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October 12, 2015

Indian Himalayas – Powder Skiing/Snowboarding Adventures!

Written By Admin

36

If you are looking for an adventure this winter and want to go somewhere new, somewhere that offers more than just the typical resort experience, somewhere where you can ski and board amazing powder, without breaking the bank, then read on. The Adventure Project will be running their fully-escorted tours to Gulmarg, a powder-seekers paradise in the Indian Himalayas, this winter.

Our two week “ Gulmarg Powder Sessions” are for advanced to expert skiers and boarders who want to ride some of the best powder in the world. Our Instructor/Guides are all fully-certified ski and snowboard instructors or pro ski patrollers with years of experience in resorts around the world and many years of backcountry experience. We are great at guiding our guests to the best snow and terrain in Gulmarg, whilst being able to offer instruction and feedback on their powder skiing or snowboarding technique and comprehensive avalanche safety training .

You will need to be an expert skier or snowboarder who can ride double black diamond terrain in variable snow conditions to accompany us on one of our Gulmarg Powder Sessions. You will also need avalanche safety equipment (beacon, shovel and probe) and ski or snowboard touring equipment. If you have never been in the backcountry before, we will show you how to use your avalanche safety gear and how to use your touring equipment. It’s also recommended that you come to India with an adventurous spirit and a relaxed attitude, if you do that, you will have a very rewarding experience in Gulmarg.

Dates

Session 1: Sunday 1st February – Sunday 15th February 2015.

Session 2: Sunday 15th February – Sunday 1st March 2015.

Additional dates – available on request.

2014/15 prices (per person, $USD)

$1,000 USD per person deposit required for all trips

Hotel Heevan Retreat Packages (3 Star equivalent)

Single Room – $4,045.00

Twin Share – $3,495.00

Triple Share – $3,365.00

Hotel Shaw Inn Packages (3 Star equivalent)

Single Room – $4,175.00

Double Share – $3,595.00

Triple Share – $3,465.00

 

Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa Packages (5 Star equivalent)

Single Room – $4,725.00

Double Share – $3,925.00

Triple Share – $3,665.00

 

Instruction and Guiding only

$185.00 per person per day, based on 4 to 6 guests.

Prices include:

– 13 nights accommodation in the Hotel Heevan Retreat or Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa.

– All dinners/breakfasts at the hotel.

– Greeting at the Srinagar Airport by Adventure Project representative.

– Transfers to and from Srinagar Airport to Gulmarg.

– 12 Full days of instruction and guiding from The Adventure Project instructor/guides.

– Comprehensive avalanche safety training.

– Feedback and analysis on skiing/riding technique by Adventure Project instructor/guides.

– Local Kashmiri guide working as group tail guide.

– Final nights accommodation (including dinner/breakfast) on Dal Lake houseboat.

– Access to amazing equipment deals from The Adventure Project sponsors.


Prices do not include:

– Airfares.

– Indian Tourist Visa.

– Travel Insurance.

– Taxi rides when skiing lower tree runs or returning from Lienmarg/Drung.

– Weekly lift tickets (approx $130 USD per weekbased on 2013/14 prices) .

– Lunches, snacks, beverages.

– Rental equipment.

– Additional Srinagar tours.

– Overnight accommodation in Delhi.

– Gratuities for Adventure Project staff, local drivers, hotel staff, etc.

The Skiing/Riding

Gulmarg is situated in the Pir Panjal mountain range, one of the 6 mountain ranges that make up the Himalayas, about 400 miles (640km) north of Delhi. It is 56km by road from Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. The town sits at an elevation of around 2700m (8850ft) in a beautiful plateau, surrounded by the 5km ridgeline and summit of Mt. Apharwat (4124m or 13526ft). Gulmarg is on the western tip of the Himalayas and is the first mountain range to get hit by the prevailing South Westerly and Westerly storms that bring vast amounts of moisture from the Indus River floodplains. Rest assured Gulmarg gets a lot of snow, up to 45 feet or nearly 14 meters of snow in a good season. It has been our experience that when the storms roll in, it can snow several meters in a few days, before the blue skies return. The moisture content in the snow can really vary, especially with the massive elevation gains in Gulmarg. Lower down, it is not uncommon for the snow to be a little heavier, but as you ride up the gondola, you can ski in really light and dry powder that will make you feel like a hero.

The skiing can be split up into 3 main areas: the gondola terrain, lower tree skiing areas and the poma terrain in the town. We will concentrate on the gondola terrain and the lower tree skiing areas.

Gondola Terrain

The two stage gondola gives access to some of the greatest lift-accessible terrain in the world. Stage 1 of the gondola rises from 2700m to 3050m and gives access to some nice easy open tree skiing through massive old-growth fir and pine trees. The first 100m of vertical is nice and steep to give advanced skiers/boarders a challenge, but the rest of the run is pretty mellow. When snow levels are deep enough, they groom a cat track down from the mid-station (called Kongdori) to the bottom of the gondola. There is plenty of un-touched powder at the side of the trail that intermediate skiers/boarders will enjoy.

