Sandy Norval

The Ladies Perspective

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: 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!

That is that! Reckon you can convince your girlfriend to come along now then check out We've had our girls out there and they survived so surely we must be doing it well! Next time a blog with more pictures and less words.

Other people's opinions matter.......

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.

So that's that. Fancy experiencing it yourself then hit us up at for more info and our latest deals.

Not a seasoned pro, maybe a member of the opposite sex? Well fear not the next blog is for you. We've got the thoughts of two girls relatively new to the sport of snowboarding in a predominantly masculine environment. How did they find it?

The 2nd Annual Himalayan Banked Slalom Part 1: The Build

Broken but proud is the best way to describe how you feel after the building of the 2nd Annual Himalayan Banked Slalom. I suppose the test of any good event is whether or not it makes past it's inaugural year. Well Andy and I came back to Gulmarg and had every intention of making that happen. However, mother nature had other ideas! When we wanted snow it didn't come, when we didn't need any more it wouldn't stop! As a man that loves the snow, I am aware I shouldn't complain about 'too much snow'. However, as an organiser of a snowboard event, which requires you to build a course, one would like to see snow up to the start of the build then a week of sunny digging, a little fresh the night before and then a bluebird event day. Wishful thinking! Before any of this 'too much snow' nonsense came along we still had the tough decision of where to build the course.

Kahla, Sandy and the sledge

Last year we identified and claimed first gully (Here on in and forever more known as Banked Slalom Gully.) on phase 1 as the prime location for our HBS. We had a decent base last year and got what we needed done. This year when we went up to scope the gully we were sitting far lower than the previous year. We knew we wouldn't be able to bank up the steepest part but we could push the start further up the mountain and still have the race up there. Unfortunately, the weather was not playing the game. The week we had to build was due to puke with the likely result of limited access to the course, resulting in all our hard work getting buried under fresh snow. A tough decision was made and we went to scope out some alternative locales.

the course is set, lets DIG

With the storm approaching and the location changing, we postponed the dates and figured out the new spot. Our options were limited to two areas on the smaller slopes of the golf course. Our first choice was shut down due to it's close proximity to the beginners slope. So we moved it onto the Harmukh lift, which is not being used this season. We stomped up there and took a few different lines before we had a good contender for this year. Now all we had to do was get our hands dirty and dig. So on a very snowy Monday morning we had everything in place to get started, all we had to do was get there.

Three of us went out; Andy, myself and Khala, one of our good local friends, who had the toughest job that day. While Andy and I broke trail for him, Khala dragged a Kashmiri sled through our chop with 20 poles and three shovels tied on board. The going was slow and tough. The snow was falling heavily and we were in a complete white out. Unable to determine the undulations of the snow, we were stumbling into snow banks, making the whole walk that much harder. Once up top we had to re-run our route and set up the poles for definition. We built a couple of rollers for speed and banked up the first turn. We ran the line and boot-packed back up each time. Once our legs were spent we called it a day. Safe in the knowledge we had the Pisten Bully, to do the hard pushing, in the morning.

We are still working at a grass roots level for the banked slalom, though we are getting support from the J&K Tourism department. One such way is the use of there Pisten Bully. This is a bit of a double edged sword; it's amazing to have the ability to move around so much snow, so easily, but there is a significant language barrier between ourselves and the driver. On top of which they haven't had much opportunity to use their machines beyond a piste-ing capacity. So when you're trying to describe to them and then direct them, a lot can get lost in translation and be open to interpretation. We didn't face this problem immediately, this year, as when we went to get the cat it had broken down.

Kahla takes a break from the dig.

After hanging out for a couple of hours, waiting to see what was going to happen, we were told someone was coming to fix it and they would come over in the afternoon. We took this as a sign we had better get digging just in case they couldn't get it running. The three of us headed back to the course, Khala had decided that floundering around in the snow with us two, was more fun than his normal daily grind. We had one corner that we knew had to be hand dug, as there was no way we could get a cat into the area, so we took it back to last year and dug our first berm. It was warm that day and we grafted getting that first berm dug. We also started to think of the immense task at hand of physically digging the rest of the course.

As we had been promised a cat we may have left it a bit tight to achieve the impossible and build all the other turns in just 2 days. But we are stubborn and thick skinned so could deal with the aches and pains, which we would have to endure, to get the course finished. Thankfully, we got the call that the cat was on the way and we should organise lunch. One challenge after another for us. After it arrived and we had fed the drivers, we could get down to business. We pushed up our start ramp with no issues. On to the first berm. This is where things started to get tricky. With a couple of radios and some hand signals we sort of managed to get the snow in the right place. The next berm was at the point of awesomeness right until the driver went half a metre too far and collapsed the thing. Four more piles of snow later and we had to ask them to stop. We needed to shape these berms so that we could figure out where we would build the final turns.
The Pisten Bully arrives and we get serious

The end of a good day shapeing...
Our figuring was that as we only got a couple of hours with the Pisten Bully, rather than the full day we were promised, a couple of hours the next day wouldn't be an issue. The following day, we three, got up early and went about shaping the hunks of snow left by yesterdays machine massacre. Khala, who doesn't snowboard, was very deft in his ability to wield a shovel and took to the task with ease. We shaped a few and then started running the lines to iron out any bumps. A good solid morning of work and we had been informed that our cat would be back after lunch. We continued to shape the last couple of berms and we had a super fun and interesting first 6 turns, which we built a small jump on the end and into the next section. We gave up waiting for the cat and decided that with the challenging weather, snow pack and relocation we had to run a much shorter course than the previous year.

Next up was registration and the main event but that will follow shortly........

Late snow falls and tardy words.

The clouds close in over sunset peak. p:Laura Baird
It's been a slow start for the season and Gulmarg, being a unique place, means you have to get inventive, when the snow is low. Without the normal features of spas, cinemas and gyms the scope of your imagination has to come into play: do you want to build a snowman? With little originality you can get a lovely tour of the village, on the back of a sledge. Why not pay an old man to drag your lazy ass around? That'll kill an hour or a few depending on how guilty you feel. It's a quintessential experience for all the Indian tourists so why not join them. Or how about some of the new motorised toys that litter the village this year. Snowmobile up phase one or an ATV round the outer roads. Both an exhilarating and possibly death defying experience.

With a little more thought you could go get inventive and get your jib on. Why'll there isn't enough snow for the long, backcountry, powder lines, which this place is renowned for, there have been plenty of people being resourceful with what snow we have. I've seen hits set up, on the often buried rails, of the golf course. We've ridden up trees, with varying success. The normal small drop, is now a more challenging endeavour. Go into the woods and build jumps over the fallen trees. All it takes is a group of friends, a little creativity and some leg work and you've got something to session for a couple of days. Then when it snows you've got it all pre-built for the glory shot!

Laura gets a Kasmiri make over and ends up
on the other side of the lens  p:Laura Baird
What about heading further afield? Most people come here for the snow and forget the wealth of Kashmiri culture that surrounds them. When you ride to Babereshi, take a proper rest and go visit the shrine and learn who it was named after. How about going to one of the smaller villages and receiving some home cooking and authentic Kashmiri hospitality. It's an experience I've had the fortune to be a part of several times. A look into how the families of the valley live their day-to-day, listen to stories about the past, discuss hopes for the future and get your imagination working overdrive, to envisage the colours and sights of the flowers in bloom, the orchards bursting with fruit, animals grazing in the pastures and people working the earth. Makes me want to come back to see it for real.

