On one December afternoon, I had skied down Gulmarg’s powdery slopes and till today, I remember the thrill of zipping down the powdery snow. Well, I also remember my not-so-graceful awkward movements on the skis and my splayed legs were subject to lots of laughter from my friends. That Gulmarg winter was my first experience at skiing and I had preferred loping around the baby slopes. The gondola ride was pretty fantastic too and the views of white snow carpeted pristine Gulmarg were awesome. After that experience, I had longed in vain to try out the other ski destinations like Auli in winter, but it is yet to come true. So, needless to say, I fiercely cling to my Gulmarg ski memories and I would love to go back there in some near winter. For those of you from Delhi and Srinagar, Gulmarg is the easiest place to try your hand at skiing and this guide will help you plan a quick romantic getaway to India’s best off-piste ski destination. Now, whether you come back with loads of awkward ski photos like me or not is your forte, but a Gulmarg winter is definitely one of the most special experiences in India. This post is especially for my Cairo colleagues and friends, who gawk at the thought of enjoying snow in India.
Where is Gulmarg and what makes it so unique?
Nestled in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, this hill station is India’s premier skiing destination and every Gulmarg winter hosts the International Heli-Skiing Competition. Excellent for off-piste skiing, Gulmarg’s much popular gondola is used by skiers and tourists alike. It is also very pretty in summer when the landscape becomes true to the meaning of its name, “Flower Meadows”. One can enjoy picnics, pony rides and trying their shots at one of the world’s highest golf courses there. The surrounding pine slopes provide beautiful distant views of the Nanga Parbat and from mid-December to mid-March, the gondola hauls visitors to the top of Gulmarg’s skiing slopes.
How to Reach
By Road: Gulmarg is around 2.5 hours by road from Srinagar. Taxis and easily available to reach Gulmarg and the scenic road is a hitchhiker’s dream. In winter, jeeps going up to Gulmarg need to have snow chains on the tires or you have to change over to special shared transport from Gulmarg base town to go into the valley.
By Train: The closest railway station is the Jammu Tawi railway station at Jammu, which is 290 km away. Public transportation and taxis are available from Jammu station to reach Gulmarg.
By Flight: Srinagar airport caters to Gulmarg as well and it is well connected with the rest of India. Pre-paid private and shared taxis for Gulmarg are available from the airport.
Best Time to Visit for a Gulmarg Winter break
The official ski season starts from December and goes all the way to April, but annually it varies slightly on the snowfall levels. Check that there is enough fresh powder snow, before planning a ski trip.
How to Get Around
In winter, jeeps going up to Gulmarg need to have snow chains on the tires or you have to change over to special shared transport from Gulmarg base town to go into the valley.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of resorts, hotels and guest houses there and skiing can be done with/without an instructor. Hotels in Gulmarg are not of the best standards and may not have central heating or round-the-clock hot water.
Read about my winter memories of Kashmir
Things to do on a Gulmarg winter holiday
- Go skiing: Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned skier, Gulmarg winter slopes have something for everyone. Novices should stick to lower slopes and professionals need to keep an avalanche watch. Apart from the beginner’s area, there are options for off-piste, heli-skiing and cross country skiing in Gulmarg.
- Gondola Ride: The gondola ride up Gulmarg winter slopes are a lot of fun and you can access most of Gulmarg’s three-acre system via the two gondolas and four chair and surface lifts. Though the massive queues for the gondola can be a bit off-putting, make sure that you brave it out to reach the very top. Gulmarg gondola has two phases. The first phase takes visitors to the Kongdoor Station which is a touristy spot and the second phase reaches the Aparwath Station at the height of over 13,000 feet. The second phase is open only on clear weather conditions and on bright sunny days, one can enjoy stupendous views, and tranquility with a limited number of people.
- Go skating, or tobogganing: If adventure sports is not your thing, then opt for more relaxing activities like pony rides, riding sleds, and go ice-skating at the rink in the middle of Gulmarg.
- Go Hiking: Snowshoes are available at most rental shops for those who want to explore the neighbouring forest areas by foot.
- Trek Around: There is a challenging 3 kilometers trek from Aparwath Station to Aparwath alpine lake, which gets completely frozen in winter. Guided trekking options are also available in Tangmarg.
- Alternate Activities in Gulmarg: You can try zorbing, tobogganing and walking around the lovely valley. In summer, Gulmarg gets carpeted with wildflowers and it is a visual delight.
- Attractions in Gulmarg Town: Visit the St. Mary’s Church, the world’s highest golf course, Ningle Nallah, and Ferozepur Nallah. You can also go for a guided nature tour to the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE