Gulmarg is one of the best-kept secrets in the skiing world. It’s a remote place, but with the most extreme terrain imaginable, torrential powder and the highest Gondola in the world at 4000 metres along with colourful culture, its well worth a trip for any die-hard snow fanatic.
The amount of terrain that is accessible via the gondola is practically boundless. It’s very much frontier skiing, with the main attraction being a lethal combination of vast extreme terrain and endless metres of powder. Only a small amount of terrain adjacent to the gondola is patrolled, with 99% of the terrain being backcountry. Don’t worry too much about safety precaution if you plan to stick close to the gondola, but you must be properly prepared if you want to experience the backcountry riding.
- 1 Location
- 2 Security situation
- 3 Pros
- 4 Cons
- 5 Contacts
- 6 Planning
- 7 Resort Facilities
- 8 Ride Guide
- 9 Other
- 10 Packages
- 11 Resources
Gulmarg is in Kashmir at the western end of the Pir Panjals and is about 50km or 2 hours away from Srinagar, the capital.
As is well documented, the region of Kashmir has been under dispute between India and Pakistan for some time. Gulmarg & Srinagar are currently on the Indian side of the line of control.
Most people generally have a negative image of the safety and security in Kashmir – this is mostly because of an ongoing publicity stunt pulled by the international media in order to dramatise the situation. In reality, the situation has been relatively calm since the unrest in the 90’s. Although occasional protests do crop up occasionally, the area itself is arguably less dangerous than cities such as New York, London, Mumbai or Madrid, which have been terrorist targets in the past.
In general, the advice of Western Governments towards their citizens is 'Do not travel'. While it is worth reading these advisories to give you an idea on the current situation, it is also important to remember that much of this advice is extremely over-cautious and also quite biased in favour of developed countries.
There is a large presence of Indian military throughout the capital of Srinigar, which subsides as you get up on the mountain at Gulmarg. You’ll soon get used to this and it’s important to remember that they’re only present to safeguard and watch over the area, which means you are safer with rather than without them there. They only time they really get in your way though is when convoys of big military trucks head up and down the Gulmarg - Tangmarg road slowing all other traffic.
Otherwise, you can quite safely wander around Gulmarg during the day, where the people most likely to bother you will be guys trying to give you a sled ride. The Kashmiris are quite friendly. At night, you just need to wary of stray dogs. When stopping over in Srinagar most people will stay on the houseboats which are very beautiful and historical.
Reflecting this sentiment, skiers heading to Gulmarg in recent years have found it quite safe and their numbers have increased dramatically over the past 10 years.
Untracked powder, lots of it. Several bowls to either side of the gondola bowl, so fresh lines available for days. The biggest selling point – uncrowded slopes, no lines at all for the Gondola and ski lifts. Those who usually go to Europe, Japan or American will know what a luxury this is.
There are beginner slopes, but these aren’t the long groomed intermediate runs that Western resorts are known for. Don’t come here if you want a lazy, pampered ski holiday. The best terrain and powder is accessed through the backcountry, so this is a problem for those who aren’t fit and strong. You have to careful about safety – both in terms of avalanches and travelling into the correct terrain, so a guide is essential.
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Fly to Delhi and then get a connecting flight to Srinagar and from there it is about a 50km drive - this can be the tricky bit and you should organise with a tour operator before you get there how you will do this bit otherwise it can be more awkward when you arrive.
International flights into Delhi international usually arrive late at night so you will need to book accomodation. Make sure that you arrange to have someone (tour operator or hotel) pick you up to avoid getting swamped by dozens of touts wanting to take you.
The domestic airport is 3km away from the international. A very good reliable domestic airline that goes to Srinagar is Jet Airways which has daily flights. Kingfisher is another one. Occassionally these flights may be delayed or cancelled due to bad weather in Kashmir.
Domestic flights in India have a high level of security and this is doubly so for those to/from Kashmir. Expect to have several baggage x-ray checks and frisk searches inluding one just prior to boarding. When checking in make sure you get a paper luggage tag for your hand carry on luggage as security like to stamp this when you go through the x-ray checks. Listen out for the airline announcement to identify your luggage - you need to go out onto the tarmac and identify your bags matching them with your baggage receipts before they will load them. Avoid packing any sharp objects in your hand luggage. Also avoid carrying battery devices although phones and cameras seem to ok. They may also be interested in battery devices even in your checkin luggage - you should be aware of where you have packed them, or else remove the batteries.
On arrival in Kashmir you will get a registration form asking for details on your stay inluding flight, passport, visa details, so have these handy. You should get the same form at the hotel and again on departure - it is India so there is no shortage of bureaucracy.
