Gulmarg (translation: “Meadow of Flowers”) is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination and a notified area committee in Baramula district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is within the Himalayas and is within miles of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
Gulmarg has been a resort for the kings like Yousuf Shah Chak and Jahangir who used to visit frequently. The old name of Gulmarg was “Gaurimarg”, the name of Lord Shiva’s wife. Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, meaning the place of roses. During the early part of the 20th century the famous Central Asian explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943), made his home here in a tent between his expeditions. It was a favourite summer holiday destination for the British stationed in India.
The surrounding areas were politically restive during a period of relative peace and quiet. The town is nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks, and lies within miles of the Line of Control. It receives heavy snowfall during the winter season and is a popular ski resort.
With the abatement of militancy in the area, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the state’s most visited destinations. The slopes of Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalaya Chain boast one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. The total distance covered by ski lifts is five kilometres and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,950 m (12,959 ft), accessed by an aerial gondola (telecabine). The skiing project was inaugurated by the Chief Minister on 25 December 2004. The entire hill is guarded by the army at all times. The army, which is seen everywhere in the cities of Kashmir, is not in the town or the actual hilltop. Frisking is only done midway on the access road at 3 places: Tangmarg, near an army camp on the road from Tangmarg, and 5 km before entering Gulmarg. Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests
Gulmarg is easily accessible from Srinagar or Srinagar Airport (SXR), the capital of Kashmir, in under 2 hours by car or bus. Just 1 hour on the way is the town of Tangmarg, a key tourist attraction and also a main destination for skiers riding down from Gulmarg during the winter months. From Tangmarg, the Gulmarg plateau is just 30 minutes travel. Gulmarg has around 40 hotels ranging from extremely budget accommodation in private huts to hotels that are of a similar standard to a western Bed & Breakfast. When hotels say 5 star expect similar standards to the aforementioned bed and breakfast or motel. The peak season starts with the snowfall in December and lasts until March (April if it is a good season).
According to CNN, Gulmarg is the “heartland of winter sports in India.” Gulmarg was being mooted as a possible host for the 2010 Commonwealth Winter Games. As such, Gulmarg has been rated by CNN International as Asia’s seventh best ski destination. This resort is famous because of its “Gulmarg Gondola,” one of the highest cable car in the world, reaching 3,979 metres. The two-stage ropeway ferries about 600 people per hour to and from the gondola main station in Gulmarg to a shoulder of nearby Mt. Apharwat Summit (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). The ropeway project is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Pomagalski. The first stage transfers from the Gulmarg resort at 2,600 m (8,530 ft) to Kongdoori Station in the bowl-shaped Kongdori valley. The second stage of the ropeway, which has 36 cabins and 18 towers, takes skiers to a height of 3,950 m (12,959 ft) on Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Mt. Afarwat Peak (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). The second stage was completed in a record time of about two years at a cost of Rs11 crore and opened on May 28, 2005. The French company had also built the first phase of the gondola project, connecting Gulmarg to Kongdoori, in 1998. The JKSCCC also proposes to construct chair lifts to connect Kongdoori with Mary’s Shoulder for beginners and intermediate freeriders.
The “heartland of winter sports in India”, as quoted by CNN, is a gathering ground for all things extreme sports and outdoors related. In the winter, the diverse and extreme terrain combines with torrential snowfall to create a snow destination that is among the best in the world. As the destination itself is still undeveloped, skiers and riders never have to suffer the long queues that are so prevalent in other international snow destinations – it is not uncommon to get up to 10 runs in a day from the top of the gondola and to be carving fresh lines in untracked snow for the best part of a day. Due to Gulmarg’s steep terrain, the region is popular amongst advanced and extreme skiers from around the world and has been visited by a number of ski profssionals and featured in a number of ski films. During the 2012/13 winter season the Australian skier known as ‘Wolf Pack’ was widely regarded as the best and fastest skier on the mountain.
The summer is just as busy. With temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 °C, Gulmarg attracts outdoor sports fanatics with its world class golfing, trekking, mountain biking, horse riding, water skiing, and fishing.
Gulmarg has a lot of highest things along with its name, and of them is the Gulmarg golf club. It is the highest green golf course in the world. There are a few places of religious importance near the resort within a 5 to 20 km radius like Baba Reshi, Haji Murad at Kreeri and Tangmarg.
Gulmarg is among the most famous tourist destinations in India and there is a need for some tightened regulation to save the environment of the area from over tourism.