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.

Another option..

Some folks out there are appalled at the idea of trading in their normal board for a split. The idea that a board that is cut in half can perform as well as a solid board just does not make sense, to some. Luckily there are some alternatives. Like these
MTN Approach: Keep It Together from Snowboarder Magazine on Vimeo.
I can think of many times where I would use this system instead of a splitboard. Just another option.

Are your "Shreddy"

Day by day the season is getting closer. It is at this time of year I start looking at photographs of lines that I want to ride and compile my my mental wish list. I also start thinking about how my body is going to deal with the fatigue of riding everyday for a few months and also perform to a level that satiates the brain. Here are a few videos that outline some exercise to get you "Shreddy"

Jussi Oksanen shows some of his training techniques

Finally, my favourite pro rider at the moment. Eric Jackson

This what it is like:

We have just uploaded to youtube the video "Di5 Presents" which was shot in Gulmarg in 2011

It is a bit of an opus, but one that I feel gives people a good impression of what to expect from a typical trip to Gulmarg. Don't forget to watch it full screen.

If this video has got you stoked and you want to go shredding at Gulmarg, check out our trips for 2013
Get in contact for more info and bookings.

a few firsts

Well Here is my first post on our blog.

It coincides with our first Youtube video. This was a great day heading towards Khilanmarg from G4. Sandy, Bret and Myself had to wait out some weather, before we could continue to the spot we had planned on riding. The windy, cold wait was worth it, as the weather broke to reveal blue skies and fast moving clouds. We found this spot to drop and were rewarded with great turns and amazing possibilites.
The view from the bottom inspired us to nickname this zone "Wonderland"

Click to Enlarge^^^