returns to Kashmir after 14 years
Snowboarding arrives in Valley
Gulmarg, the winter-sports destination in Kashmir is witnessing
a hitherto unknown sport in the valley these days. Snowboarding, a newly
developed sport fast catching up with the winter sports-persons all over
the world, is an Olympic discipline whose introduction in Jammu and Kashmir
is expected to give new impetus to winter sports in the state. A group
of local enthusiasts is currently taking training in snowboarding from
a foreign instructor, Idu Neilga at Gulmarg. Besides, the government is
also re-starting Heli-Skiing in the state after 14 years. The Himalaya Heli-ski Club of France had been organizing
heli-skiing in Kashmir uptill
The Jammu and Kashmir Snowboarding Association (JKSA), organizers of
the snowboarding event, is holding a series of 9-day courses at the famous
winter tourist place. The first such course has completed successfully
while the second one which commenced from 2 February, is in progress.
"The training courses are aimed at inculcating spirit of snowboarding
in local youth and to supplement the efforts of the Government to promote
tourism in Jammu and Kashmir", says Dr. Khurshid Tarzan, the real force
behind the Association.
The preliminary training would be imparted on nursery ski slopes but
on the last four days of each course the trainees would zoom down the treacherous
slopes of Mount Apharwat.
Muhammad Yusuf Mandu, one of the active members of the JKSA, says that
the Association was planning to organize the first ever snowboarding championship
at Gulmarg on the completion of the series of 4 courses. The championship,
he says, would be open to all.
Gulmarg is so far known for snow skiing and attracts both domestic and
foreign winter sports lovers. With its unrivalled slopes that can be any
adventure sportsperson's delight, the place was the venue for the National
Winter Games, 1998. The organizers of the Snowboarding championship are
optimistic that the introduction of this new sport would pave way for attracting
domestic and foreign tourists to Kashmir.
The natural facilities required for the sport are available here, they
argue. A skier does not need Poma ski lifts for uphill transportation of
players to ski down the snowy slopes.
"The JKSA proposes to also hold National Snowboarding Championship at
Gulmarg in near future and has approached the J&K Sports Council and
State Tourism Department to extend support for the propose", says Mandu.
For re-starting Heli skiing in the troubled state, the state government
has hired the services of Mr Sylvain Saudan, a world renowned heli-ski
expert of Himalaya Heli-ski Club, France. Mr. Saudan is in Jammu and Kashmir
these days on the invitation of the chief minister to finalize modalities
and put in place infrastructure for heli-ski as it can go a long way in
promotion of tourism being a priority area of the coalition government
The higher reaches of Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and several other
areas have beautiful slopes that provide ideal sites for adventure tourism.
Since these remain snow covered upto May, these would prove a major attraction
particularly for the foreign tourists. Feasibility is also being explored
to start heli-ski in other high altitude areas of the state to tap available
potential, as adventure tourism is becoming more popular. Mountain slopes
in Kashmir are among the best in the world.
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who had a meeting with Saudan last
week assured him of his government’s full support in re-starting the support
which used to attract thousands of foreigners to the state in normalcy
said that adventure tourism would be promoted in Jammu and Kashmir in a
big way to attract foreign and domestic adventure tourists in view of state's
huge potential. The Mufti discussed in detail the measures to be taken
for promoting adventure tourism, particularly heli-ski, in Jammu and Kashmir
besides developing conventional tourism.
Mr G.H Mir, tourism minister informed that the government has recently
started helicopter service from Srinagar- Gulmarg and Srinagar-Pahalgam
while such services are already in operation from Jammu-Mata Vaishnodevi.
Charges for Srinagar to Gulmarg and Srinagar to Pahalgam to and fro have
been fixed at Rs 2000 and Rs 3000 respectively. Besides, the work on second
phase of Gandola Cable Car project at world famous Gulmarg tourist resort
is apace and is likely to be completed by the year end. The security forces
who have occupied the accommodation at several tourists spots including
Verinag and Cheshmashahi are being shifted to alternate places.
Jammu and Kashmir is bestowed with numerous bounties of nature and tourist
resorts of international fame but tourism industry which is considered
to be the backbone of our state’s economy, has suffered a lot during the
turmoil period and there is immense need to revive influx of domestic as
well as foreign tourists.
With a view to develop the basic infrastructure of the sector, measures
are underway to elevate basic facilities which include upgradation and
improvement of various tourists resort and availability of transport and
security scenario at different places.
Besides, with the lifting of ban on foreign mountaineers in Kargil recently,
the Jammu and Kashmir government is hopeful that it would boost tourism
in the troubled-state which was once the backbone of state’s economy before
the eruption of secessionist movement in early 90’s. The ban imposed on
overseas climbers who would climb the rugged peaks of Kargil in Kashmir,
which saw a full-scale military conflict that left over 1,000 army men
dead in 1999, was imposed after Pakistan-backed forces occupied high peaks
overlooking a strategic highway linking Srinagar and Jammu.
The reopening of these snowbound peaks soaring to heights of up to 21,000
feet (6,360 metres),is considered to be a good development as the state
government could generate some good revenue. These mountain ranges in Kargil
peaks have attracted large groups of mountaineers from Britain, Germany,
France Japan and the United States since 1974 when the Ladakh frontier
region was opened to foreigners.