BANGALORE: It was in June that we went to Gulmarg, one of the most popular skiing destinations in India. Even in the summer, the place attracts a lot of tourists who are eager to escape the heat of the plains. We started from Srinagar and reached Baramullah after a 56-kilometre drive. The majestic road had trees on both sides and reminded us of many old Bollywood songs. From there, Gulmarg was just about 10 kilometres after crossing Tangmarg.
Fortunately, we visited the resort town at a time when not many tourists were there and it was pleasant to walk through the green meadows amid the towering mountains. The main attractions here are the Gondola ride, the skiing ranges, the sledging across the icy slopes and of course, the horse ride crossing the Khillanmarg forests.
A green meadow, Khillanmarg is carpeted with flowers of every size and colour. But come winter, it becomes the ideal destination for skiing enthusiasts. From this place, all the peaks are clearly visible and anybody can venture out to experience a ride on the sledges going up in four stages to Apharwat. We climbed on the icy slope with great difficulty till the third stage and slid down the sledge for nearly 600 feet, holding on to dear life. With our feet brushing against the frozen waters, we held on to our riders as any mistake on our part would send us tumbling down to the river below. Even if one misses skiing, one should go on the sledge to get a feel of the place that is surrounded by icy waterfalls, streams and lakes.
Another major attraction here is the Gulmarg Gondola or the cable car ride across the steep ranges of the Himalayas, which is an extraordinary experience for someone from the plains. Asia’s highest and longest cable car project, this two stage rope way ferries people from Gulmarg to Kongdori and further to Apharwat which was added at a later stage. The fact that this project runs at a height of 8,000-13,500 feet is mind boggling. In fact, the extension of the project to Apharwat ranges covering a total distance of five kilometres has boosted winter tourism at Gulmarg.
In fact, Chairlift, another unique project, was added in 2011. It is considered perfect for hosting national and international ski events in Gulmarg. Mary Shoulder has emerged as the ideal spot for holding professional ski events. The chairlift has 90 chairs and each has the capacity to accommodate four passengers. Covering a distance of 1.6 kilometre, the chairlift has been designed in such a way that the skiers can travel with their gear while the ride itself can be completed in 11 minutes.
The price of the tickets for the Gondola ride ranges from `600 to `800 for adults and children, while for the chairlift, it is `300. However, children are not allowed on this.
An ideal destination in winter and summer, it is not difficult to get accommodation at Gulmarg as it is full of lodges, hotels and resorts.