Although Gulmarg, India became a ski media hotbede in the mid-2000s, attention shifted away from the Kashmir region as quickly as it had arrived. Yet, from famed big mountain skier Sylvain Saudan to the Clambin Crew, MSP and, now, an emerging contingent of local rippers, the potential of Gulmarg and the rest of Kashmir remains largely untapped. Anthony Bonello chronicles the ongoing 50-plus year struggle to develop a viable ski industry in one of the most spectacular (and one of the most politically-contested) mountain regions on planet earth.
While the Taj Mahal, curry and poverty may well be among the more recognizable faces of India, to any skier who has been stoked at a fall film premier or read a ski magazine in the last decade, it is known as the home of the world’s highest skiable gondola—Gulmarg. What most are only faintly aware of though, is that India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The result of this economic boom is an evolving middle class and an increasingly resplendent upper echelon of millionaires who enjoy the same diversions as their Western business partners—yachts, golfing and skiing. Considering the fact that nearly one sixth of the world’s population resides on the sub-continent, if a mere 1.1% of Indians hit the slopes, they would exceed the total number of skiers and snowboarders in North America. Throw into the equation that India has only one somewhat functional ski area with big mountain terrain and you begin to see the potential Gulmarg possesses. Whether it can fulfill that potential is largely dependent on a rift that has existed since India’s nationhood—the Kashmir issue…
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