Amid snowfall and drum beatings, a two-day annual snow festival was kicked off on Tuesday at the world-famous ski resort, Gulmarg.
It was festival time for the hundreds of people and sport-lovers gathered from across the country to participate in the event. Organised by the state tourism department, the festival will cover the events like ice-skating, snow cycling, skiing, snow-rugby, skido race, cross-country race and other snow sport events.
“It is tragic that despite being a world class snow and skiing resort, we are not able to attract more tourists. Only 200 skiers come here annually. It should have been in thousands,” said tourism minister Nawang Rig Zin Jora while inaugurating the festival.
Jora said the festival was aimed at promoting winter tourism in Kashmir, besides putting Gulmarg on the global winter destination map.
He promised that next year the festival would be grand affair. “This year, we did not get enough time to promote the festival. The festival is being organised more than a month late because of the assembly elections,” he added.
Deep Kumar, who has come from Delhi for the first time to ski in valley, said, “Vast fields, great slopes and fresh snow – what else do we need to ski? The atmosphere in Gulmarg is awesome.”
Twenty-year-old Gul-e-Surkhaw is a mountaineering student and a national-level martial artist. She has come to participate in the skiing event. “The management of the events is good. The authorities are providing better security as well,” she said.
However, for local ice-skater Gulnawaz, the festival helps develop the sports scenario in valley. “Besides attracting tourists, these events promote snow sports in valley. Some years back, only Ladakh used to have a ice-hockey team, but now we have our own team as well,” he said.
The tourism department is going to organise two more mega sports events this winter. In the last week of February, a tournament is being organised, followed by an international skiing competition, according to the tourism minister.