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Old 22nd February 2024, 20:45   #1
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Skiing In Auli

Every year I have a bucket list of things to do, this helps me keep my activity calendar busy and mind focused on something or other. For 2024 it was skiing and motorcycle trip to Leh-Ladakh/Zanskar or northeast (preferably all three). Conditions in personal as well as professional life were optimal, so I booked the 14-day course by GMVN for skiing in Auli by December end/early Jan for the month of February. My last skiing in Auli was for 7 days course in GMVN which was a wonderful experience.

However god had another plan, there was no snowfall till Jan 18 and this had psyched me up as I was sure that this year around there won't be enough snow and thus my plan will go sour. Everyday without fail I will open the IMD satellite image and see water vapour maps and it's animation to search traces of clouds making their way to Uttarakhand. Even in my office I had to tell them that all my plans are tentative and based on snow. This trip was in all purposes was practically finalized on one day in advance !!


I prefered Auli over Gulmarg because the slopes in Auli are a bit more trickier for the learner/Beginner level, so if you learn there, then the gain in skill is higher and you can manage simpler slopes anywhere with much ease. However downside to Auli plan is that the travel is long and arduous. First you need to take a flight to DDN/DEL, then a train/bus to Haridwar/Rishikesh/Dehradun for catching another day long bus to Joshimath and then finally a cab to Auli. All in all it's a 1.5 day journey as the flight times from BLR make sure that the day of your flight you will not be able to take the Bus to Joshimath, and since I travel solo booking a cab just for me doesn't make any sense.

Reaching the GMVN Ski Resort

As I have mentioned every day was a suspense for this trip. My earlier plan was to do a stopover at my uncle's place in Lucknow, and gain 2-3 Kgs weight due to Kebabs and Biriyani and Sheermal. But due to extreme uncertainties I had to snip off the Lucknow stopover and just a day before the reporting date my trip got confirmed. I let my office know about my sudden trip confirmation (had already leaves sanctioned, but trip wasn't confirmed). Got home packed all my clothes and gear (some of which were coming out of the wood work after 9 years !!). Slogged hard to get my office deliverables ready. Next morning I had leaves starting but I chose to do a decent handover and completed my work and last mail sent at 11:55 am whereas my cab was at the door by 12:05 pm, what a sudden transition.

I hauled my luggage and thus started a long journey to Auli. First hopped on the BLR-DEL flight which landed me too early for my overnight train and due to train delay I had to wait a bit longer in Hazrat Nizamuddin. My first plan was to catch the Aero City Metro, but finally decided against as the wait for shuttle to the Metro Line from T1 was getting too long, so got a prepaid for Rs. 500/- for this trip. Once my hometown of Delhi made me a bit nostalgic, the whole childhood was spent here doing mischiefs and what not. The lighting on Humayun's tomb was beautiful and also evoked a bit of suspense to imagine oneself staying there overnight alone.

This was the station where I caught my train to Chennai an eon ago for my first job (I was listening to tanha dil that time so I played on the same music this time too !!). But yes this time around the tanhai dragged too long for 5-6 hours awaiting for my train, I visited all the platforms for full lengths just to pass time - I can't sit in one place for too long. Meanwhile I had befriended 2-3 dogs who will look at my hands expectantly for food. One of them kept nudging whenever I will stop petting it. Finally the train arrived and I quickly got myself into sleeping mode by setting 3 alarms near about the station ETA time.

At the crack of dawn the train stopped in Haridwar and I went directly to the Bus stop where I encountered the bus to Joshimath fully packed. I immediately started thinking that I have to wait more for the next bus, but someone just made space for me, and I managed to sit myself just behind the rear tyre of the bus. Which was so eventful that my knees rubbed raw during the full ride (had to place my muffler as a padding). The bus came into life and in the still dark Haridwar we started our journey. I was still not confident that I will encounter snow that much in Auli so was a bit apprehensive on that regards too.

Anyways the bus rolled into the hills slowly as light broke into the skies, I was already hungry as I had walked excessively in the H. Nizamuddin station last night. Had a piping hot tea with Alu paratha for breakfast, it was a scenic place but food was strictly average. I am sure there is a deal between all not so good food places and the bus operators.

