Duration 5 Night 6 / Days
Gulmarg is Kashmir’s unique ski area. It’s big mountain nirvana, skiing massive gondola assisted back country runs, deep powder, superb trees or wide open alpine slopes, Kashmiri culture, great food and when it’s snowing, some exquisite 4WD taxi, or touring through trees. It’s a powder skiing paradise and there’s never the need to do nothing, unless you are tired of course. I’ve been touring in Gulmarg for five years and just love the pace. Below is some information, but the main point is YOU NEED A GUIDE to explore Gulmarg’s pristine skiing safely, even if you have a wealth of back country experience and I suggest a qualified with experience in Gulmarg. You decision on who and how much you want to pay will dictate the outcome, safety and quality of your trip. It is not a place to skimp on safety! About the Touring:
We mostly tour in the alpine region (up to 4300m) off the top of the Gulmarg gondola. There are some fantastic long tours with up to 2000 vertical metres of smooth untracked powder, sometimes dropping into a remote village followed by a taxi back up to the hotel. Then there’s the storm skiing from the gondola mid-station with amazing trees, or short climbs on Monkey Hill (right beside town) and also down into the taxi serviced Baba Rishi Trees. The snow is comparable Utah powder, only with bigger and steeper mountains, the shady snow dries out at night and gets better and better.
Gulmarg Town: Situated right at the very top of India in the region called Kashmir is the beautiful village of Gulmarg. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The state is now much bigger and has borders with Afghanistan, China and Pakistan. The town has about 30 hotels, an ATM , gift shops and confectionary shops.
Gulmarg Ski Resort: With the claim of ‘The World’s Highest Gondola’ (it’s actually the second highest), with a massive vertical drop of 1400m, descending down through vast alpine bowls and then into perfectly spaced trees it has become a favorite for adventurous ski and snowboard touring. The gondola rises from the Gulmarg Village in two stages to 4000m on Mt Apharwat (4200m). During big storms the huge pines from the mid station down offer great protected tree skiing descending to 500m below town with taxi serviced ski touring.
Kashmiri Cuisine: Not as spicy as traditional Indian curry but very tasty. Meals like rogan josh (lamb cooked spices), yakhiyn (lamb cooked in curd ), hakh (a spinach-like leaf), rista-gushtaba (minced meat balls in tomato and curd curry) are available plus great Indian curries. Vegetables are a bit sparse in Kashmir, but the food is tasty and plentiful. You can sometimes get salads and even fresh fruit.
Weather: The weather in February in Gulmarg is similar to Utah’s weather in the USA. It has 2-3 day? storms every couple of weeks. In fine spells the snow just gets better and better, usually stabilising so we can ski steeper runs. If its snowing and/or bad weather we will use the gondola (if possible), skins and local taxis to ski the numerous amazing tree skiing runs. We’ll ski the Drang Valley, 10-15kms down through the small village of Drang where kids run out to great us and ride on the backs of our skis/boards. Then have lunch in Tangmarg before taxiing back up to Gulmarg.
What to bring from home (optional): Some snacks (say 2 meusli bars per day), tea bags, real coffee (we’ll have some to), drink mix like Gatorade, vegemite, single malt whiskey, wine …
A Muslim State: Kashmir is inhabited by believers of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism but Islam is the dominant religion. You can buy beer in some hotels in Gulmarg, but no everywhere and there is very little hard liquor or wine around. Bring some if you want it. Kashmiris are ethnically and culturally closer to central asian culture than Indian or Pakistani culture with significant influence of the persian culture. Kashmiris belong to the dardic group and their language Kosher is the only dardic language which has ancient script and is widely spoken
Flying into Srinagar/India Flights from New Dehli to Srinagar mostly operate in the mornings, so you may need to fly into New Dehli the night before.
Visas: Most countries need a visitors visa for India. Some countries can get a visa on arrival (like NZ) but you must apply and get approval online before leaving home.
Gear Required: You need to bring your own avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe (or you can rent it). You can get away with regular skis, bindings and ski boots. But you need to have a touring binding on your ski and bring skins (which attach to the ski base and slide forward and not backwards for walking up hill). This way you are set for what ever the weather and conditions throw at us. Snowboarders should bring walking poles and snow shoes, or split board. It gets down to about -10-15C on the tops, which isn’t too cold when you are skiing. You can get good quality touring gear or skis in Gulmarg. Another option is to take an adapter for your regular downhill ski bindings which is pretty inexpensive and works fine, they are called Alpine Trekker adapters and then you still need some skins.