Unofficial Reporter and local Squaw ripper, Kip Garre, gives us this update from his trip to Gulmarg, Kashmir.
Leaving a massive Tahoe storm is challenging but I knew that Gulmarg, in Kashmir, would offer up enough entertainment that I wouldn’t hold a grudge for too long. Leaving was also easier because I was lucky enough to lay the first tracks, since it has been renamed, down Squaw Valley’s newest run, McConkey’s. Eagles Nest’s steep face sits atop the world famous KT22 and was renamed in Honor of Shane. Shane is one of the most influential people in my life so I was really excited to ski the run, thanks Shane!
Rumors that Gulmarg’s snow was no good spread quickly and I kept wondering what I was doing heading there. My plan was to work guiding for three weeks, enjoy some curry and culture and then head off to Chamonix France. Arriving at the Highland Park Hotel I was greeted with good news! Snow was on the way and John Faulkner was in the house! John has been a long time K2 skier and someone I have looked up to for years. I met John five years ago in Gulmarg and was excited to spend time in his company again.
A few days after I arrived the snow started falling and didn’t really stop, leaving this morning it was snowing again. For the three weeks I was there I witnessed a storm that rivaled any massive Tahoe pounding I have seen. Sticking to anything with a slight pitch the snow buried everything. Trees went down and power went out. Stuck cars became buried and the world famous Gulmarg gondola shut down.
With the Gondola closed and the snow pack volatile, skiing was kept to certain zones that I considered safer. Monkey Hill and Babareshi, both provide great skiing and with the new snow, lots of deep powder. Skiing in Gulmarg isn’t just about skiing though. Trips to the market, time with local friends and visits to the Kashmir Alpine ski shop kept us busy. Every evening the Highland Park’s lounge warmed up with Faulkner playing the guitar, loud laughs from the Italians and Kingfischer beer. Energy was high and people were having a great time.
The snow didn’t stop falling, then it began to slide. The sounds of Mt. Apharwat’s burps meant more natural avalanches. Loud rumbles echoed through the valley. One slide found its way into the Military base and buried and killed 17 people. The volatile snowpack seemed like it wasn’t going to allow riders to carve in Gulmarg anytime soon.
Luckily the day before I left the snowpack healed up enough for the Gondola to open. One last day of powder skiing in Kashmir before I headed off to Chamonix, Yea-Haw!