Located at height of 2,600m on a pine-fringed plateau is the town of Gulmarg, literally meaning ‘Meadow of Flowers’. This pristine corner of Jammu and Kashmir developed as a hill station in the 19th century when British soldiers and government officials would come to escape the summer heat down on the plains. Today it’s India’s leading ski resort and a summer retreat fitting for the von Trapps (lonely goatherds not included).
In winter, Gulmarg is a powder paradise. The ski season runs from mid-December to mid-March and offers miles and miles of beautiful empty snowfields. The world’s highest two-tier gondola is located here, taking skiers up to 3,747m for panoramic views that include Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain across the border in Pakistan.
There’s a central section of the mountain that is groomed, patrolled and avalanche-controlled and the rest of the mountain is off-piste. Guides are available and an Australian-run Heli-skiing company opened for business in 2011.
So with the snow falling and the gondola up and running, here are our top 10 picks of things to do in Gulmarg with kids this winter.
Video: 10 Things to do in Gulmarg with kids
1. Go Sledging!
Forget skiing or snowboarding for a moment and race down the mountain on a sledge. Sledges are available to hire (the traditional wooden kind) and the beauty of tobogganing here is that there are porters to help pull you back up the slopes!
2. Make Angel Wings
The joy of Gulmarg is that there is generally a lot of snow. Once the kids have tired of sledging down the slopes there are angel wings to be made and snow ice cream to be eaten.
3. Learn to Ski
There are three ‘baby slopes’ perfect for learner skiers. Instructors can be hired for the day, the week or for a one-off lesson and they tend to be very good with kids. Equipment is available to rent in Gulmarg but if you are particular about your ski gear, best bring it with you.
4. Take a Ride on the Gondola
Gulmarg is home to the world’s second highest cable car, the two-tiered Gulmarg Gondola. The 1st phase of the Gondola takes visitors to Kongdori Station at a height of 2,600m and the second stage goes up to a dizzying 3,747m. If you’re lucky with the weather, the views from the top are simply incredible. See if you can spot Nanga Parbat, the world’s 9th highest mountain. Be aware that altitude sickness can occur at this altitude.
5. Take Tea
This corner of India is well-known for its delicious kahwah tea, a traditional green tea preparation traditionally enjoyed in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and some regions of Central Asia. It’s prepared by boiling green tea leaves with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and sometimes Kashmiri roses. It’s delicious and the perfect way to warm up on a cold, winter’s day.
6. Ski or Snowboard
Although not a huge ski resort (by US or European standards, anyway), Gulmarg offers some fantastic opportunities for advanced skiers and boarders. There are plenty of off-piste powder runs (make sure you go with a guide) and there is even the option to go heli-skiing. The main Alpine slopes offer runs 2km in length with a stunning altitude drop of over 700m. For intermediate skiers, Phase 1 is a 3km long trail through wooded hills.
7. Build a Snowman
In the (still-can’t-get-them-out-of-my-head) words of Anna and Elsa, you too can build a snowman in this veritable Frozen wonderland. The Highlands Park Hotel sometimes holds snowman-building competitions so get creative!
8. Have a Snowball Fight!
What better way to get your own back on your brother / sister / mum / dad than by pelting them with snow? And there’s more than enough snow here to make a veritable arsenal of snowballs.
9. Relax in a globetotting-approved Hotel
We’ve visited a handful of hotels in Jammu & Kashmir and chosen our top picks for a family-friendly stay in Gulmarg. Read our reviews of Hotel Highlands Park and The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa and decide which one best suits your family.
10. Enjoy Time Indoors
At the end of a long day in the snow, enjoy some down time with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. Remember to bring books, iPads, games etc.. to keep everyone occupied!
IMPORTANT! Safety Advice for Gulmarg
There is a long history of conflict within the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Remember to consult your own government’s travel advisory for safety advice such as www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india
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