This year, Europe is out of bounds for winter sports enthusiasts from India because of travel restrictions. But Courchevel and Gstaad’s loss has been Gulmarg’s gain and skiers and snowboarders from all over the country are descending upon the glistening slopes of the staggering Pir Panjal range in Kashmir instead. At an elevation of 3950 metres, Gulmarg is the world’s third-highest ski resort and known around the world for its powdery snow runs. Its majestic Apharwat peak (4390m) is the longest ski slope in Asia. Despite its natural gifts, as a ski destination, Gulmarg can be chaotic and needs more infrastructure to be able to do justice to those exceptional mountains. Still, the ski town’s endless slopes and fantastic snow conditions are reason enough to head there for a few days of skiing or snowboarding.
The base of Apharwat is where it all starts. The mountain is split into two phases: Phase I is accessible by a Gondola. It connects Gulmarg to Kungdori from where you can ski down right back to the village. Phase II, which can be reached on the gondola as well, connects Kungdori to the Apharwat peak. There is also a chair lift from Kungdori to Marry Shoulder, from where one can ski back further down to Gulmarg.
Down by the village, which is usually smothered under a thick blanket of snow with barely a patch of earth visible from January through early March, are the bunny slopes for beginners. These are wide and easy slopes and open through the day and also at night for night skiing. There are two button lifts along these slopes but long queues call for great patience during the peak snow season.