Mr Salama surveys the fitting of the author's
tailored kilt jacket  p:Laura Baird
Travel further down the highway and you'll eventually end up in Srinagar. One of the British Raj's, summer, bolt-holes has loads to offer. Many people will just drive straight up to Gulmarg and then spend there last night on a house boat, giving the city itself little thought. The architecture in the old town and down lane ways is exceptional. Exposed brick and timber walls, ornately carved wooden edifices and centuries old Masjids are all there for the exploring. There is history everywhere you look and it's sometimes just a matter of looking up or down.

Srinagar's culinary offerings are even more fun to explore. You've got the traditional style restaurants offering fantastic Kashmiri fair, a hidden gem of a Tibetan restaurant, with amazing momos and thukpak, plenty of street food, where I've had some of the best samosa of my days. Just this year I was introduced to my new favourite spot, a bbq joint, smashing out skewers laden with big chunks of mutton, deep-fried nuggets of boneless fish, the freshest kebab, all served up with local bread and 6 different types of dip. Need to wet your whistle then there are a few coffee shops and places to purchase booze too.

the alterations continue, Mr Salama weaves his magic.  p:Laura Baird
Want to get your shop on? Then you can pick up all sorts in the city. From market stalls selling bad fakes, Westernised supermarkets that cure the curry blues, a plethora of traditional handi-craft shops with paper maiche, shawls, saffron and all the other perfect gifts, to bespokely-crafted, totally-personalised, one of a kind creations, by a third generation tailor. Be warned, this last one could take up an entire day in itself! All in all, you could easily loose some days in Srinagar.

But it's snowing now, so who needs to know all this? We've got an interesting party this evening, which should be snowier and produce a good story. Then we've got a whole banked slalom to build and host. So no news for a while and you'll soon be bombarded with a whole host of adventures. Let's hope at least one has some POW shots!

Previous seasons this view would have involved snow!  p:Laura Baird

What's that coming over the hill? Is it winter?

A little over a week ago I found myself in Aviemore. Not many of you will be familiar with this place. It is what can be best described as Scotland's quintessential ski town. It's not massive, but it has that outdoor vibe and a view of the mountains. While I was there I woke to a rather cloudy sky, which obscured the peaks. I went outside to go to work and I could feel a distinct nip in the air. Not long into the morning, I got a text telling me that the first snowfall of the season had fallen that night. Over the day, as the clouds broke up, I got glimpses of a few snowy topped mountains, bringing me the giddy feeling that winter is taking hold. Low and behold, four days later, the Kashmir valley sees its first snowfall for the 2015 season. Is it fate that the two places I call home, get Ullr's first touch within a week of each other? I don't know and I'm not one to spend too much time pondering the interconnectedness of the situation. All I know is it has started. While the southern Hemisphere winter is winding down, we in the North are just starting to don some extra layers.

Soon Mt Affarwat will be dressed in white! ^^click to enlarge^^
This season will be the 5th year the Di5 Adventures crew will have had a presence in Gulmarg. Half a decade of shredding the Himalayas. Not bad! I'll have spent more time as a snowboarder in Gulmarg than I will have anywhere else in the world, which I am certainly not going to complain about. As we approach this coming season we do so with heavier hearts than normal. The reason being the recent flooding that has decimated much of Kashmir. Mother nature has no time for borders and the storms of September flooded both the Indian and Pakistan sides of Kashmir. The capital city of Srinagar, on the Indian side, which when visiting Gulmarg you have to pass through, saw buildings collapse and entire families lose their homes. Out in the countryside, the farming industry has been literally washed away. With this being the staple of many a Kashmiri income and little work available to them in winter, our thoughts have been with them. (we have been trying to identify the best path for people wishing to donate and help ease the situation for those most affected)

The Di5 Team:
Omar Hajam, Director of Mountain Operations.
Andy Turland, Managing Director
Sandy Norval, European Correspondent.

So it would be unfair for me to harp on about the awesomeness of winter and what epic adventures we can expect this season, without recognising it's going to be very tough for many families. We understand that our business makes us part of families in Kashmir and creates an opportunity for us to help those less fortunate. As the season grows closer, the snow depths increase and the devastation gets blanketed white, we must not forget to offer help where we can. This season will see the Di5 family grow too. We've got new faces coming out to experience the joys of a Gulmarg winter. Please don't think that our stoke levels aren't up there and this season will somehow be less of a party than before. Remember; it's our 5 year anniversary!

We're going on adventures, we'll be bringing you all the hype, the Himalayan Banked Slalom is growing and going to be back. We have hundreds of lines to go and explore and you're coming on the journey with us. We are pumped, life is good, the snow is falling and tickets are booked. All that being said we'll be doing our best to spread the love throughout the valley and seeing what we can do to help. Let's come together as shredders of the world and be the best dysfunctional family we can. Let us not bicker in the lift line, like petulant siblings, let us put differences aside and have fun together, let us support each other in bringing out the best of our winter, wherever it may be!

Remember, it's never too late to come out and celebrate the 2015 season in Gulmarg. Just head to our website and get in touch. We've got packages to suit all budgets and as a company we are actively involved in investing directly back into Kashmir.

The one and only HIMALAYAN BANKED SLALOM; Desert!

An Instagram from
perhaps Gulmarg will show up in their next Film!
 So here we were on day one, the qualifiers. A little icing on the cake was some overnight snow, which put 30cm of fresh over everything. Unfortunately the cloud was with us and the soupy visibility was going to make things a little tricky. We got up early to set the gates, put up safety fences, check timing equipment and generally just make sure all was good to go, before we let everyone out to devour the goodies. A few last minute additional competitors, in the form of the Nitro snowboard crew was a little bonus, Elias Elhardt, Marc Swoboda and Knut Eliasson had, with great timing, rolled into Gulmarg on the day before. We were already stoked with our registration numbers now we had some professionals competing  and Pirate crew filming as they competed! It really was a buzz to be a big part of this event. However, the visibility was not getting any better and the start was delayed while we waited for a weather window.

Local shredders waiting for their shot at the course
Course marshalling sucks in zero visibility! So does riding a course in crappy viz you have only seen once. Being totally powerless to do anything about the weather the qualifiers had to go ahead. The time was ebbing away and everything was postponed till after lunch. Standing around and getting cold before a competition is not a great idea. The juniors and the ladies had all had one run and a few men too. The idea was to give everyone two goes and then qualify the fastest times. This plan was waylaid for a much fairer decision of everyone qualifies and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for better weather on Sunday. Needless to say, the fastest time of the qualifiers was set by Elias Elhardt. However, a good show was put in by all and the general consensus was a job well done.

