Gulmarg lies delicately spread around a large saucer shaped valley, almost a plateau, on the side of Apherwat mountain. About 50 kilometres west of the capital Srinagar, the resort was founded by the British during the Raj era, and the small church of St Mary in the centre of Gulmarg is testimony to that. The days of ‘horse drawn' lifts are long gone now and instead Gulmarg boasts a project to build the world's highest skiable gondola. Following an early snowfall this year, it was looking as if the project may be delayed a further year. However recent reports (2/12/04) have quoted an opening day of January 1 st. Happy New Year!

Although the first snow may come in September, the ski season does not really get underway until mid to late December. January is a cold but extremely fluffy month, while the sun begins to shine through between blizzards in February. Depending on the level of snowfall so far, the snowline can start to retreat up the mountain in March, though skiing is still possible from the peak in April, and even May. The new gondola will of course extend the season length significantly.
March 2003:


The current Phase One of the Gulmarg Gondola ascends to the treeline at 3100m, though it isn't particularly popular among local and Indian skiers. Three small slopes on the sides of hills within Gulmarg's ‘saucer' are however very popular. Here you will often find a throng of people, not necessarily always skiing, but certainly enjoying! Two slopes are served by button lifts and offer a very reasonable place to learn or brush up on those alpine skills, before hitting some of that Himalayan powder ! Gulmarg's elevation makes for extremely light powder snow, which falls regularly in 2ft plus showers. The terrain is varied … Apherwat's huge gullies and ridges descend into tight treelines, sweeping meadows, and shepherd huts; where hundreds of tree stumps make bumps for jumps while many other tree trunks, knolls and nullahs (gullies or streams), make for some great technical challenges. The slopes below Gulmarg offer even more great spots and some of the steepest terrain. From the rise of the sun behind the Great Himalaya in the morning, to the sounds of thousands of crows returning to roost at dusk, to Kashmiri friendliness and hospitality, Gulmarg offers the chance to rediscover the intimacy and the inspiration that perhaps many other resorts have lost around the world.


Two ski instructors

Indian skiers have a lot of potential!


How to get to Gulmarg and Kashmir:

Air -

Srinagar is a two hour flight from Delhi and is also connected with Leh in Ladakh. Flight costs vary between $200 and $250 return from Delhi.

Bus -

Direct ‘luxury' buses depart Delhi from Connaught Place and Old Delhi daily. The journey takes between 24 and 32 hours with lots of breaks. The cost is 700-900 Rs and tickets should be available from most travel agents in Delhi. Be sure to check exactly where your bus leaves from and arrange a taxi or rickshaw to take you there if in doubt. Make sure you leave in plenty of time.

Train & Taxi -

It is possible to take a train from New Delhi train station to Jammu (11-15 hrs). You can find a shared taxi to Srinagar at Jammu bus and coach station. This should cost between 150 and 300 Rs in a full car , more if the car is not full. From Jammu to Srinagar by taxi it takes 9-12 hours. If you arrive on time it is possible to take a taxi to Srinagar that day and arrive in the evening. However if your train is late you may be forced to stay in Jammu. In all honesty this is not recommended unless you need the rest!

Bus & Taxi -

The bus, public or private, is more punctual though more uncomfortable than the train to Jammu. At the latest it should arrive in Jammu by 9am, giving you ample time to reach Srinagar that day. Buses from Delhi to Jammu cost 300 Rs for a public bus to 500 Rs for a ‘luxury' private coach.



Frequently Asked Questions:

“Is Kashmir Safe

-Attacks on foreign tourists are extremely rarely and there is a significant army presence in Kashmir. Indeed far few foreigners have gone missing in Kashmir in the last ten years, than in other Indian tourist hotspots such as Rishikesh or Manali. Gulmarg to our knowledge has never had any incidents.

This year has seen a big improvement in the security situation in Kashmir. Previously safety in the region has had two sides: India and Pakistan threatening to nuke each other, and different Kashmiri militants fighting for seemingly different things. Since December 2003 Pakistan and India have returned to the negotiating table and have been making positive signs all year. There have been a number of meetings between the two sides and both parties have reappeared after each one positive that agreements can be made. Kashmir is clearly the sticking point - the problem is as old as India and Pakistan themselves, and has caused two wars.

The militant situation has also improved this year. The Indian army seems to have made significant progress in reducing their numbers, so much so that a withdrawal of Indian troops has been ordered. At one point a few years ago there were allegedly some 200 militant groups, some pro-Pakistan, some pro-India, some pro-independent. It is a complicated situation no doubt, but one that hopefully will continue to improve.

“Will the gondola be finished this year?”

-It didn't look like in September, but recent reports from early December have said the new Gulmarg Gondola Phase Two would be running on New Years Day!

“Is there any avalanche control?”

-The local Indian army mortar some slopes, however last year this was not done very often as tourist numbers were still low. It remains to be seen what will happen this year with the new Gondola working.

“How cold does it get?”

-January is really cold, with temperatures staying consistently below 0 Celsius, so be prepared. The sun comes out in February but it is still chilly in the shade.

“Are there any pistes?”

-Only two small ungroomed but much skied slopes in Gulmarg itself. There was a groomed slope at the top of the old gondola for the winter Olympics last year, which may well return this year depending on numbers. There is no lift for this though and the driver of the piste-basher was not particularly inclined to give lifts last year! Otherwise it's all virgin Himalayan powder!

“Is there anywhere else to ski in India?”

-Yes, Solang in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, and Auli in Uttaranchal both have lift-serviced slopes. Both have their good and bad points, but neither has the highest gondola in the world!

“What's the food like in Kashmir?”

-If you want fine rogan josh and naan bread, then you are in for a treat. Eating meat is universally accepted in Kashmir unlike India. There are some superb restaurants in Gulmarg and Srinagar serving fantastic Kashmiri cuisine as well as more international food too. The food on the houseboats on Dal Lake is good, showing that every family in Kashmir has a least one good cook! Also check out the Afghan korma, and rajmah, in fact try and eat it all! Kashmiri bakeries are filled with tasty sweets and breads, and the produce in the markets is incredible, from apples to walnuts, cherries to dates to onions and carrots. Kashmir is also famous for its saffron, an extremely aromatic and potent natural flavour and colouring. It is produced from the stamens of the saffron flower. Try a couple of these hairs with some ‘curd' if you get the chance…. deeeelicious! Saffron also makes up one of 11 different ingredients to Kashmiri tea, which is sweet and comes without milk. Kashmir is almost entirely alcohol free, ( but not quite 100%) . A couple of hotels in Gulmarg do stock spirits, but alcohol is generally hard to come by.

“Is there any budget accommodation in Gulmarg?”

-You can try the Kashmir Alpine Ski shop for some cheap shared accommodation. Failing that you could try the Bakshi family at the Green Punjabi Dhaba.

“What else is there to do in Gulmarg?”

-Well if skiing and boarding in some of the best conditions on the planet is not enough, there are some spectacular walks to be done – quite beautiful in crisp February. There are many Sledge-wallahs (guys selling sledge rides) if you fancy that. There is also the Golf Club where you can relax in style or play a game of snooker. There is a new gym ‘complex' that also offers a hairdressing salon and a new internet service.


Photos © Joe Wyand and © Dove E Dove