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Another such stop was in Pipalkoti, around 1 hr before Joshimath where I had Jalebis and Samosa (didn't like the meals on offer there). The vehicle rolled into Joshimath by 4 pm and I searched for a shared cab which I was told is not available for drop to the GMVN resort. After I enquired a bit for a reasonable rate one shopkeeper agreed to drop me for Rs 1000/- (felt it was a bit high but after 1.5 days on road didn't want to haggle more). So he dropped his shop shutter and we started our uphill drive on his Alto.

Along the way we found verglas and snow covered roads. All cars going up or down were struggling hard and skidding. Even our car needed push at one point by yours truly. after around 1 hours of this struggle I reached just in time to miss the chairlift to my GMVN accommodation. You can see the road smeared with ice here just before the GMVN resort. Many cars with 4x4 or with nylon makeshift tyre chains were dealing with this better.

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As I was late to reach the resort, I was to walk the 800 mts or so of the main skiing slope with all my luggage. The chairlift times are from 10.30 am till 4.30 pm generally (but the staff may choose to stop it early too if there is no one !!) So for anyone, please try to be there by 3.30 pm. Else be ready to trek the slope up. The slope in question is the following, you can traverse it from the extreme left, as in real life the slope looks mild in the picture but when you are walking it up, you know the term "try being in my shoe"

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After the trek up I was glad that I was retaining decent fitness. Went in changed my clothes and settled in my twin sharing room. I was already a day late, but it was okay as I knew some basic skiing already so didn't miss much instructions. In the dinner I gobbled down 8 chapatis and 2 plates rice. Traveling for 1.5 days without much food makes you starved. The rooms were huge and quite spacious, earlier when I did my course they were 1/3rd the size of these and made with cardboard or something. The room had a heater which was used more for drying wet clothes than heating ourselves.

And views from the rooms are something that you can only see in your dreams in bangalore, only traffic is of skiers and tourists here !

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Also the following picture is of the artificial lake which is used for generating artificial snow when the snow is less. However the snow creating machines don't work from what I have heard in the news etc. All facilities but lack of maintenance.

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The daily routine

This post will not be a sort of typical chronological order, but my thoughts and overall feel of the place. So to get you on board with the journey let me explain how a typical day of my stay there looked like. First and foremost there is no mobile connectivity from most of the rooms so internet or chatting up people from there is not an option. I was somewhat aware of this so I had brought along "Ocean of churn" by Sanjeev Sanyal. This is a good light read on the Indian subcontinent focusing on the Indian ocean and Arabian oceanic trade/migration and how it has shaped the history. There are lot of hypotheses but they do beg for a look in those aspects for rigorous studies. But nice to read a different take on than what was read in text books.

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A typical day for me will start with waking up at around 6 a.m, do some basic stretches, push ups and crunches before brushing and sorting out my gear (that is to dry them off in heater). Then you will be served bed tea at 7.20 am which I will gobble up and go for morning ablutions. Post this there will be breakfast at 8 a.m, a typical carb heavy Indian breakfast of alu paratha, alu and paratha, alu poori (you get the jist, all permutations of alu and atta !!!) Somedays there will be dalia. So seeing this I used to order 2 sunny side eggs extra daily for the toil ahead. After the breakfast we would start for the slopes at around 9.15-9.30 am with all our gears (skis, poles and ski shoes). All these gears were around 5 kgs in weight total. And those shoes will lock your ankles up so walking is difficult with them on.

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We would reach the training area by around 10 a.m and start the training. Extreme beginners will take 3-4 days to decently turn and ski on simple gradients, so my suggestion to a beginner will be to go for the 7-days course but if time is that much short then minimum 5-days course. More on these experiences later. So we will ski for around 4-4.5 hours and will start by 2 pm to our rooms. Again carrying or sometimes even skiing back very close to our rooms if snow is good.

Just after a quick shower and change of clothes there will be calls for lunch. After a full stomach I will on most days go and nap for an hour or hour and half. In the evening time they serve tea with biscuits at 5.30 pm for which I used to be restless (I am glutton for those jeera biscuits). Then me and other trainees will head to Neeraj bhai's canteen for a piping hot maggie and tea. Btw Neeraj himself is a gold medalist in skiing, so that's another trivia. Then head back to the room and get ready for R&R (R&R also included playing cards which I don't like to play, and neither I do the other R, so I will just sit there and finish off the snacks ) I enjoyed the ongoing conversations of their games and other things. Evenings will be fun filled like this.

