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A snowHead
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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Gulmarg
Country: Kashmir, India
Domain:Himalaya
Author: Sherpa
Date: Jan-March 2005
Our holiday: Another year waiting for the big gondola to open, imported loads of snowboard kit for a ski shop, persuaded a few people to come up there, guiding, snowboard instructing
Website : www.himalayanpowderdreams.com
http://www.jktourism.org/cities/kashmir/gulmarg/
Basics : In the very North of India, try and find it on google earth: 34 02 29.00 N 74 23 20.00 E Fly to New Delhi Indira Ghandi Airport (8hrs) and connect to Srinagar over some pretty high mountains (1hr). stay in luxury floating caravan with original Rogan Josh and Sheesh Kebabs and head up farting to Gulmarg in a 'Sumo' thinking, what the hell am i doing? This is insane, i can't see any mountains! I cant see any snow. I've been had. Gondola my paaaaaaarp. Get to little town of Tangmarg, still in one piece. Not even the echo of a gunshot. damn i wanted to hear gunshots. or not. Stock up on local fruits and dates and cakes. Eat another kebaba, have another saffron tea and say goodbyeee to rain and say hello snow! Up to Gulmarg, up and up and up and into the cloud, and suddenly it opens out it front of you, and you say wow, its like a little playground.
Lift system : Two connected gondolas, looks secondhand, old 80s model that squeezez 6 and does not carry snowboards. First Gondola goes 2700, to 3100m. Second gondola goes 3100m to about 4100m, varying reports on the altitude. 3 button lifts on small hill/slopes. More dangerous than any other part of Kashmir. I was carrying 2 trays of eggs home once and got totally wiped out as i walked down. I was then attacked by some dogs.
The terrain : Big wide open gully from 4100 to 3100. Many gullies coming off the mountain. I counted 21 from left to right. All accesible from the top, max 75 min hike to the furthest. 3100m to 2700m thick conifer trees and quite mellow thourgh shepherd huts but with loads of jumps and tree stumps, nooks and crannies. Other off piste areas too.
The snow : 2005 we had anything between 4-8+ m. biggest storm to hit kashmir in 30 years. snowed almost everyday for a month. Fresh snow is super light but packs down quickly, especially when the sun is out as it is strong. Can rain by mid march. and snowfalls become scarce
season length end of december to mid march
Off-piste : All off piste from the gondola. Other hiking opportunites around with excellent north facing aspects, tight tree gullies loads of jumps -
The resort :10-20 hotels, 4 in good skiing location. Pine Palace, Hilltop and GReen Heights all close to the gondola. Highlands hotel has its own ski slope and lift. No discos, no bus service within Gulmarg, taxis for hire, market for shopping. Beer available in 1 or 2 hotel bars, but they arent as well stocked as they should be. Buy beer in the valley or off the army barracks. The army train to ski all day and wion all the competitions. NO BARS really, at least no discos though we have parties occasionally.
Food : any shack making Paratha and omelette, The Green Punjabi for real chilli education, and Snow hotel in tangmarg for sheesh Kebabs. Otherwise your average meal is Rice and Lentils, with Curried vegetables, Garlic Nan bread and some Mughal Chicken. Beans, Curd and Custard for desert.
Accommodation : Stayed in a JK hut, had a lounge, a fire, hired a batman to cook and make tea, chop the wood. It was sweet!
Costs: cheap as you would expect
Conclusion: I love the place and i can't imagine going anywhere else. There's no attitude, no park, no binge drinking ... at least no binge drinking that involves walking between drinks. Fantastic stars, locals are crazy, loads of nice trades and crafts. But electricity can be a bit of a bitch and it is a way away from wherever you are now probably. Can be pretty cold and it is India which doesnt quite have British standards anymore. I think it is just mental it even exists. and still this crazy gondola i have not ridden yet.

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