Skiing in India - 8 criteria for selecting the best ski resort for you

Updated: Dec 24, 2020



The 360-degree view of pure white snow is a stunning sight, so away from our regular life. Most people who go to ski resorts for the first time feel like they have been transported onto another planet. Want to take things to the next level? Try skiing down a white carpet of snow while taking in this sight! The thrill of skiing down powder white slopes is an experience out of the world. But where should one go to have this out-of-the-world experience? While Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand are all great choices, it may not always work out due to time or budget constraints.


Did you know that India offers 12+ ski destinations? But how does one choose from them? And how do we assess if they are good enough for an awesome ski holiday to enjoy with friends, family or even solo.

Here are 8 criteria to keep in mind for selecting the best ski resort for your next ski holiday in India.


1. Natural snow


2. Length of Ski Slopes (suited for all levels)


3. Ski Lifts


4. Safety and responsibility


5. Ease of access from major cities


6. Availability of lessons and ski rentals


7. Accommodation options


8. Apres Skiing

Comparison of India’s 10 ski destinations

So let's dive in. Also, not to leave the snowboarders out, you can use these metrics in the context of snowboarding.

1. Natural snow


The most important criteria for an enjoyable ski or snowboarding experience! If there isn’t much natural snowfall, you will not get the conditions for skiing. Resorts with grasslands can start the ski season with even 5-10cm of snow. Slopes which are otherwise rocky may require more even up to 50 cm of snow before they open out for the season. Also continuous fresh snow every day makes it better. The more soft and powdery it is, the smoother the glide, and also lesser chances of injury. If there is no snowfall for a few days, the snow will start to melt under the sun, making it sludgy. And then the sludge freezes at night under cold temperatures to make the snow hard like ice. Skiing in hard snow isn’t the best because - you have to maneuver carefully through small ice rocks and uneven slopes - falling on hard ice can really hurt, and can sometimes lead to serious injuries

A good ski resort would have sufficient fresh snowfall throughout the season.


2. Length of Ski Slopes & Difficulty Gradient


More number of slopes and longer descent area of slopes means there is more play area for skiing.

Fun Fact- A slope groomed for skiers and boarders is known as a piste.


Let's look at three aspects of ski slopes of a good ski resort- A. Slope gradients for varying levels of difficulty B. Slope maintenance C. Backcountry skiing A. SLOPE GRADIENT FOR VARYING DIFFICULTY

A good ski resort will not only have longer slopes, it will also have multiple slopes suited for varying levels of difficulty. > BEGINNERS For first-timers and beginners, the ideal slope is a small bunny hill, with very low steepness. These baby ski slopes are referred to as bunny slopes. The slopes provide a 60-100m ski run. Skiers take less than a minute to ski down a bunny slope. Its relatively flat gradient ensures 2 things- 1. Skiers don’t go down very fast, and hence can learn the basics without the fear of high speed 2. In case of a fall, there is practically no chance of rolling all the way down


>INTERMEDIATE SKIERS For intermediate skiers, a ski slope of 2-3 km makes the ski run enjoyable. An average skier would take approx. 10-20 minutes to ski down a 3 km slope. These longer slopes can also be of varying difficulty based on two factors mostly- 1. How steep is the gradient 2. How narrow/ wide is the rum A good ski resort would have slopes ranging from Green Circle slopes (easy wide runs, with less than 25% gradient) and Blue Square slopes (25-40% gradient) if we go by international ski slope rating symbols. The steep and difficult portions of these slopes provide a good challenge and training ground for skiers to improve their skills before going to the next level. The intermediate slopes are usually the most crowded in a popular ski resort.


>ADVANCED SKIERS

Skiers who are experienced, have gained skills and confidence over the years, are always looking for a bit more challenge. They like to go higher up the mountain, where the crowd is lesser, and the rush is more. A good ski resort is one that caters to these advanced skiers as well. Black Diamond slopes with gradients over 40% provide the much-needed thrill to experienced skiers. Double Black Diamond slopes are the most difficult with obstacles like trees and cliffs. They should be attempted only by expert skiers.

http://news.outdoortechnology.com/2015/02/04/ski-slope-rating-symbols-mean-really-mean/


B. MAINTENANCE OF SLOPES A good ski resort would maintain their slopes well by beating the snow with a groomer, or by blasting advanced slopes to avoid risk of an avalanche. They would also not usually allow foot traffic/ ponies/ sledges as they create burrows in the snow and make it uneven and risky for skiers.

C. BACKCOUNTRY SKIING OPTIONS

Apart from groomed pistes, skiers also enjoy backcountry skiing for the sheer thrill of going into the off-beaten path with less crowd and more natural beauty. A ski resort that has plenty of natural slopes for backcountry skiing always scores brownie points with skiers. A ski resort like Gulmarg in Kashmir has over 10-12 backcountry slopes and is a haven for backcountry skiers.

3. Ski Lifts


One of the main differences between a ski resort and a snowy mountain range is the presence of Ski Lifts! Ski lifts enable skiers to go back up the mountain effortlessly, every time the ski down. Without ski lifts, a skier would have to carry their heavy skis on their shoulders and trudge up in the snow, quite literally. Or use donkeys to do the same. Almost through the 1900s, skiers in India would have to trek up 3-4 hours one way, in order to catch one ski run.


