Gulmarg I – Gondola, Snow and Ski

5. + 6. February 2023


From Srinagar, Soenke and I drove 50 km west. There is THE Indian ski resort of Gulmarg. And I had been dreaming of skiing in India since 1995. I imagined it to be special. It was special, but then different than I thought. First of all, the history of Gulmarg:


It is situated at 2,650 m and was already considered very beautiful by a ruler in the 16th century. In the 19th century, the British chose it as a summer resort. During that time 3 golf courses were built, one for women only. Today, only 1 remains in total – now, of course, buried in snow. It is considered the world’s highest golf course. The British then also started skiing in Gulmarg. After independence, the Indian army also took up skiing. And in the early 1960s, they thought they could establish a nice ski resort here after all and brought in Rudolph Matt, an Austrian, to advise them. In 1968, the Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering was founded and ski instructors were trained.


Over the next few years, a lot of money was spent on expanding the area. At first, helicopter skiing was very popular. A Frenchman and a Swiss had a hand in this. A cable car was also planned, but the political situation in Kashmir buried these plans for the time being. At the end of the 90s, however, they dug them up again and completed the first section of the cable car called Gondola. In 2005, the second section was completed up to a height of 3,970 m – and one can now boast of having the longest and highest cable car in Asia. The gondola consists of many gondolas, each of which can seat 6 people. In 2011, a chairlift was added.


We arrived in the afternoon and walked around, amazed at the crowds. Most of them were hanging around the toboggans and beginners’ hills.


beginners hill in the background


rare method of transport


The weather was nice, the temperatures bearable, the accommodation with heating from 18:30. We tried to get info on gondola operation, lift tickets and ski rental. There were about 5 people with 5 different info. They only agreed on one thing: long queues at the ticket office and at the gondela. We found a nice ski rental shop right away and were able to choose already the equipment. We also saw an igloo bar, which boasts of being the biggest in the world and charges an entrance fee of 100 INR. But we didn’t want to pay that.


The next day, however, we were amazed when we looked out of the window: a massive amount of fresh snow and it was still snowing. Would the gondola be running? We waited, there was a snow hole, we picked up the skis, the first gondola section was in operation and the queue to buy tickets was manageable. At the gondola we waited a little longer and up we went through snowy forest.


Up it was snowing and still packed with people. Most of them without skis, enjoying themselves elsewhere in the snow. In our gondola was a couple from Chennai who were seeing snow for the first time and were duly enjoying themselves.


pair from Chennai


many people in the snow


me in the snow


What was already noticeable on day 1: the people were insanely nice! Especially the ski guides (more about the ski situation in the following post), they helped you into the bindings, showed you the way, asked to help if you looked like you were at a loss, stopped immediately if you fell over – and didn’t want anything! They also sometimes shouted “very good” to you. It was really a very nice atmosphere.


The snowfall was a problem for me though – I hadn’t invested in any ski goggles, my sunglasses fogged up and were full of snow and without them I had to squint too much. I felt like I was blind and the route wasn’t so easy to see in the driving snow either. But we successfully scurried our way down.


blind snow run


little speed


Then we had lunch and hoped for an improvement. It came, the snowfall became less. But the queue was longer. The slope has a difference in altitude of 400 m and winds its way down very narrowly between the trees. It is not very steep, but you cannot make long turns.


Soenke on slope


some people on slope


quite some were snowboarding


a view above


We skied once more – and then the ski day was already over, the slope hard icy and the legs limp. Very good weather was forecasted for the next day. More about that in the next blog post.


First we were happy about an après-ski chai.


Aprés Ski