Visiting the Himalayas in Kashmir is like stepping into a different time. I’m not really sure which time period this particular region of the world fits into, but to me it felt like wandering into an era that simplified everything that we in the west tend to complicate, while complicating every task and formality that to us is so natural and simple. The straight laced Canadian in me will never understand why concepts like standing in a line-up at a shop or a chairlift, or taking the food order of every person sitting at a restaurant table is beyond the comprehension and patience of folks from the sub-continent, it’s these kinds of things that will always be there to remind you that you’re far from home.
From the moment Wes expressed his desire to snowboard in India I was excited, it certainly added an extra level of adventure to backpacking hauling stuffed board bags around New Delhi. I’m not normally an ‘organized tour’ kind of a girl but I was thankful for booking a packaged deal to Gulmarg for many reasons, the biggest being that the company ‘Ski Himalaya’ gave us the heads up to push our trip by 2 extra weeks which allowed us to get to Kashmir just in time for the big snowfalls of the season. And snow it did, I’ve never seen so much snow in such a short period of time I don’t think. It snowed nearly 2 meters in the village during our 3 weeks in Gulmarg.
The one thing you never plan on while traveling is the possibility of injury. After only 2 days on my board I twisted the heck out of my knee and then got to spend the next week sitting at the hotel while Wes went out and explored Mount Apharwat, scoring some of the best days he’s ever had.
After a week of resting my knee I decided to give it a go again on the most blue-bird day we had during our stay. From the top of the gondola we hiked to the peek of the mountain to access Kilamarg 4 bowl, about 7 ridges over from the controlled ski area. It took a while to convince my knee, head and lungs to all operate together while hiking at 4200 meters. Once finally on top I was equally overcome with awe and altitude, staring out at the never ending sea of the Himalayas I was totally overcome with emotion. A mountain girl through and through I knew that visiting this particular area of the world would be a very special and profound experience. For lack of better words, the Himalayas are just as amazing as one would expect. The riding that day was a bit of a struggle for me but I eventually found my confidence with my new laid back stance and bagged a number of incredible runs on perfect snow, face shot after face shot.
The other great thing about Gulmarg was the number of awesome people we met. There’s something pretty special about coming to India to ski or snowboard and I feel very lucky we got to share this with so many great people. From avalanche safety nights to impromptu igloo parties the stoke was always high!
The last week of our stay was a quiet one. We were 2 of a small handful of tourists left in Gulmarg and though there was no shortage of fresh snow the upper half of the gondola stayed closed our entire last week. Kashmir, as some of you well know, is an area of conflict and as a result this government ski area is patrolled by Indian Military. It seems that during our stay the military had somehow run out of explosives and so the ski safety (who have to secure their explosives through the military) could not do any avalanche safety tests and therefore could not open the top half of the mountain. With a least a meter of untouched snow sitting up there this was a major bummer.
Enjoying a change of scenery for our last day in Kashmir we spent the day and night on a house boat on Dal Lake, Srinagar. The charm of the opulent decor and genuine hospitality on our house boat made us feel so at home, it was hard to leave after only being able to spend such a short time.
Kashmir is a place of many regions and beauties. The people here are lovely and every face holds a story of complicated past and hopeful futures. Both Wes and I hope we will have the opportunity to come back to Kashmir to explore it’s many regions in more depth, but ideally at a time when the northern roads aren’t all closed from record snowfall! Insha’Allah (God Willing!)