Spectacular Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir Celebrates Winter with Music and Adventure

View from the top of Gulmarg's piste. This is ...

View from the top of Gulmarg's piste. This is also the first stop of the ski lift, which has a further second stop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By M. L. Dhar
PIB Feature

The picturesque and immaculately snow covered Gulmarg has been witnessing tremendous enthusiasm of lovers of snow, adventure and music. The internationally acclaimed ski resort was quite busy during the first fortnight of March as participants and tourists arrived in hordes for the just concluded Gondola Ski cup, Gulmarg Global Derby and the Gulmarg Winter Festival 2012.

There was overwhelming response by local male and female participants in the much awaited three-day Gondola Ski cup with events for under-14, 18 and senior categories.  Similar was the response by  the  national and international skiers and snow boarders in the Gulmarg Global Derby.  “It was a surprise to see such a huge influx of participants in each category. In senior men's category there were 111 skiers and out of them only 15 qualified. Most of the high profile skiers got disqualified because of the tough and tricky course during trials,” said co-organiser and founder of Gulmarg Global Derby.

130 skiers (boys and girls) including 50 foreigners and 13 best skiers chosen out of 110 skiers participated in the competitions that were for the first time held at the newly built chairlifts at Merry Shoulder slope of Kongdoori, the mid station of the Gondola cable car. The J&K Cable Car Corporation organized the event in collaboration with Winter Games Association of Jammu and Kashmir and Ski Association of Delhi.

The main attraction of the Gulmarg Global Derby 2012 was snowboarding event having both local and International participants.    “It was great to see 50 snowboarders coming forward to participate and I think it was first time so many players participated'', said an official.  Interestingly the snowboarding championship was organized for the first time in the valley.  ''Apart from locals, the skiers from ten foreign countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Newzealand and Norway participated and enjoyed the games,'' said Director, Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir.

The notable thing about these games was that local boys and girls turned up in significant numbers to participate for whom the entry was made free.  The Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir expressed hope that Gulmarg winter sports events would be instrumental in tapping local talents for national and international events.  The children of Jammu and Kashmir have tremendous potential in the field of sports and by organizing such events we can provide a good platform to tap and promote their talent.

Nature has bestowed Gulmarg with some of the best slopes in the country with a few of them serviced by ski lifts and the Gondola Cable Car at Kongdori offering a ski run of nearly 3 kms.   Gulmarg is favourite with advanced skiers too who prefer to trek in the snow for hours at a stretch to reach the Apharwat peak for a memorable descent lasting about half-an-hour over the challenging slopes.  There is also a lot of fun over gentle slopes for the novice who need not have any skills in skiing. For them there is Tobogganing in which a snow enthusiast goes downhill simply on a flat wooden board.  It is the most common sport among tourists visiting Gulmarg.

Both Central and State governments have worked to build adequate sports infrastructure and other facilities related to accommodation, tourism and holidaying at Gulmarg and this is testified by the fact that it is being consciously marketed as a winter sports capital of the country.

Along with adventure sports, Gulmarg had an added attraction this year with the Gulmarg Winter Festival 2012, a music festival that displayed thrilling performances of some renowned Indian folk singers and bands. The three-day festival was staged in the backdrop of awe-inspiring Himalayan beauty of Gulmarg.  “For the first time, people will witness performances by leading artistes in the beautiful locales of Gulmarg. The aim is to promote concert tours in India and encourage adventure sports and responsible tourism amongst the increasing domestic travellers," said a representative of the organisers on the eve of the festival.  Supported by the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism the organisers expect the festival to be an annual feature now onwards.  "It's is an attempt to encourage growing peace and progress among all by providing one common platform to local artists, craftsmen and folklore artists," said a spokesman of the other organising group of the first ever fusion winter festival.

The musical potpourri brought together local artists and renowned singers together while showcasing classical, folk, sufi, jazz, DJ and the best Hindi and Kashmiri songs that hit the chord with the audiences.  The bad weather, extreme chill in the air and some initial hiccups could not dampen the high spirits at the festival.  ''Kashmir saw its first music festival ever, and after having spoken with the locals who hadn’t heard a band play in all their life, us playing there, was a mammoth event in their lives,'' said one of the performers at the festival. ''It is good to see a festival of this kind has been organised here. This kind of music is rarely being played here and I have enjoyed, as it was something different.  I could not stop from dancing on the music played here. It is fantastic,'' said one of the locals at the festival.  ''It is all about the right kind of music.  We just want to entertain people'' said a vocalist of a renowned Indian band, who hails from Kashmir.

Gulmarg's legendary beauty in combination with mountains, cold, snow, and winter sports offers a lot to both the visitors and the locals.  Its proximity to the state's summer capital Srinagar makes it easily accessible, unlike most of the other hill stations in the country.  Besides being the country's premier ski resort in the winter, Gulmarg has also the proud distinction of having the highest green golf course in the world at an altitude of 2,650 meters. It also offers a sight of Mount K2 from the high slopes in Apharwat on a cloudless day.

Gulmarg attracts hordes of tourists every year at the annual snow festival during which ice hockey, snow rugby and snow cycling are staged making people, who come here just for fun, winter sports addicts.

Disclaimer: The writer is a freelance journalist and the views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.

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