The drive from Srinagar to Gulmarg is fairly straightforward until you get to the village of Tangmarg at the foot of the mountain. From there it is another 13kms up a narrow winding road to Gulmarg. In bad weather this can take an hour or more especially if the Indian army convoys are about.
It is a good idea to change foreign currency into Rupees at the bank at the airport on arrival as you won't be able to do this in Gulmarg. Normally the bank will give you a bunch of R500 notes. Try and get them to include a bunch of R100 and R50 notes as well as you need these initially for tips and small purchases and change can be hard to come by.
There are varying styles and levels of accommodation, but don't expect too high end. Kashmir sometimes has severe power shortages, so if you get a room that has reasonably reliable heating, daily hot water sufficient for a hot shower and some half decent lighting you are doing really well.
Accommodation is in various parts of the village. A few hotels are very close to the gondola station, others a bit further but you can ski to. Getting back to the hotel requires a short climb in some cases.
Rosewood Hut Private and intimate accommodation with a private toilet and shower. Located close to the gondola base, you can ski straight to the gondola.
Grand Mumtaz Hotel A new hotel in Gulmarg, only in its 2nd season of operation. It is located conveniently close to the gondola base, and offers great comfortable rooms with great service.
Highland Park Hotel One of Gulmarg's best class hotels, it provides a blend of comfortable accommodation with genuine Kashmiri hospitality. The hotel is built out of chalet type cabins, with a central building that serves as a reception, dining hall/restaurant, lounge/bar, and disco dance area. Located on the top of Gulmarg’s beginner slopes, it a perfect spot for any beginner skiers, and gives spectacular views of Apharwat mountain.
There are some restaurants and tea shops in Tangmarg if you do the ski down to there.
Liquid Adventures have set up relations with local accommodation providers at a convenient budget, mid-range, and high-end level. We offer our clients accommodation at the Rosewood Hut, Grand Mumtaz Hotel and the Highland Park Hotel. For further information on our Hectic Himalayas Gulmarg Packages, visit http://www.liquidadventures.com.au/our-trips/hectic-himalayas. We're happy to answer any questions in relation to skiing/boarding in Gulmarg, just get in touch with us via our website http://www.liquidadventures.com.au/.
2010 prices. The lower gondola is Rs150 single trip or Rs700 for a Day pass. The upper gondola is Rs250 single trip or Rs1250 for a Day pass.
For more information visit http://www.jkccc.com
Obtaining these is another story. You can only get them on the day and only when the lift is going to run. At least this means you usually avoid the situation of buying a ticket and having the lift close. For both gondolas you have to wait until the guy with the briefcase arrives to sell the tickets. The guy at the lower gondola usually operates from upstairs in the gondola building and moves to the ticket window downstairs later in the day. The guy for the upper gondola this year operated from the little ticket booth to the left of the midstation when he turns up. If you can, try and have the correct change especially if you are early - the guys don't always have much change (or at least that is what they claim).
It usually works out better to get individual tickets rather rhan a day pass even though it is a bit more inconvenient. In bad weather the top gondola won't operate so you could consider a day pass for the lower gondola if you aren't planning on any tree runs down to Tangmarg etc. On a fine day with the top gondola going you are only likely to ride the lower section once and concentrate on the upper section. If you are staying in the main bowl then a day ticket for the upper section is worth considering but be aware the weather can change quickly. If you are doing a lot of hiking / traversing to the backcountry you are probably not likely to do more than 4 runs.
The operating times will vary considerably depending on a number of factors - weather, avalanche hazard, power shortages, number of people etc. The lower gondola rarely starts at the advertised time of 8:30, usually it is closer to 9:30. The upper gondola will not operate if it is snowing.
Not yet unless you are a middle class Indian riding the beginner Poma slopes.
The ski patrol will be mostly Kashmiris with a couple foreigners (in 2008 an American and a New Zealander) there as snow safety experts.
They conduct weekly avalanche awareness sessions on Tuesday nights at the Pine Palace hotel which are worth attending if you are doing any backcountry (why else would you be in Gulmarg?). This year they are doing it in a series of 4 sessions so you'll only get the whole lot if you are there for a month.
They have also set up a avalanche transceiver/beacon search facility outside the Pine Palace which they operate daily if you want to practice your search technique.
There is a government hire shop on mountain which has a good range of skis, boots and boards. Hire is ridiculously cheap : $5-$10 per day
For getting around in Gulmarg the options are to walk, ski/skate, grab a tow behind a passing jeep or pay one of the many Kashmiri guys to give you a sled ride.
