."
He said many winter sports games, including National Snowboard Championship will be held in January at Gulmarg. Due to early snowfall, the ski-training programs will commence from December 15, he added.