This beautiful yet majestic little town in Kashmir is a treat for the adventure junkies and a paradise for nature lovers! Skiing along the scenic landscapes, swishing past the steep slopes and gazing at the beautiful snow capped alpine mountains. At first, I was apprehensive on spending 5 days purely for skiing, but let me tell you, by the 5th day I felt like spending another 5 days more!!
Best time to visit – End of December till end of March (May vary on snow conditions)
Nearest Airport – Srinagar, Srinagar – Gulmarg 56km (1-1.5 Hrs)
What to pack – Layering is the key to keep warm. For skiing/snowboarding, here are the must haves:
- Ski pants – 1 pair
- Ski Thermals – 2 pairs
- Water resistant gloves – 1 pair
- Full sleeve T-shirts – at least 6
- Windcheater – 1
- Woollen socks – at least 5
- Sunglasses (Preferably black or brown)
- An effective Sun tan lotion
- Monkey Cap - 1
No compromising on any of these, they are highly required to save you from a frost bite.
Fitness criteria: While skiing/snowboarding, the maximum pressure is on your knees, thighs, shoulders and back. These need to be well toned and built.
We had hired our ski equipment from a government shop near-by. Also, for a better ski experience, we got ourselves a personal trainer. (It is a must, if you are a first timer like I was).
So here goes my itinerary:
Day 1 - We started our enchanting journey from the Srinagar Airport. After halting at a dhabha in Srinagar for some heavenly Rajma Chawal (Red Kidney beans and rice), we proceeded to Srinagar’s jewel – the Dal Lake. We hired a shikara (Boats) to take us around the crystal clear water reflecting the misty peaks of Pir Pranjal Mountains. A trip to Srinagar is incomplete without this boat ride. Shikaras can be hired from boat stations all along the lakeshore displaying official rates on notice boards. Expect plenty of souvenir vendors, however refrain buying anything from them as they are usually overpriced. We then commenced our journey towards our ski destination – Gulmarg. A panoramic 1.5 hour drive which we wished never ended led us to our hotel – The Grand Mumtaz. A cozy wooden structured hotel offering a mesmerizing view and a few minutes away from your practice slope. Oh and yes, don’t forget to halt in between at one of the local shops to rent gum boots. We had rented them for 5 days, that should cost you somewhere between Rs.100-150 per day. Rest of the day was at leisure.
Day 2 - Fully layered, we started our day at 9.30a.m. with our tour guide to the practice slope. We were introduced to our trainers and briefed on the basics of skiing. And zip zap zoop we went. We were briefed that the first few days would be rough and we would fall down A LOT!! But the key is to relax, get up and start again. Skiing doesn’t happen in a day, you need to be patient to see results. The only thing our trainers would tell us is – Enjoy, don’t be afraid of falling, it’s just snow, it won’t hurt you much and oh boy, we did enjoy falling. (To be honest, the landscape around us was the major reason for us to fall, WHY?? as we would be so mesmerized gazing at them, that we would lose control and fall!!). We were made to climb the 300 mtr stretch over and over again to strengthen our leg muscles. There is a ski lift which works from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. every day with a 1 hour lunch break. When we asked our trainers if we could use them to go up the slope, we were told – You need to earn it!! We got the hint and continued on our mission!! Around 1p.m. we stopped for our lunch break. We were served hot maggi, Aloo Paratha and Biryani. What more can you ask for, a picture postcard background and scrumptious hot food!! Don't forget to try their divine tea named Kahawa!! After our exciting experience, we returned to our hotel and were advised to dip ourselves in a pool of salty water. Well, I could see the blue black remains of my hard work on my body, but it was all worth it!!
Day 3 - This day involved grasping new techniques, learning how to control your speed, and taking slight turns. A little weight on your right, you turn left, a smooth ploughing technique and you stop gracefully, hearing an applause from your near and dear ones!!
Day 4 & 5 –Post lunch, on Day 4, we were finally trained enough to use the ski lift. Hurray!! Well, it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. You need to stand straight and ensure that your skis are parallel. And yes, we did fall again!! But once, you get a hang of it, it isn’t all that difficult. On Day 5, the weather changed and we experienced heavy snowfall. However, we continued skiing. The snowfall was in the opposite direction and thus hitting your face and making you go numb. The temperature had dropped down to -7 deg Celsius. The visibility being almost nil, it was a task to go down the slope. Luckily, my trainer had worn red pants, which made it easy for me to follow him!!
Day 6 – Our last day of skiing. This day we were well trained to explore the Gondola Slope. All our training from the past few days was put to test on this slope. Hilly slopes, abrupt turns and soft snow!! This was worth all the hard work.
With a bag full of memories, breathtaking views and a heavy heart, we headed back home!! It was a tick off on my bucket list and a beginning to many more ski holidays!!
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