Friday, February 18, 2011

Last report from Gulmarg.... at least for this year!

The storm rolled in and last exactly as expected. Was was not expected is the freezing level to drop down and the amount of snow coming with it!

So we had to relay on Mary's Shoulder again to get some turns in. The storm has been on for now 4 days and breaking the trail was quite a work out. The snow had a fair amount of water in it and wasn't super light.

As we got to the top of the run, we realized all the northern aspect (the run we intended to ski) has already avalanched. Our only option was now the south face. The south face of Mary's Shoulder is a bit less steep than the north face. There was about 40cm of snow up there and the turns we carved were really deep.

The face we were skiing wasn't steep enough to get enough speed to get the skiing we liked. So after only one lap, we went down the Gondola Phase 1 and head straight down to the hotel for some cleaning to get ready for the next part of my trip!

As a daily routine next morning, I went out before breakfast to check out how much snow has fallen overnight. To my great surprise, the snow was really light and nice! Every 45cm of it was just what we hopped for!

So we hit Monkey Hill again! We had swore not to ski it again since it is a bit short and boring….. but still what we figured what was our best option. Not being able to ski some good terrain during a massive storm is certainly something annoying about Gulmarg. It is even worst since you cannot get some good snow this season all the way down to Tangmarg which is usually the backup option.

The snow was really deep and probably the lightest we had ski in Gulmarg since we got here.
We made laps through the sparse trees in some really deep snow. We kinda have to ski a little bit backseat since we were sinking in that about 1.2m of fresh snow. The run on the south side of Monkey is definitively much better than the north side offering more pitch and longer runs. It is a nice run to ski down on the south side, skin back on the road and start from the skintrack just next to the police station.

Blue sky, no wind and an early start from the gondola lined up everything we could hope for our last day of skiing. After a little chat over breakfast with the patrollers, they were certainly quite optimistic about being able to open up the mountain.

We had a lazy morning since neither Babareshi, nor Monkey Hill, nor Mary's Shoulder were appealing to us.

We wanted to ski Phase 2!!!
We got to mid-station around 11h00AM and put ourselves in the line. There was only a group of three skiers in front of us.
We waited while soaking in a warm midday sun to the sounds of avalanche control nice bombing sounds.
The lineup in Gulmarg is like nothing I have ever seen in any resorts. First you get in line as we did in the morning. Then, you gotta send someone go get the (always) so precious single ride ticket. They only start selling the tickets when the ski patrol give their clearance to open the mountain. It is a real shit-show to watch (or in my case, being part of) how everyone is pushing and hustling to get the tickets. The Kashmiris are particuliary goods are sneering any kind of lift line since they are locals.

Once you get your tickets, you rush back up the hill to get back to your skis that are in line. Then, at the confluence of the waiting lines, the staircase that you have to climb when coming back from buying the tickets and the tiny little opening to get in the gondola is where the most aggressive pushing, yelling and insult festival I have seen in a ski line up is taking place.

People are trying to sneak in, local Kashmiri guides are trying to get inside from another door to get their foreigner clients inside and fellow skiers who have been waiting in lines for hours who are getting quite pissed by what is happening all at the same spot.

Apparently it is getting better nowadays. Just 2 peoples that day have been involved in a fist fight…

Anyway, since we were in the front, we managed to get on gondola #4 (after a Kashmiri guide and is clients…..)
The snow has again been blown off and from the about 2m of snow that probably has fallen over the last few days, only 20-40cm were left on the ground. We didn't really stop much for talking and discussing our findings on our first run.
We rushed down fast to get as many run as possible.
We have only been able to get 3 runs in…. but they were certainly some of our best turns of our whole 3 weeks in Gulmarg.

Like in Japan, it was frustrating to have to leave in what was some of the best conditions of the season. I have really liked the experience of skiing in Kashmir. It is an ski trip that goes way beyond the deep turns in fluffy powder we are all looking for.

The taxi driver who came to picked us up to go to the airport hasn't been able to make it to our hotel since his tires were too shitty…. So we had to walk about 400m with our gear in the snow to get to his car. Fortunately for us, the military forced him to put chains to go down the slopes.

The security check in Srinagar are the thighest I have experienced. We had our luggage scan at three different places. It is thigh, but everything went pretty fast. I think it is a good idea to get to the airport at least 3 hours in advance.

When we got to Delhi, the airport pick-up we were supposed to have wasn't there. So we walked to the prepaid taxi stand and realize the hotel where we were staying were charging us 3 times what the regular fare is….

It is really simple to get a taxi from the prepaid stand and I would highly recommend to anyone going to India to just get their taxi straight from there.

One more day spend wandering in the so crowded and chaotic streets of Old (smelly) Delhi and we were off to go back to the airport to fly off from India.
As I am seated now in Amsterdam waiting for my friends to show up for the last part of my trip that will lead me to ski for my first time in Europe, I am quite excited about catching up with 4 really good friends, renting a RV in Budapest and taking off for this roadtrip!

Our first plans about hitting Slovakia and Poland will certainly change since it has been a quite bad year for snow in this part of the world. The fact that a storm is rolling it the southern Alps of Italy may totally wreck what we first thought about doing. Whatever happen, I'm quite sure it will feature a quite epic ski/travel/smelly experience in that RV we are about to get!!!
Stay tune for more coming from Europe!


amandiks said...

Hi Evans,
I'm glad to read that you finally had some great great snow, the real snow of Gulmarg !!
Very nice pictures too !
From France, I can tell it is still super dry, icy ... but still lots of clients at the ski school so life is good : )
Enjoy the rest of your trip !
Oh et zut, je me rends compte que j'ai encore écrit en anglais au lieu du français ! Tabarnak ! ahah, bon tant pis, à la prochaine ou "à tanto" !

Amandine (bientôt bilingue québécoise)

Chandan Khanna said...

Dear Evans,

Greetings from Indian Institute of Forest Management..!!

The Indian Institute of Forest Management is a sectoral management institute, which constantly endeavors to evolve knowledge useful for the managers in the area of Forest, Environment and Natural Resources Management and allied sectors. The Institute works under the guidance of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

We are doing a research project for Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India on “Estimating Economic Values and Analyzing Institutional & Legal Frameworks for claiming REDD+ and Ecotourism benefits for Protected Area-Ramsar Wetlands: Exploration through Loktak and Hokersar Wetlands"

Hokersar is a wetland which lies 14 km (8.7 mi) north of Srinagar. Thousands of migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia use these wetlands as their transitory camps between September and October and again around spring. These wetlands play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering, staging and breeding birds.

As you have been a tourist to J&K, your comments would add a great value to our project. Please share your experience based on:

· The tourism in J&K

· Your awareness or visit to the Hokersar wetlands

We welcome your response.

Thanking You,

Chandan Khanna

Subject Expert,

PA-WL Project,