Day two: BLUEBIRD(-ish). A wee test run for me, just to make sure nobody had spoiled the course in yesterday’s white-out. Not one to hold back and my first real run at the course, which I’d poured a week of my life into, I didn’t really hold back. That’s possibly why Andy got a radio call, from me, shortly after asking him to advise all riders the course was a damn site faster than yesterday and that we had to reset the safety fence on the ‘Super-Pooper’! Nothing to do with the fact I came in too fast and lost it, wrapping myself in the orange webbing, which left me floundering like a net-caught fish. I was just thankful the first time I ever put up a safety net, it actually worked well enough to hold me. With the gates set, safety fences back in place and the timing equipment ready for a test, I got the honour of a second run, just to make sure the timing equipment was working, mind. Absolutely nothing to do with redemption and the need to see how I’d place if I was competing.

The finish line and a bunch of rowdy competitors
Run complete with no bails this time, we could let the competitors at it. I hung out down at the finish line, as I wanted the best view of the hardest part of the course. First the juniors went and it was clear the turns were a bit like trying to tackle a 28oz steak: a gargantuan effort. Massive props have to go out to these kids and all the Kashmiris that have learned to snowboard. Seeing how they’ve never been allowed to ride the beginner lifts and genuinely have to hike for all those early learning runs, it’s an absolute miracle any of them have bothered. So to see them participating in their first ever banked slalom was a privilege. Hopefully, we’ll be involved in making a few changes next year that can further their skills. But I digress from the meaty finals.

The format was changed slightly due to yesterday’s bad weather and the fact we still had 40+ competitors racing. Therefore, an executive call was made so that it was one run for everyone; fastest run wins. Miss a gate and get disqualified, you better show up next year because there were no second chances. (That luxury was only afforded to me!) Ladies next and they sure as hell went hard. The course was quick and so were they. Some of them hadn’t even managed a practice run the day before! The camaraderie at the finish line was awesome. Every time someone came into view there was a whoop and holler like it was their surprise party. All that was missing was cake and bubbly. A real celebration of the sport was happening right here in the Himalaya.

Last but not least the open men’s final was upon us. Everyone was amped and the day was turning out to be epic. The men certainly gave it their all. Some surprise DQs and some impressive times. The immense task of building and helping organize the event was paying off. It was a tasty wee number that everyone enjoyed. The men’s title was scooped by a Russian, so even out of Sochi they were still at the forefront of snowboard firsts! Of all the riders I watched come through the ‘Super-Pooper’ he had the best line, which was evident in his time. Faster even than the pros from the day before! Race over; it was time for a beer and a bit of prize giving. Being Kashmir, where they love a good award ceremony, the ceremony was more silver service, fine dining than the truck stop hoe-down we had envisaged. But hey that’s the way the cookie crumbles. (I promise I only have one more cheesy food/cooking reference to go!)

The hardest corner of the whole course.
This is where the winners were decided
Never the less, we didn’t hurt anyone, the competition ran smoothly and everyone had a good time. We successfully held the first ever Himalayan Banked Slalom. BOOM! With the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department rather happy with all our efforts and a smattering of international press coverage; it’s all systems go for 2015. Stay tuned for a bigger, more exciting and, we’d like it to be, a snowboard company sponsored event, next winter. Guess that means it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for us!

(I whole heartedly apologise for all the crappy food jokes in these past blogs. I thought it would be a good thing; write a recipe on how to cook up a blah, blah, blah. But it turned out to be a cringey joke fest interspersed with a story of the event. I learnt my lesson. Thanks for reading though x)


We would like to thank all those that helped us turn this crazy idea into an awesome reality. Especially these two men; 
Omar Hajam, for his untiring pursuit of the people in positions of power in Gulmarg. His efforts really made this happen.
Tariq Bhat, thanks for helping fine tune the logistical side of things and helping get some sponsorship.
The Meadows Hotel in Gulmarg, this great new hotel came onboard with sponsorship and helped us get gates printed and donated the lunches for all competitors.

THE one and only HIMALAYAN BANKED SLALOM; The Main Course

Seems that writing a blog about building and hosting a Himalayan Banked Slalom takes longer than actually putting the event on! I was busy cooking up the perfect recipe for said event and was just about to jump into the meat of the dish. I reckon I’ve let the whole thing to cure for long enough now and should get back to it. Day one of the big dig was a sunny affair and Andy and I headed into our lovely roped off area to start work on turn one. We had a rough plan of where the course was going to go and there was nothing to it but to start digging. Having absolutely nae idea of how to dig a berm the first one took some time. We excavated way more snow than we needed to but the final result definitely looked like what we were trying to do. Part way through I started to calculate the time it was going to take to build the rest and by god it was going to be tight to get it all done in 5 days! Ever determined we moved onto the next one.
the start of first Gully and the start of the HBS course.
This was the south facing side of the course and the snow was part frozen blocks, part slushy mess. Not the ideal building conditions but we persevered, trying a different tact with the construction of this one. Like a good cook will experiment with different levels of flavour to enhance depth in a dish, we slapped snow here and there, scratched our heads and mused at our work. The second berm finished we were both feeling the burn from man handling the snow. But we had worked out it was much easier to try and shape the berm out of the bank, rather than digging a big pile of snow and shaping that. Ah the ‘eureka’ moment, which we hoped would make the whole process a bit easier. Totally beat after the mornings work, to our relief our great friend, Tariq, brought us lunch and more importantly a fresh pair of arms.

After our food we set back to it. Turn 3 was a great sweeper that dropped steeply away and I called it ‘YEE-HA’, due to the hollering it could potentially induce. Our slow-cooked first berm techniques were being honed into a more efficient methodology, not quite fast food standards but then who’d want to race something so uniform? We knew this year was going to be a bit rough and ready, possibly hard to digest in places, yet this didn’t dampen our spirits. We chapped on and got 3 all done. Back into the sunshine for turn 4 and our day was done. Tired and chuffed we’d got something resembling the beginnings of a banked slalom course. In absolutely no illusion did we think that it was going to get easier but we sure as hell enjoyed the first day’s celebratory beer.

Turn 7 at the end of day 2.
Day two brought more of the same; digging and shaping turns 5, 6 and 7. Our between the tree hole-shot of turn five is the perfect banner sponsorship spot and an epic one for pics. A sunny souther, turn six was a calm one before turn 7. Andy loved turn seven due to its natural high wall up-down cruisiness. I loved turn 7 because we hardly had to do anything to it to make it work! Again we could see the course coming along nicely and were constantly allowing ourselves little smiles of satisfaction. However, we knew the first half of the course was the easy part and we were now into the hardest section of the build. We’d cooked up a fine starter with plenty to get people’s attention. Problem was we had only a few days left and a really steep and somewhat dangerous section to try and turn into something palatable. The support we thought was coming didn’t and Andy had to give a talk that night promoting the event to everyone in town.

The next day was a struggle. The constant digging of two days and the ever increasing reality of what was left to do was fraying at my nerves. Andy, the ever outwardly calm one, was pleasant to me as I bitched and moaned and stressed. We had a really complicated section to prepare and the thought of it just being built with our four arms was daunting. We decided to shape up the top half of the course and make it good to go and allow us to rest. Even though we’d roped off the area we’d had a few people duck it and ride through. So on turn 4 when we saw some bodies come over the ridge we thought god-damn-balls-shit don’t ride over our berms! Then a few more heads appeared and we started to recognize some friendly faces. These weren’t yahoos trying to get some pow-pow, this was help! They say too many cooks spoil the broth; but when you apply that to digging huge quantities of snow, it’s the opposite. Turn 8 became an international affair. I think we had 9 different nationalities help build that corner and we’re truly indebted to them for coming to our aid.

