Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Saturday, April 20, 2019 09:20:40 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

A family ski adventure in the Himalayas

photo by

By
25th-Jan-2019       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Jeffrey Gettleman :
ast winter, as I was riding in a car with my family through the Kashmir Valley, the driver’s phone rang. He listened carefully before frowning.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Man killed in avalanche.”
“Who?”
“A Russian, skier, went by helicopter.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Where else?” The driver shrugged. “Gulmarg.”
Gulmarg. That’s exactly where I was taking my family for a ski trip. Gulmarg is Kashmir’s underdog ski resort, tucked in the snowy Himalayas, a place of magnificent skiing and no frills. Few foreigners visit, for reasons I will get into, and as we drew closer, I began to wonder if this was such a great idea. I looked out the window. It was now dark and snowing, and we were winding our way up a narrow road into the mountains. After we passed another military checkpoint, the driver nodded to me.
“You see that spot?” he said, pointing into the woods. “We saw a bear there last week.”
My wife, Courtenay, who was sitting in the back, tapped me on the shoulder.
“Why can’t we go skiing in Austria like everybody else?”
I laughed.
“No,” she said. “I’m serious.”

Floating through a forest
I had always dreamed of skiing in Kashmir. That name alone conjures up adventure: white-toothed mountains and deep green valleys, wide open slopes and tough highland people. Draped in a mysterious beauty, Kashmir is one of those places most of us have heard of but know little about. And I had a personal agenda. My children are among that strange breed of Americans who have never lived in the United States. They were born in Kenya, raised (so far) in Africa and India, products of the tropics who go to school all year round in shorts, and I wanted them to experience snow.
So one weekend about a year ago, while we were sitting around our apartment in New Delhi, I suggested a trip to Kashmir's winter wonderland.
 “Are you kidding?” Courtenay said. “Isn’t there an active conflict up there?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a conflict,” I said.
“What would you call it then?”
“A dispute, maybe?”
I’m an average skier, trained on the snowy pimples of the Midwest, with a few lucky trips to Vail and the Alps. But I love skiing, and the thought of plunging down the Himalayas, the world's tallest mountains, fired me up. I soon learned that Kashmir’s ski spot, Gulmarg, is huge (about seven times the size of Jackson Hole), with some runs so long they take all day to ski. I also learned that Gulmarg is cheap, never crowded and blessed with perfect high-altitude, inland snow. One experienced skier described it as being so soft and feathery that skiing through it was like floating through a forest. I wanted to float through that forest.
But before getting more excited, I needed to check out the safety of the area. This was a
family trip, after all, and my wife was right: Kashmir is contested territory, torn between India and Pakistan. It’s a long story, flaring up in the 1940s, when the British divided the subcontinent into Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan.
The people of Kashmir fell in between, religiously and geographically. They were ruled by a Hindu maharajah, although the population was mostly Muslim. And their area, with its fertile orchards, deliciously cool climate and legendary scenery, lies right between what is now India and Pakistan.
After the British left, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir, and today the conflict has settled into a thorny standoff, with India controlling most of Kashmir and Pakistan a smaller slice.
Many Kashmiris don’t want either country controlling them: They want independence, and a small, dogged separatist movement operates in Kashmir, attacking police posts and civilians believed to be collaborators. Gulmarg, however, is rarely affected; it lies in a nook of the Kashmir valley tightly controlled by the Indian military.
I was obsessed with getting us there but had no idea how to pull this off. As luck would have it, right when Courtney and I were haggling over the trip, we were invited to a dinner party in New Delhi where I was seated near a charming, fit-looking Indian with a bald head and handlebar mustache. His name was Akshay Kumar, and he was a former champion skier. He had skied Gulmarg countless times, ever since he was a child, and he and his wife, Dilshad Master, run an adventure tour company, Mercury Himalayan Explorations.
When I asked him if Gulmarg was safe, he said: “Very. I'm taking some families up there in a couple of weekends. Want to come?”
I now had the necessary cover.

‘Like ice, Daddy, like ice’
As I waited at the Srinagar airport for my family, I was giddy with excitement. It had just snowed, and the trees were delicately coated, the roads wet and shiny. When I picked everyone up, Asa, our 7-year-old, pointed to a lumpy bag tied to the taxi’s roof and asked, just as I knew he would, “What’s that?”
I untied the bag and told him to put his hands in. “Ooh, that’s cold,” he said, turning over his first clump of snow. “Like ice, Daddy, like ice.”
I would have loved to linger in Srinagar, an old town built on a lotus-covered lake, where you can stay in a gorgeous houseboat, wake up with kingfishers plunging into the lake next to you, and then stroll through rose-filled gardens sculpted by Moghul emperors hundreds of years ago. But we only had the weekend to work with, so we had to skip all of this.
It's about an hour-and-a-half drive from Srinagar to Gulmarg, and Courtenay was quiet the entire way. I did not blame her. Kashmir isn't a war zone, but everywhere you look, you see Indian soldiers running checkpoints, patrolling the markets and peeking their helmeted heads out from the turrets of scarred-up gun trucks. The US government warns citizens to stay away, although I feel that's overblown. I’ve been to Kashmir now more than half a dozen times, and I've never heard a single gunshot. The Indian troops exert control in just about all parts of the valley, especially in Srinagar, and I know several other expat families who have visited, and all said they felt safe.

