Depart UK for flight to Delhi International Airport. Flight time: approx 8 hrs
Arrive Delhi International Airport. Transfer to domestic airport and take internal flight to Srinagar the capital of Kashmir. Flight time: 1 hr. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred by private jeep for the 45km journey to Gulmarg. Book into the Hotel Highlands Park.
Six full days of off piste guided adventure skiing in the extensive backcountry covering 4 different ski fields. With a gondola rising to almost 4000m, you will enjoy uninterrupted descents of almost 2000 vertical meters of fresh powder each day.
Ski for most of the day and then transfer directly back to Srinagar by road and stay overnight in one of the famous house boats on Lake Dal.
Relaxing morning before returning to Srinagar airport at midday for the 1 hour flight to Delhi. Arrive back in Delhi at about 3pm. Transfer to the international terminal for flight home.
Gulmarg is fantastic for intermediate to expert level off-piste skiers and snowboarders. It’s also brilliant for backcountry tours! There is no groomed terrain and chances are you’ll be skiing deep powder most of the time and so you must be a competent powder skier. No previous ski touring experience is required but on most days there is likely to be some walking – up to 1 hour – to access or exit the best runs. Fitness is important and to get the most out of this wonderful holiday you need to have the stamina to ski all day for 7 consecutive days.
Our Gulmarg trips are led by our team of UIAGM British Mountain Guides: Nick Parks, Olly Allen and Matt Dickinson. They will be assisted by other UIAGM Mountain Guides. The UIAGM qualification is the highest professional qualification for skiing and mountaineering. These guys are experts in mountain travel and safety including avalanche awareness and avoidance. With the large volumes of snow in Gulmarg group management and safety are essential skills. Accept no substitutes.
The off-piste and backcountry guiding is provided on all 7 days with a maximum ratio of 1:6.
In Gulmarg we stay in the Highlands Park Hotel which was built in the 1960s and is run much like you’d imagine a hotel in the era of the Raj with old world colonial charm and uniformed staff on hand to cater for your every whim. The hotel is made up of a series of small cottages each sleeping 2-4 people and heated by wood-burning stoves. The rooms are basic but clean and all have private bathrooms.
Subject to availability rooms can be booked on a single occupancy basis. The charge for this is £375 for 7 nights.
The two restaurants in the hotel serve a good selection of Kashmiri, Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine. The bar – one of the few in Gulmarg – is the place to relax after a hard day on the hill! The hotel is located at the far end of the village about a 10 minute ski/walk to the Gondola base station.
For more information on the hotel visit their website at www.hotelhighlandspark.com.
In Srinagar you will spend 1 night in a floating houseboat on Dal Lake. There are hundred’s of houseboats, most very fancifully decorated, and staying in one is a fascinating experience. Most boats have a balcony, lounge, dining room, pantry and 3 or more bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The boats face the Lotus Garden and have a view of the mountains. A small motorboat takes you from the shore to the houseboats and back.
Water and Food
Gulmarg has its own water filtration system and so you should be able to drink the water without complication. Nevertheless most travellers continue to utilise bottled water for drinking and cleaning teeth.
In the Highland Park hotel you will find both International and local Kashmiri food of a good standard. However in our experience guests often crave a few items that are not readily available in Kashmir e.g. marmite or fresh coffee! The hotel has a bar and beer and some spirits are available, if a tad expensive. If you are a wine drinker, the hotel owner promised us he was starting a cellar… you might want to bring a few bottles just in case he hasn’t got round to it yet!
If you enjoy a coffee-fix to get you going in the morning, then you might want to bring your own coffee, as the coffee in the hotel is not the best!
What to Take
To really enjoy the light, dry powder wide all-mountain skis are essential (a minimum of 95-100mm under the boot is recommended).
Here’s our list of recommended skis for 2013:
Movement Sluff (134-99-118)
Movement Trust (140-108-128)
Movement Jackal (136-105-124) – lightweight, big-mountain ski
Dynastar Cham 107 or Cham High Mountain 107 (137-107-121)
Dynastar Cham 97 or Cham High Mountain 97 (133-97-112)
Volkl Nunataq (139-107-123) – lightweight, big mountain ski
Volkl Kiku womens (139-107-123)
Volkl Gotoma (139-107-123)
Volkl Mantra (132-98-118)
K2 Sidestash (139-108-127)
K2 Coomback (135-102-121)
K2 Gotback womens (135-102-121)
Scott Powd’air (129-98-120)
Scott Venture (134-96-121)
Scott Pure (136-104-124)
Dynafit Stoke (128-104-118)
Dynafit Manaslu (112-95-108)
Black Diamond Verdict (132-102-121)
Black Diamond Warrant (130-95-118)
Black Diamond Ember womens (128-95-116)
Ski Trab Volare (129-99-116)
Your skis should be mounted with touring bindings. Touring boots are recommended but are not essential as the walking distances are not very great. Without touring bindings you will struggle to walk in deep snow and on the odd occasion when the lift isn’t running – i.e. if there’s too much wind – we will go touring. (Going up through the wonderful forest in deep fresh snow is almost as good as coming down!)
If you only have skis with downhill bindings then you will need to reserve a pair of Alpine Trekker bindings in advance from Mountain Tracks. These bindings convert downhill bindings to free heel bindings and are suitable for this trip. The cost to hire a pair of trekkers for the week is £80.
Snowboarders must bring snowshoes and collapsible ski poles.
As always everyone must ski at all times with avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe. If you don’t own your own, they can be hired from Mountain Tracks for a fee of £80 for the week.
