thoughts on skiing in the himalaya
A ski vacation means for most people usually a trip to a ski resort in the wider surroundings of their permanent place of residence. Only few are thinking of exploring the planet for new destinations and some can’t even imagine that there exist other gondola serviced ski areas than those in Alps, the Rocky Mountains and a few other areas in our parts of the world. However there are a few hidden spots which offer more than a typical holiday in a conventional winter sports resort. Warren Miller’s video trailer on Gulmarg in Kashmir provides you with a first impression of a Himalayan ski resort.
My first skiing experience in the Himalayas dates back to 1991 when I joined a heli skiing program in Manali, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This was to be my only ski experience in the Himalayas for a long time. While guiding trekking expeditions in Nepal I heard some rumors about a new cable car serviced ski area in Gulmarg, Kashmir which should be opened soon. After verifying this information I decided to scout this area and went there for the first time for the opening season in the winter of 2005/2006 and since then I returned with groups every winter.
When I talk about skiing in the Himalayas to friends they are surprised to learn that there really exist ski resorts with the adequate infrastructure in these mountains and some wonder why people would spend the additional money for a flight ticket to India when they have the “best” mountains at their front doors.
So what are the reasons that attract me and many other people to these remote mountains? For climbers it is certainly the challenge of ascending the 8’000 meter high summits and the exploration of new routes to some unnamed peaks. For trekkers and hikers it is an attractive alternative to the busy trails in our part of the world – but what is it for skiers!
Due to the fact that ski resorts in the Himalayas are in their early stage of development one of the reasons for skiers to go there is perhaps a certain desire to explore the unknown and also the chance of belonging to the first group of people who are privileged to ski on these so far untouched mountain slopes.
However, in addition to a certain desire for adventures it is mainly the excellent powder snow quality that brings me back to the Himalaya Mountains year after year. I skied in many places in the Alps and in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and even today I would not want to miss the opportunities to ski there – but with regard to snow conditions and back country skiing the possibilities of the Himalayas are unmatched. Regular snowfalls of one meter and more, lots of dry and deep snow, very steep and long runs through wide open terrain in the upper regions combined with varied challenging tree skiing down to the valley floor provide near perfect conditions for a great powder snow skiing and snowboarding experience.
Another aspect that gives those Himalayan ski resorts its charm is certainly their stage of development. Despite the fact that the number of visitors is growing every year the villages have kept their original look. Of course a few new hotels have been built and old ones have been renovated to offer the skiers centrally heated rooms with attached bath rooms and running hot water but overall the infrastructure has remained very basic – a welcome change to the modern and busy western ski resorts with their luxurious amenities and boundless shopping facilities.
But skiing is only one part of a perfect ski vacation experience in the Himalaya. For me as for many others a trip to the Himalayas always results in an indescribable mental experience which some people describe as the “spiritual effect” of these magic mountains. Whatever it is one thing is for certain, after a couple of days or weeks in the Himalaya your physical strength will have improved considerably and you will sense that your emotional and mental energy levels have risen noticeably – I personally feel always more balanced when I return from the peace of the Himalayas into the hectic life in our part of the world.
There is no doubt that a ski vacation in the Himalaya Mountains has something to offer for all powder snow and mountain sports enthusiasts. Don’t miss this exclusive powder snow experience and make your ski trip to this magic mountain range – you won’t regret it!
For more information on ski vacation or trekking expeditions in the Himalaya visit us at Free Ski Himalaya.