Ever thought of just picking up your bag and going skiing? Just like that? Not to locations as exotic as Mont Blanc or Switzerland but some place just as gorgeous, in your own backyard and a whole lot cheaper. So who needs the Alps when you have the Himalayas?
Not downhill all the way: There are many ski resorts in India. India Picture
Lov Raj Dharamshaktu, an instructor with Border Security Force (BSF) Mountaineering, which trains BSF soldiers, explains the lure of the hills: “If it’s not the trucks and the horns, it’s the watchman’s whistle that is a bother every day in the city. The mountains are an escape and allow you to embrace nature. Imagine no pollution!”
There is only one catch though: The right time is now and the season ends early March. There are many skiing hideouts in India. Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand have many options, but here are three must-visits:
Gulmarg, Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir
This is a beginner’s paradise and offers a variation of slopes for trial and error. People remain a little wary of this getaway due to militancy, according to Dharamshaktu, but he adds, “It is just one of those things that are stuck in people’s heads.”
Jammu Tawi is the closest railway station. Alternatively, take a flight to Srinagar or head there by road. Tangmarg, 8km from Gulmarg, would be the nearest destination by bus; jeeps take over from that point.
Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Manali is an addiction. Ski enthusiasts head to Manali the moment the season kicks in. It’s the magnificent inclines and convenient lodging arrangements, which fit every budget, that draw people back. You get the best instructors in Manali and it also attracts a lot of tourists.
To get there by road, take National Highway (NH) 21 or NH1 from Delhi. Buses are available from Delhi, Chandigarh and Meerut. The nearest airport is Bhuntar, 50km from Manali. There are daily, non-stop flights from Delhi. Joginder Nagar is the closest railway station, 125km from Manali.
Auli, Chamoli, Uttarakhand
If you are not particular about fitness, don’t want to climb 200m uphill, slide down and repeat, then Auli is the place for you. Not surprisingly, it’s popular with honeymooning couples. It is the only place that has a snow beater to maintain the slopes. Try and beat this: Auli has chair lifts, ski lifts and cable cars. No more walking.
Auli is 16km from Joshimath and 273km from Dehradun, which has the nearest airport. From Delhi, any train headed to Dehradun or Rishikesh stops at Haridwar. By road, take NH58. There are buses every 30 minutes from Delhi to Haridwar, an 8-hour journey. From there you can take another bus to Joshimath and hire a car to Auli.
Skiing camps are becoming increasingly popular and it costs from Rs5,000-7,000 per person to train for 15-21 days. There are training camps in Solang in Manali that cost Rs5,000 for 15 days. In Auli, you can do a certificate course for seven days for about Rs6,000. The training takes place in groups, and numbers can go up to 50, with one instructor to every five trainees.
So go ahead and zig-zag your way through snowy pine trees. Children above the age of 8 can start skiing. While many believe skiing can be dangerous, regulars say it is comparable to cycling.
• Rent gear and equipment. Ask people renting them out to take you through the basic drill.
• When selecting a ski jacket, which is in stretch fabric, remember it needs to fit well and should be waterproof.
• You need goggles, a ski helmet, ski socks and, of course, skis.
• For recreational use, you can hire equipment for Rs100 a day.
GET IN TOUCH
Auli and Gulmarg
Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd, 74/1, Rajpur Road, Dehradun.
Tel.: 0135-2740896, 2746817, 2749308, 2748478; fax: 0135-2746847.
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Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports.
General information: Indian Mountaineering Foundation
Tel.: 011-24111211; 011-24117935; 011-24111572
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org