End of Season

The scotsman sums up his season

Sandy looks back on his lines
Three months snowboarding: how can you summarise it? Do you go for the one-worder? Do you write a little and let the pictures do the talking? Do you go off on a complete tangent and pick one tiny little detail and make it the be-all-end-all of the season? It's a challenge, but a challenge I'm willing to undertake. The easiest way to cover the whole season is to break it up into two. I'm going to talk about the snow and the riding, then the people and the shenanigans.

The Shred!
Probably the most important thing over any season is how good the snow was. Gulmarg is slightly unique in the large amount of backcountry options available. Therefore, what I look for, firstly, is not how blower the pow-pow is but how stable is the snowpack. This season I can report an amazingly stable snowpack, which means I can happily go on about the epic snow! It puked. It was my third year there and this one was a doozy! By the middle of January, we were riding lines that the previous two seasons I had to wait until early February to shred, for fear of big nasty gouges. That's not to say I didn't get any. Seems I've got an innate ability to find sharp, angry rocks and mash my board on them!
I've stuck more snow up my snoze this season than the rest. The 2012 season was a face-shot spectacular! So much of the goods fell and then kept on falling. Getting ridonkulously stuck dropping in from the village down, we didn't even have to ride the gondola up anywhere, was a first for me. On another occasion setting boot packs was an impossibility as you were trying to wade, waist deep, through the snow and this was only half way through a three day storm. (I'm 6'4" so imagine how it would've been for you!) Also, we were blessed with a fair whack of high pressure. This meant, not only were we riding epic powder, it was sunny too! Please tell me where else in the world I can get light, fluffy, white goodness, next to no people shredding, a gondola to the top of the mountain and BLUEBIRD 6 days in a row?
slaying some spring snow.
Milking face shots in mid-March might be the norm in other resorts across the world. However, the primetime season in Gulmarg is the month of February. Come March the season starts to wind up as the temperatures increase. It's the altitude and your patience that makes March amazing. Only a few people come at this time of year and many of the seasonaires start peeling out as the snow changes. All that this means is when your patience pays off and you get a late season dump you don't have to milk anything! You have an incredible abundance of snow on a relatively stable base. When you can count the total number westerners on one hand, literally, you know there is fun to be had!
(N.B. This is my personal opinion as to what the snow was like. For a comprehensive round up of the 2013 season snowpack and avalanche activity visit gulmargavalanche.org for Brian's end of season report)

The People
Obviously the quality and amount of snow will make or break a season. Yet, in Gulmarg, that is only half the awesome equation solved. Due to the extent of the backcountry, you require people to ride with if you ever hope to get out alive, if things go wrong. Now, this means that the people you meet do essentially become a potential lifeline. For me that makes it hard to be a social gazelle and bound around the 'savannah' being chums with everyone. I'm more suited to taking my time and getting to know a persons ideas and skills before battering off into the unknown of the backcountry with them.

If you look closely you can make out 
Sandy and Dave. A sketchy situation?
^^click to enlarge
Thankfully, this season there seemed to be an abundance of sensible people. (I use this in a quite loose term. You'll have to come to Gulmarg and see for yourself just how sensible we all really are!) Over the few years I've been attending, my skills have developed ten fold and so has my level of care for my life. All of this means is I can be a bit of a surly Scot on first impression. I can assure you I'm not too bad. I just don't want to end up in a sketchy situation with people that aren't going to challenge or deal with what's happening.
Luckily, more people seemed to be attending this year for a good stint. This allows time to pass among us and friendships bond. More than any other, I felt a real feeling of community among many of the Westerners. That is not to say I didn't meet interesting people just there on a whim or a week! Yet, because of the community spirit and the general epic-ness of snow lovers we got up to some nonsense off the hill too. How does a late night toboggan party, with freshly squeezed OJ cocktails take your fancy? Alternatively, a full moon shred mission with an amateur gymnastics performance? or an all night, bonfire-booter, extravaganza sound? Truly was a memorable time.

Dave, all smiles post sketchy situation

On the other hand, which is if I was a social gazelle. Gulmarg never leaves you disappointed. You could be scoffing racks of lamb, with an international quota, at the 5 star Hotel. Raging it up at one of the notorious Russian led, dub-step infused, dimly lit, late night booze fests. Staring at walls, through a cloudy haze, discussing mega-physics and quotient spaces and refracted light, while jazzing out to some down-tempo beats. Drinking chai, you can always drink chai. Read and then swap and discuss other epic novels. It's never a dull moment if you are there for a couple of weeks or a couple of months!
Thing is I could go on and on about so much more but I have to leave some things to be discovered by you. So all in all I say the 2013 season was a huge success for me. I've made some great friends (a heart felt thanks to all those who spotted me and had my back this year), I rode some lovely powder (that's a lie; I rode an awful lot!), I ticked a trip of my list and added a few more lines to my to-do. Guess I'll be heading back next year. See you there?

Until next year.