Gulmarg Heliski - No, we are not promoting Gulmarg Heliskiing on this page, but the skiing in Gulmarg has often been described just like heliskiing but at a fraction of the price and straight from a chairlift (Gulmarg Gondola).
In Gulmarg, a team of local ski patrol (managed by 2 senior western avalanche forecasters and ski patrol) are in charge of snow safety, avalanche control, and rescue in the inbound part of the Ski Himalaya resort.
What is considered the resort in western terms or what is considered the inbound part of the resort in the western world is in fact in Gulmarg -- the North and South aspect of the Gondola Bowl.
Halfway down on the North aspect, a sub-ridge created another bowl called "Mary's Shoulder."
Gulmarg Ski – Inbound Skiing and Snow Safety
In the morning, way before most tourists start to wake up, the Ski Patrol team and avalanche forecasters meet and study the snow pack.
An Avalanche forecast bulletin is uploaded online on www.gulmargavalanche.org and 4 Avalanche Forecast billboards are updated based on their observations and analysis.
If it snowed less than 20 cm, the team will go up and ski cut the slopes of the Gondola Bowl. If it snowed more than 20 cm, they will need explosives to make sure the Bowl is safe to open and safe for all of us to enjoy the Gulmarg Powder.
Gulmarg Ski – The Gondola Bowl
Yes, the inbound skiing area of Gulmarg Ski Resort is only one single Bowl…But it is pretty big.
As you exit the Gondola at 3,980 meters, you can go to skier's right or skier's left. Skier's right will take you to the North aspect – almost directly under the gondola.
If you go to Skier's left, you will have to cross through the building, then exit, walk, and cross over the Bowl to the South aspect.
From either side, you will have 930 meters of straight lines in front of you… about 2.6 km of slope line…As I always say, sing or yell… Pow Pow…
This aspect ranges from North to Northwest. The middle of the bowl and the North aspect walls are about 38 degrees.
If 38 degrees sounds intimidating, it is very easy to do—just stay in a diagonal line, keeping your altitude and go from one ridge and over sub-ridges.
For sure, it is fun to follow the fall line at top speed, but you will get to the run-off of the Bowl, and it will become flatter and narrower.
The skier's right ridge that leads to the top of Mary's Shoulder points Northwest, and the sub-ridges going from there are heading North.
As you pick a line, it is possible to cross 5-6 sub-ridges and pick a smaller sub-Bowl to go down and enjoy
Skier's left of the Gulmarg Gondola (the South aspect) is also about 38 degrees. The snowpack is shallower as the aspect is East to Southeast. It gets solar radiation from early morning to mid-afternoon. The snow transforms faster and gets more sugary.
Even if the snow transforms and is often wetter, this aspect can be lots of fun as there are more big rocks and small couloirs to play in.
It you keep your altitude, zigzagging between the rocks, you can reach an East/Northeast aspect that is normally very, very nice. You are lower, but there are still lots of vertical meters to enjoy.
Gulmarg Ski – Mary's Shoulder
In the past, Mary's Shoulder was the shoulder with mature forest growth, trees, and glades. Now, Mary's Shoulder starts at the top of the new chairlift.
This new lift that began operation in 2011-2012 is about 1,200 meters long and rises about 500 meters from 3,050 to 3,550 meters.
It is situated on the Northwest aspect of that bowl. It is possible to cross all the way to the other side of the run-out to the East/Southeast aspect, but you will lose lots of altitude.
The North and Northwest aspect is a very good option. It is possible to traverse a little and reach the top of the shoulder where some excellent tree skiing is to be found.
Gulmarg Ski – Tree Skiing on Phase 1
Phase 1 of the Gondola has a vertical rise of 400 meters.
Once you arrive at the mid-station, you have 2 choices:
Ride the main track, then zigzag in the mature forest all the way to the base of the Gondola. It can be lots of fun, but it can also be quite an adventure if you get stuck on the flats in a lot of fresh snow.
Walk out onto the mid-mountain – Kongdoori's plateau - and find your own line. It is possible to find an almost straight line back to Gulmarg Gondola's base station.