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 #3

"You need to eat to shred"

Now we are all too aware that food is fuel. You burn calories just living up at 2650m in the cold snowy mountains. You absolutely annihilate them when you spend a day shredding. Taking back on those calories must be done to allow you a full season of happy shred time! There are two places you’ll want to locate; the bakery and the fruit market. These allow you to essentially pack a lunch for the day, which is top money saver! Another tip: eat a big breakfast, which is even better if it’s free after your stellar negotiations. If you slack on brekkie and are struggling to get up in time for the bakery, you can eat up at the mid-station. Here’s another useful ditty: find an alternative to the restaurant under the gondola. While it’s brilliant for a quick cup of chai, why don’t you make the trek over to the dhabas? More intelligently ride down to them. They offer similar fair and they’ll be a bit cheaper than Kongdori. If you want to try them all go for it. However if you are there for a while I’d say pick one and get to know the staff, loyalty goes along way with the Kashmiri people.

Tangmarg Market is another good place to stock up on goods.

Once you’re done with an awesome day’s shred you’ll want to eat again. Once back to the Market side of town you’ll notice an abundance of small restaurants dotted about. These places are the heart and soul of the town. They offer simple Kashmiri fair at exceptionally good rates. My favourite is the Pandith Brothers. These guys, in my humble opinion, do the best Malai Kofta in town. Their thali is basic but so cheap and they’ll fill it up for you. Once again, like the mid-station show a bit of loyalty and these guys will look after you. Who doesn’t love sitting outside, enjoying a bit of food, watching the sun dip behind the best snow playground I’ve found so far!

Eat in little places like this one and you will
experience the real taste of Kashmir
When it comes to the last refuel before bed eating as a big group is way better, more sociable and, the key ingredient, cheaper! There are loads of hotels with restaurants attached, offering all sorts of traditional feeds. I’m not going to give away any more of my favourites, as I do need to keep some of these for myself! My last tip for this blog is take a trip to Srinagar every once in a while. Find the place called "Pick and Choose" and stock up on honey, jam, peanut butter, nutella just basically loads of stuff you’ll not get up in Gulmarg that can make life cheaper for you. I’ve got loads more tips for this but I’m not sharing them. Some things you’ll just have to figure out for yourself. Well here’s one more: talk to the other travellers. Share your experience and tips, who knows what you might learn!

You’ll have noticed that I haven’t mentioned apres with the food. Well, guess what we’ll cover next time! However, to get all the know-how and insider goods book a trip with us instead. We’ll keep you fed and in the loop;

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!