The upper gondola terrain can be accessed from the top station at 3980m (13054ft) and it is a relatively easy, 20 minute skin up to the true summit at Mt. Apharwat, to the right of the gondola. You don’t need to hike as you can turn left from the top-station and cruise downhill along the ridgeline for nearly 2.5 km’s and take your pick of the numerous bowls, gullies and ridgelines that lay before you. People tend to hike up to Apharwat when the left of the gondola is becoming tracked as you have the same amount of terrain on the looker’s right side of the gondola. There are over 33 named bowls along the front side of the mountain plus countless ridges running behind the ridge for those that like to do some short tours. The terrain is massive and you will no-doubt be in awe of the scale of the place when you take that first memorable ride up the upper gondola. From the top-station you can ski over 1300m (4264ft) of vertical back to the mid-station at Kongdori. If you go far out to the looker’s left of the ridgeline, you can ski one of the many routes all the way down to the valley floor and the town of Drang. That is at least a run of 10km (6.2 miles) and one of the longest off-piste runs in the world. Be prepared for some hiking to get back to the taxi.

The only avalanche controlled area is in the Gondola Bowl and Mary’s Shoulder areas, basically the line of the upper gondola. The areas outside this boundary are considered to be backcountry designated areas. The 2011/12 season saw the completion of a fixed-grip quad chair that offers some great intermediate runs from the side of Mary’s Shoulder, nearly half way up the mountain. After a storm, the chairlift will usually open before the gondola and you will have excellent lower angle powder to warm up on.

 

Tree Skiing on the Lower Mountain

When the big storms roll through Gulmarg, it is not uncommon for the upper mountain to be closed due to high avalanche danger. Our other option is to go and ski in the trees that take you into the valley. There are two main areas that we go to, the long but gentle runs down to Tangmarg or the shorter but steeper lines down to the Baba Reshi Shrine area. Both require pickup by taxi to return to Gulmarg.

Tangmarg

The run down to Tangmarg is approximately 3km’s and goes through beautiful old growth fir and pine trees. The run is nice and mellow with plenty of spacing between the trees. The first 100m of vertical is a little steeper but can easily be traversed if you a little unsure. We often ski to Tangmarg and have a delicious meal at one of the many excellent restaurants, before getting a lift back to Gulmarg by taxi. You can even ski some shorter laps accessible from the mountain road if you don’t want ski all the way down to Tangmarg.

Baba Reshi Shrine

This is a shorter run than Tangmarg, but potentially a lot steeper and offers a nice alternative to the upper gondola terrain for advanced skiers. There are many different lines that you can ski but we found the steepest and most consistent lines to the skiers left of the telephone exchange, about half way along the upper Baba Reshi road. There are two really nice 600m vertical pitches through open old growth trees that take you down to the road to the shrine.

Other Options

There is some great hike to skiing behind the Hotel Hilltop near the bottom of the gondola in an area called Monkey Hill. It’s just a short 20 minute skin to access a short but steep section of open trees that doesn’t get much traffic. The area has lots of nice pillow drops and fun skiing.

You can make some quick laps off the side of the mountain road up to Gulmarg. If you find the right switchback you can make 20 to 30 really nice turns through some steep and open tree sections. Although it is a short lap, the turn-around time is quite fast so you can get many laps in. Also fun if you want to build a kicker and catch some air.

Accommodation

We choose to stay at only the best hotels in Gulmarg. We have three preferred hotel options in Gulmarg. For those that want the highest level of accommodation, then guests can choose the 5-star rated Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa. This is a brand new resort, opened in December 2012 and is currently the highest standard hotel in Gulmarg withover 80 luxury rooms. The Khyber is clad in locally sourced pine and slate and is built in a style true to the architectural heritage of Kashmir. The Resort has a speciality restaurant, a tea room, a cigar lounge, a well-appointed spa and a heated swimming pool, a mini cinema and well-appointed guest rooms. The Khyber is ideally situated next to the bottom of the gondola.

Our second hotel of choice is the Hotel Heevan Retreat. This is the equivalent to a Western 3-star hotel and has some of the best customer service and friendliest staff in Gulmarg. The Heevan is a great option if you are on a tighter budget financially, but is still very well appointed. All of the rooms are centrally heated and have satellite, LCD TV’s. The food is excellent and you are made to feel like family at the Heeevan.

Our newest hotel partner is the Hotel Shaw Inn, ideally situated near the Hotel Heevan Retreat. This hotel has 18 centrally-heated rooms, with wireless internet and LCD TV’s with satellite reception. The bathrooms are well-appointed with 24 hour hot water. The hotel has generator backup in case of any power outages.