Gulmarg’s slopes cover everything from green to double black diamond, but few are marked. Part of the mountain is groomed, but advanced skiers love the ungroomed, backcountry skiing. The gondola reaches around 13,000 feet, one of the highest in the world. Some skiers hike up even higher or take helicopters to virgin spots. Gulmarg's vertical drop, a measure of the altitude from where you start to where you finish, can be as much as 6,000 feet. With good snow, some runs stretch more than 4 miles. They can take the better part of a day and end in the woods, near some old temples.

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Football »

FIFA backs English players' social media boycott over racism


AP, England :FIFA is backing a 24-hour social media boycott by professional players in England in a protest against racial abuse and revealed plans for a new global campaign to eradicate discrimination in soccer.Following a series of high-profile cases in recent weeks, the Professional Footballers' Association has gathered support from ...

International »

US President Trump declares victory on Mueller report D-Day


President Donald Trump, backed by his attorney general, declared himself fully vindicated on Thursday in the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with his campaign - even before the American people and lawmakers see the full probe report."Game Over," Trump tweeted, using a "Game of Thrones" style montage ...

Entertainment »

Shanta Jahan in Australia for hosting


Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Shanta Jahan is a popular host of present time. Though she acts sometimes but always feels comfortable to present herself as a host to all. For the first time Shanta went to Australia to host a show. She left Dhaka at night on April 18. Today is ...

Editorial »

One is punished for another's sin!


LOCAL media reported that a day labourer was allegedly sent to jail on Wednesday for not paying electricity bill of Tk 4007, even though his house at Mochagora village in Muradnagar upazila in Cumilla district had no electrical line. On Thursday evening, Chief Judicial Magistrate granted him bail after hearing ...

Cricket »

Sri Lanka dump Chandimal, bring back Thirimanne for World Cup


AFP, Colombo :Sri Lanka Thursday dumped established stars including former captain Dinesh Chandimal to hand batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay a place in their World Cup squad.Chandimal, who was one-day captain until last October, wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, off-spinner Akila Dananjaya, openers Danushka Gunathilaka and Upul Tharanga were all ...

Cricket »

Senior players need to take the responsibility: Faruk Ahmed


Former chief selector Faruk Ahmed insisted on the performance of the senior players, stating that they need to take the onus if Bangladesh want to do well in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup.According to Faruk, the condition should give Bangladesh a confidence, given that they stormed into the semifinal ...

Entertainment »

Mehazabien’s Boishakhi works create viewers’ attention


Sheikh Arif Bulbon :For the last few years, Mehazabien Chowdhury established her strong position in media by virtue of her acting quality and skill. She is now getting positive response for acting in two Boishakhi plays. Afran Nisho was her co-actor in these two plays - Tom & Jerry and ...

International »

Turkish opposition takes control of Istanbul, re-run appeal still pending


Reuters, Istanbul :Turkey's main opposition candidate took office as Istanbul mayor on Wednesday after a stunning victory over President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, but the new head of the country's largest city still faces an appeal for the vote to be re-run.The final result of the March 31 local elections ...

Editorial »

Power politics in Egypt


A HUGE majority of Egypt's MPs on April 16 approved constitutional amendments to allow President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in power until 2030. The amendments were initially introduced in February, however after lengthy debates and discussions favouring the Egyptian society it was updated earlier this week. "The president's current term shall expire ...

Football »

Iniesta's J-League club Kobe part ways with coach Lillo


AFP, Tokyo :Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe have terminated the contract of manager Juan Manuel Lillo following a poor run of results, the Japanese club said on Wednesday.The 53-year-old former Real Sociedad and Zaragoza boss won just two of six games since taking charge last October as star-studded Vissel ...

International »

US waging 'financial war' against Palestinians


AP, Ramallah, West Bank :The new Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday accused the United States of declaring "financial war" on his people and said an American peace plan purported to be in the works will be "born dead."In his first interview with international media since taking office over the weekend, ...

City »

Various organisations formed a human chain in front of Jatiya Press Club on Wednesday marking the International Krishok Sangram Dibash-2019.


Entertainment »

Priya Bapat to take up a web series


Web Series are surely the in thing nowadays and so many actors, irrespective of their stardom, are being seen in them. Marathi superstar Priya Bapat has also bagged a web series called City Of Dreams. Sharing her experience of being part of the series, she says, “Web series are now ...

Editorial »

Urgent steps needed to check outbreak of diarrhoea


AT the advent of summer this year, the number of diarrhoea patients has already crossed the recent records. International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, and the other city hospitals are struggling to tackle the surge in diarrhoea patients. The diarrhoea patients admitted to the ICDDR,B has crossed the number ...

Cricket »

Tearful Taskin vows to make a strong comeback


Fast bowler Taskin Ahmed vowed to make a strong comeback after being snubbed from the 15-member World Cup squad, announced by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on Tuesday.Chocked with emotions as tears were rolling down from his cheek Taskin shared his disappointments with media."Its' ok just pray for me," Taskin ...

 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news