Skiing the slopes of Gulmarg
Tea and tea vendors can commonly permeate in places across the world. And, the vendors aren’t just selling tea, they are serving you compassion. “Kahwa” is what’s called at Kashmir and the taste of it is incomparable. This tea truly melts into your soft spots and heals your tired heart, especially after a rigorous skiing session.
But there’s more to experience than I can account for unless I am letting you in on the context that consolidated this trip. Last year, my skiing partner lost his life. We have been to so many places around the world. But he was diagnosed with cancer and soon broke the man down. I have been an unbearable witness to his sickness but he made me promise that I should make that Gulmarg trip which we always talked of. I was convinced that we will make it together. But that was an ironic assumption we both understood. So, as a part of my coping cycle, I decided to make the trip in his honor.
Gulmarg is a 1.5 hr drive from Srinagar. I had already booked a direct cab from Srinagar airport to Gulmarg for the sake of convenience. Gulmarg experiences heavy snowfall, so the ideal time for you to go is around mid-Jan to Feb end. But the whimsicality of the seasonal cycle can be seen, mostly due to climate change. So, the skiing cycle can start between mid-dec to march end. I had some connections over there – and I was told to come to mid-Feb, which I did.
Skiing to cope
Skiing has always been a part of my coping mechanism and I never knew I would be skiing without my partner. The powder laden white slopes screamed the isolation and despair that I had been feeling – the mountains have perfected the kind of silence I have wanted. But the closest I have been to it when I am skiing against the unyielding slopes of a mountain – but this time, it was more of flying than to feel grounded. I had to let myself go for a change and dissolve the burden of losing someone.
Gears you need
Safety gears can be rented but I prefer to carry my own. I had my GPS-watch set along with my first aid kit. Just so you know, keep antiseptic wipes, duct-tapes, blankets, adhesive gauze and a lighter inside your first aid-kt. There are a lot of beginners out there reading this – so I suggest that you keep your snow helmets on as well.
I socialized a bit before starting and I borrowed an Avalanche transceiver just in case. If you also have the fear of being buried under an avalanche, get yourself a lightweight shovel that’s portable and a waterproof headlamp. You can also carry an Avalung which can be useful in preventing asphyxia.
Note: Keep the Gulmarg Avalanche Advisory number in case of any emergency.
Apharwat and remembrance
I went out early and I had to see the world’s highest ski lift. From Kongdori, I took the cable car which helped me reach the Apharwat peak – standing at a height of about 13000ft. Since I had time on my hand, I thought of trekking a bit to see the Al-Pathar lake situated near the LOC.
The ski resorts have marked the avalanche-free zone but I thought of going a bit outside that boundary. It was risky but worth the risk. After I was done, I did not just return to my hotel room. I stayed back and stared at the majesty of this place. I did miss him a lot and I wish that he was alive to witness Gulmarg with me. I walked back to my hotel, shortly after that while witnessing the orange hue trickling down behind me. I almost felt dissolved – like the kind of pragmatic surrender you have never experienced before.
The next day, I call up the same experienced cab driver that I had Booked for Srinagar to Gulmarg. He took me to Tangmarg. I stayed there for a day before returning home. This was more than just a skiing adventure for me. Without my friend by my side, I truly felt the essence of loneliness that I had felt my skiing life began. I probably won’t return to Gulmarg since I used this place to bury what’s left of him. Maybe I will change my mind, or maybe I will feel better – but if you are not as sad as I am, do visit Gulmarg, there’s an unmatched cathartic experience waiting for you.