Winter Sports ::
Kashmir is one of the provinces of the northern most state of India, the other two being Jammu and Ladakh. Kashmir is the central most region, largely formed of low lying plains surrounded by some amazing mountains. The valleys astounding beauty have long been attracting tourists and in large numbers. Mountains, hills, lakes and gardens constitute the beauty and elegance about it. With many of the favorite tourist hot spots untouched and un sophisticated Kashmir promises an exciting and adventurous vacations. The winter sports, far and wide popular in the valley, include Skiing, Heli Skiing, Ice Skating and Snow Boarding.
Skiing at Gulmarg
Gulmarg is one of the best ski resorts of Himalayas. The slopes here are of international standards and due to this reason alone skiers from all over the world flock in the winters. Much to the surprise the first National Winter Games were held at Gulmarg, in the year 1998. Khilanmarg, one more skiing resort in the valley, complements the popular one. The ski resort at Gulmarg was established back in 1927 by two army officers and since then things have been coming to surface. The resort is one of the highest lift served ski resort in India. The approximate 2.5 kms slope run with soft powdery surface fuels up the acceleration and the excitement.
Now we mean business when we say that Kashmir is the only place that offers the extreme sport heli skiing in India. In fact it is the second destination in the world, after Canada, that gives you this unique experience. Heli skiing gives you an opportunity to be lifted by a chopper/helicopter and dropped on an inaccessible summit. All that follows is the thrill of sliding down the slope. It is one extreme sport and requires a great skill and experience.
Winters in Kashmir are exhilarating as the temperature drops to zero and below zero degrees. Lakes and pools transform into mere sheets of ice and with your skates on nobody is going to tell you what to do. Ice skating is one more popular adventure sport hosted in the valley. Ice skating rinks are set up at many places and tourists from all over places assemble to participate in the competitions and sometimes for fun. Gulamarg and Pahalgam are two popular destinations for ice skating.
Snow boarding, like skiing can be best enjoyed at Gulamarg and Khilan Marg. The slopes are excellent, weather is fine and facilities are available. The tourists however need to bring their snow boards with them.
There are good reason for the tourists and sports lovers to come to Kashmir. First and foremost the slopes and summits are the best in the country and among the best in the world. Second that inevitably secures the choice is the expenditure. In Europe and North America one has to spend handsome and hefty amounts for going for such activities. At Kashmir they get it all at an affordable and much cheaper price compared to places already mentioned.
How to Reach Kashmir
Srinagar is the summer capital of Kashmir and the base station to reach the adventure places in Kashmir. The city is better accessible by roads and airways. Road, rail and airway services are available from the national capital Delhi, railways services available up to Jammu some 300 kms away. Srinagar is about 700 kms far from the national capital and it takes a maximum of 24 hours by road and 1 hour in a flight.
Where to Stay at Kashmir
At popular resorts stand established hotels and tourist huts. Accomodation is quite affordable and services are al right. Tourist Huts are more splendid and it is a great experience to stay at one of these. Fire places and heating arrangements are provided.
Kashmir offers a unique opportunity to play golf all through the summer - from April to November - in invigorating surroundings where the wind whispers through trees of chinar and pine.
In the verdant golf courses at Srinagar and Gulmarg, you will be able to play for longer hours than you can in the plains because of the lower temperatures - Srinagar's highest temperature never goes above 30 deg. C. Srinagar has an 18 hole golf course with common fairways, and a par of 70. The course at Gulmarg is like nothing you have ever seen or imagined before. Situated at an incredibly high altitude of 3730 metres above sea level, it is the highest green golf course anywhere in the world. The layout of the course too is strikingly different from most golf courses - hardly any stretch is flat - the land slopes and inclines along the complete area of the course which has a par of 72.
Mere words cannot convey awesome majesty of the Himalayas. Their splendor sweeps over the north eastern part of the subcontinent, and as the highest, newest mountain range on earth, scaling a Himalayan peak is the dream of many a mountaineers in the world.
In Kashmir alone, there is a unique diversity of ranges within the Himalayas those in the Zanskar area having the highest peaks, Ladakh area, the Kishtwar area and the Kashmir area offer unlimited possibilities and challenges.
So what do you do once you have decided to go on a mountain climbing expedition in Kashmir.
