A guide to being a Snow Bum.....Gulmarg Style PART #2

Pass to the high life!

Welcome back friends! So you’re a keen powder hound; looking to do a ‘cheap’ season. You’ve got your accommodation dialled. You are well fed and getting the hook-ups for this and that. You’ll be going mental though because I haven’t covered the two most important things; how to shred on the cheap and what the hell to do at night! Well let’s go with the day time activity first. Seeing why it’s actually why we are all going to go there! The question is season pass or no season pass? In Gulamarg you have two daily choices, buy a day pass or pay per ride. Now, I’ve rarely bought a day pass as it forces you to shred more laps than, perhaps, your body would like. Also, one run can sometimes take in excess of an hour. Realistically, not many people manage 5 big laps in a day, by ‘big lap’ I mean top of Mt Apherwat down to the first gondy station, which is approximately 1600m of vert! The problem with buying tickets is the whole farce that you must go through to get your ride to the top of ‘Paradise on Earth’

The reason for going to Gulmarg...G4

The ticketing system in Gulmarg is ridiculous to the nth degree! My first season you bought paper tickets by joining a melee style queue, which grew to fervour on powder days. With backdoor selling to Kashmiri ‘guides’ and no real interest by some of the staff, to satisfy the salivating western powder junkies, who are champing at the bit to get their fix, passion would boil over and the argy-bargee could get a little too heated. See the folly of the whole process is they didn’t pre-sell tickets or even sell the tickets next to the Gondola. This meant dual queues and lots of pushing and shoving. Yes I’ve lost my temper and let the white beast take control of me. But when you get up at 7am, in the freezing cold, wait over 4 hours, which can happen, to get one of the first rides of the day, only to have some ‘local’ cut line with his group, claiming as this is his birth place, it allows him the right to do so, I’m going to lose it. I’m 6’4”, Scottish and usually very well-mannered but my first season definitely saw a rage boil over, on occasion!

In an effort to streamline and modernise this process at the end of that season they introduced a new printed system. Let us put dodgy electricity, with a person who has a basic understanding of computers; together with a slow printer and the need to take a name for every ticket, did it work? Nope! Luckily it was only trialled for a couple of weeks and then the season was done. Role on season two; thankfully the modernisation of the ticketing wasn’t up and running so it was back to the old paper system. This suited me fine as I was still sceptical of the season pass value for money aspect. About half way through the boarding pass system came back into effect. This allowed me days of amusement as I gave a variety of differing names and titles to myself and friends. But still the queues were long and the temperatures rose. I made a promise at the end of that season to just suck it up and get a season pass the next year, regardless of the risk you take shelling out a fair whack of cash.

and access to this^^ click to enlarge
With all the negativity I write about the single issue tickets you must think I’m stupid for not forking out earlier. Well as much as I slate the system they use its part and parcel of what makes it so god damn fun to be there! The camaraderie you develop with others to secure spots and get tickets is what builds the community spirit. The jostling and cajoling between the locals and the westerners can be fun and light hearted. It’s all part of the game in Gulmarg. But I knew it was time for me to drop into the dark side. Be a slightly smug git, still getting up at 7am to walk past the first ticket line and head straight up stage one. Then wait patiently with the others, knowing that I have no pressure of relying on other people to secure me a ticket. It allowed me a sense of freedom. I could still get passionately involved in noising up the queue jumpers and back handed ticket sellers. But if it ever took a sweep towards the nasty I could melt away to my spot and wait for the furore to settle down.

Not that having a season pass gives you any special privilege. If the gondy breaks, you’re screwed! If the weather is brutal and the gondy shuts, you’re losing money and boot packing the alternate lines same as everyone else. If 30 people show up before you in the line then you ain’t got any line jumping privilege. Then there’s the cost; it’s about 25000 rupees to get one. The whole idea of this season is to make it as cheap as possible. I know people that swear by the single tickets and have been going there longer than me. The questions are; how your patience is and will you be able to shred enough days to make it worth your while? I can answer both those questions now. Guess you’ll just have to come out and figure it out for yourself!

A good view whilst you wait for the Gondola to open click to enlarge

Don’t fancy getting involved in the crazy battles for tickets? At Di5 Adventures your tickets are included in the price of a trip. You can get the smug satisfaction that your guide is battling to get you up that mountain and you can relax and just prepare for the powder paradise that’s waiting for you. Check out our packages at www.di5adventures.net