In the 19th century Gulmarg was a hill station for British colonials to escape the summer heat. These days, it’s a world-class ski resort blanketed with fresh, light powder from the Himalayas, attracting ski bums tired of Alpine lift queues and fondues. The resort’s claim to fame is the Gulmarg Gondola, the highest ski lift in the world at a dizzying 3,979 meters. At the top station, skiers can take on challenging runs with Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest peak, as a backdrop.
Gulmarg is intermittently plagued by insurgency, resulting in security lock downs that can stretch on for months, but it has not deterred the 400,000 intrepid skiers who took the Gondola last year. Truth is Gulmarg’s pure ski-natural potential easily makes it one of the best in the world; the whole hearted acknowledgement by the world is just waiting for the political temperatures to cool down, and a ‘little’ better management of infrastructure and marketing by state and private businesses.
Due to its geographic location Gulmarg gets some of the heaviest snowfalls in the Himalayas and it has earned the distinction of being the best ski resort in the Himalayas. The best conditions are usually found for just 6–8 weeks from the start of January until the middle/end of February although the season can start as early as mid-December and run into March.
Access on to the mountain is via the Gondola. Installed in 2005 it ascends from the resort to almost 4,000m on Mt Apharwat and offers over 2,200m of vertical descent. Thanks to the gondola, Gulmarg claims to be one of the highest lift-served resorts in the world.
Gulmarg is the perfect venue for natural, wild, backcountry and off-piste skiing for intermediate to expert level skiers and snowboarders. From the top gondola station, the upper slopes and bowls of Apherwat are wide and open whilst thick conifer forest covers much of the remaining area. If you are prepared to boot pack the 30 minutes (or so) to the summit of Mt Apharwat you’ll be rewarded not only with some awesome powder turns but also withspectacular views across the Kashmir Plateau to Nanga Parbat (8126m) the most westerly eight thousander and the ninth highest mountain on Earth.
Getting there: Gulmarg is 35 miles away from state capital Srinagar. Visitors can take a taxi into Gulmarg from Srinagar airport, the journey takes around two hours and costs Rs 1,200–1,500 (US$26–33).