The Telegraph
Friday , November 30 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Snow brings smiles to the Valley

Srinagar, Nov. 29: Early heavy snowfall in country’s skiing paradise of Gulmarg has given tourists and winter sports enthusiasts a reason to smile.

Gulmarg’s bowl today received 1.5 feet of snow, triggering jubilations among hundreds of tourists who were present at Kashmir’s famed ski resort to witness snow.

The surrounding areas of Gulmarg including Khilanmarg and Kongdori received 2.5 feet of snow, making it possible to start early skiing this year.

“The snowfall is more than double in Gulmarg bowl than what we normally receive in November. This is good news for our winter tourism”, director tourism Kashmir Talat Ahmad said.

At 2690 metres altitude, Gulmarg is rated one of the best ski destination in Asia. Its major attraction is a five km long ropeway — considered one of the highest in the world — that ferries people to the top of adjoining Kongdori mountain at 3979 metres.

Skiing season in Gulmarg starts in the second half of December every year and stretches upto March or April.

Ahmad said the heavy snowfall has made it possible to start skiing early. “You can do it tomorrow but not in the main bowl but in places like Kongdoori (which encircle the bowl)”, he said.

“Some days back we had light snowfall in the area after which an unprecedented number of tourists are heading towards it. We hope to start our skiing courses early this year and this surely will delight adventure loving tourists”.

Abhijeet Randhawa, a tourist from Delhi, said the snowfall started last night and they woke up to a thick carpet of snow. “Many tourists rushed out of their hotels to enjoy the snow, which is the only reason for me to be present here”, he said over phone from Gulmarg.

The tourists woke up to the pleasant surprise as parts of Srinagar were under curfew following sectarian clashes that broke out in some localities last night.

Srinagar received mild to heavy snowfall throughout the day but Valley’s upper reaches including Gurez and Pahalgam recorded six inches to one feet of snow.

An official spokesman said Zojila pass, which connects Srinagar with Leh, received two feet of snow, resulting in closure of the road for traffic.

The Valley received a record 13 lakh tourists until mid November this year and the heavy snowfall is expected to lure more tourists.

With hundreds rushing to Gulmarg and because of slippery conditions on road leading to it, Kashmir’s divisional commissioner Asghar Samoon today directed his officials to allow only such vehicles beyond Tangmarg — which is 13 kms ahead of Gulmarg — which have 4x4 facility or those fitted with anti-skid chains on tyres.