You can ski down to Tangmarg, from there you can negotiate a taxi to take you back up.
- Ice skating
There is an ice skating ring that offers good equipment etc for a change of pace.
- Local attractions
Hey its a different culture, go check out the local temples, villages etc and you might learn something.
This will usually be in your hotel. Meals are generally quite good - obviously plenty of rice, dahl, spicy vegetables. Meat dishes will be either chicken or mutton. The chiecken dishes are generally pretty good, but as always be wary. There are always a few people that get a dose of 'Delhi belly'.
Lunch options are the restaurants at the gondola base and midstations, the Dhaba which is a short walk to the left of the midstation with outdoor seating - good on a fine day for nice potato parathas and great Kashmiri Khava. Otherwise the Hilltop hotel a short walk from the gondola base station for sandwiches and pizzas.
Try the Kashmiri tea (Khava) which is green tea with cinnamon, cardomon, crushed almond - very nice.
Bars & Entertainment
Very limited. Kashmirs are predominately Muslim so do not drink alcohol. Some of the hotels do get in some beers for the western clients. You can apparently buy some local whisky specifically intended for sale only to the Indian army if you are very keen. For that stuff you are best off bringing your own duty free.
Be aware that if you decide to do your own thing and go down to Tangmarg on a 'beer run' there is a limit of two slabs per person (as someone this year discovered when the police stopped them at the bottom of the road).
Some of the westerners there for the season will occasionally organise parties. Look out for signs around the gondola station or word of mouth if you are interested.
Very limited in Gulmarg and Tangmarg. If you have a day off it is worth walking down the road alongside the gold course where there are a few temples, small clothing shops and Dhabas (tea shops). But for any proper shopping you'll need to go to Srinagar.
The poma slopes. These will generally be occupied by middle class Indians. You don't travel to Gulmarg to ride here.
For the most part there is no grooming, which is the attraction of Gulmarg. It is 99% ungroomed terrain.
The lower gondola section usually gets packed down by riders after a fresh snowfall and they might groom it after that to make the lower section back to the gondola easier to ride as it is a bit flat in parts.
A narrow trail may be groomed on the last couple of hundred meters before the midstation down from the top again as it is fairly flat.
As far as the eye can see. The gondola offers an massive amount of advanced and expert terrain and most of it is ungroomed. The skiing and boarding is amazing.
Out of Bounds
Probably 90-95% of the terrain accessible from the top gondola will be backcountry. Only the main bowl under the gondola is controlled. There are numerous bowls left and right of that which are backcountry so you will need to be properly geared up. Check the backcountry advisories which the patrol will post at each of the gondola stations.
No prepared tracks. You could cruise around on the roads or perhaps the golf course, but again it is not really the reason to come to Gulmarg.
Parks & Pipes
Nope, all free ride or build your own.
Unlikely that you'll see any of these. Generally people are looking for fresh lines.
Just about everywhere you look. Just a matter of getting there and back.
The tree runs below the midstation and below Gulmarg down to Tangmarg etc. The top ridge will often be windy.
Get one of the local guys to give you are sled ride. They are always keen.
Gulmarg is located 52 km from Srinagar. It is located at [show location on an interactive map] 34°03′N 74°23′E / 34.05, 74.38. The base station of gondola has an altitude of 2650m & it reaches upto the altitude of 4000m at Mt.Aferwat.
Gulmarg has been a resort for the kings like Yousuf Shah Chak and Jahangir who used to visit frequently. The old name of Gulmarg was "Gaurimarg", the name of Lord Shiva's wife. Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, meaning the place of roses. During the early part of the 20th century the famous Central Asian explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862 – 1943), made his home here in a tent between his expeditions. It was a favourite summer holiday destination for the British stationed in India
Hectic Himalayas 11 & 15 Day Snow Packages
Liquid Adventures are currently offering Gulmarg Snow Package Holidays for Australian travelers looking to experience the thrill of long untouched snow runs (some upto 7kms!), something Australians are not privileged with Australian ski conditions. Our 11 day package starts from $1490, and our 15 day packages starting $1730, making this ultimate ski experience very affordable to all skiers and snowboarders.
Package includes: Return flights from Dehli to Sringar ,Return jeep transport from the Airport to Gulmarg Hotel, 10 or 14 nights accommodation, In-resort host, Breakfast daily (except budget package), 8 or 12 days fully guided off piste skiing/snowboarding (depending on your package type)
We are currently giving away FREE Travel Insurance to anyone who purchases any of the Hectic Himalayas Packages before the 30th of September 2009. For more information, visit http://www.liquidadventures.com.au/our-trips/hectic-himalayas.