Sunday, April 8, 2007

Gulmarg, Kashmir

A day trip to Gulmarg in the Pir Panjal mountain range turned into a real highlight. Gulmarg boasts the world's highest gondola, rising to 13,500 feet (4400m). Although it was late in the season, there were still a few days skiing left and I managed to sneak in a couple of runs. Just when I thought I'd skied the last run of the season! The skiing was way better than I imagined - a decent of 1100m into 2 open bowls above the timberline. The snow at the top was surprisingly good, preserved by the altitude.

My guide Tahir and I were the only ones on the mountain! Indian's don't ski much it seems, instead amusing themselves by taking sleigh rides around the Gondola mid station. There were some skis and poles available, but these were used only as props in photographs. People would stand in their Wellington boots above a pair of angled skis for that perfect holiday snap. In reminded me of those painted scenes you see at English seaside resorts, with holes cut out to stick your face through.

3500 feet of India vertical await! said the actress to the Maharaja. I hope the day-glo boots distract you from the mincing pose.

You don't see one of these at every ski resort! The Indian Army is everywhere in Kashmir, every village, every road and even every ski slope. The Pakistan border is not far from Gulmarg.

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