Shaping turn 4 after HELP arrived, thanks to all who lent some muscle.

What had started out as a bleak undertaking became a fun venture with many hands and experience getting the linchpin turn in. With over ten people digging and shaping, it still took the best part of the day to get it finished. Had Andy and I been left alone that day, it’s doubtful to say just how that corner would’ve come out. Burnt, crispy and inedible is one way! So two days left and one more complex turn then it is bish-bash-bosh and the course should be finished. Turn 8 was going to be burly. Like sitting down to a giant ice cream and fighting through the cold pain headache to finish it in one go. Thankful for the help the day before we knew that this corner was probably best left to just the two of us.


The complications of trying to balance the following issues; not hurting anyone, making the turn suitable for most skill levels and still super fun, were massive. And we also have to factor in the near vertical section we’re trying to build it on. An hour or so of watching the snow roll down the hill we decided that starting at the bottom was probably a better idea! We managed to get it connected and round the tree in a way that was a little less than sketchy. I mentioned to Andy that most people are going to shit themselves, coming through this one and a little while later the ‘Super-Pooper’ was named. Some more friends came down that afternoon and helped us sure up the turn and make it a little safer. This one was definitely getting a safety fence. One more day of digging left and we had a few more corners to go. We finally had the use of the pisten bully to build the start ramp and help conclude course construction.

Friday was a big day. We had to finish the course and hold registration. Let’s call it desert and menu setting. But we have a big machine to help so hey it should be easy. Hmmmmm……how to put it? The cat certainly can move snow. Lots of it, in vast quantities, which sets like stone and becomes a really doozy to shape with our little shovels! Knowing that time was no longer on our side we had to cut the course a few turns shorter than we’d hoped. On the one hand we had no choice. On the other, if the competition is a success, we already know we can make it longer in 2015! So having not even run the course from top to bottom, we were off to register all the crazy people that wanted to be a part of the first ever Himalayan Banked Slalom. Again, thanks to the support and help of some more wonderful people, while Andy and I had been building the registration was all set up and we just had to show our faces and help out if required.

It’s a little daunting, having put so much time and effort into the preparation that perhaps, just perhaps nobody will give a monkeys and even bother to register. There was no need to doubt as we knew we’d at least have some locals enter the competition. It was the main reason behind this whole event. Give the local snowboarders a competition all of their own. No more racing a skier set course on a snowboard. A real opportunity to show the big wigs of Gulmarg that snowboarding is as big a sport as skiing. So when we closed registration and had 45 competitors, with almost 50% of them Kashmiris, we knew all the hard work was worth it. All we had to do now was host the event. So proof of the pudding is always in the eating and that’s what we had to do now. But I think I’ll leave you to stew a little longer for that one (definitely not as long as last time, I promise).

THE one and only HIMALAYAN BANKED SLALOM; First piece of the pie........

I’m going to attempt to give you the recipe for a Himalayan Banked Slalom. It’s an out-there dish, not suited to everyone’s taste. It’s got spice, is definitely fruity and, in reality, involves a smorgasbord of ingredients to bring it all together.

The pot that cooked up the Banked Slalom
Before a dish of this stature can come into fruition, someone needs to dream it up. However
a banked slalom snowboard competitions aren’t exactly nouveau cuisine! They were the bread and butter of early competitive snowboarding, with its roots right back at the beginning of our sport. This being said, it still took the imagination and determination of one man to bring it to the Himalaya. The Di5 founder, fearless leader and executive chef, Andy, spent two years cooking up this project; countless trips to Srinagar, whetting the appetite of officials, whom before his intervention, had been brought up on a bland diet of skiing. Andy cruised in there with a proposal of something fresh, fun and flavourful. Luckily for everyone, they were in the mood to try something different, support was offered and in 2014 the Himalayan Banked Slalom was going to happen. This was essentially the golden egg that had to be cracked before baking could begin!

Now that all the dreaming, planning and officious work was behind, a recipe had to be concocted, which would result in all that hard work, turning into a tasty celebration of the sport of snowboarding, in Kashmir. This being said, while Andy has many years snowboarding experience, competing at an international level, giving him an understanding of what sort of things go into this type of dish. However, his sous-chef, namely I, had never ridden a banked slalom course, let alone built a berm! What I did bring to our kitchen, was a belief in the dish we were creating, a sprinkling of snowboarding experience and a good dose of Scottish opinion, which chef could take or leave but was there none-the-less. I suppose that covers step one of the recipe, which was obtaining the relevant permissions.

Step two seemed quite straight forward: get the necessary equipment to rope off the course,
so we could stay safe while we created our masterpiece. All it took was one jeep, Andy, myself and Sarpanch (our interpreter/big man!) and a day trip to Srinagar. We ventured to the local bamboo/rope emporium and engaged in some strong-hand tactics to get the best prices. This essentially involved me and the owner squeezing each other’s hands until somebody yields. Let’s just say I secured us a discount! So off we went with our ingredients, 50 bamboo poles and 5kg of rope. (How long is 5kg of rope? Your guess is as good as mine!) Next stop was the trophy shop, which also sold musical instruments and board games, amongst other things. Lastly, we went and bought some beer. Neither of us was under the impression that the week to come was going to be an easy one, we sure as hell were going to need a beer!

just what we needed, lots of bamboo.
Sarpanch leads the way
Sandy might have won the hand strength competition
but I think the old guy gave him a run for his money!
Returning to Gulmarg with our supplies, all we needed to do was get it up the gondola, which surely shouldn’t be an issue as we had the necessary support from ski patrol. Well, first off, there was an abortive attempt to raise ski-patrol on the radio, so I went to seek help from someone higher up. He sent me off up the lift, without the poles and rope, to get written permission from the head of ski patrol, although I had it on good authority he had already informed them we were coming. So off I set, aware that all good recipes take some tweaking. When I arrived, the necessary permissions were sent to the original guy, who told me his radio didn’t work! It quickly became apparent that this dish was definitely going to have some Kashmiri spice! Back down again, I loaded all the gear, then with the help of Tariq, carried it all out to the ski patrol hut.

The Gully on the left is First Gully, it held the first Himalayan Banked Slalom.
click to enlarge^^^
So with everything in place, on Monday morning, we could get into the meat of the dish; the digging! Or so we thought. Turned out there would be some more lugging of poles and setting up of ropes before we could get hands on shovels. The next few steps of this delectable treat will reveal some of the secret ingredients. However, like any good cook, I’m going to leave you to prove like dough, before I knead your imaginations with the rest of this recipe!

a Big week....

"All aboard the good ship pow-pow!" Shouts the captain in my head. I'm staring down a near pitch perfect powder field, it's been snowing heavily for a good 24 hours and everything is primed. I drop into my line, two epic turns and the amount of sluff is now enough to take me for a short ride. All expected on this angle, with the amount of snow we've had, so my line had no major obstacles to hazard me. Gotta love the core work-out when you wiggle and wiggle, to shake off all that snow, trying to get going again.

