Days 7, 8, & 9 of skiing in Gulmarg - The Unseen Days
The last post was for Friday, February 3rd, day 6 and it told of the coming of a much anticipated storm. Saturday, day 7 really brought the storm. All lift operations in the ski area were closed, as they would have been anywhere. No problem. I went out with our guides Sam Dunlop and Mark Brown for a short tour on Monkey Hill. Unfortunately, Eric was sick that day so he wasn’t able to join us. That wasn’t much of a loss for him because the skiing wasn’t really much to write home about (note that I’m writing this from home, not to home so everything remains OK) and I didn’t bother to take any photos of the excursion. We just toured through some open evergreen forests, which was very pleasant to be in, but not particularly photogenic.
Monkey Hill is the prominent lump of trees seen in the center of the shot at the south edge of the Gulmarg plateau in this photo taken a few days later
The standard thing to do is to skin up the hill and then ski down the north side, which is facing away from us in that north-looking photo. The standard is standard because A) it conveniently takes you down to the road that goes around the perimeter of the plateau for an easy trip back, and B) it’s north facing. Because of all the people that had already hit the standard routes over the past day or so we chose to descend the less commonly skied south side. We skied through the trees you can see in the photo down to the small valley at the foot of the hill and then skinned back up to the plateau.
I’d been fighting some kind of "Delhi belly"ish stomach thing for the prior couple of days and on Sunday, day 8, it finally got the better of me and just laid me out for the day.
A little Sunday evening cipro did wonders for my outlook (though it did not actually cure me; I’ve continued to feel the slowly slowly tapering effects of that illness for about a month) and I was ready to hit the slopes on Monday, the bright clear day right after the storm:
But were those slopes ready for me? In a word, "no".
And now we come to the heart of the matter, the nut, the crux, the Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop: a standoff between the ski patrol responsible for the safety of the ski area and the Indian army who hold all the explosives required for proper avalanche control. The details of this melodrama are outlined in the "Military Explosives Injunction 2012", which is somewhat of an open letter written by the Gulmarg Ski Patrol and is available in PDF form from the link on this page:
It’s just a short letter so I highly encourage you to give it a read because it gives a real insight as to why skiing in Gulmarg involves so much more than just mountains and lifts and snow and how it’s not like skiing anywhere else I know of.
At the risk of destroying whatever narrative mystery there may be in these posts I’ll tell you right now that the explosives standoff continued for days and Phase 2 of the Gondola never opened for the entire second week of our trip.
So that was the news for Monday, day 9. We made the best of the situation by turning around 180° from where that photo was taken and skiing the trees on the low rolling terrain of Phase 1. Nice powder, but again, not very photogenic.
If you're uncomfortable with the sporadic state of affairs around the limitaitons placed on the Gulmarg ski patrol to do their basic job then the way to do something about it is to complain to the right fellow in the Indian government, namely this guy:
The above message was presneted by the Gulmarg Ski Patrol at the February 7th Avalanche Awareness talk. To make it easier for you to copy and paste into things, the text above reads:
Would you come to Gulmarg next winter if Gulmarg [ski patrol] does not have explosives for avalanche control?
Nothing will change in Gulmarg unless you voi[ce your] demands to the Jammu & Kashmir Dept of T[ourism]
'Military explosives are not acceptable'
'Brian Newman ['s] plan [is]"
(That last part is a bit to cut off so I'm not sure if I got the transcription exactly right. Basically it's meant ot say that Brian Newman, the snow safety officer for Gulmarg, has worked out a modern and reasonable plan for responsibly managing explosives and they just need to be able to implement it.)
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