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Snow raises hopes of skiing in Sikkim
- Yumthang turns white blanket

Gangtok, Jan. 5: Tourism stakeholders are optimistic about launching commercial skiing in Sikkim this year with heavy snowfall hitting the Yumthang Valley since New Year’s Day.

If the snowfall continues for another 10-12 days, there will be sufficient deposit of snow to conduct skiing along the slopes in the valley in February and March, say the tour operators.

“There was heavy snowfall in the Yumthang Valley on New Year’s Day. The snowfall is persisting and if it continues for another 10-12 days, then there will be a sufficient snow deposit to introduce commercial skiing from mid February to March end. January is too cold for anyone to take to skiing,” said Paljor Lachungpa, a tour operator.

Eight Thais were part of a group of tourists who had experienced the snowfall in Yumthang in North Sikkim. “The Thai group had gone to Lachung on December 31 to celebrate New Year’s Day and was keen to enjoy a snowfall. Fortunately, light snowfall started at night and by morning, there was a six-inch white blanket spread all over the valley,” said Lachungpa.

Skiing will be possible in February and March as the snow deposited in the valley will not melt for at least two months because of low temperature. Besides, the valley will be hit by the snowfall intermittently in these two months.

Lachungpa had earlier tried to introduce commercial skiing in the Yumthang Valley, 145km from here, in collaboration with the Sikkim Mountaineering Association (SMA).

Local youths were given training in skiing by experts from Manali with support from the state tourism department during March in 2008 and 2009.

“The skiing was supposed to take off in March 2010. But we could not start the sport as there was not sufficient snowfall in January and February,” said Lachungpa.

“This time, we had snowfall on the first day of the year itself and it is still continuing. We are optimistic about launching the skiing this year,” he added.

The tour agent said a proposal had been submitted jointly by his agency and the SMA to the state tourism department to develop the Yumthang Valley as a skiing destination. “We need to landscape the slopes, develop the gradient and need to have ski lifts.”

SMA general secretary Kazi Sherpa said: “Yumthang has a good potential for skiing as it has a natural easy slope and is a good place for beginners. There is good chance for skiing this year as we are expecting more snowfall in January and February.”

State tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhadauria said the department had prioritised skiing and was keen on exploiting the potential of the Yumthang Valley and Kupup in East Sikkim close to the India-China border.

“We are in talks with the ministry of tourism to integrate skiing with other adventure sports in the Yumthang Valley. The skiing will be possible only for a limited period of time and hence, we are planning to promote mountain biking and trekking in the valley,” said Bhadauria

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