Take out your ski boots, snow-clad Himachal slopes are here!

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Manali (Himachal Pradesh) : Bored with your weekend bouts of cricket and football? Pack your skiing gear and head to Himachal for some adventure sports as the snow-covered Solang slopes near here are ready for you.

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With good snowfall this season, the Solang slopes are ready to host fun-filled skiing sessions from next week.

“This winter is quite good for skiing. We are quite hopeful of good skiing sessions at Solang as there is enough snow,” Randhir Singh Salhuria, director of the state-run Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports here, told IANS.

He said various courses and events have been lined up for the skiers – both amateurs and professionals – from Jan 11.

Currently, the Solang slopes, 13 km from here, have more than two feet of snow. In the last two days of 2010, the slopes piled up around three feet of snow.

The last few years, except 2010, were quite bad for skiing as the Solang slopes were totally bereft of snow.

In 2010, the Winter Games Federation of India had allowed the Himachal Pradesh Winter Games Association to hold the National Senior Alpine Skiing Championship during Feb 7-11.

At that time, the slopes had seen negligible snowfall and the organisers were planning to move towards higher hills to hold the championship. Just a few days before the event, the weather obliged the organisers with plentiful snow.

According to the meteorological office in Shimla, the Solang slopes have been experiencing erratic snowfall, like many other high-altitude areas in the state.

“The Solang slopes, unlike in February last year, had received just mild snow in past five-six years and that too melted within a few days. Even the spells of snowfall were erratic,” said meteorological office director Manmohan Singh.

He said that earlier the snow used to stay at Solang till June-end, but in recent years it has been melting much earlier.

Randhir Singh Salhuria said that besides winter sports activities, the institute would also start basic, intermediate and advanced ski courses at Solang and Narkanda, 65 km from Shimla.

Narkanda has short, gentler slopes that attract mostly newcomers. The slopes currently have more than one and a half feet of snow.

The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) Hatu Hotel at Narkanda provides accessories like skis, boots and sticks besides accommodation to the skiers.

“We are also arranging coaches for ski learners. Per day coaching classes would cost from Rs.150 to Rs.200. For a full set of gear, we are charging Rs.250 per day,” HPTDC deputy general manager K.D. Sharma said.

Mehar Chand Thakur, a travel agent promoting adventure-related activities in Manali, said: “Tourists and locals have already started trudging with their gear through the deep snow of Solang. After a long gap, we are hopeful of a good business.”

Neha Bhasin, a skier from Mumbai, said: “We really enjoyed as it’s (Solang) still not over-commercialised like Auli (in Uttarakhand) and Gulmarg (in Jammu and Kashmir).”

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])