Move over France and Switzerland, your home country has come to your rescue for snow sports.
Whether a skiing pro, enthusiast, or daydreamer, India has some spiffing ski destinations which you need to get exploring. Yes, we concede, not all spots are world-class, yet there are few which offer a topnotch experience – replete with off-piste skiing, heli-skiing, et al. So hold on to booking that ticket for the Alps, adjust your ski-periscope closer home, and give these indigenous locales a chance to win you over.
Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir
This town nestled in the heaven on earth promises to be a ski heaven itself. One of the finest ski destinations in the country, Gulmarg not only offers a skiing experience of international standards, but also in terms of accessibility, accommodation, and overall infrastructure. With one of the best powder snow mountains, the town makes for a great off-piste skiing spot, i.e., skiing on unmarked trails as opposed to groomed trails. It has six nursery slopes for beginners, each with a varying incline, and higher slopes for more experienced skiers. To facilitate your gliding along these slopes are five ski lifts for the lower gradients, and the Gulmarg Gondola which takes you on Mt. Apharwat, to a height of almost 4,000 metres.
While you’re gliding through the mountains, the Gulmarg ski patrol stands guard to keep you safe. And the rental shops scattered across town help you with all the equipment you may require, poles, sunglasses, boots, ski suits, helmets, etc., as the local guides aid the beginners in making their first ski a success. But that’s not all folks, Gulmarg is also one of the best spots in the world for natural heli-skiing, where helicopters take you upto heights of 5,000 metres – rarely found anywhere else in the world. Skiers from across the world come here for the uncharted fresh snow on these slopes.
With all the boxes checked for what makes an a-grade ski experience, aren’t you slotting in Gulmarg for your ski expedition already?
Best time to visit: December to March.
Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Had you passed up the erstwhile vacation hotspot for more exotic locales? But good ol’ Manali’s got something up its sleeve that’ll have you do a double take. Travel up another 14 km northwest of the main town, and you’ll be welcomed by Solang Valley, another ski heaven in India. Easy to reach, the mountains in Solang too offer powder snow (instead of wet or icy snow), and a ski lift. The cable car takes you atop Mt. Phatru, at a height of 3,200 metres, and travel companies populate the area, providing all the ski equipment you’ll require.
Manali happens to be the second destination in the country which allows for heli-skiing. The slopes are agreeable and lack those deadly twists & turns, making it perfect for this winter sport. It also gets corn snow when spring beckons – granulated snow formed by alternate cycles of thawing and freezing during the day and night – and is considered one of the best types of snow to ski on. So rev up the adventurer in you, as the trusted hill station proves that old is indeed gold.
Best time to visit: December to February
While snow clad mountains never fail to please the eye, Auli takes the serene scene to another level, making for one of the most splendid views. Once you’ve got your breath back (what with it being taken away by the picturesque town), start at Joshimath, the base from where the cable car takes you to a height of 3,000 metres and a view of the Garhwal Himalayas. There’s one world class ski lift and a chair lift which transport you to the slopes, and the procurement of rental flows the same pattern – renting it through local vendors. The town offers powder snow as well, albeit for a shorter duration (mid-January to mid-February). If you’re looking for your first brush with skiing or a quick trip for the sport, you now know where to head.
Best time to visit: January to March
Apart from this trio, you can also visit Narkanda, Pahalgam, and Kufri, which are popular skiing destinations. However, pencil them into your itinerary for the thrill of skiing rather than trying it out as a proper sport.
There you go, let your country ski its way to doing you proud!
Featured image courtesy: justgiving.com