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At sharp 8 pm they will knock down our house of cards literally and call us up for dinner. We will devour dinner even though most of the times it was alu preparation. But some days they will give us Garhwali special dishes like Chausa (a ground dal preparation), Mandwe ki roti (ragi roti). I used to absolutely love these. One day we got chicken, one day egg curry and one day self sponsored Mutton curry (will discuss this later). After dinner the other trainees will resume R&R, I too used to join somedays but most of the days I will retire back and arrange for my next days stuff and read the book a bit and fall asleep by 10-10.30 pm.

Every morning the views will be awesome like this, at the extreme right, there is Neeraj bhai's Maggie canteen. Wonderful coffee there I must say !!

Skiing In Auli-img_20240220_093839540.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 25th February 2024 at 07:59. Reason: Extra smileys deleted
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Old 23rd February 2024, 23:50   #2
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Re: Skiing In Auli

The training begins (for me)

For collecting the gear one has to take the chair lift down to the ski-shop and get the stuff issued, the chair-lift fees are 500/- round trip. I wonder why there is not a day pass for skiers (even if it is a bit higher that makes sense for a serious skier). Since we were trainees we had a chair-lift pass to be used one time a day. The staff manning the lifts are very serious about it . The view from the chair lifts are awesome, one is surrounded 270 degrees with tall snow capped mountains all along. Just for this view one can take the chair lift.

For initial few days I was apprehensive about my skill, afraid of steep inclines and some postures that were corrected by the instructors. Slowly I gained my touch back and started doing longer and steeper stretches accessible via the ski-lift (button type). Since I was already familiar with this mode of transport I didn't have many misadventures and was quickly going unto tower 9 (last stoppage of the ski slope) and ski down and repeat.

Then one day our instructor took 3-4 of us down the slope to the main slope where the competitions take place. It was steep and scary in places as we were still not that confident. One of our training mates was a regular skier so he was doing it quite good and parallel. We were all snow ploughing through the slopes. We did two runs of it, and after doing that the other slopes were not scary at all.

Soon fellow trainees for the 7-day course were to leave. So I went down to see them off believing that the chair lift will be operational till 4.30 pm but once I left them and came back, no staff were present near the chair lift station. I saw one lady far ahead trekking up the slope with her ski so I too felt that the lift is stopped for the day. So I too trekked up, I felt that the lady was having trouble carrying the ski up so asked her if she wanted me to carry some load up but she bravely refused to let me carry and thanked me for asking. I kept trekking up and when 80% up the slope I saw the unmistakable whir of the ski lift getting started and just cursed myself that I should have waited a bit longer. I glanced back at the slope and saw two more people shouting that they should have waited, and also the skier lady sat down to take rest. Well so I finished the rest of the way and onto Neeraj's shop. Had some tea and Maggie and headed to my room for finishing my book.

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For beginner skiers following is the curriculum:
1. basic snow plough
2. climbing drills: side stepping and herring bone
3. recovery drills: falling off and getting back onto skis, wearing skis on steep slopes
4. basic snow plough turns

Since I was on 14 days I had following items extra:
a. Basic swing (snow plough allowed only on turns)
b. Uphill swing (stopping without using snow plough with help of going uphill traverse)
c. side-slipping (used to come down steep inclines where it is beyond our capability)

People skiing on the slopes:
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The most difficult for me was the side-slipping, anyways I am getting into too much details. By the time course was finishing I was able to learn parallel skiing too where one keeps the skis parallel throughout. This was a big step for me and I was so happy once I was able to do it a few times. This is generally covered in intermediate courses.

Throughout the course I never used to relax on the slopes, hard work meant quicker learning, main thing I want to tell is that the more times you fall and the more effort you put the skiing improves quite fast. Trying not to fall will not help if the technique of not falling is incorrect.

By the end of the course there was supposed to be an exam. Which I am guessing I did well (certificate and grade is yet to arrive). Also one day in slopes we got interviewed by TV channels By the time my course was getting over we had a fresh bout of snowfall which made the slopes wonderful again. Fresh snow meant snow beating, even though there was a snow beater, since its a heavy vehicle it is taken out only when 2-3 feets of snow is already there. For us it was around 1 feet so we had to beat the slope manually by side-stepping wearing the skis.

