Tourists Make A Beeline For Gulmarg, A Skier’s Paradise

Tourists Make A Beeline For Gulmarg, A Skier’s Paradise

27 February 2010
The Hindu
Shiujaat Bukhari

Gulmarg: Gulmarg, the famous tourist destination in the Kashmir valley is full of visitors, mostly foreigners, as skiers are making the best use of snow that has blanketed the whole place. Hundreds of foreigners, as well as domestic tourists, are making a beeline for Gulmarg to see the snow and ski. Players say it is one of the best and cheapest places in the world to ski. This place also has the distinction of having the world’s highest cable car, shaped liked a gondola, at 13,500 feet above sea level at Affarwat Peak. For most foreigners, this is a major attraction - they go up in the gondola and come down skiing. Chriss Waren, a skier from Switzerland, says Kashmir is beautiful, though he comes from a place equally gorgeous. “For skiing, this is the best place and slopes here are unmatched.” The slopes even attracted Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who spent most of his day in Gulmarg, where he came for a meeting last Monday. Mr. Abdullah is also an avid skier. Officials at the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC), which runs the gondola, say foreigners are making it profit-worthy, though local rush is also good. England’s John Chate is of the view that the cable car is a boon to Kashmir tourism, as it is a source of attraction for tourists visiting Kashmir. Similarly, Indian tourists are also jubilant about being present in the snow-caped Gulmarg. A family from Mumbai has been here for the past three days. Wrapped in warm clothes, the children are trying the slippery slopes, though not trained in skiing. “It is a great feeling,” says 10-year-old Anuj. Recently, over 20 Army men were killed when an avalanche hit their camp in Khilanmarg. Taking taking no chances, the Jammu and Kashmir government has engaged the services of Brian Newman, a United States rescue expert. Scores of local boys and girls are also camping in Gulmarg. They are going through basic and advance courses in skiing. Najmus Saqib, a class VI student from Kashmir Valley School, Humhama, is one of the 40 students in his batch, trying on ski shoes. “It’s a good feeling. We see snow in the rest of Kashmir, but here it is real fun.” The rush has hardly left any space in hotels and guest houses. Occupancy capacity here is far less than demanding, but government response encouraging. “Space is a constraint here, but I think we will overcome that problem in the coming months,” says Javed Bakhshi, the Chief Executive Officer Gulmarg Development Authority. The State tourism department has declared this year as “Visit Kashmir 2010.” The campaign was launched at the end of last year. The campaign, according to director tourism Farooq Shah, is showing impact. “We are expecting a good number of tourists this year and rush at Gulmarg is an indication.”


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