Bring a small day pack (25ltr max) to carry these and other bits and bobs – skins, camera, water, snacks etc which you might want during the day.
It is essential that you have proper skins that fit your skis. If you are unable to find skins to fit your skis, you can reserve a pair of skins from Mountain Tracks. Our guides will have 4-5 pairs of split skins that can be used on any skis. The hire cost is £80 for the week.
You do NOT need to bring ski crampons, boot crampons or an ice-axe.
There is a local hire shop that has reasonable skis but these are all fitted with standard downhill bindings and their other kit e.g. skins is of poor quality. The hire shop in Gulmarg should really only be used as a last resort and we strongly recommend that you bring all your own gear.
For our generic, recommended ski kit list click on www.mountaintracks.co.uk/winter/skiequipment
You might also want to bring any old jackets, sallopettes etc that you no longer use. You will quickly become the most popular person around as far as the locals are concerned!
It is also well worth bringing some decent snow boots with good grip for getting around the hotel grounds and Gulmarg itself in the evening. The paths are often deep channels through the snow and can be very slippery or powdery.
The most convenient way to get to Gulmarg is to fly to Delhi and take the 1 hour internal flight from there to Srinagar. From Srinagar it is approximately 2 hours drive (37 miles) to Gulmarg. On the return journey at the end of your trip we recommend that you spend 1 night in a houseboat on Dal Lake in Srinagar before continuing on to Delhi for your international connection back home. If you want to spend a few extra days in Delhi or visiting other areas/cities e.g. Agra and the Taj Mahal, we can arrange this on request.
International flights to Delhi arrive at the International Terminal and the connecting flight to Srinagar departs from the Domestic Terminal. The 2 terminals are a few miles apart and it takes 20-30 minutes to travel between the 2 terminals by taxi. It is essential that you have at least 3 hours between your scheduled arrival into Delhi and the connecting flight to Srinagar.
in 2011 the last flight to Srinagar leaves Delhi at about 11am (times change slightly depending on the date) which means your international flight should arrive no later than 8am.
From the UK British Airways offers the most convenient connections with 2 non-stop flights daily from Heathrow arriving in Delhi. Virgin and Airindia both have 1 flight each day from Heathrow but both flights arrive after 11am which is too late to make the connecting flight to Srinagar on the same day.
If you need (want) to arrive early and spend the night in Delhi we can arrange accommodation in a local hotel. This is an additional cost. Please contact us for details.
Kashmir, Security and Travel Insurance
For the past 10-15 years the UK government has advised against all but essential travel to Kashmir. This is due to the ongoing troubles between Pakistan and India and the threat of terrorist attacks. We take this advice very seriously and continuously monitor the threat level. However based on our experience over the past 3 years, the experience of other tour operators and travelers and regular contact with locals in Kashmir, we believe it is safe to run these skiing trips. Each year there are incidents involving the local population which is predominantly Muslim, and the police. This has led to violent demonstrations and curfews particularly in Srinagar. However they are nearly always resolved very quickly with very limited impact on travel and tourism and in our experiencethe local Kashmiri people are, without exception, friendly and helpful and very pleased to see tourists coming to their beautiful country.
As a result of the UK government’s advice against travel to Kashmir it is difficult to find UK-based insurance companies who will provide insurance cover for this trip. However Campbell Irvine, a leading travel insurance broker do provide cover which we are happy to recommend. For details on their policies click on www.campbellirvine.com
Safety on the mountain
There is a small local medical centre in Tanmarg which is the village at the base of the ski area and 2 hospitals in Srinagar.
In the past few years the guys who look after the snowpack and head up the ski patrol are snow safety experts from Treble Cone in NZ and they do a great job – including training up local guys to assist them. They are also the first responders if there’s an incident although to-date we haven’t had to use them.
Our guides carry radios and rescue sledges in case of any accident on the mountain.
Early January to late February is the optimum time to visit Gulmarg for powder skiing on dry, light powder! Expect similar or slightly colder temperatures to the Alps at this time. When its not snowing the clarity of the Himalayan winter mean the mountain views are wonderfully clear.
All foreign nationals visiting India require a visa and for this trip, a short term tourist visa is required. This will cost about £40 plus the visa application fee and any relevant postage charges. The visa must be obtained in the UK prior to departure. Since May 2008 the Indian High Commission has outsourced the visa application to a private agency called VF Services (UK) Limited. You can apply for the visa online by going to the VF Services website: http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk
If you are going to use the postal application service you should allow 15 working days to process the application. Alternatively you can apply in person at one of the Visa Application Centres – there are 5 in the UK – click on http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/vacs.aspx for details. On the application form you need to provide the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 2 referees in India. We will provide these in our trip pack at the time of booking. Together with the completed application form you also require your passport, 2 passport size photos and the visa fee. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Gulmarg resort is at 2650m which is not an elevation at which altitude sickness is typically experienced, however the gondola goes up to just short of 4000m and altitude sickness is possible.
The symptoms of altitude sickness are headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, mild shortness of breath, dizziness or light-headedness, slight swellings of hands and face.
To minimise any risk of discomfort and inconvenience from even mild altitude sickness, guests should take the following measures on their arrival in Gulmarg:
- drink plenty of water
- avoid alcohol and sleeping tablets
- do not over-exert yourself on the mountain on your first day or so.
Let one of the guides know if your feeling unwell. There is a quick and simple cure to altitude related illness…simply to go to a lower elevation.