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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

At Gulmarg, torch skiers welcome New Year

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, December 31, 2012
First Published: 21:46 IST(31/12/2012) | Last Updated: 21:47 IST(31/12/2012)

While the New Year celebrations were sullen by the separatists-backed shutdown in the Valley, tourist hotspot of Gulmarg, however, ushered in 2013 with a fiery and musical welcome.

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Hundreds of tourists, camping in Gulmarg, on Monday were busy snow cycling and adrenalin pushing game of snow rugby on eve of New Year on Monday.

"I have never played rugby on snow. It is much more fun than normal rugby," said Saika Jan, a student from Srinagar. The tourism department is offering a number of events at Gulmarg, located at the height of 8,800 feet, to around 5,000 tourists expected to celebrate the New Year.

"Occupancy at the high-end hotels continue to hover around 95% this year," said Gulmarg Vintage owner Iqbal Shawl.

Known as 'Switzerland of Asia', Gulmarg is New Year revelers paradise. Snow-laden mountains, large swathes of snow slopes and eye-catching icicles are attracting tourists from all parts of the country.

"It is just snow-capped mountains around. The night temperature is unbearable at around minus four degree Celsius. But it is fun moving around in snow. This is perfect setting to welcome the New Year," said Amit Kumar, a tourist from Delhi, who has come along with five other friends.

The main attractions for the New Year eve, besides snow games, was torch-skiing that started after the sundown. "There were cracker shows, which lit the skies as the clock struck 12 in the night," said event management company Space Communications' head Amit Wanchoo.

Tourism director Kashmir Talat Parvez said the highlight of the New Year festival will be the torch-skiing. "Skiers with torches making rounds of the slopes during the night will offer a breath-taking sight to the tourists," he said. Musical band 'Valley Boyz' is also set for musical evening for tourists. 

"The department has made elaborate arrangements this year as well to make the stay of tourists a memorable one," said Pervez.

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