In destinations like Gulmarg, Auli and Solang Valley, the installation of ropeways has replaced the tiresome treks with 10-15 minute rides in the ropeway aka gondola! Skiers in these destinations today enjoy as many as even 8-10 ski runs in a single day! For any good ski resort, a ski lift is a MUST! Unless of course, one is prepared for more time spent trekking and less skiing.

The other alternative is heli-skiing, or booking a helicopter to drop one off to the top of the mountain for some heli-skiing. Don’t be surprised, destinations like Manali and Gulmarg do offer heli-skiing in India at the cost of INR 50,000-1 lac per person/ day.


Ski-Lifts are usually of one of three types- 1. A drag lift, where a skier places a bar between his legs, and is literally dragged up the slope, as the named suggests. This is best suited for short distances.

2. A chair lift is an open lift where skier climb on with their skis attached. Sitting in a chair lift is thrilling in itself too. 3. A gondola lift is a closed cabin that is transported up through a system of ropeways. Gondolas have dedicated holders on the outside for skiers to put their skiers before they sit inside the cozy cabins.


Unfortunately, this very essential infrastructure required for skiing is where most Indian destinations fall short. As of 2020, only 4 Indian ski destinations have ski lifts- Gulmarg, Auli, Solang Valley, and xxx. Hopefully, with more people taking up skiing, the government would invest in ski lifts in other upcoming destinations too.


4. Safety and responsibility

Any good ski resort would keep the safety of skiers among the highest priority, along with the well-being of the natural surroundings. Good ski resorts have snow patrol teams scanning the slopes all day, ready to rescue in case of a bad accident or serious injury. They are equipped in first aid and emergency contact numbers are displayed in public places for skiers to note. An ambulance is also readily available in case the skier has to be transported to a nearby medical facility. A multi-facility hospital should be within quick reach.


Just as the sanctity of human life, a good ski resort will also hold the sanctity of the natural environment. A good ski resort will be responsible towards the ecosystem that enables so many humans to have this unique experience and gives livelihood to many others. Important aspects for consideration are waste management, public awareness, wildlife protection, sustainability standards, empowering local communities, and cultural heritage preservation.

5. Ease of access from major cities

Needless to say, a ski resort gains popularity if is it easy to access from major cities. Direct flights to ski resorts are rare and usually, there is some road travel involved. But shorter hours on the road and good road conditions become easier for people trying to reach. If a ski resort is great in every way, except that it takes 15 hours by road from the nearest airport/ railway junction, it will lose half its skiers there itself.


6. Availability of lessons and ski rentals

Presence of ski schools with a team that is well versed with teaching the sport is important for any good ski resort.

These include: - Instructors for newbies and children - Trainers for beginner skiers who want to get better at the sport

- Mountain guides for intermediate and advanced skiers who are attempting new challenges.

Instructors should ideally be certified in safety practices and at the level they are facilitating. For example, basic instructors should be trained in ski teaching pedagogy, mountain ski guides should be trained in avalanche rescue and so on.


The presence of ski rental shops is also an important part of any good ski resort. Most non-professional skiers in India do not own their own equipment due to its high expense (a good pair of skis can cost around INR 40,000) and the difficulty of transporting it. Hence, latest skis of trusted brands are sought by skiers to rent for the duration of their ski trip. Ski rental shops also typically keep accessories like helmets, goggles, and even clothing items like ski jackets, etc.

7. Accommodation and food options

A good ski resort would have enough accommodation options within a 2km radius of the ski slopes and suited for all profiles of skiers. These would range from a basic B&B providing some essentials like hot water, a room heater, and basic meals, to mid-range cottages with indoor heating and restaurant with a bar, to even luxury hotels with heated swimming pools, multiple restaurants, and entertainment rooms and so on. Whatever the budget may be, good accommodation in a ski resort would have ski racks or a ski room to store their skis, so that guests do not have to carry their skis up and down from their rooms.

8. Apres Skiing

After a long hard day of fulfilling skiing or snowboarding, the possibility of a good evening is the cherry on the cake. Apres skiing is French for post skiing community activities where skiers get together to unwind. A good ski resort would have enough options for après skiing, be it a cozy café with great coffee, or a buzzing bar, where skiers can get together and exchange the thrills of their day and plans for the next.

Comparison of India’s 10 ski destinations

A long drawn comparison on all 8 parameters is not required to identify the clear winner and the runners up for the best ski resort in India. By simply comparing the ski slopes and ski lifts, one can gauge the ski resort of choice.


Verdict - Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir should be the primary choice of anyone looking to ski in India. To explore Gulmarg Ski Resort in all 8 criteria, read 8 reasons why Gulmarg,

 

About Author-


Nitisha Sethia is an outdoor sport practitioner and founder of Adventure Play. Ex-McKinsey & Co. and IIM Ahmedabad, Nitisha left her corporate job to follow her passion in the outdoors.

Adventure Play is a one-stop platform to discover new outdoor sports, browse through destinations and connect with a school of your choice. Also check out our Find a Buddy portal if you're looking for someone to go with!

www.adventureplay.co | Instagram- @adventureplay.co

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