First, the Survey of India has a list of peaks in areas open for climbing, that is to say, a peak within the security line of the country's borders. The list also contains unnamed peaks and those attempted several times over, unsuccessful. Rimo in the Karakoram range is one such. The height of each peak, and its geographical location is marked. Once you have decided on a peak, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Benito Juarez Road, New Delhi, will book it for you. It is vital to book your peak as far in advance as possible; even two years ahead may be too late, and the climbing season is April to October. Should your peak be booked completely during the year that you wish to climb, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation will supply information about another peak roughly similar to one you have planed on. Booking a peak is important because the same month is not allotted to more than one expedition. Booking of a peak is finalized upon payment of a fee which ranges from US 400 - 2000 depending on the height and location. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation also helps expeditions in obtaining clearance from the Government of India to this end, an application from is to be available with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has to be filled in, as no foreign individual or foreign expedition is allowed to climb any mountain peak in India without prior permission of Government of India. Next you will want a survey/topographical/route map of the peak. These are available with Survey of India in Dehru Dun, U.P
Kashmir has been rightly called angler's paradise,with a network of rivers and streams as well as hhigh altitude lakes all abounding in trout both brown and rainbow.Trout fishing in Kashmir is far,far cheaper than it is in ant other part of the world.And most importantly,the Department of Fisheries,which controls angling in the valley,works hard to ensure that there is no depletion of stock by indiscriminate fishing whcih means that you can revel in angling in ideal conditions.
Kashmir' fabled natural beauty needs no introduction here.Crisscrossing the state are the well-known Sind and Lidder rivers,their tributaries and a silvery network of smaller rivers and streams.The geographical variation along the course of each river is immense,affording endless possibilities for the angler.Nearer the source of each river,the gradient is steeper and the waters faster flowing.The landscape is generally hilly,with dark brooding pines towering all round.As the river runs its course,the gradient evens out and the flow of water loses its torrential force.You are now in open countryside where the horizon is wide and sweeping and where trees are willow poplar and walnut. Do not be deceived into thinking that fishing in Kashmir is the somewhat somnolent sport that it is elsewhere for the trout is a crafty fish and you will have to practise all your skill to get him to bite. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times for fishing and in these quiet hours,the illusion that the world is yours will be heightened.If using one type of fly does not meet with success,you will have to experiment with another type.And cast and recast repeatedly.To increase your chances of sucess you might like to shift to another spot after all,your permit allows you to wish at any point in one beat which measures two kilometres.And it ensures that nobody else is allowed the use of that beat for the days alloted to you.But in case you need information or assistance you are not alone.Our beat guards-there are two per beat-are familiar with the habits of the fish and are there to advise you,should you wish. Rivers and streams are divided into approximately 100 beats,most of which are within a two hour drive from Srinagar.Most beats have nearby a Department of Fisheries or a J & K Tourism hut,at which you can stay overnight.You require a permit to fish and not more than one permit is given on any beat.One permit allows you to catch six fish.And as experience has shown reels and flies are all that are needed.Spoons and spinners are not allowed. Six days a week permits are issued only to tourists.Residents of Kashmir are allowed to fish only on sundays.And to ensure that nature's bounty remains plentiful always,the Department of Fisheries has collaborated with a danish firm for large scale trout breeding.This ambitious project at Kokernag will eventually result in the induction of fish into the streams;meanwhile it is being used for the supply of table fish. If you are more adventurous,you can fish in one of many high altitude lakes(14,000 ft.above sea level)which are reached by a trek.One trek in particular starts from Sonamrg and goes on to Vishansar,Kishansar,Satsar,Gadsar and Gangabal all alpine lakes.The trek alone takes eight days-you will need a tent, waterproof coat,ground sheet,trekking boots and provisions for as many days as you intend to trek as no food is available on the way.But you will be rewarded by the spectacularly lovely lakes,each wiyh their own character cradled by snow clad mountains.When their surface is frozen over during the winter,the fish(mainly brown trout) keep close to the bottom of the lake,rising nearer the surface as the ice melts. In these lakes,the use of spoons and spinners is allowed. The trekking season is from July to October while the fishing season extends from March to October.
At the Tourist Reception Centre,Srinagar is the fishing counter.Inforamtion on equipment,location of beats,transport and nearby accommodation can be had here.Also in the Tourist Reception Centre on the first floor is the department of Fisheries.Permits are to be obtained from here on payment of a small fee and as most of the officials are keen anglers themselves,you can get the most detailed information from them.Accomodation for overnight stay too can be booked from here.Should you require a rod,reel or flies,there are shops in Srinagar where these can be had on hire and the Department of Fisheries will be happy to give you their name and addresses
Water Rafting / Water Skiing ::
Kashmir's two major natural advantages are its mountains on the one hand, and lakes and rivers on the other. These waterways enhance the beauty of the land and are one of the chief sources that attract tourists to its verdant valleys. But more than just a means of pleasure, the water-ways are an activity oriented way of discovering new lei-sure sports.
To those of you who are by nature passive, there is little more needed than a wining nod to a passing shikara-wala before you are invited on board these narrow boats with their sprung-cushion seats and chintz curtains. You can command a shikara on the Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar for just a crossing, or for a whole day, and dis-cover the tranquillity of being gently oared over water from one scenic spot to another. You can also stretch your time limit by actually staving aboard a houseboat so you wake to the sound of soft waves lapping beside your bedroom window.
