Friday, 15 January 2010

First clients for Sunstone at Gulmarg Ski Resort, Kashmir for 2010

A good pick up from the airport in the lush ‘scorpio’ with super driver Manzoor at the helm and we scooped team Sissons - father and son duo who were venturing not just to India for their first time but Kashmir. After a quick stop to Dal Gate to pick up a few boxes of Kingfisher Premium beer and some cash from the ATM we headed o Gulmarg passing the villages with classic driving antics that were certainly an eye-opener for the newly initiated! We checked the boys into Sahara Hotel and ordered a feast of full tandori chicken, sheesh kebabs, tomato paneer, rice, chapatis and washed down with traditional Kawa and sharing a cheeky beer to finish.

We headed over to Gulmarg Powder Guides to sort out rental skis, poles, transceivers, probes and shovels from the ever helpful Rashid. Dark was upon us and an atmospheric power cut ushered the boys back from the market to the legendary cosy Bakshi’s restaurant for a pre-brief of Gulmarg Ski Resort and a look at the trail map that was on the sunstone laptop. A few beers later and Terry was off to hit the hay having travelled from Wellington in New Zealand, Sam and I old school friends, of course had a few more beers as we chatted with a few of the local westerners who were here for the season – Roland, Kerry, Toby, Cindy and Kat. It was soon bed time and great to have the first clients arrive with no delays or hiccups – sweet as!

Day 1of skiing and I picked up the guys from Sahara meeting Mustaq, our Kashmiri ski guide and legend ski racer having won the Gulmarg top-to- bottom ski race in 2009. What a time he nailed it in – 6 minutes 26 seconds from top of the Gomdola (3950m) down to Pine Palace Hotel (2600m) in variable conditions to win the race and be crowned ski champion of Gulmarg! We walked the 15 minutes to the gondola and headed up to ‘Kongdoor’ mid station to get the guys briefed on avalanche safety and have a practice with the avalanche transceivers finding a buried transceiver and practicing with our shovels and probes. All went well with the guys getting the hang of it very quickly and Sam even finding a transceiver on our last practice in 29 seconds – a superb effort.

It was time to head up the gondola and have a run down the main bowl. Mustaq & Terry hit the chopped up powder while Sam and I carved turns on the chalky gun barrel carving and getting some nice pockets of windblown. A quick rest and up for another ski on the top ridgeline skiers right, with Mustaq & Sam heading down to hit the sheltered, deeper snow in Mary’s shoulder and Terry and I hitting the lovely wind lip in half bowl. We had some lush pow turns, as not too many people had been down there, particularly because it runs out of snow and the option skiers left is bush waking but we headed down a small steep colouir and out right bush waking into bowl 2 which led us to the traverse around to the teahouse to meet the guys for lunch in the sun! The Kiwi boys got stuck into Chicken Biriyani, Chicken curry and parathas washed down with Kashmiri Kawa. We cruised down the 1st phase in the lovely forest and cruised back to Sahara Hotel. A great day to ease the boys in. In a few days once they’ve acclimatised we’ll grab the fatter skis with Alpine Touring bindings set-up & skins and head out for some adventuring into the backcountry – good times!

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