Ski blogger Sam Lozier is spending a chunk of this winter in
After their adventure to Drang, the rest of the group was rather tired. Allen and I had taken the day off from skiing though, and we were itching to get out for a big day before the snow rolled in and shut the whole place down.
Our rough plan entailed riding the lift to the top of Phase Two, then dropping off the backside with the goal of hiking a ridge that the army uses to access one of their lines of control outposts.
Here is a view of our objective that we got as we were traversing off the back of the resort. Our goal was to hike the ridge above the cliffs to the minor peak, then ski one of the chutes back down to the drainage below. It was going to be a big day, but we hoped it would get us some useful information for future expeditions, and maybe some good turns along the way.
After a late start (10:45 a.m.) - thanks to the weird starting times of the Gulmarg gondola - and over 600 vertical meters of skiing and traversing, we arrived at a road running through the bottom of the drainage behind Gulmarg. The road is a single-lane, rough-cut track, presumably used by the military to supply remote bases along the Line of Control in summer months when it isn’t buried under avalanche debris. Our path brought us a hundred meters or so up the road to a point where a footpath cut steeply up and to the left after crossing the stream. The path had been used recently, and the bootpack was fairly well established, not that it made the ascent much easier.
Three hundred seventy meters and two-and-a-half hours of steep climbing at over 13,000 feet brought us to the top of the ridge where we were greeted by some stunning views of the Gulmarg backcountry. Some views, like the ones of south facing aspects were disheartening for their utter lack of snow, other views, like the north facing chutes we were about to ski were quite inspirational.
After a hearty lunch of Kit Kat bars, and Good Day cookies we traversed north along the ridge to our chosen chute (the first that didn’t end in a large cliff). Along the way we encountered the deep facet layer we expected to find and kicked off some small and expected sloughs. Once we arrived at the top of our line we had our usual quick discussion about the snow and how we’d manage a potential slide, then Allen dropped in for some beautiful first tracks down the chute, and the entire mountain for that matter. A few sloughs ran, but again, nothing unexpected or unmanageable.
Hiking out, tracks visible on background ridge.
Once Allen was at a safe zone, I dropped in an enjoyed three or four really great turns in the sugary snow before some flat light and a bit of hard pack conspired to send me tumbling. Embarrassed, but otherwise unharmed, I skied down to Allen. Two more short pitches of smooth skiing facets brought us to the crux of the chute, the steep and mildly exposed exit. We ended up taking the conservative way out, down through a series of rhododendron bushes, and back to the stream where our day had started in earnest 3 1/2 hours earlier. With the fun part of our day over, it was time to start the long hike 690- meter climb back to the resort. Almost two hours later, we were back at the top of the gondola and ready to begin the 1,050 meter decent back to the hotel in fading light. Despite the poor hiking-to-skiing ratio, I can say that this was unequivocally my best day of skiing here at Gulmarg. Hopefully it won’t hold that superlative for too long though. We’ve got some new snow coming in.
Read and see more of Sam's work at www.famousinternetskiers.com.
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.