Snow-capped peaks, beanie-clad selfies and apres-ski tea in dusty, sweltering India seem like an inconceivable thing. Yet at the start of every new year that’s what Gulmarg, Kashmir is about.
Apoorva Prasad has been snowboarding in Gulmarg since the top gondola opened in 2005. “Back then,” he explains, “there were no other Indian riders on the slopes, apart from a few local Gulmarg Kashmiris; and they, along with the Europeans, would refuse to accept that I was a ‘mainland Indian’, so to speak’”
To call Apoorva an adventurer would be an understatement. The 34 year old is a rock and mountain climber, who also paraglides, dives and surfs, and is the founder and editor of The Outdoor Journal, a monthly active lifestyle and adventure magazine.
It’s fair to say he knows the mountains better than many and while he’s tested the slopes in Solang, Manali (India has more than a handful of skiing destinations), he draws no comparisons, describing Gulmarg as “really very different and very epic. The powder and conditions are quite particular; and the utterly wild feeling of such a resort is very unique, compared to similar slopes in the US or Europe.”
Gulmarg, the ‘meadow of flowers’ is undoubtedly the finest ski resort in India. It’s accessible and a mere 59km from Srinagar, snow falls like clockwork each week, it boasts one of the highest ski lifts in the world and a large part of the mountain is off-piste (a French term for unmarked or backcountry skiing).
“In the last ten years” he says “Gulmarg is seeing many more riders and skiers, many more Indians on the slopes; which is really great. It’s probably too few people in India just now to call it a culture, but maybe it’s a small and really interesting sub-culture that is developing.”