UPDATE with VIDEO – Kashmir Skiing Recon Mission – Part 1
One minute we’re skiing in the woods, practicing our avi safety, and seeking the best pow stashes we can find – just like any other ski day. We could be anywhere in the world, any place or time. Then an entourage of 20 army troops marches past, rifles and machine guns in hand. Monkeys dangle from tree branches heckling passerby’s, and weathered men bundled in Kashmiri pullovers sled down the trails and streets. All of a sudden it’s pretty obvious we’re not in Kansas anymore, or Whistler for that matter. We’re at Gulmarg Ski Resort in the disputed Kashmir region of India (last we checked), and no, it’s NOT like any other ski day after all.
Wedged in the top corner of the Himalayas on the boarder of India, China, and Pakistan – the Kashmir region has been struggling with war for years now. While we certainly haven’t come to sweep in and save the day, we can atleast learn more about the area and explore this beautiful region that’s causing such a fuss. Known as one of the most beautiful spots in India, first India was keen to cut it loose and now everyone and their dog wants a claim in it, and hence, the war. After only three days of skiing here, we’d be pretty keen to have it on our side of the boarder too.
Day 3 on our mission and it’s already been an eye opener. Aside from the pow stashes you could find anywhere in the world, pretty much everything else about a ski day in this place is other-worldly. Powder day or not, we take your sweet time waking up, gorge down a huge breakfast of Puri Bagi and Indian breads, sip tea for as long as we want, then saunter over to Gulmarg’s gondola – which has probably just started spinning for the day.
Staring down the antiquated ski rack that only fits our poles or cross country skis, we cram ourselves, backpacks, and skis into the worlds highest (and probably tiniest) gondola with skis wedged half way out the hand-operated doors. Cruising up to 4000m we hop out take in the surroundings. Countless snowy ridges and bowls askin’ for ski tracks, set across the valley from the endless stretch Himalayan peaks as a backdrop.
But we weren’t tracking those ridges at all. After a six week drought followed by 1-2 feet of fresh, the avi danger dial was on ‘retarded’, just one notch up from high. We watched as peopled tempted fate, but after a couple of natural and human triggered slides-of-your-life, we knew it was going to be a mellow couple days of skiing.
So we’ve been milking the far skiers right ridge, meandering 7000+ ft down to the small town of Drung, where our trusty jeep driver picks us up daily, and shuttles us back up the dirt road to Tangmarg and ultimately Gulmarg. But the out of this world experience wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Tangmarg (not a ski town) to shop the market shacks for fruit, chocolate and Indian sweets, sip some tea, and cruise the strip in our ski boots and backcountry gear while crowds of people, jeeps, and busses bustle about their day.
With all the honking and shouting going on you’d think a small child had just been run over or everyone was racing from a life or death situation. But no, this is Kashmir, and these people are neither angry nor in a rush – far from it. It’s just another cultural twist that completes another out of this world ski day in Gulmarg.
Stay tuned for Part 2, and bring a jar of cough medicine because it’s gonna get sick. 6 feet of snow is sitting in the forecast, and our ski days are about to take yet another twist. Tagging along with Anthony Bonello’s B4apres filming posse, we might even have some eye candy coming up, along with 4 webisodes from your’s truly. Check out the forecast!!!
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Stay tuned for a series of 4 Doglotion.com produced webisodes comin’ at ya from Gulmarg India, as soon as Internet allows.
More resort details and links coming soon.
*Editor’s disclaimer – we know damn well that we are currently very ignorant when it comes to the conflict in Kashmir, but we hope to learn as much as we can while here, and at the very least give some exposure to an amazing place that could greatly benefit from more North American visitors. As we find better resources explaining the conflict, we will post them here and update our articles.