Gulmarg: A magical
mist surrounds this ultimate destination of skiers, sports lovers,
honeymooners and adventure- seeking tourists as yet another
snowfall changes the landscape in Gulmarg, the world-renowned
tourist retreat in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tall pine trees laden with
snow and hundreds of acres of golf turf covered with a majestic
white blanket in the foreground of the dense forest are picture
perfect for both skiers and adventure-loving tourists who throng Gulmarg these days.
The tourist season, which began here in December with its first
snowfall, is to continue well into June.
Ishwar Singh, 45, of Delhi, who is here with his wife and two
children, is predictably excited.
The family is part of a 19-member group of tourists visiting
Gulmarg for the first time.
"It's simply breathtaking. I have heard a lot about Gulmarg. The
very name brings in a refreshing feeling when the temperature
soars back in Delhi," Singh said.
"But this place is beyond words", he added while helping his
children walk carefully on the slippery roads flanked on both
sides with four feet of snow.
Ilyas, assistant director of the state tourism department, is not
surprised by the comment as he has been witnessing this every day.
Hundreds of tourists, domestic and foreigners, arrive here daily,
he told IANS.
"We run courses for ski lovers who come here to pick up the sport.
Schoolchildren from many local schools have been joining these
two-week long courses", Ilyas said.
Visitors to this magical winter sports destination will have their
hands full, wondering what to choose from the several options -
skiing, snow-boarding, sledge riding and the famous Gondola ride.
The world's highest cable car project, which connects Gulmarg with
the Afarwat Heights situated at 13,400 ft above the sea level, is
another favourite attraction here.
The Gulmarg Gondola comprising cable cars takes off from the base
in the meadow and covers an uphill distance of five kilometres
with one stop at the Kongdoori Mountains.
"The weather along the Gondola route can change abruptly and
become life-threatening", reads the warning at the entrance to the
cable car station.
Very few tourists however seem to worry over the warning. The
skiers and enthusiasts take the cable car rides anyway.
During rush hours, people queue up and wait for hours to get the
"It is mandatory to announce weather warnings for high altitude
cable car projects, but it is absolutely safe to enjoy the ride",
said an official of the Gulmarg cable car project.
Tourists and sports lovers have been trusting the safety of the
Gondola cable cars for years.
The project was built by the French firm PomaGalski SA in 1998.
"We have advance bookings this year, especially from the high
budget domestic and foreign tourists who stay at our hotel," said
a staff member at Hotel Highland Park here.
Two of the oldest local hotels in Gulmarg are the Nedou's and the
Highland Park - choice destinations of the British in the past.
Bollywood film stars and rich business executives stay at these
hotels these days, he said.
"The famous song from the 1970s hit Raj Kapoor film "Bobby" - "Hum
Tum Ek Kamre Mein Bandh Ho" (me and you locked up in this room)
filmed on Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia was shot in the hut of
our hotel", said a proud old waiter at Hotel Highland Park.
Gulmarg had been the choice outdoor shooting location for
Bollywood in the past.
Many of the blockbusters of the 1970s were shot here - at least
for one song sequence.
As the security situation improves in the Kashmir Valley, Gulmarg
is waiting to welcome Bollywood and all those who long for the
quiet laziness that fills the nature here, far from the madding
(F. Ahmed can
be contacted at email@example.com)