The sheer joie de vivre inspired by one's first successful slide down a ski slope defies description. Once limited to a privileged few, the adrenalin-producing pastime of skiing has been brought within the range of the common man now. For the purist, there is unsullied, powdery snow. For the accomplished and ego-conscious, there are punishing runs. For wobbly beginners and confident intermediates, there are easy slopes and understanding instructors who soon inspire dreams of Olympic glory.
With a first run to buoy one under the belt, there follows a succession of blissful days. Each day brings a fresh challenge to conquer and relish when you are at any skiing resort. Mastering the twists and turns and jumps of skiing, completing a longer ski run, and achieving faster speed are all part of this process. Every winter in the Indian Himalayas the slopes are warmed by the excited cries and laughter of entrants being introduced to the joys of winter sports: the magic of the wind rushing past as you whiz down a slope of skis, or the sheer pleasure of gliding gracefully, artistically cutting figures of eight in the snow.
Skiing, like any other high-altitude adventure sports in India, is a contribution of the Europeans. The summers in north India have always been unpleasant, more so for the Europeans who were mostly from the cold countries. To save themselves from this oppressive heat, they went to the Himalayas, not too far from major centers in north India. Many hill stations were established, the prominent among them being Shimla, Manali, Mussoorie, and Nainital. These places served not only as the home away from home for them but also as the center where they could participate in recreational activities like skiing and trekking. Some of these places still have the best skiing slopes in the country. Affluent Indians started participating in this sport even before independence. After independence, with the efforts of adventure sport bodies, local youths were encouraged to participate in this sport. They took to it enthusiastically and later helped in training hordes of tourists coming from other parts of the county and even abroad.
Today, skiing is quite popular in the hill stations of North India and new facilities have added up to make it more popular among the masses.
Skiing is a winter sport.
Based on difficulty, skiing can be divided into three stages: introduction, intermediate, and advanced.
This stage trains in the basics of skiing and introduces all the equipments and safety parameters.
a. Gliding Wedge
b. Wedge Turns
c. Wedge Christie
This stage leads to learning the fundamentals that help in mastering parallel skiing.
d. Advanced Wedge Christie
e. Open Parallel
f. Dynamic Parallel
This level encompasses more of coaching format to refine the skills on varied terrain and snow conditions.
g. Short Radius Turns
h. Curved Turns
All that is required for skiing is good health. To be on the safer side, you should not have any heart problem, high or low blood pressure, and should not be an expectant mother. More than anything else, it is the state of mind at the time of indulging in skiing and your challenging spirit that is tested.
Some of the basic equipments for skiing are skis, bindings, poles, ski parka and pant, stretch salopettes, thermal wear, sleeveless down jacket or woolen jersey, ski gloves and mittens, woolen cap or helmet, woolen socks, woolen scarf, ski gaiters, ski goggles or ultraviolet sunglasses, and sun protection cream.
Most of these equipments can be hired from government or private agencies.
The best time for skiing in the Indian Himalayas is December to March. This is the season when the region receives the maximum snowfall. However, since the temperature always hovers in the vicinity of 0ºC, warm clothes are required to save oneself from this extreme condition.
Auli, 16 km from Joshimath, is a popular winter resort run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) offering good skiing conditions. There are many slopes, which provide excellent opportunities for cross-country, slalom and snow-hill skiing events. GMVN has snow-beaters and other sophisticated machinery to keep the slopes fit for skiing. A ropeway from Joshimath connects Auli in 15 minutes flat, saving much time and energy of the skiers. Auli also has the distinction of celebrating the National Winter Games Championships every year in the month of February/March. You are advised to take enough warm clothing, dark glasses and heavy boots. Pithoragarh in the Kumaon hill is another site being developed as a ski resort.
Gulmarg, situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is another famous skiing resort frequented by the tourists. With the first fall of snow, the highlands are transformed into a glittering winter wonderland, the country's premier arena for action-packed skiing. Gulmarg has slopes varying between 8,700 and 10,500 feet with some of the highest ski runs in India. Meant only for beginners, Gulmarg ski lifts and chair lifts provide basic utilitarian facilities with a simple link-up. Those who enjoy the exhilaration of heights will therefore have to make their own way up. Nevertheless, what is of a particularly high quality is Gulmarg's ski-shop with professional equipments that are imported from Australia and France. Facilities are also being provided for skiing at Pahalgam and work on an institute of mountaineering and winter sports is already underway. At Gulmarg, the ski-slopes are being extended for the ambitious skiers. Heli-skiing too is being introduced.
The Shimla, Narkanda, Kullu-Manali, Chamba, Kuper and Pabber areas in Himachal Pradesh have several ski slopes, which are attracting a growing number of enterprising winter sports enthusiasts. Comfortable ski lodges, lifts, trained instructors, and ski runs to suit all levels have been provided at most of these ski resorts in the state. Serious international cognoscenti rate the runs between Solang Nallah and Pathru worth any good skier's time and money. Heli-skiing facilities are available at Hanuman Tibba, Rohtang Pass, Deo Tibba and Chanderkhani Pass near Manali.
The skiing process is quite simple but has several technicalities that go into making the learning simple. The most important part of your skiing process is the first step you are taking with your body gears on. Before that, you will need to understand the equipments for skiing and how to use them. The process includes sloping down the hill, changing directions, identifying the ski circuits, how to reduce the speed, how to stop, how to avoid collisions, how to reverse a fall, and most important, how to get up without any help.
With the experience, you can learn many things that an instructor cannot teach you in three or four sittings. Experience will also make you go up in the skill sets and be ready for more training. Your training will continue until the time you are an expert skier.
Auli and Solang Valley near Manali organizes National Winter Sports Championship in the month of February/March every year. Skiers from all over the country come to these places to participate in this challenging sport held under the auspices of the Indian Olympic Association and state bodies.
1. Decide at what level you want to participate. Look for the level of difficulty involved in the program and whether your physical fitness is up to the level of competence required.
2. Consult the doctor to determine your physical condition and take proper medical precautions as per the doctor's advice.
3. Acclimatization is an integral part to participate in any activity in Himalayas, give enough time to your body for acclimatization.
4. See that you have with you all the proper medicines and first-aid box for any emergency.
5. High-altitude sickness or high-altitude madness is a common phenomenon in the Himalayas. If you are participating in this activity for the first time, make yourself aware of the symptoms and methods to deal with it.
6. Proper guidelines about high-altitude survival and first-aid techniques should be taken.
7. Sensitivity to environment and respect for the local culture are two of the social issues that you should be acquainted with. Go away from the campsite for the morning chores. Do not attend to nature's call within a range of 300 feet from the water source. Dig a hole of 6¢¢ and cover it up after the job is done. If you are using toilet papers, remember to bury them in the ground. Do not leave anything back in the hills.