Popular tourist resorts Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie and their surroundings received the season's first snowfall on Sunday, while the lower hills across Himachal Pradesh were lashed by rains, pushing the mercury down by several notches, the weather office here said.
Hoteliers cheered up in the hope that winter tourists now will converge in large numbers ahead of Christmas. Tourist spots near Shimla, such as honeymooners' paradise Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda, also experienced moderate snowfall, making the hill stations more picturesque. The Solang ski slopes, 13 km uphill from Manali, and Kalpa, 250 km from the state capital, also received snowfall, the weather office here said.
The minimum temperature in Manali was 1.2 degrees below the freezing point. The town received 18 cm of snow. Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district was the coldest place in the state at minus 4 degrees Celsius. It was 7.2 degrees above the freezing point in Dharamsala, minus 3 degrees in Kalpa, and 0.2 degree in Shimla.
Dharamsala town got 42.6 mm rain, while McLeodganj, located on outskirts of Dharamsala, saw mild snow. The majestic Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas surrounding Dharamsala wore a fresh blanket of snow.
The state capital recorded 6 cm of snow, while Salooni in Chamba district got 19 cm of snow. "The entire tribal belt in Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, Kullu and Chamba district witnessed moderate to heavy snowfall during the past 24 hours," the weather office said. As news of the snowfall flashed in the plains, tourists from the plains flocked to the state. "We really enjoyed hurling snowballs at one another," said Tanisha Khanna, a tourist from Punjab's industrial town Ludhiana who was in Manali along with her husband. The landscape in Manali is expected to remain snowy for three to four days, the Met Office said. The snowfall and rain have cheered farmers in the region.
"The prolonged dry spell is finally over. The snow is good for the apple, peach, plum, apricot and almond trees," a horticulture expert at the Solan-based YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry said. He said negligible or total lack of snow and rain in most fruit-growing areas of the state this month had reduced the moisture content in the soil. Tourism industry representatives are also happy after the snow in the popular destinations. "We are now hopeful that the good spell of snow will attract the tourists this week, especially on Christmas," said Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation general manager Yogesh Behl.
The Met department's forecast said Western disturbances - a storm system originating from the Mediterranean-Caspian Sea region and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region - would start withdrawing on Monday.