Solang valley, just ahead of the maddening tourist hub of Manali, is usually a site for frenzied so-called adventure activities. It's a silly parody on what paragliding, skiing and snowboarding are meant to be. All that is set to come to a momentary standstill this weekend.
The Alpine Premier League is a first-of-its-kind event that has the winter sports community abuzz. It's an attempt to get the best of the nation's skiers on one common stage. From February 5 to 9, 250 odd participants from strong teams like the defence forces will fight for Rs 4.19 lakh total prize money. While the amount wouldn’t excite much interest in most sports, it’s a start for the skiing community.
“More than the amount, if this kind of competition becomes an annual fixture, it's going to be very good to spread awareness about winter sports. There aren't enough competitive platforms in India and this is welcome,” says four-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan.
“Even the first prize of R25,000 (for two of the 13 categories) is unheard of in winter sports. It's bound to serve as an incentive,” says Teja Thakur whose family has a long history of association with the sport.
The promoters of the event, Ski Himalayas (SH), are optimistic of things getting better.
“The budget for this year is Rs 20 lakh, which we are footing. We hope to have a proper league in the years to come and expand to other areas,” says Amitabh Sharma, MD of the company. SH has put up a new ski lift at Solang and publicity around the event should spin-off to create awareness about its facility.
With CM, PK Dhumal, set to preside over the opening ceremony on February 6 and his son Anurag Thakur coming for the closing on the ninth, Ski Himalaya is obviously in the right books of the people in power. If that translates into a breath of life into what has so far been a limp sport for want of infrastructure, so much the better.