Sandy is quite the tall scotsman.
 Normal cruising speeds resume. Until all of a sudden your board starts to sink, then your knees go under, your thighs disappear and then the rest. From a bystanders point of view, I imagine, I look some what like a submarine diving to the deep. In some respects I am.These last few days, I've been forcing my board further into the unknown depths. Trying to avoid shredding my hull on any hidden rock bombs. I never found the bottom and I avoided all those nasty, jaggy buggers! My final likening to the maritime form, sticks with the submarine class.

You enter the white room, consequently clip something, eat it and become ensconced in snow. You lie there for a second or two, getting your gyro settled. Then it's 'up periscope' to see just how far you tumbled and who caught it on camera! Snorkeling around in the deep stuff can only mean one thing; we've had a classic Gulmarg storm.

The storm left 210cm of Himalayan white gold!
It rolled in last Sunday. The week previous to that was fairly relaxed. I took out my brand new stick, for this season, and rode the one groomer we have here. Finally, making it over the two flat spots without any issue. After a month of riding two, frankly, broken boards, in an attempt to preserve my new ones, beyond one season, which would be a four season first for me, was an absolute pleasure! She reminded me of playing with a six month old puppy. So full of spring and bounce, excited to explore new places, ever attentive to my instructions. Really just a load of innocent fun. Having spent a day becoming acquainted with her I spent
another with a pack of lads.

  As so few people ever really ride the groomer here, there isn't an abundance of side hits. We chose a lazy sunny lunchtime to head up. Roaming around, sniffing out possible spots to do our business. We laid our marks and charged around. Yelping when distressed, howling with happiness and just being a bit barking mad! Look what happens when an animal is forced out of it's natural habitat. Lucky for this animal, he can look at a weather forecast and could stave of becoming a totally feral, snow-starved, beast.

When the long-term forecast gives you a week of snow, you know it's going to be a great time here in Gulmarg. We were gifted with over 2m of lovely, lovely fresh white yumminess. Enough to feed the powder hounds here. We took bites out of the trees, the chairlift and eventually the upper reaches of the mountains. Being early Feb the wildest animal behaviour was in the queues! I could go off right now and describe the differing shred species that inhabit this zoo. Some with their slithering, slick, snaking shenanigans. Others with their down right pig headed attitudes. But that is a whole other blog.

I don't have time for that right now as digging begins on the first ever Himalayan Banked Slalom course soon. More on that to come very shortly.............................

The Lost Girda

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP is the noise that has been greeting me every morning for the past couple of weeks. Question: have I given up on the shred this year, in exchange for boozy nights out and ENA based hangovers?  Answer: nope, that thumping noise is not my head. It's the noise of the carpenters building the first ever snowboard shop in Gulmarg! That's all I'm going to say on that. Andy is putting together a little ditty on that project. So much has happened in the past few weeks that I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to start. To roll back three weeks, season passes were obtained and the shred could finally begin, on a low tide. Roll back two weeks, we're picking off lines and loving life. Roll back one week, we're in the midst of our first big storm, with no power but huge grins! But roll back just three days and we're, unfortunately, present for the first avalanche related fatality in four years.

That brings us to today and my quandary as to where to begin. I know it's important to give all the news of a season here in Gulmarg. However, it's difficult for me to write about the death of someone I've never met. Where information is limited and the rumours are rife, alongside the nature of the avalanche and the circumstances that caused it, the true story will probably never come to light. This can lead to speculation and untruths. All I know is that it leaves me with a heavy heart and a thought for all people that enjoy the mountains. It would be to easy to wax lyrical about the ever present dangers, the need to be extra vigilant after a big storm and how we are just guests on mother natures curves. But I won't. For me, the simple fact is, a man died doing something, one would assume, he loves and somewhere more lives have been affected. I know many ski towns will also suffer a similar fate this season, so please everyone be as safe as you can.

So now I'm left hanging in a melancholy space. How can I go on and tell you all about how epic my riding has been, without sounding a little ungracious? Well, the story I am going to tell happened before the storm. It was our first mission over the top of Mt. Affarwat for 2014. The forecast was for a sunny morning, the avalanche advisory had been digested and we were confident about our terrain choice. Want to hear what happened? Then read on.

Our line as viewed from the east side of Gulmarg on a much nicer day
click to enlarge^^
Skins on, I begin my first tramp up to the top of the mountain. Approximately 250m of vertical to climb over a little more than a kilometre. Fine if I'm at sea level, relatively painless at 2000m, get up to 3950m (top of the gondola) and I start to wheeze a bit. Things slow down and I feel I've gone for miles and looking back it's about 50m! Deep breaths don't seem to fill my lungs. I can't seem to get into a nice, regular stride, which matches my breathing. It's tough pushing to the top. Especially, when the weather that was nice at the beginning, is slowly turning. Now, I'm not only trying to regulate my breathing but contemplating what to do if it turns into a complete white out.

looking for the entrance to our line in the
approaching storm.
The wind is bringing in the cloud and the visibility is as regular as my breathing. I push on to the top and over to our first re-grouping spot. I can see that the visibility isn't as bad as it could be. But I'm no way fooled that it can't get worse in seconds. When the others arrive we discuss our options and decide to lose a little altitude and reassess. Split-skiing is still a novelty and I have the grace and balance of a newly born foal! At the next spot, the cloud is a little thinner and the decision is made to continue with our original objective. We skin on, aware that, if the weather dictates, we can still turn around. A little further we need to stick the boards on our backs and search out the entrance on foot.

My feet punch through the sugary snow to the brush underneath, with a regularity that makes me wonder how my board can survive this scratch free. We locate the top of our line and scope out our dropping in point. It's unanimous that the true entry isn't going to be ridden by us today. We select a safer spot and begin to transform our boards back. This is when the wind plays her hand. She screams in my ear as I try and rip off my skins. The unruly things flapping in the wind refusing to behave. Fingers fumble with buckles and she even snatches up my mountain snack! The saving grace is that she's moving the cloud through so quickly that there are plenty of clear patches.

Perseverance is key when it comes to a transition in a blizzard. But we do so and are soon ready to move out. One-by-one we cross the shady part and move down the ridge top. I get to ride the short first pitch and the flat light puts me on my bum. Unperturbed I'm up quickly and over to our next safe spot. Once we're all there, it's this season's newbie to the area that gets to ride the first line. Off he goes and he does a good job of making it look awesome. With a spotter above and one below, it's my turn next. My head slips into my snow zone and away I go. The feeling of gliding over the snow brings me no ends of joy. I pull up next to Jason and I can see we're both wearing the same sort of smile. Andy is down last and surfs the white waves with his usual grace. All back together we scope the next pitch and it serves to provide us with more of the goods.

Jason does the billygoat
Down the bottom I look back up at the treats and am happy with our decision making process. In my mind it was better to ride something slightly narrower, with heavily identifiable features, than a wide open bowl in the clouds. Now on lower angles we head off back to the gondola. So that was a day before the last storm. We looked at the conditions, discussed and assessed the day. We rode something well within our abilities and did so in the safest manner we could. However, I'm now all to aware that it only takes the smallest change to make a massive difference. February is fast approaching and with it we'll have more people on the mountain, bigger snow storms and the potential to go on even bigger adventures.

