The Valley will host the Winter Games but for the locals, tourism takes precedence. A report by Heena Zuni Pandit and Anupma Tripathi.other Updated: Feb 04, 2008 00:34 IST
Much before the Santosh Trophy begins, later this month in fact, this "meadow of flowers" (frozen at the moment) will wake up to the Valley's first major national championships in a long time.
The fifth National Winter Games will be held from February 18 to 22 and see teams participate in skiing (cross-country and alpine), ice hockey, ice skating, snowboarding, even a biathlon).
At the moment though, the area is concentrating on the business of tourism rather than the business of sport.
Manish Kumar, who has moved from Jammu to here to earn a living through teaching skiing, says that there are three basic months they earn in, from December-end to early March.
And while the Rs. 50,000 or so he makes per month (mainly from foreigners) in this period sounds like a lot, it isn't really when you see that this money has to get him and his family through the rest of a rather lean year.
He doesn't want to become a professional skier too, "there's not enough money in the sport in India".
One of the reasons for that perhaps, is the lack of any systematic organisational plan. For instance, a Belgian tourist here for the "Kashmiri experience", says that Gulmarg's main hitch was the lack of initiative taken in its development as an international ski resort.
"The ice here is quite bumpy and something would need to be done about that," she says, adding that more effort could be made to promote games like the luge, more suited to India. It might be recalled that Shiva Kesavan, India's lone known winter Olympian, is a luger.