Food

The food in Gulmarg is excellent and you will definitely not go hungry. Breakfasts (which are included in the price) can include your choice of porridge, eggs (any style), toast, pancakes, fresh fruit, coffee and fruit juice. It seems you can eat as much as you like! Dinners (also included in the price) are also very good, there is a lot of variety and the servers will come around and give you spoonfuls from the many dishes that are on offer each night. There are a lot of curries that you can try (chicken and mutton are the most common, but there are plenty of vegetarian options too), but there are also many western and Chinese dishes too. You can have soup to start with and several different types of desert to finish off with. Sometimes they serve naan bread which is just delicious.

For lunches (not included in the price) we either ate at the Kongdori Posh restaurant at the mid-station of the gondola or at one of the many excellent restaurants in Tangmarg. All have excellent curries, both meat and vegetarian, but you can also get great Chinese food too and plenty of snacks, such as French fries, soups, sandwiches, chips and soft drinks. Lunches cost roughly $5 to $7 USD in Kongdori and cheaper in Tangmarg.

It should be noted that Gulmarg is one of the safer places to drink the tap water in India. Whilst we could never guarantee 100% that you won’t get the dreaded Delhi belly during your stay, Gulmarg has a very good water supply as the water is straight from the mountains and Gulmarg also has its’ own water filtration plant.

Off the Slopes/Nightlife

Gulmarg is not known for its’ nightlife but for most guests, that is generally not a problem after spending a big day out on the mountain. If you want to have a beer, you can either buy your own and drink at the hotel or go to one of the bars at the hotels. Our favorite is at the Hotel Highland Park, one of the oldest hotels in Gulmarg. The bar area is very ornate with some beautifully carved wooden awnings and antique furniture. It has amazing views of the mountain and is the perfect spot for an après-ski beer.

If you want to have a down-day if the muscles are a little sore, then take a walk around town, down to the market area. You’ll find the locals extremely friendly with most trying to converse with you in English. Check out the locals carving up the 4 poma lift slopes or visit Yasin’s Ski Shop (Kashmir Alpine near the Highlands Park Hotel) to stock up on Gulmarg T-shirts. You’ll probably also enjoy watching the antics of the local snow monkey population, watching them leap from roof top to roof top or running up and down trees is very entertaining.

Summary: Why go to Gulmarg?

Gulmarg is an amazing place and will give you an experience that you will never forget. However it is not a place for everyone. If you are expecting a western-style ski trip, then Gulmarg is probably not for you. You need to have a certain level of patience as being in India, things never seem to run as smoothly as you would like. The saying in these parts is “relax, you are in Kashmir.” If you have a laid-back frame of mind, then that will certainly help. There can be power outages and blackouts (they never seem to last long) and the gondola can sometimes take it’s time to open. Also, bear in mind that Kashmir has come from pretty turbulent times. We encourage all guests to research the history of Kashmir as it had long been in a state of unrest. But for the last 10 years now, relative peace and prosperity is returning to Kashmir and especially to Gulmarg. You will see a massive military presence in Kashmir and Gulmarg. Gulmarg has 2 campuses of the Indian Army high-altitude mountain warfare training school, so you will see plenty of troops out on maneuvers. Most of these soldiers are very friendly and will say hello to you or wave as they ride past in their big army trucks. After a short while you get used to seeing it and quickly become de-sensitized.

It is exciting to see new changes each year when returning to India and Gulmarg as the country and the state of Kashmir start to prosper. The new Terminal 3 at Delhi International Airport is an impressive new change. Srinagar also has completed its’ new terminal that vastly improves on the old one. Gulmarg is changing too: a new quad chairlift was built in the summer of 2011 on the mountain which should open up better terrain for intermediate skiers on the upper mountain and now many hotels have wireless internet now. Let’s hope the mountain and the town keep moving forward in the right direction and tourist’s numbers continue to grow in Gulmarg as the locals really rely on money from visitors as their main source of income.

So don’t come to Gulmarg if you are looking for something like you’d get back home. If you are up for a bit of an adventure, a trip out of the ordinary, then Gulmarg is the place for you. The skiing is world-class: it is truly possible to do heli-ski type runs from off of a gondola and to only pay a few dollars for doing so. The scale of the mountain is vast, the runs are long and the snow can be out of this world. The locals are extremely friendly and you will see why the Kashmiri people have the reputation as being the most hospitable in the world.

Hope you can join us!

Additional Info
Country: India
Region: Kashmir - Indian Himalayas
City: Gulmarg
Website URL: You need to be a club member - if you want to see it!
Top Travel Voucher: 200USD discount per person
Contact Email: You need to be a club member - if you want to see it!
Contact Name: You need to be a club member - if you want to see it!
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Top Travel Activities : Adventure Travel , Asia , Sports


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