Lack of snow hits Kashmir tourism

The Gulmarg cable car (image not taken this year)
The Gulmarg cable car (image not taken this year)

Kashmir’s tourism industry has been hit by a lack of snow this year, causing a sharp drop in the number of winter sports visitors.

The Hindu reports that the ski resort of Gulmarg, located around 55km from Srinagar, has seen less than two feet (60cm) of snow this winter, causing visitor numbers to dry up.

“Last year, my company was able to plan skiing trips for 700 foreigners for Gulmarg. However this year, it was as low as 15 skiers,” Shamim Shah, the head of the Travel Association of India’s Jammu & Kashmir chapter told The Hindu.

Gulmarg usually receives up to six feet of snow, while the upper skiing slopes of Kongdoori and Afarwat, which are located at an altitude of 4,390 metres, often receive more than eight feet.

“This winter we had less than two feet accumulated snowfall in the main bowl and around four feet in the upper slopes. Only the upper slopes can host professional skiers. However, increasing day temperature and fast melting snow is unusual,” said Ilyas Ahmad, an official with the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department told the newspaper.

Unseasonably warm temperatures have bathed Gulmarg this winter; the normal daytime temperature is approximately 1ᵒC in February, but this month it has been around 5-6ᵒC.

“We pray for fresh snowfall to host foreign skiers now,” local tourism deputy director, Peerzada Zahoor, was quoted saying.

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