Most people believe everything that they read on the internet. Whether that is sensible or not is another matter altogether. However, there are a few skeptics for whom the internet is just a bunch of fanciful nonsense that holds no weight; compared to what they watch on the telly. Lastly, are the sensible few that are a bit more savvy. You know that most people are either sharing an opinion or want some money from you. So when it comes to getting an honest opinion on what a trip to Gulmarg is really like, perhaps reading something written by someone, who essentially wants you to come with their compnay on a trip of a lifetime, might be slightly weighted towards only showing you the best. The photoshopped, unblemished, unreal, perfectionists ideal of what it's like. Well shame on you if that's what you think I do. I am a man of integrity and believe honesty, is almost always, the best policy. I tell it like it is. Luckily most of it doesn't need any touching up as it's as close to snowboard Nirvana as you can get, in my humble opinion. However, just in case there is some mistrust in your ever cynical approach to all things bloggy I've decided to go down a different tract for the next couple of blogs. Di5 Adventures have been operating in Gulmarg for 5 years and we've had guests come from many places across the world. So rather than me prattle on about what you can expect on a trip with us, I leave it up to them.
First up is the boys: Will (W) and Bones (B). Two great mates from Australia who have each been shredding for over a decade. These guys are commited to a shred life. They've tasted many an Aussie winter and taken that passion abroad to North America and Europe. So they can shred, they're keen as and they like an advenutre. Let's see what they thought
Bones and Will cruising Dal Lake on a shikara
Why did you decide to come to Gulmarg?
W: Powder, steep, cheap. Ticks all the boxes. The decision was never really a hard one.
B: I wanted to go to a resort that was completely different. Somewhere I would be taken out of my comfort zone, face challenges and experience new things
Did you have any hesitations about coming out here?
W: I was wary. I understood there a few more risks involved in Gulmarg then your average resort. However, that was one of the reason why I was going.
B: Initially none at all - then I did some googling. It gave the impression that Kashmir could be unsafe to travel. However, after chatting to Andy and some other Gulmarg regulars my hesitations were replaced with excitement.
What sort of reaction did you get when you told people you were going to Gulmarg?
W: Everyone was interested to say the least. "Can you even snowboard in India?" "Isn’t that right next to Islamabad?" "Why don’t you go to Japan?" Are just some of the questions people wanted to know. I did find the ones who were the most shocked were the first to get in touch to find out what the trip was like.
B: The majority of my friends are boarders or skiers so they got it. Mum & girlfriend were a bit worried about avalanche danger. The others didn't even know where Kashmir was!
The guys get local on a trip to Nambalnar
Can you give me your first impressions of the place?
W: It just made me smile. Not because something was funny. A smile of understanding. I knew I was out of my comfort zone and it is exactly where I wanted to be.
B: Wow, this has to be the best place to go snowboarding in the world! Look at all those faces and terrain and there’s no one here!
As the trip progressed did your impressions change?
W: The way the world works in Gulmarg is a little different to anything I have ever experienced. However, as the trip progressed, I started to enjoy Gulmarg’s life of uncertainty.
B: No, first impressions were only strengthened as the trip progressed. We explored so many different aspects of terrain. There was always some funny highlight, or interesting character to keep things moving along.
Be honest; any downsides?
W: The only downside is coming up the Gondola, looking at a perfect pitch with waist deep pow on it and knowing due to avalanche danger you won’t be able to ride it.
B: Sure I could complain and say I was sick of omelettes for breakfast, the coffee was crap and Russian techno music sucks! I could also say the Gondola could be run more efficiently and wasn’t open enough but these were things I knew about before I went and that’s the way things are. No downsides at all from a Gulmarg angle.
Always important; how was the riding?
W: Apparently it was the worst season in a decade. If you didn’t tell me, I would never have guessed. The riding was amazing and it certainly didn’t matter if the gondola was turning or not. Tree runs down to Babareshi and the taxi ride back up were certainly a trip highlight.
B: Epic in so many ways! The amount of different terrain available to ride is unreal. By far the funnest riding I had was riding waist deep powder, through these huge trees, while there was a thunder a lightning storm going on – it was surreal.
Bones dropping a line into the Babareshi trees.
How's the Gulmarg set-up differ to other resorts you've visited in the world?
W: It is like no other resort I have ever visited. Which is probably why it has become my favourite resort.
B: Pretty much everything. There’s great people there, no kooks, lots of snow, awesome and friendly locals, its cheap as chips, limitless terrain, authentic food. I could keep going but don’t want to give it all away.
Off the slopes, how'd you find the food and culture?
W: I thought I would struggle with the food before I got there, absolutely not the case. The culture is what sets a trip to Gulmarg apart from anywhere else. It is what made this trip so memorable.
B: The food in Gulmarg is amazing; the whole trip we ate like kings. As 90% of Kashmir is Muslim, it was a real experience seeing how friendly, happy and outgoing these people are.
How'd you find the local people?
W: Kind, approachable, willing to help, hospitable and funny. A little bit mischievous at times!
B: Super friendly. We really experienced them when we stayed a night in Omar's parents’ house in his village, so accommodating and hospitable and we managed to get tucked into bed at night by Omar’s dad 'GM'!
always a fun way to get to the market
What sort of person do you think would like to come here?
W: Speaking as an Australian, to other Australians. Someone who is sick of Japan, realising it has been overrun with the plague of Australians. Anyone else who wants an adventure should know you will certainly be rewarded.
B: I think from my experience with Di5 and the tour package I did that it’s an awesome trip for young and adventuress people, who are not worried about having to do some walking and to ‘earn your turns'. It’s a proper ‘snowboarding’ holiday where the focus is on getting out and riding and experiencing as much of that as possible, which is different from a snowboarding ‘holiday’ where the focus may be more mixed between heading out to bars all night, going to the hot tubs and fancy restaurants mixed with some snowboarding when the snow is good.
Finally; would you recommend a trip to Gulmarg?
W: Already have and will continue to do so. I will also be coming back myself, that's a certainty!
B: I couldn’t recommend it any higher. It was the best trip I’ve ever been on and it will be hard to top unless I go back.