Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Down times in Gulmarg

The past days have been fairly hard on the moral! After cursing about the blue sky and wanting more snow, we are now cursing at the (too much) snow we are currently receiving.
This year is not a really great snow year for Gulmarg. On a good year, you can pretty much ski anything around the town and even ski down to the other town that lay about 1000m down from Gulmarg call Tangmarg. This is usually the ski plan when a good snow storm is hitting Gulmarg and the gondola is not opening.

I have understand that the gondola cannot withstand much wind and whenever a major storm hit Gulmarg, they shut the upper section down. For the past 5 days, we are left without the access to the great alpine terrain surrounding us.

On our first day, we checked our alternatives: the old chairlift?
Don't think it has run in a long time!

The poma lift?
Sorry. Maintenance in progress.

Anyway, I don't think we would have ski on the golf course! It is an interesting experience to see how the people can enjoy the parcel of winter they are having with gear we would have thrown away without a single second of hesitation!
Since we could't ski down to Tangmarg, we took a shared taxi (20 roupies per person=50cents) down to visit the town and it's market.
This is a quite major hub comparing to the tiny Gulmarg. After wandering around some hanging dead chicken and some not so fresh looking fruit, we made it to the Snow Bakery!
This is certainly a stop everyone coming to Gulmarg should do! Not only it is really cheap, but it is really tasty and fulfilling!
The clearout in the weather made us thing we might be able to get on the second stage of the gondola…. Wrong!

Since we were halfway up, we decided to give a go to what is call Mary's Shoulder. It is an about 100-150m vertical run just next to the gondola. Since we were already in the need for some turns we gave it a go for couples of lap.
The snow was quite heavy but we were still able to enjoy it!
As we skied down to our hotel, it was quite warm and the snow that was falling was much rather to some nasty sleet than the cold powder we were hoping for. The slush-fest continue until the next day and as good powder-princesses, we called it off!
We figured it might be cool to test the public transportation from Tangmarg back to the capital Srinagar to just spend the day. The public bus cost only 20 roupies a person for an about 2 hours ride to 'downtown'. Srinagar was quite busy even if it was during the weekend.
Here's the proof that much of the things you see on the internet as: 'Only in India' are true!  

It is funny to say that even if the scenery of Kashmir is full of army guys armed with machine guns, I feel safer than in some places in USA that I have been… It might be a ticking bomb, but doesn't seems quite problematic at the time I am visiting. By talking with people that are not at their first visit in the area, the concluded the same thing as I am….
Back to the skiing! We spend the past two days hitting Monkey Hill. This hill of about (again)150m vertical is laying just looker's left of the first stage of the gondola. We decided to ski it because it offers a much better pitch than the first stage of the gondola.
On the first day, my dad was sick and wasn't skiing any good…
He nevertheless ski for 3 runs before we called it off. The weather as cooled down and the snow is now a bit better than what we experienced in the past days at the same elevation.
Today, the gondola was supposed to open, but due to the …. hum….. kashmir organization and lifestyle, it didn't. The extra guys needed to shovel up the upper unloading station just showed up at around 10h30 leading the avalanche crew up only about 12h00...We went back to the Monkey's and ski some quite decent powder.
Tomorrow is supposed to be THE day every skier in Gulmarg has been waiting for the past days. The problem is the past storm system has dropped about 2m of snow at the top of the mountain. The guys responsible of the avalanche control has triggered some quite unsurvivable avalanche in their control and a lot of the bowls and gullies has already triggered naturally. A weak snowpack that receive a large new load a snow with a blue sky is an explosive recipe for catastrophe in the backcountry.
I certainly gonna have to refrain myself to ski any too exposed stuff in the coming days as the resort is offering some quite limiting terrain….
Weirdly enough, I am now hoping for no new snow for couples of days!

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