Settling into the Kashmir valley of Gulmarg, I anticipate the powder frenzy ahead. With a large group of Ex-pat ski bums coming from all over the world, the fresh tracks are harder and harder to find. Brian Newman and Gulmarg Ski Patrol have installed an instrumental avalanche control program to keep the slopes of Gulmarg safe. However, one can imagine the difficulties of obtaining explosives and being able to implement this program one 4 miles from the Line of Control between the highly politically fragile area between India and Pakistan.
While the Ski Patrol waits for explosives thus the upper phase of the gondola opening, me and my co-guides explore the lower elevation trees and some touring options below town. We find pillow lines of fresh snow atop downed trees and rock bands. Excellent skiing quality given the refresh of snow each evening. Despite the top ups every evening, we still feel very skeptical of the stability in the alpine regions but given the terrain we have plenty of options. Each night, we return to our cozy rooms heated with the wood fired bukari’s and dinners that please the palette.
On my fourth day of skiing at altitude, me and my crew decide to take a rest day. As I settle into a good book and a mellow afternoon, I am startled by shaking windows and a bellowing that rocks the Gulmarg valley. I tune into the Ski Patrol radio and quickly they are through most of the their bomb routes and quickly anticipate opening the upper phase of the Gondola. A 3000 ft pitch of open bowls and keep deep powder. I instantly dress up, run out the door and get up the mountain to join the other powder frothers. The energy is at a fever with a stoked international group of riders. Game on in Gulmarg.
Two days later, we still find fresh tracks in the controlled bowls of the ski area, but decide to tour to the summit of Mt. Apharwat to take in the views of the Himalayas with Nanga Parbat towering over the Kashmir valley (8th highest mountain in the world). We find an isolated bowl with fresh tracks in all direction. We are humbled by the tower mountains all around us and find solace in the silence that they provide us.
A large storm is on the horizon which is what we all look forward to. All in all, a perfect experience thus far……