In the days to come, social distancing is inevitably going to be the defining factor when it comes to taking vacations, and snow-covered slopes offer just that. With just a few months to go before skiing season opens up across India, we look at why this travel trend might be the excuse we’ve all been waiting for to pack our bags and head on an adventure. By Ananya Bahl

 

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With international borders closed, it seems like the time is ripe for India’s snow-laden slopes to get their due. For far too long, the charms of Switzerland, Canada, Austria, New Zealand, and the US have drawn skiing enthusiasts and intrepid travellers from across the country. While India’s mountains are much-loved by locals, skiing is still not the major draw on their lofty agendas. Most of us would instead choose to head to the mountains to go trekking, camping or glamping, enjoy romantic vacations, partake in the eco-tourism wave, or even pick apples. Skiing would hardly show up on anyone’s itinerary. And now, we think that this is all set to change.

In the next few months, two things seem almost certain. First, that international travel is unlikely, making travellers focus inwards, literally and figuratively. And, second, winter is coming. India’s mighty mountains will boast sparkly sheets of snow during the cold months and with it, enthralling skiing opportunities. In today’s new normal, skiing has an added advantage and in that social distancing is an essential facet of the sport. Add to this the fact that you will be breathing fresh mountain air, albeit through a mask, and it definitely seems like an enticing holiday idea.

 

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India hasn’t opened up fully to extreme adventure skiing and that is actually an advantage for the country’s local tourists. The general populace hasn’t been exposed to the sport and so there are a bunch of amateur and novice skiers in search of slopes that aren’t threatening and intimidating. This is where almost all of India’s skiing destinations fit in: whether you’re a beginner or an authority when it comes to this outdoorsy activity, there’s a slope for each level of difficulty. From short tutorials and hour-long adventures to agile strides down precarious slopes, there’s a bouquet of experiences to choose from. Luxe resorts and cosy boutique properties abound in hill stations across India, so indulgent rest and relaxation can follow after intrepid expeditions.

Where to head for a tryst with the snow-covered slopes in India?

Enjoy mesmerising views of Nanda Devi, Kamet, and Dunagiri in Uttarakhand’s Auli, one of India’s premier ski resorts. It is perfect for beginners and also hosts annual championships. A full-fledged snowy getaway is on the cards here as it also boasts a long cable car ride and skiing institute.

 

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Another fan favourite, Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir is nothing short of heaven. Picturesque off-piste (away from the usual ski runs) trails guided by some of the world’s best ski instructors, avalanche mitigation services, and other activities like snowboarding are some of the region’s offerings. The region around the Gulmarg Gondola is spectacular and attracts professional skiers from all over the globe.

About 15 kilometres from Shimla lies another ski paradise, Kufri in Himachal Pradesh. It is a great place to whizz around on snowy slopes. Most tourists visit it to play around in the snow. As a skiing destination, it offers a thick and sturdy snow cover that’s best visited from December to February. There are ample vendors providing skiing equipment, gear, and guides in Kufri.

 

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Another popular hill station – Manali – offers two spots for skiing: the Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass. The former promises adventurous escapades to more serious skiers while the latter is more of a recreational zone. As a premier vacationing spot, Manali invites visitors to make their holidays more about skiing than the usual run-off-the-mill hill station attractions.

In the northeast Indian state of Sikkim, Yumthang Valley is a snowy getaway that’s off the radar. It’s tougher to get here as compared to the other destinations, so you know that most skiers mean business when they arrive. The best time to visit this region is from late-November to early-March.

 

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When is the best time to visit these destinations?

With climate change causing seasons to vary in their arrivals and departures, it is best to cross-check this at the time of booking. As a general rule of thumb, mid-December to early-March is a good time frame. January usually has the strongest and most sturdy blanket of snow in most places.

As with any sport, it’s important to ensure you have all the necessary medical pre-checks in place. Always book through a trusted and licensed vendor. This makes it easier to claim insurance and rescue services through legitimate and timely means if need be. You needn’t be a professional to enjoy this sport. Each of these destinations offers absolute beginner-level guidance and that in itself will be an adventure.

Travellers who are apprehensive about teeming crowds couldn’t choose a better reason than skiing for a vacation even if they tried really hard to. Not only will you be contributing to the growth of an up-and-coming industry in India but also make a thoroughly enjoyable trip of it. Now, that’s a win-win situation in our books!

Related: Here Are 5 Handpicked Itineraries For Your Next Holiday In India