A variation on this can be the hiring of a motor boat so you travel faster over water. Or better still, when the summer days are balmy, go water skiing. Interested en-thusiasts can use the facilities of the Watersports Institute at Nagin Lake.
The Jhelum river has remained the lifeline of Srinagar, and there are people who live on the river in boats, called doongas. These water-people claim to be descendants of Noah. If you hire a slow boat from them, you can actually visit old parts of Srinagar where, because of narrow, wind-ing roads, access by taxi is almost impossible. The advan-tage of going by boat is that you get to see numerous old mosques and temples, as well as attractive houses, that line the banks hut cannot be viewed or photographed from land. Constructed of wood, and with carved and latticed balconies and verandahs, they are well maintained and preserve the ancient heritage of Srinagar.
As you float past the houseboats moored along the river front, you also have the opportunity to observe the life of the people of Kashmir. In succession, the numerous bridges spanning the Jhelum pass by (and at places are ferry services for local travel). Srinagar city is located by the banks between Zero Bridge and Chattabal where a meir controls the water level on this stretch. A small lock on the west bank allows the movement of boats up or down stream. Once past Chattabal, the river changes character as it widens and meanders past visages in the valley. The river flows into the giant Wular Lake but the journey is best terminated at Manasbal Lake.
The advantage of cruising by a low powered boat over a shikara or a doonga is that a river-trip from Anantnag to Manasbal is considerably shortened over its three days, that photography is more convenient, and that mooring at the place of your choice is not restricted.
The two rivers, Indus and Lidder, are essentially mountain streams and are suitable for white water rafting on some stretches. The Indus in Ladakh, in particular. has three portions that are ideal for this sport Due to a low volume of water and a wide river bed, it can be navigated only in pares. Options offered are a half day run for amateurs from Phey to Niemo, or a two day exciting run from Phey to Alchi (day one) and Nurla (day two) with a choice of going further to Khalsi. The Zanskar River, also in Ladakh, can offer professionals six days on rapids that begin at Padum and And through the picturesque Zanskar valley. The best season is August-September.
Similarly, the Lidder near Pahalgam has two short stretches suitable for white water rafting, specially for day trips. As the gradients are not steep, they are excellent for first-timers being introduced to this enthusing sport.
Kashmir has many lakes - Dal, Nagin, Mansbal and Wular. These are excellent spots for rowing - whether it is a shikara or a racing skull. No OIIC has tried canoe-ing in these lakes so far. These lakes are inter-connect-ed as also the river Jhelum which flows through the entire length of the valley and connects with all the lakes. An interesting sport is what is locally called 'Water Trekking'. One can have a three to four day trip along the river to various lakes in a shikara with all the camping gear. There are lovely spots to camp for the night.
The lakes are also famous for water skiing. The Ski School of Gulmarg organises ten day water ski courses in Dal and Nagin lakes during the summer months. The courses include boarding and lodging facilities.
As you pick up more courage you can venture into the white waters. Rafting is a very recent sport in Kashmir. Indus, the river which gave India its name, offers two to three day host stretches for rafting in the vicinity of Len. However the most challenging and enjoyable ride is on Zanskar: a five day trip from Pa-dam to its confluence with Indus at Nimu. One has to pass through a narrow gorge where only a streak of sky is visible for as long as two days. The Zanskar ride can be combined with a week long trek from Manali to Pa-dam.
White water canoeing has extensive possibilities. Lidder, Sindh, Drass, Suru, Indus, Zanskar, Chenab and for the less adventurous, even the Jhelum river can present interesting trips. The time to raft is either in May/June or in September/October. Equipment is available with some local agents.
No one has yet tried diving in the lakes. It would be fun to discover the legendary city which is believed to lie at the bottom of Wular Lake. It is also said that Manasbal lake has no bottom. The high altitude lakes of Tarsar, Marsar, Kaunsarnag, Kishensar, Vishensar and Gangabal could also be interesting for canoeing, a sport that has still to catch on.
To experience the magnificence of the Himalayas, there is no better more enthralling a way than by trekking through this rugged, awesomely beautiful terrain. The sheer diversity of trekking country in Kashmir is unparalleled, and all mountaineering equipments readily available for hire from the Tourist Reception Center at Srinagar.
A popular and easy trek is from Phalgham to Kolohai Glacier, with a duration of 3 days, reaching a maximum altitude of 3795 meters. The route is Aru and Lidderwat, and the trek can be extended to the Sindh Valley, by crossing the Yemhar Pass.
A challenging trek of a week's duration is from Sonamargh to Gangabal Lake, reaching a maximum altitude of 4081 meters. The route is via Nichinai, the beautiful lakes of Vishansar and Kishansar, Gadsar and Satsar. Two varieties of this trek are Sonmargh to Kishansar and back and Wangat to Gangabal (a distance of 16 Km).
Trekkers can also take the trail on pony back , along meandering pathways, through meadowlands abloom with wild flowers into forests of fragrant pine.