Gulmarg week 3

2013-02-19 at Gulmarg (4) Another great week of skiing


A typical Day:
Our third week has rolled around pretty quickly and with a storm each week we have been extremely lucky. We have settled into a very easy although quite tiring routine. Awake and up around 7am, then breakfast at 7:30. Our usual is porridge (without milk) and then eggs, either omelette or fried with toast. this takes about 45 minutes and so there is a little time before leaving the hotel by 9:15. Annette usually does some yoga in this time. It is about 750m to the gondola and it is easy to ski down the road to meet our guide, Majeed at 9:30.
The skiing is varied by where we go to find fresh tracks, but every day this seems possible. The skiing at Gulmarg is predominantly big open bowls or relatively straight forward pitches. Getting to them involves either a long flat traverse out (going south, e.g. Saffron Bowl) or a hike up (going North). The hike can take around an hour or it is possible to hike even further, though we haven’t done it. A lot of the skiers here have touring kit (AT gear: i.e. skins for the bottom of their skis and touring bindings with more flexible boots) and split snowboards are not unusual at all. Also anything under about 100mm underfoot would be unusual for skiers. It is definitely an unusual and unique place with enthusiasts from every country. There is also usually only one groomed cat track from the first Gondola down so pretty much all other skiing is deep ungroomed snow. Down near the hotels there are four platter tows (what we would call “Pomas”), referred to by most locals as the “baby slopes”.
Most days we interrupt skiing for a restaurant stop. Our standard fare is a cup or two of Kashmiri Kahwa (or Qawah) and an Aloo Paratha. The main reason for our stop is our guide, as with most Kashmiris, only has tea for breakfast and if we stop he can get some food as a sort of commission for bringing us to a particular restaurant. Consequently we always stop at the third of about 8 restaurants, all in a row at “Seven Springs”.
The skiing usually finishes around 4pm and it is possible to ski from the chairlift or higher directly back to our hotel, although a few days after a storm this becomes a little heavy and then icy as you get nearer the hotel (lower). We than have tea and biscuits in the lounge and I fiddle on the computer while Annette does more yoga until about 7:30 when dinner is on.
Our hotel (Heevan Retreat) has a reputation for very good food and very friendly staff. Our meals always start with soup and then the various dishes in the main course are brought around to be served by the waiters. One problem with this is we don’t know what is coming up so it has taken me the first two weeks not to eat too much most nights. We almost always get rice and potatoes, plus two vegetable dishes and a Kashmiri cheese dish with chicken and either mutton or a second chicken dish. It is all very nice and you can always have seconds though I’m usually struggling finishing the first full plate. Desert is often flummery or custard but always a little different. This usually takes over an hour and then it is off to shower and Annette reads a little while I fiddle on the computer and then to sleep around 10pm.
Then it starts all over… fantastic!

I spoke to a ticket collector on the gondola and he earns 5,200 rupee (AU$93) per month and he said he gets 2 days off each month though that part may not be accurate. The hotel workers earn between 3,000 & 4,000 rupees (AU$ 54-72) a month plus food and board. One of our guides works as a schoolteacher when not being a guide and he earns about 10,000 rupees (AU$180) a month. (Some Indian guests mentioned teachers in Bombay would get 7,000 to 12,000 per month).
So the question is what do things cost. Well we have not had to buy much while we are here.
Skiing costs
Gondola first phase (to mid station: Kongdori) 150 rupees one way (AU$2.70)
Chair lift per ride (to Mary’s shoulder 3445m) 200 rupees (AU$3.60)
Gondola second phase to Mt Apharwat: 3980m) 250 rupee (AU$4.50)
On an average day we would spend a bit over 1,000 rupees each on lifts (AU$20)
The regular 3 course dinner at our hotel costs 600 rupee (AU$10.70) (note ours is an inclusive price so we don’t pay)
The regular breakfast at our hotel costs 250 rupee ($4.50)
Our regular on mountain snack costs 100 rupee (less than $2) which is 2x Kashmiri Kahwa (30 each) + Aloo Paratha (40).
At the newly opened 5 star “Hotel Kyber” a cup of real coffee is 225 rupee (AU$4.00) while instant coffee at other hotels is about 75 rupee ($1.35) and at our lunch restaurant it is 40 rupee ($0.70)
At the fruit shop Mandarins are 80 rupee ($1.35)per kilo, Pomegranates were 200 a kilo ($3.60) and apples varied between 60 -120 rupee a kilo ($1.07-2.15). Banana were less than 10 rupee each (20 cents).
Chips (Lays) 57grams and plain biscuits 150grams were 20 rupee each (36 cents)
Chocolate (Dark premium) 35grams 30 rupee (55 cents)
Our hotel (Hotel Heevan)is apparently about 6500 rupee per night per room (AU$116). I spoke to some Indian guests and I think they paid about 7000 including meals (AU$125).
Most hotels near the Gondola are around that price in Gulmarg. For a single room between 3,000 & 4,000 rupee for bed and breakfast (AU$54-72).
Apparently the cheapest place is about 1,000 rupee per night (AU$18) for unheated dorm room. Raja see wiki travel


SUNDAY day 15: 17th February 2013 (4100 m)
the first day the 2nd stage of the Gondola was open since the storm on Thursday and Friday. Annette had been planning a rest day but the snow was so good we ended up doing 3 great runs before we headed directly back through the trees to the hotel where I dropped Annette before skiing on down to the Gondola and taking one more fantastic run.

MONDAY day 16: 18th February 2013 (3100 m)
4 runs on Saffron bowl to make an excellent day

TUESDAY day 17: 19th February 2013 (2660 m)
2013-02-19 at Gulmarg 11.57.45 PM This is a shot from the movie (click on photo to go to movies) on our run to Drung. We just did a run in the Saffron Bowl and then a Drung run but still it was quite a long day.

WEDNESDAY day 18: 20th February 2013 (2290 m)
After a run down the Saffron Bowl we headed to the to of the Gondola and hiked the extra 220m of vertical to the top of Mt Apharwat (4150 m) which took a bit over an hour. We then headed out to the North quite a way to come Nanga Gully and the 4th of the 4 Sisters. The run took a bit over an hour to descend the 1390 m. We reached the road and had a 4km walk and ski to get to the Army base gate (another hour) where we got a lift back to the hotel.

THURSDAY day 19: 21st February 2013 (2300 m)

Annette took a day off so I hired a snowboard. From the top Gondola we hiked to the top of Mt Apharwat and came down Chooti Nali Bowl. The snow was fantastic and so we traversed to the Seven Springs Restaurant and had a bite to eat before doing pretty much the same again except this time we just headed straight back to our hotel.

FRIDAY day 20: 22nd February 2013 (2550 m)
It had started snowing on Thursday afternoon and there was probably 30cm of snow at the Gondola in the morning. The chair did not open until late so we did a run down from the first stage then queued for the chair lift. By the time we rode up for the first time it was snowing heavily and visibility was low. Nevertheless we did 3 chairlift runs and after a very windy outdoor lunch the chair had closed so we finished the day with 2 lower section runs through the deep snow. At the top it would have been at least 50cm and probably more.

SATURDAY day 21: 23rd February 2013 (2900)
We had planned to do some runs down through the trees to the Babarishi Rd but there was a tree fallen across the road. We did just a few runs with Majeed and let him head off early for the 10km walk home to see his wife on Sunday. I ended up doing 7 runs while Annette rested a few as her knee was giving her some pain. It was a tiring day as the track was quite bumpy towards the bottom