Winter sports in the Indian Himalayas
The Himalayas are some of the highest mountains in the world and as such there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in some winter sports. The Indian Himalayas attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year and the mountain range stretches through several areas of the country including Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim.
Those who do not want to limit themselves to skiing can try ice-skating. Take a trip to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. This is a hill station which is more than 2000 meters above sea level and boasts the largest ice-skating rink in India. During the winter months there is a skating carnival which brings in many thousands of tourists and runs from December until February and which is a must if you are in the region at that time.
Close by is Kurfi which sits at more than 2600 meters above sea level. As this area gets plenty of snow there are opportunities for skiing and sledding. If you visit in February there is a grand winter sports festival which is organized by the government. Both children and adults can take part in the festival as there are plenty of competitions. The area has a range of accommodation and other leisure facilities too so is perhaps one of the best options for those who want to arrange a family holiday.
For something a little different, why not try heli-skiing? This is standard skiing but the slopes are accessed by helicopter rather than a ski lift. The aim of heli-skiing is to allow the participants to access very natural terrain rather than planned runs but it does not require hours of hiking to reach the chosen area. This type of skiing is for those who are more experienced and it is rare that this can be done without a guide. Heli-skiing is available at both Himachal Pradesh and Dev Bhumi. There is plenty of very natural skiing terrain which can be accessed this way and there are even some areas which are recommended for those who are new to skiing if using the services of a guide.
The Himalayas are synonymous with mountain climbing and ice-climbing is a winter sport for those who want to feel a real adrenaline rush. Kullu and Lahul in the Himachal Pradesh region both have facilities for this although the ice walls are not recommended for those who are new to the sport. Nanda Devi is considered to be one of the most challenging peaks in the region along with the Zanskar range so definitely not for the beginner.
India is also home to a few other winter sports that are not generally on offer anywhere else. Snow rugby, snow cycling and snow football are for those who want to try out their favorite pastimes in very different conditions than they would at home. Some of the resorts have luge runs, although in India it is referred to as ‘Reri’ and is quickly becoming a very popular alternative to skiing and sledding.
One of the top skiing resorts in India is Gulmarg in Kashmir. This is a resort which can rival many of those found in the Alps and which sits more than 2700 meters above sea level. There are plenty of facilities such as a school and a range of accommodation options so no matter what your level of experience, there is something here for you. Alternatively you can head for Auli in the Uttaranchal region or the Manali region where you can ski at any time of the year although in the summer the slopes available are limited.
Reaching India is easy with several international airports to choose from. If you are traveling with a tour company then connections to the resorts should be arranged, but if not then India has plenty of public transport options to take you there, although some of them may be a little crowded! This is a great way to soak up some of the local atmosphere though, so well worth it.
One of the advantages of winter sports in India is that it is so much cheaper to take part in the sports here than in resorts found in Europe. Those who want to opt for luxury travel will be paying more but there are plenty of travel and accommodation options for those who are on a smaller budget. Indian winter sports resorts are not always the best choice for families but those who are traveling with friends or alone will find that they are ideal.