The mountains of India are more often thought of as a place for climbing and trekking than as ski destinations, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the cooler weather in this country that is known for its hot climate. India offers a unique experience for skiers and snowboarders, since it is rare to find a destination that can combine such unusual terrain with the chance to experience a culture beyond the typical European and North American ski resorts. The local cuisine is also ideally suited to the cold environment, with a spicy curry offering just as energizing an end to the day as the more typical hot chocolate. In addition to a wealth of interesting cultural opportunities and excursions down from the mountains, there is even the chance that you might spot the elusive snow leopard while skiing in some areas, although you would have to be incredibly lucky to see this rare animal in the wild.
Ski Destinations in India
Although India has some of the best mountains in the world, with huge potential for winter sports, the country's interest in skiing and snowboarding is still in its early stages. There are two locations that are beginning to develop as the main destinations for skiing and snowboarding: Gulmarg and Manali.
Gulmarg, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the most popular destinations for international skiers in India, and as a result, it has some of the best ski and snowboard facilities, although they are not yet quite as developed as those in Manali. The resort is based in an old hill station, where summer visitors once came to escape the heat, and it is situated close to India's High Altitude Warfare School, which gives some indication of the difficulty of the terrain. The area offers some excellent powder skiing, particularly for experienced skiers who are ready for a challenge, although there are some easier nursery slopes available for beginners. The views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks, which include the magnificent Nangba Parbat, create a spectacular backdrop for every run, and there are always plenty of fresh, pristine snowfields available. This is one of the only places in the world where you can access such amazing runs by ski lift rather than helicopter. The lift reaches up to an altitude of 3979 metres, a little below the summit of Apharwat, making it one of the highest in the world.
Manali is another old hill station that is located about 500 miles north of Delhi, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is quickly developing into an international ski resort, and it is known for its heli-skiing, which offers an even more adventurous experience for those who are looking for a bigger thrill in the mountains. The landscape around Manali is ideal for exciting backcountry drops and powder runs, and it has one of the deepest snowpacks in the region. The resort, like Gulmarg, caters best for those with at least an intermediate level of experience. The top routes are along the ridgelines and across glaciers, although when the snowfall is right, you can also ski down through the cedar forests around the Hidimba Devi Temple. Most of the skiing takes place between 2700 and 4300 metres, but if you are fit and experienced enough, it is possible to get as high as 5000 metres.
Practical Tips for a Ski Trip to India
If you are intending to ski while you are in India, then you will need to ensure that your travel insurance covers winters sports, and specifically that it includes backcountry skiing, since you are likely to head off-piste. IgluSki also advises that skiers and snowboarders pack carefully, ensuring that they have sun cream and lip block, which is particularly important when skiing at the high altitudes encountered at many of the best ski spots in India. The altitude, together with the reflective snow, can make the sun much stronger than you might expect. It is sensible to carry your sunblock with you for reapplication, along with a daypack filled with essentials such as sunglasses or ski goggles, a flask of water to keep you hydrated, and high-energy snacks. A small first aid kit can also be useful, since you may end up with blisters or aching muscles, particularly if you do not ski often. In fact, it is a good idea to prepare for your trip by taking a ski lesson or building up your stamina at the gym, and, if you will be skiing at altitude, taking a couple of days to acclimatize before pushing yourself too hard.
Clothing-wise, you should pack plenty of layers so that you can add more or take them away as needed, but you shouldn't expect the weather to be particularly cold, for a ski resort. You probably won't need additional face protection, but it can get chilly if you are standing still for a while. You should also consider bringing your own ski gear, since the equipment that is available at some ski resorts can be limited. If you do intend to rent, you should check ahead to make sure everything you require will be available.
-By Melissa Watson