I'm not here to offer safety advice, there is an amazing amount of information out there. Nor am I hear to sugar coat the dangers associated with being out in the backcountry. I'm here to recite what a season in the Himalaya can be like. It's just unfortunate that, this year, life in the mountains, here, have had such a serious consequence. What I'll take away from it is the real importance to assess the risk, be aware of the consequences and, above all, play it safe.

Welcome to Gulmarg 2014......

Snow is fundamental to our sport, doesn't take an Einstein to figure that one out, which is why when it plays a hand in stopping you in your tracks, can you really get angry? Personally, I can't because I love snow. Even if it means spending New Years Eve, stuck in a Delhi hotel, alone, due to the Srinagar airport being closed by the snow! I've also learned that crashing in a Jeep, on the drive through the snow, on the way to Gulmarg, doesn't dent your love for the white stuff either! So some interesting travel mishaps preceded the start of the 2014 season, back here in Kashmir, which hasn't officially started as we await this storm before they open the top half.

The view of the Pir Pinjal the day before
Sandy got stranded by snow

Having the luxury of three months, we can await patiently for the opening and get our legs in skinning around, scouting new spots to explore. It's a definite merit of the place that after three seasons you can still discover new lines and you haven't set foot on the mountain! We've found jibs, pillows, chutes, drops and all manner of interesting features to hit. Bet you are beginning to wish you were here! Well you can always make that possible, just sack your job, book a flight, then send us an email and we'll sort the rest for you. Alternatively, just keep reading this blog and learn what a season in the Himalaya can throw at you.

Duelling busses, no one wins!

I mean how easy should it be to get a season pass? Most places you'll fill in a form online, make a payment and go collect. Well here in Gulmarg things are a bit more complicated. First, you need to go and get the necessary monies out of the ATM, as there is no card or online payment facility for your season pass. Obviously the machine in the market is getting fixed and won't be working that day. So it's off to Tangmarg to use the bank down there. 10 minutes into the trip and we're into a traffic jam. One bus has become lodged against a barrier and is getting pulled out by another, while a small army of locals try and lend a hand. There is shouting, wheel's spinning, a bus rocking but none of this has the desired effect. It stays put.
We clamber pass and start strolling down the road, getting picked up about 15 minutes later after the blockage is resolved. 
Down in Tangmarg we hold up the ATM line as we are forced to make several withdrawls to reach our required amount. Pesky max-limit on foreign cards! Money in pockets, it's back in another jeep for a trip back up to Gulmarg, passing the bus, now abandoned of help and spectators. 

Now we can head to the ticket office for the face-to-face transaction.

Heading in we are warmly greeted by the cold, having no real central heating in the main office. Enquiring about a season pass we are informed that we must wait as the right person isn't there. We wait, wait a wee bit more and then a final bit of chilling brings a new face into the office. Once again we enquire. This time we are told season passes can't be sold until it snows! 'But surely you sell them to us now, so when it does snow, we can just head up' we explain. Nope, can't do that. Once we have the season pass they're obliged to let us up to the top. I mean I love snow but I absolutely despise its uncanny ability to hide board wrecking rocks just underneath, which I dare say is what's going on,up top, at the moment.
Deaf to our suggestions and promises that we have no interest in committing 'new board suicide' we leave without a season pass. Oh well, was half expecting to come away from that empty handed, as it is the norm for the start of the season, when things that seem simple to us are just the opposite! We leave it a good few days and go out on the aforementioned recon. Returning just yesterday to try our hand again. 'Still more snow needed' is the same reply.
Recon......till after this storm

Returning this morning, after 0cm of new snow, our season passes are issued. Ah that extra magic non-existent snowfall how I love you! Just in time for the actual storm that will bring real snow. So now we wait with things to pass the time, like more exploration and the inaugural Avalanche meeting of new head patroller Colin Mitchell. That's tonight at 7.30pm, Pine Palace Heritage, if you are already here. If not, just remember all you need to do is quit the job, book a flight and send us an email and we'll see you there next week!

A guide to being a Snow Bum.....Gulmarg Style PART #4

All aboard the Party bus!

The après scene in Gulmarg is not like you’d find in the west. Being in a Muslim state the consumption of alcohol is frowned upon but not banned. The Kashmiris are too savvy to the westerners want for that mmmmmm beer after an amazing days shred, to not sell it to us. As this is meant to be a rough guide to doing a cheap season my first suggestion is to not après every day. You’ll pay a premium for your beer and I’ve seen a $1 rise every year, which will put next year’s beers at about $6 a pop! (note: that is for a tall bottle of beer that is up to 8.25% alc.)

If you’ve been following these posts then you’ll be making a regular excursion down to Srinigar, to get some essentials. This is the time to stock up on your booze. It’s an adventure in itself finding the well-guarded, holes in the wall, which procure this sought after elixir. For that reason, I ain’t going to tell you where they are. Just be aware that the named brand spirits aren’t what they say. Most of the booze across India, with Kashmir being no exception, is ENA based. 
Without going into detail it’s basically rank spirit with nasty flavours added. It’s, however, debilitating-ly cheap! Where possible I’d recommend protecting your liver and getting grain based spirits. This is one of the few times where I’d say spending a little more will do you more favours. It’s fine if you only have to drink it for a couple of weeks. A few months and you’re insides will teach you a violent lesson. You have been warned.

Okay, so you have a store of shady booze. Believe it or not, many of the hotels don’t appreciate it when you saunter in with your own liquor and start quaffing it and having a great time. Have a few pre-drinks at your place and pick the nights you want to go out. You want a boozy season go to Whistralia, i did, it was amazing. Want to shred untouched bowls days after the storms gone, then choose more wisely. In fact that's an amazing time to get lashed: during the storms. Chances are the upper mountain is going to be closed the next day anyway!

2010 we built an igloo, bought some vodka and hosted a party.
At one stage there were 27 people jammed inside!!
So you know to be wary of the price of drinks at the bar and how to get cheaper booze but what to do if you don’t want to hang out in your digs? Well you’re here for a few months, so go make your own fun! The people that season out in Gulmarg are adventurous, fun and inventive. We love a good party and the more unique the better. How about utilising the ice rink for a bit of broom-ball or hockey? How about a kicker session under the stars? Or a night sledge extravaganza? How about a late night snowball fight or an outdoor rave? A full moon shred in the trees sound good? All these things are possible. Some take a bit of hard work, some are more regular than others, some have never been done before and some I haven’t even listed!

These guys know how to get a part started!!
At the end of the day; you are the party! It only takes a little imagination and a bit of planning among the long-term seasonairres to throw a one off party like you’ve never had before! Well that’s that. With the information I’ve divulged here I reckon it’s possible to achieve the impossible; a 3 month season without work. Obviously this is not a definitive guide but a rough introduction on how to do so. Guess I’ll be seeing you in the lift line!

Don’t have time to be the party planner but want to be the life and soul instead? Di5 Adventures has the inside scoop on a lot of these parties. Book a trip with us and keep yourself in the loop. Check us out

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

A guide to being a Snow Bum.....Gulmarg Style PART #1

"So where are you going to live???"

