Gulmarg: For foreign tourist Andrew, the wait for snowfall to try his skiing skills on the slopes of Apharwat in this famous ski resort of north Kashmir was worth it.
The picturesque Gulmarg, known for its breathtaking landscapes and world-class skiing slopes, has become a hotspot for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts’ alike after the recent snowfall that ended over two months of dry spell.
The lack of snow during peak winter left the people connected with tourism disappointed as winter sports lovers waited eagerly to see the locale turned white which finally happened towards the end of January, bringing cheers on the faces of both the locals and the tourists.
“It’s big pleasure to ski here. In my country, we have similar landscapes but not such high mountains. However, here it is something new, something different like the culture, the view and higher peaks,” Andrew, who is in his late 30’s, said here.
Andrew lamented that he had to face disappointment and put his visit to the Valley on hold in view of the prolonged dry weather conditions and snow-less mountains.
“I arrived on January 18 and expected a lot of snow. However, there was no snowfall and I had to wait for a long time to witness one. I travelled to Chandigarh, Shimla and Dharamshala just waiting for proper conditions. I am happy being here now,” he said.
Like Andrew, hundreds of tourists from the country and abroad are visiting the famous ski resort to enjoy their time with families in the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of Gulmarg, around 50 km from the summer capital Srinagar.
With the arrival of fresh snow, tourists from far and wide are flocking to Gulmarg to experience the thrill of skiing down the powdery slopes and revel in the serene beauty of the snow-covered mountains.
The dry spell over the last two months, including Chilai-e-Kalan — the harshest 40-day winter period when the chances of snow are higher — had prompted many tourists to either cancel or postpone their visit to the Valley.
According to the tourism department, the destination witnessed a staggering influx of 19,532 tourists within just six days of February after the fresh bout of snow.
The data available with the department says 15,086 domestic visitors, 4,290 locals and 156 foreigners have visited Gulmarg from February 1 to 6.
“We had put our booking to Kashmir on hold for two months because of no snowfall. However, as soon as we heard of snowfall, we rushed to Kashmir,” Rohit, who comes from Madhya Pradesh, said.
Rohit came in a car to Srinagar in a tiring 24-hour journey after his flight to Srinagar got cancelled due to fresh snowfall.
“It’s really heaven here, it is truly beautiful. It’s for the first time I am witnessing something like this,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed sledding during his trip to Gulmarg.
He urged the fellow countrymen to visit Kashmir at least once in their life to enjoy the natural beauty of the Valley.
Not just Rohit, but many tourists from other parts of the country have also been left spellbound by the mesmerizing beauty of Gulmarg.
Among them is Deepanshi from Haryana, who waited for nearly three months to embark on her dream trip to Kashmir.
“Finally, we are here in Gulmarg, the winter wonderland and we are enjoying it a lot. It’s gorgeous. We are playing in the snow and having a great time here,” she added.
Tourism stakeholders are happy and hopeful of further surge in the arrival of visitors with the start of the second edition of the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 from February 21 to 25.
Originally scheduled to take place in Gulmarg from February 2 to 6, the fourth edition of the grassroots-level multi-sports competition was shifted from J&K to the Union Territory of Ladakh for the first time due to lack of snow in the top skiing destination of the country.
Jammu and Kashmir hosted the previous editions of the games in 2020, 2021 and 2023.
The weatherman has predicted another bout of snowfall at many places in Jammu and Kashmir from February 18 to 20.