05 Dec 2023

Galloping Off To Gulmarg To See The Snow

For those amongst us who’ve never seen the snow, it's time to make time to visit Gulmarg in the legendary Kashmir Valley. This alpine holiday resort offers endless charms for families vacationing here in the summer holidays over the decades. Who can forget those lovely vignettes screened by the Bollywood of the 60s and 70s, in countless cinema halls in India— and the world over!

But its winter days transform it into a magical wonderland of ice and snow. As we step deeper into the cold season it’s great to remember that Gulmarg has, in the upper regions of Mount Affarvat, already given us a small taste of snow as early as September this year.

Snow is the USP of Gulmarg to bring back the tourists after the lean period during the pandemic. Not many are aware that Gulmarg has Asia’s highest and longest ropeway and visitors love the fabulous views on the gondola ride offered in two phases, from Gulmarg to Kongdoor and from Kongdoori to Apharwat Station (over 13,000ft); weather permitting you are allowed rides in the second phase. Be prepared for those spectacular views of the Pir Panjal Range, and Nanda Devi. The igloo-themed café here is a huge success as well for its yummy food and fabulous valley views. Spending family time in Snowglu Café is an adventure in itself. The 40-cover café is unique in both design and atmospherics. All tables and chairs are made of ice, the décor includes ice carvings and ice installations. Shaggy sheepskin rugs cover the seats. Enjoy till mid-March!

The 18-hole golf course is transformed into a crystal bright snow-mantled meadow. For the tamer of heart, there are sledge rides, ice skating, pony rides to Khilanmarg, and even opportunities to learn to ski on baby slopes from a certified instructor. If you want to be more daring try snowmobiling and snowboarding.  Four-wheel giant quad bike rides are on offer to several spots including Strawberry Valley, children’s park, golf course, etc accompanied by an ATV operator. Off-road rides through beautifully forested slopes are arranged from Gulmarg to Kongdori as well.

Capital of winter sports in India, the pretty hill town which is dominated by the playing snowfield of Khilanmarg plays host to the annual Khelo India National Winter Games. The event is, normally held around February when the snow is thick and deep, and even. Competitors from around the country arrive to participate in a range of winter games including snow-shoe races, ice-skating, ice-hockey, skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, ski-mountaineering, and ice stock. The carnival air and the competitive edge provide visitors with many joyful moments enjoying the snow-draped landscape.

Do remember when you are visiting that for the local economy, the winter months and the booming ski season are important landmarks on Gulmarg’s seasonal calendar. For the ponywallahs who take you around the hill town, your custom is truly precious, as it’s a time for them to stock up on supplies, etc for their families and homes through the long hard winter.

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