So last time I promised you some insider info on how to perform the unthinkable; do a season without actually working! We’ve already covered the fact you’re not a secret millionaire because if you are then doing seasons is too easy! You know you have to get yourself to India, up to Kashmir and to a place called Gulmarg. That’s relatively simple and with your ability to sleep in airports, train stations and street corners; your travel costs will be very low. First insider tip; if you are not getting picked up and driven directly to Gulmarg, beware the touts. They will try and get you right from the off. I’m not going to give too much away because it ruins the travel experience. All I’ll say is there are cheaper ways of getting up to Gulmarg than you might first be told!

One of the cheaper ways of getting to Gulmarg!

Okay, so you’ve arrived. The next thing you’ll need to do is figure out where the hell you are going to stay! A full season here is all about location, location, location. Holiday makers and lazy folks will go straight for the gondola side of the village. That’ll be mistake number one. While it is clearly advantageous to be close to the gondola if you are in for the long-haul you’ll want to be on the market side of town. Why is that? Well it’s pretty simple. The accommodation is cheaper and you are far closer to the other things that make life more affordable.

I love living in the market. It’s got a lot going for it. The biggest worry people have is the 1.5km  walk to the gondola. Now, there are many ways of getting to the Gondola not just your legs, so it’s no real "biggy". As I mentioned before this is a guide not a full blown expose! Plus, it’s an amazing warm up for the days shred ahead. Also, on the days that it is actually puking so much the gondola is closed, you’ll really appreciate it. (I’ll say no more!) But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re still standing in the village getting touted by numerous ‘hoteliers’ offering you the best rates in town. 

If you live in the Market you will now this road well
by the time spring arrives.

Okay tip two; HAGGLE. You’ve got time, you’re here for a few months. Use that to your advantage. In my experience the locals would rather have a guaranteed income for a few months than have an empty bed for two nights! You have a few options on the market side of town. I highly recommend you start at "New Mount View Backpackers Paradise Inn". While it definitely wins the prize for the most convoluted name in town, it is an absolute gem. Tariq, one of the owner’s, is a fair and friendly guy. His English is exceptional and the last time I stayed there I could not fault him one bit.

If you can’t strike a bargain there, then wander around and chat to people and see what is going on. Bargain hard and don’t be afraid to walk away. Perhaps you could make friends with another traveller and go searching for a room to share. Or if you have a room already try renegotiating when you do find a partner in crime. If you can’t get the price to come down then try and squeeze something out of them. Say a free breakfast; just make sure you confirm what the breakfast will be. You don’t just want a cup of tea and girda! In my mind you don’t ask you won’t get.

Can’t face the harshness that can come with the cheap side of town? At Di5 Adventures both the hotels we use are very close to the gondola, centrally heated and have back-up generators for when the power goes off! Contact us for package details at

A guide to being a Snow Bum.....Gulmarg Style

Sandy is our friend that knows how to milk the most out of his travel time. He has tuned his skills to a fine art over the last few years. We asked him to write some blog entries for us and sort of leak some of his Gulmarg knowledge. He agreed and has written about a few of the topics he thinks are vital reading for the aspiring Himalayan snow bum........

Gulmarg and the plateau....Ski town like no where else in the world.
I’ve always wondered how people manage to do seasons. Living in a ski town just isn’t
cheap. Finding a good job that means your shred time to work ratio ain’t heavily work 
weighted, can be a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong it can be done. However, more and 
more  people are sacking off ‘reality’ for a life of meaning and fun, which means a lot of the 
good jobs are already filled for the following season. Therefore, you’ve got to be cheeky 
and perhaps look for somewhere a little unique and essentially cheaper. Alternatively, you 
could become an investment banker, work for a few years and then take a couple off to 
‘reassess’ if earning wads of cash is actually fulfilling! What ever floats your boat really.

Now what if I’d told you I’ve done my last three seasons without having to do any work whilst there. Okay, I may have made some hats to sell. But all who know me, know how well my hats sell! It may have involved a bit of hard graft before getting there. It may also require living in a little less home comforts than you’d get in a Western resort. But for three months free time to shred to your heart’s content, would you complain? 

You can try to buy one of these from Sandy.
You'd best be around for the whole season if place an order!
Where is this shred heaven, well only India. Eh, India? You read it right. Look at a map of the Himalaya and you’ll notice they tail off in Kashmir, the most Northern State of India. They’ve got a gondy and they get snow. Oh man do they get snow! 

India is notorious for it’s cheapness on the backpacker circuit. So you’d expect a shred season to follow suit. Well, in all honesty, it’s not quite the case. You can definitely spend money in Gulmarg, just like any other ski town. You can stay in the swankier hotels, go bloody heli-skiing(!), drink the $5 beers everyday and get old men to pull you around on sledges. (Seriously, you could!)This is all good and well if you’re only there for a couple of weeks or even a month. But I’m not talking about that holiday type jazz. I’m talking about the long-haul. The be there at the beginning of the season, dodging the hidden rocks and getting to know the other 30 people who share your love for the white stuff. Right through to the Spring storms, where you’re blasting slashes, wind lips, cornices, steeps and still finding deep, deep love with the other 5, by now amazing, people who are just that little bit keener than the rest.

Are these the 5 who are keener than the rest?
(photographer included)
But how do you go about making that 3 month powder dream a reality, in Gulmarg? Well 
I’ve got a few hints and tips to try and make life a bit easier. I suppose the first thing I’d say is if you’re a bit high maintenance don’t bother! By all means come to Gulmarg on an 
adventurous shred holiday and live it up. This advice is for the people like me. The ones 
that work a hard job and spend all their waking moments trying to sort out what is the most 
important bit of gear they should be buying next. The one’s that can face waking up in the 
morning and seeing their breath mist up in front of them. The one’s that might not mind 
cracking the ice off the toilet or showering from a bucket.The one’s that might just be a 
little bit feral!

If this sounds like you and wearing a beanie that proclaims your love for snow would be standard then stay tuned!

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 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.

Post Storm Explorations

All of a sudden BAM goes Gulmarg; an explosion of technicolour outerwear, big groups and queues. It must be February.
The Gondola queue at Kongdoori is inside this year!

 The end of the storm sees about 200 people lined up for opening day. It’s a mad dash, to cash in, on the powder stash. What took well over ten days to track out in January is now done a few. This is when a good knowledge of the mountain will see you reap the best rewards. My tip, if you are new to the place, is get a good guide! For me it is all about exploration.

The typical sunny morning view from Sandys breakfast table
 I finally got some binoculars this year. I also have a prime breakfast view of the entire mountain. I combine these two things and pick out spots, usually on the rocky out crops, which still have no lines. It’s then off out, to pick our way, into the lines and leave the only tracks on that face. Guess what? They’re still there! It pays to spend the busy times exploring new lines. I’ve opened up a few spots this year that, after the next snowfall, I know are highly unlikely to be ridden and I’ve got more to explore.

