Are there places in India where I can try out winter sports like skiing and sledding? Can gear be rented?
Rishabh Dutta, Mumbai
The main places for skiing in India are Gulmarg (Jammu & Kashmir), Auli (Uttarakhand) and Solang (Himachal Pradesh). These places are suitable both for novices who want to learn the sport and for those, who having learnt basic skiing, want to upgrade their skill. Once you’ve mastered advanced skiing skills and, by that time, bought your own gear as well, there is no limit on where you can go to ski. You can ski with other good skiers anywhere in the Indian Himalaya and scout for fresh slopes. You can also go ski touring. And, if you have the money, after you have come up to this level, you can do heli-skiing on the slopes above Manali and Gulmarg.
You will be dropped by helicopter atop a long mountain slope and then ski down, negotiating trees, boulders, and slopes of differing gradients with varying snow conditions. That’s as exhilarating as it gets! Gulmarg has a large variety of slopes and one of the world’s highest cable cars. You can learn in Solang or Auli and then go to Gulmarg to upgrade your ability on your own through practice (staying in accommodation of your choice and hiring gear from the ski shops). Between Solang and Auli, I personally prefer Solang for someone who’s getting initiated into winter sports because the adventure sport culture has grown up there over decades. (Besides, you can also do tandem paragliding and ride an all-terrain vehicle when your ski lessons get over!) However, the main drawback with Solang is that it has only one piste (slope) and a small button lift which is not always operational.
Auli has several nursery slopes and the chair lift saves a lot of your energy. You also need to decide whether you want to do skiing or snowboarding. Both are equally easy to learn (3-4 days) but upgrading your skills in skiing is more challenging because you have to learn advanced technique. In snowboarding, the basic technique remains the same even for steep slopes.
Most people opt for alpine skiing. If you are interested, you can also do cross-country skiing. Do note that all winter sports require flexibility and lower body strength. In Solang, you can join the ski courses of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountain-eering and Allied Sports. For Auli, enroll with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (www.gmvnl.com).
For winter sports in Gulmarg, contact Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, House No. 183, Kursoo, Rajbagh, Srinagar. Telephone: 0194-2312749 and 09419076335. Accommodation, food, gear and lessons are included in the course fees.