Fresh snow day before my return:
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Again I worked hard on this beating and we joked that we should be paid 50/- per person using our beaten slopes !! Anyways since it was my last day I put in all my effort and got my ski training badge. But playing in fresh snow has its own charm and fills you up with energy you never knew you had in reserve. Finally I completed my training and was given my badge in the slope by our instructor. She is national games gold medalist in skiing so it was an honor.

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After the session got over, I quickly went ahead and packed up my stuff and took shower. Then after lunch contemplated on extending the stay for two days. Financially I explored that it is not viable, so went ahead and completed the checkout formalities and said my goodbyes to my fellow trainees and left the slopes in the chairlift to submit my gears.

And look whom I found below. Ski number 203 which was my companion 9 years ago !! How can I not take a pic of the same:

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Last edited by aah78 : 24th February 2024 at 23:31.
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Old 24th February 2024, 22:47   #3
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Re: Skiing In Auli

Dogs and stories

How can one forget the Bhutia dogs that make our Himalayan adventures a bit more sweeter. I made friends with quite a few of them. Cutest, largest and most cuddly of them was Bijli, who will often come in the morning and greet me when I am having my tea. I have picked her up in my arms too but her big tongue licking my face forced me to put her down on the ground again. One day she sat besides me in the morning and it was great fun to have a portable living heater next to me to warm my hands petting it:
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Bijli's boyfriend, looks dirty due to the fur color but as cuddly as her. He had a lot of battle scars, but was no less cute than his girlfriend:

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This one had no name but she was Juvenile, I named her Daisy. And boy did she take my sleep away:

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Well one day I just petted her on my porch and she was just trying to get in the room for a time in front of the heater. Were it my house I would have let her in but being in hotel I couldn't let her in. She tried all her cuteness, puppy eyes, and even tried to weasel in, but as Gandalf the grey - my thou shalt not pass made her loose hope and sit on the door defeated.

Thou shalt not pass:
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The defeated Balrog:
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However at around 10.30 pm like a horror movie I heard scratches on my door. Please remember that I was alone on this section of the resort as all my fellow trainees had left. It was dark everywhere and just these scrating noise. I woke up to investigate and saw emerald eyes outside. They were too low to be those of a Bear so I just said no and the whining and begging started. I opened the door to scold and Daisy tried to get in again:
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I scolded her and went to sleep. But again at 3 am, there were scratches on the door. I got too tired, so I just switched the heater off so that she is not tempted for the heat inside. Finally I had a peaceful sleep.

Later on more trainees joined in for 3 days course and we asked the staff to prepare pahadi style mutton curry which we paid for. I ate at least 4 plates of rice that day in Dinner and all of us overate. So much so that the cook had to set up another batch of rice. In a single dinner I ate more than the total rice I ate there for full 14 days. It was a satiated sleep that night.
Skiing In Auli-img_20240218_210840342.jpg

Finally it was time to bid adieu and on my last day I stayed over in the GMVN Narsingh guest house. Next day took the 6 am bus to Haridwar and then train to Delhi and finally a red-eye flight back to BLR. The travel was too hectic so I took a day off from office. Overall it was a wonderful trip with all my goals completed.

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Next year I will carve the slopes of Gulmarg (Hopefully ).

Last edited by aah78 : 24th February 2024 at 23:32. Reason: Typos fixed.
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Old 24th February 2024, 23:33   #4
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Re: Skiing In Auli

Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 25th February 2024, 16:57   #5
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Re: Skiing In Auli

Great write up, but what was wrong with letting that dog sleep inside? I hope the hotel takes better care of the animals.
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Old 25th February 2024, 19:03   #6
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Re: Skiing In Auli

Quote:
Originally Posted by ohaak View Post
Great write up, but what was wrong with letting that dog sleep inside? I hope the hotel takes better care of the animals.
That dog is a stray one, it will shed hair and pee and poop inside it will be my mess to clean. And these are all local Bhutia dogs, extremely capable to stay outside in freezing temps. The hotel staff do feed them leftovers daily.
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