The other option is to skin. Probably one of the best days I’ve had this year was in variable snow conditions. We set off to the top, went round the back of Shark’s Fin, to a zone called Great White. There the three of us were the first off the top, a nice 45 degree pitch. Good snow into a bit of crust but fresh lines. Then it was a little scoot and a short scramble into the doggy chutes.
 Named because the best way to access them is from behind! Again the snow looked hard and sun- crusted but after a couple of jump turns it softened up nicely. First three down there too! A second skin saw us back onto the Apherwat ridge and one final 1000m run for the day. The top quarter was sub- par but you persevere and are rewarded with an epic fall line tree run. Then a bouncy and fun natural border cross run to the gondola.
The fun thing about Gulmarg is most of the time you will not know if a spot has a name yet!
Sandy and crew put some lines in "the Doggy Chutes"
 That last run was 9 days since our last snowfall. Gulmarg is such a wonderful place because even as busy as it is and with a long period of no snow, one can still find the goods. The best thing about pushing further out is that you keep discovering new zones. From that one day I’ve got two new projects for future exploration. This place never ceases to amaze me. My third season and I’ve found even more new places and I haven’t even been in a helicopter!

Hunter Gatherers

 N.B. This is a blog from about three weeks ago. It started snowing as I was writing it, and low and behold, I got side tracked and have just got back to the computer. 

The last week has seen a hunter gatherer approach being applied to my riding, by observing the mountain, talking to friends and a little natural instinct helped me to locate the position of the best powder stashes. Then it was on with the skins and out to stalk my prey.

 By no means am I a skilled split-boarder, so the numerous switchbacks, on one expedition, saw a less than stealthy tracker fumble up the slope. But that’s part of the fun for me, learning new skills to help me access the bigger trophies. Luckily, my bumbling efforts that day didn’t alert our objective and the back of the beast was satisfactorily slashed. One run, no lift, new skills attempted what a great day in Gulmarg.

The view from Monkey Hill under a clear full moon
 Another time we went out night stalking, under the full moon, on monkey hill. It was, for me, part homage to the founder of Di5, for everyone else something fun. Having dodged the poop chute boot pack we enjoyed late night refreshments. Once the amateur gymnastics show had finished up top, we rode down under a mixture of torch and moon light. At the bottom uncontrollable fits of laughter were a sign of a great adventure!

 Then the snow started to fall, and fall, and fall. Three days producing well over 1.5m of light fluffy good times. A much loved top up that whetted everyone’s appetite for the mountain to open again soon. While we waited patiently we built hit runs that got buried, put in skin tracks that got filled and watched the people arrive, with a look of awe, at the mass of snow that was falling.

Sandy has been busy at the keyboard over the last few days, here are his latest adventures:


worth the wait?

The beautiful thing about the early season is that you can have a leisurely breakfast, a gentle stroll to the gondola and still be 6th in line! Our numbers swelled close to 15 as the anticipation for the fresh, deep, powdery goodness increased exponentially, with every minute passed. After 2 hours we were positively frothing for our fix. A little bit of argy-bargy and eventually I was cocooned into my bubble on my way up to find ‘paradise on earth’. Using my time in the Gondola to spot the natural avalanches that had ripped out the nasty depth hoar, which is one of the snow-packs potential future weaknesses. Soon enough though, I was, once again, standing at the top of a massive, open bowl ready to satiate my desire for snow and I set off with a child like enthusiasm.

Bombing down the first pitch the snow was billowing up around me and my cheers were well heard. Having only 5 people ahead of me, I knew, I had an exceptional opportunity to lay down a line without having to cross another. However, as I pulled around the first ridge, the slope angle decreased and I became aware that I wasn’t floating like an angel anymore. My board was sinking and I was firing out all my skills to stop my nose getting completely buried. I came very close to swimming like the days before, yet, this was like being dropped in the ocean and told to swim for a shore you cannot see! Luckily a lot of back leg pumping and being able to jump on a skier’s track saved me from drowning. Back at the bottom there were a lot of bemused grins. Everyone had been surprised by the snow, which was so deep and unsettled that, while exceedingly fun, was harder work than expected. A quick set back of the stance made the next run better. Then the rest of the day was amazing after you realized that you had to jump into other people’s tracks, build up sufficient speed, then pop off into the next untracked field of fun you find.

The next few days saw the snow settle and things speed up. Once again everyone was treated to line after line of freshies. We were running over 2000m of vertical into the Drang valley with barely another Westerner in site. Skinning out through local villages, where the pace of life was far removed from what you experience in Gulmarg. Old favourite runs were being whipped, new routes opened and transceiver skills honed. The mountain was a like a fruit tree, rich with plump juicy morsels of goodness, ripe for the picking. As a high pressure band saw a big swing in day and night temperatures complemented by the wind scouring some aspects, you soon had to re-evaluate your days to allow you to access the goods.

The first transmissions of 2013

Our close friend and reliable back country partner Sandy Norval has been on the ground in Gulmarg for about a month. Sandy is great for calling it as he see's it and is not bad at stringing a sentence together, hence we were stoked when he offered to write a few blog updates for us. Read below for the first of his updates from Kashmir......

This is Sandy
This is the view from the lounge at
New Mount View where Sandy wrote his Uodate

Sandy's Words:

It’s been almost a month now and I have a few stories to report. First day, first week, first gondola, first line, four turns in I EXPLODED in the powder, executing the perfect cartwheel to head then back to feet. Laughing to myself I charged on loving every second of being back on Mt Apherwat. The next week saw one snow shower but with so few people in Gulmarg there were a ridiculous amount of lines to be had. The cold temps and the sparse population of riders meant it was only the rocks that were causing any agro! A typical snowpack was shaping up to cause a few worries so we were hoping for a big storm.

When it came we weren’t disappointed. 36 hours of no power but in return we got a 1m of snow. Several outings were attempted during the storm, which was a lot more ‘swimming in powder’ than ‘carving fine lines’. There was a 2 hour wait and endless cups of tea, hanging around for the road to get opened, after we took a ride to Tangmarg. Closed due to the massive amount of snow, naturally avalanching, over the road back up to Gulmarg, helped along by the snow clearing team, which had managed to get one of their industrial snow blowers stuck! I was lucky enough to get to ride back up with the driver of said machine. He happily showed me pictures of his shabby driving on his cell phone and laughed away my polite inference that our being stuck in Tangmarg was directly his fault. Overall, another day where one run is more than enough to test more than just your riding abilities.

Once the ridiculous amount of snow had settled and there was still too much to do, to get the upper phase of the gondola going, it was time to take it to the trees. I’ve never seen enough snow in the middle of January to drop down to Babereshi but this early season bounty made everything possible. With a loaded sumo jeep, we got to the drop off and 8 very excited powder hounds advanced down the first pitch. The face shots and bearing of teeth, from smiling, made everyone look even more like salivating rabid animals. By the end of the second pitch, the panting beasts that we’d become, had time to recoup and take on our more normal appearance, as we waited for the taxi to run us back up However, we all had the boundless puppy dog energy to go chase that stick some more. Our second run was another peachy affair. Taken at a slightly less hedonistic pace we identified some fun little drops and log rides. With a whooping and a hollering we made ourselves ever present. All good practice for the gong-show that can be opening day of phase two after a storm.