Notwithstanding otherwise a tense Line of Control (LoC) times are changing in Kashmir. In a first, 250 skiers will be airdropped the peaks of north Kashmir's tourist hotspot Gulmarg for a heli-skiing championship.
The championship starting on Thursday will host skiers from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada and US besides European countries.
"It's first heli-skiing championship to be held in the state," said Billa Majeed Bakshi, director of the Kashmir Heli-Ski.
Bakshi's company along with well-known Airbus Helicopters will provide chopper services to this high-adrenaline rush game where skiers will be airdropped at 13,500 foot at Mount Apharwat, which is very close to the LoC.
In 2011, the army objected to heli-skiing in Gulmarg for security reasons, fearing vulnerability from the troops stationed across the border.
The championship is now being pegged as a game changer for the favourite winter destination of Gulmarg, 55 km north of Srinagar.
"This event will put Gulmarg on the international tourism map. It should help the destination gain publicity," said Bakshi.
He said the cooperation of the Airbus Helicopters, which is a major global player in the game, has come as a shot in the arm.
The Airbus Helicopters, which was earlier reluctant to come to Kashmir, has praised the choice of the destination.
"There is hardly any other landscape in the world, which is simultaneously so rich, varied, challenging and inviting," said a statement issued by the company.
Gulmarg is known for its deep and dry curry powder snow. According to experts, the snow quality here is unique due to high altitude and southern exposure of the continent at around 35° latitude.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah recently asked the tourism department to up its efforts to project Gulmarg as an international winter destination.
"There are possibilities of making Gulmarg an international winter sports resort," Abdullah had said on Sunday.
He said organising sports events, particularly winter games, would give a considerable fillip to the efforts of showcasing the state as an ideal destination for different sports.