Despite living in a country surrounded on three sides by oceans, and being blessed by hundreds of rivers and water bodies, Indians never really took to water sports till about recently. Same is the story with winter sports. With so many snow-clad mountain ranges that ring the northern border states of the country, we have never really taken to outdoor sports like skiing or snowboarding. The British set up the earliest facilities for skiing, but unlike in the case of cricket, Indians never really developed a passion for the snow. But with globalisation over the last two decades, things are changing. Skiing, like trekking and mountaineering, is increasingly being re-discovered as a leisure sport. As facilities get upgraded in many resorts, people in ever large numbers are travelling to mountain resorts that offer this facility. Here is our list of the best places in India where you can ski, or learn to ski.
Gulmarg is by miles India’s best ski resort and it has been such since it was established by the British in the 1920s. Located 50 km from Srinagar, it is a little over an hour’s drive from the Kashmir capital. What makes it the most preferred skiing spot in the country is its infrastructure and the quality of its light and fluffy snow, the preferred ideal for the sport. Skiing takes place on the slopes of the Apharwat Peak, which rises to a height of 4,390 metres and is part of the Pir Panjal range that runs across the Kashmir Valley. The famed Gulmarg Gondola which was completed 10 years ago drops the skiers to a height of 3,950 m on the shoulders of the Apharwat where the top slopes used by the more experienced skiers begin. Five ski lifts, the largest number for any ski resort in the country, take enthusiasts to the six lower slopes meant for beginners. The ski runs range from 200 to 900 metres in length. The other factor that makes Gulmarg stand out is the safety-related regulations and infrastructure. They are on par with some of the best skiing destinations in the world. Skiing equipment can be hired from the nearby government-run store, and there are plenty of trained instructors as well. The season starts around Christmas and continues through March.
Located in the state’s Chamoli district, in the eastern Himalayas, Auli is the second best place to Ski in India largely on account of better-organised infrastructure, built over the years. Unlike Gulmarg, the quality of snow in the eastern Himalayas is not the best for skiing for much of the year. As a result, the best skiing season lasts only for about a few weeks starting in mid-January. The slopes start at around 3,000 metres. The surrounding conifer and oak trees that fringe the slopes provide protection from the chilly winds. Unlike in Gulmarg though the infrastructure is limited. There is one 500 m long ski-lift and an 800-metre long chair-lift. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam conducts short skiing courses for those who are new to the sport.
Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Much of the skiing in this Himachal Pradesh tourist town is concentrated in the Solang Valley, about 13 km away. Like in Gulmarg, the quality of snow here is ideal for skiing. A cable car takes skiers to the crest of the 3,200 m high Mount Phatru, part of the Pir Panjal range from where the slopes start. Facilities include has one ski lift. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports located at Manali conducts skiing courses here for beginners. The season lasts till mid-March.
Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh
About 64 km from Shimla, this Apple orchard town offers skiing in the mountains of the Shivalik ranges, particularly the Hattu peak. There is a 500 m beginners run as well as a slope for more experienced skiers. There is a ski-lift here. The nearby Himachal Mountaineering Institute conducts courses as well as provides facilities for aspiring skiers.
(Images: Shutterstock, Raju Bist)