There are simpler ways to acquire lifelong injuries than skiing but few are as exhilarating. I think the terms ACL tear and orthopaedic were only possibly coined a few years after the first few ski slopes had been set up and people had hurtled down them at blistering speeds while trying to stay upright on what were basically two planks of wood.
At some point in your life, you will feel the need to do this and rather than try to explain it away, here is me encouraging you to do it; it’s way cheaper than a frontal lobotomy and all that snow and cold acts like a natural anaesthetic.
Rest after skiing
- While the skiing season begins in January and ends on March 31 by most accounts, many well-known hotels are booked all the way till April. If you are looking to stay in Gulmarg, here are some options: Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Highland Park, Nedou’s Hotel, Shaw Inn, The Rosewood Hotel, Grand Mumtaz, Kolahoi Green Heights, Khaleel Palace and Pine Palace.
Book the ski instructor in advance: While reserving your stay and transfers, definitely book the ski gear and instructor too. Trying to haggle one into submission right on the slopes is the piste version of trying to score in the rock concert mosh pit.
Wax your skis: Well, you won’t do it yourself but make sure they do. It’s either that or wondering why your skis are flagrantly defying gravity, staying put and refusing to slide downhill.
Pack your stash: Alcohol in Gulmarg is rarer than a warm sunny day so BYO it. The two bars in the village are too far a trek for an evening, especially after a day of skiing, and it’s not entirely fun wondering along the way whether the fall that cracks your skull will be on account of the drunkenness or that very slippery icy stretch of 2 kms. Add to this stash, some knee and ankle braces or other supports, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines too.
Carry a backpack for slope supplies: This would include an insulated bottle and some snacks like energy bars; you will need them. Make sure the bag is waterproof. Make surer that you look seriously back-country-level pro thanks to it.
Slang: Pow, powder, carve, shred, rip, gnar… learn these words and punctuate your evening banter with them. Keep switching it up for variety. There is little by way of entertainment once you are done skiing for the day.
Porters: You will need one, inhumane and feudal as it might feel. It’s either that or lug your skis everywhere (the slopes are far from most hotels) and also, if the ski lift is crowded, the same porters can help bring them back to the top as you climb up the same slope in ski boots, which is honestly more tiring than the skiing lessons bit.
Don’t expect great food: Gulmarg serves up high cuisine with the ‘high’ having nothing to do with “elevated, as in art form” but purely geographical since you are eating at 14,000ft. Maggi in all its imaginative avatars and some paranthas is pretty much standard so if you want good food, well, wait till you after you leave. Only decent food (pizzas, rolls and burgers) is at North Wind Cafe and espressos and cakes at Black Bear Brew.
Rush: Everyone wants to go to phase I and II of Gulmarg (which are the intermediate and advanced slopes) but nobody wants to tear their ACL. So spend your time on the bunny slopes honing the basics because it’s brutal up there. Your social feed will survive even if you don’t have a slo-mo shot of scanning the horizon from the top of the mountain; but attempt them without proper training, and chances are some of your joints may not.
Be a bomber: That’s slang encore. It refers to the one who blazes down hills but isn’t in control of their speed or stance. Most prone to injuries and most epic for fail videos that go viral.
Pre-game: Reserve the shots for après-ski; don’t tank up before. It’s not cool and quite dangerous. Also, alcohol is rare as I already shared; make time to savour it.
Toilets: Well, there is one somewhere but it’s too darned slippery to navigate in ski boots, like a looming lawsuit if anyone cared for human life here, or even basic amenities for that matter. So try and not drink or eat too much and if you really need to go use one, best to call it a day and head back to the hotel.
Forget to tip: Save it for the last day and remember to tip the trainer, the stall-owner on the slopes, and even the hotel staff. The locals are a nice bunch and not corrupted by the city ways. They always mean well and go out of their way to make the trip memorable.