In Palchan panchyat that consists of five villages — Palchan, Solang, Kothi, Ruwar and Kulang — skiing has become a major source of business.The sport is vital to the economy of the five villages, and even those villagers who are into other businesses, have mostly invested money earned from skiing. Possessing very little land and with skiing coming to them naturally due to the hilly terrain and climate, the villagers have used the sport to change their lives.
Hundreds of villagers have opened kiosks for ski suits and ski blades on the roadside which they rent out to tourists. Many youth have done basic ski-instructor courses and help tourists get a feel of skiing.
“For years, the villagers here have been in this business. It started with the five villages that come under the Palchan panchyat but now even other villages, like Bang, have got into this business,” says international skier Santosh Thakur. “I am into the business of renting out ski suits and ski blades to those going to Rohtang Pass for the last 10 years,” says 37 year-old Khem Raj, of Palchan village.
Tule Ram, an ex-serviceman from Kulang Village, is into farming. But he bought a second-hand ski for R15,000 for his 22-year-old son Hansraj. “I want my son to be an international skier, so I got him ski blades. During weekends, when he gets a break from school, he goes to Rohtang and earns some money by helping tourists learn skiing,” says Tule Ram. A lot of foreigners find it cheap to ski in Manali than in their own countries.
The construction of a cable car by Ski Himalayas in Solang Valley has also helped local skiers pursue the sport seriously. Since it has made their uphill trip easier and faster, they can do more downhill repetitions. “We’ve issued free passes to local ski clubs and they have further distributed them to the local skiers,” says Amitabh Sharma, MD of the company.
“During our ski days, we had to spend most of our time making the uphill trip, but now kids have this facility. You will see better results in the coming days,” says Olympian Chuni Lal.