In the last post, we heard a couple of well-seasoned shredders opinions on their trip to Gulmarg. Now it's time for the ladies. Kate (K) and Laura (L) both came out with their boyfriends for the 2015 season. Kate had done a bit of snowboarding before coming out to Gulmarg but this was her first real taste of big mountain powder. Laura was a newbie and had mastered the very basics, over four days, on dry and indoor slopes back in Scotland. But what would a solid month of adventure snowboarding in the Himalaya mean to someone relatively uninitiated to the world of winter sports, in a place known for it's extremes?
Kate and Laura stoked to be shredding the Himalaya.
Why did you decide to come to Gulmarg?
K: Having been a shred widow over the past four Kashmiri snow seasons. My partner loves riding in the Himalaya, It inspired me to come and see what it was all about.
L: It was the year I was determined to learn a new sport, snowboarding was my choice and the fact my boyfriend has been going there I was curious to what made Gulmarg special to him.
The girls boards
Did you have any hesitations about coming out here?
K: My first few google searches on Kashmir left me with questions about safety on and off the mountain. Another concern for me was that the mountain may be beyond my skill set. For the latter reason, I decided it would be better to give myself ample time to settle into Gulmarg.
L: Personally; no. I think that knowing someone who regularly visits the place eases any worries or nerves you might have.
What sort of reaction did you get when you told people where you were going?
K: Reactions really varied. Some people had no idea where on the globe Kashmir was. Others responded with puzzled eyes and surprise about the idea of snow and India.
L: They thought I was nuts! Warning me of the dangers in that part of the world and the border.
Can you give me your first impressions on the place?
K: A mix of wonder and apprehension met me at the airport, I was feeling a long way from home. However, I was like a kid in a toy shop waking to the mountain view and falling snow the next morning.
L: Driving up that hill of never ending twists and turns made my tummy ache with butterflies. It is just breathtaking. I was speechless. The excitement of being surrounded in stunning views, whiter than white snow, I knew this trip was going to be magical for me.
Kate getting her first taste of deep snow.
As the trip progressed did your impressions change?
K: My apprehension softened over time, as my experiences opened me to seeing more of the layers and complexity of Kashmir.
L: It changed alright...My impressions got better and bigger and so did my smile.
Be honest; any downsides?
K: Learning how to ride powder was an initial struggle (literally, wriggling about in a couple of feet of snow). Having less fringe comforts and conveniences took some adjusting, but also became part of the adventure.
L: I have nothing to compare this place to, so I find it hard to think of downsides. I soaked up everything there and accepted the place for all it had to offer, bucket showers included! (Sandy - Not all the accommodation in Gulmarg has bucket showers. But they get the job done.)
Always important; how was the riding?
K: This was certainly the most amazing snow conditions I had seen. There was also a heap of friendly crew who were open to exploring together and created a fun vibe on the mountains. I was surprised to find that Gulmarg has something for a range of abilities.
L: HAHA..to begin with awful. I was daft enough to learn in Gulmarg. But as the season went on I became more confident and within 2 months, I was shredding at the top of the mountain with everyone else and riding down Monkey Hill. I grew a lot as a rider and a person there.
How's the Gulmarg set-up differ to other resorts you've visited in the world?
K: How is it the same? I felt more onus on myself to riding cautiously and take responsibility for personal safety. Schedules and customer service expectations about how and when the resort should run are different. Decisions like this are made by people with responsibility for safety of the resort and their decision-making process did not always seem to be readily conveyed
L: Me no know! Like I said before; I was a snow virgin before Gulmarg.
Sometimes you have to hike, Laura embraces the shred life.
Off the slopes, how'd you find the food and culture?
K: This is not just a snowboarding holiday, it is an experience. To spend time with locals and learn about the beauty and perils of their daily lives and histories was really special. I left feeling enlightened and motivated to share what I had experienced of Kashmir with others. As for the food- it was AMAZING! There were lots of vegetarian options and a range of food choices for different tastes and budgets available in Gulmarg.
L: You cannae fault the Culture. The sledge whalas, the shopkeepers, egg man, quadbike taxi man and of course all the jeeps; these all played a factor in making my experience the best it could ever be. Don’t know what I'm talking about? Go see and find out for yourself! I was never a fan of curry to begin with but grew to love it, I have to say there is a lot of variety within Gulmarg.
How'd you find the local people?
K: The locals were a pleasure, especially when taking the time to get to know people and story swap. Kashmiri people were very hospitable and keen to make sure that we had a good stay. Although it can be frustrating to encounter cultural difference at times, I was usually able to relax into this by asking myself to think about why this person might be behaving like this.
L: I cannot express enough love for them, they truly are kind, friendly and not likely to forget your name. I was honoured enough to be invited to a home cooked meal 3 times on my trip, never have I felt like I was part of the family so quickly after being introduced to them. Beautiful people inside and out.
Laura turning Kashmiri, during a homestay in Nambalnar.
What sort of person do you think would like to come here?
K: I think Kashmir is best encountered in the spirit of adventure and openness. The adventure is more than riding the biggest most beautiful mountains your likely to ever encounter in your life, it is also navigating getting about the village, ordering dinner and sharing stories with locals and other tourists.
L: Gulmarg can appeal to anyone. I came here as a total beginner but by the end I was stoked knowing I'm good enough to return and explore more terrain. If you're a go-getter, who loves powder and is looking for something different then Gulmarg us the place for you.
Kate getting ready for her first ever powder turns!