Swiss Skier revives hope for Heli Skiing in Gulmarg
Srinagar, July 19 – The government is seeking international expertise to promote heli skiing and other adventure sports so that Gulmarg is presented as a perfect launching pad for high-end foreign travelers visiting the State. This will help bring in new class of travelers and improve tourism economy of the State.
Minister for Tourism, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora, accompanied by Minister of State for Tourism, Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani today visited Gulmarg along with world-renowned skier Mr. Sylvain Saudon to explore possibilities of kick-starting heli skiing in the famous health resort here.
Director Tourism, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Shah, CEO, GDA, Mr. Javed Bakshi, MD, Cable Car Corporation, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Khan were also present.
Mr. Saudon said Gulmarg offers great opportunities for heli skiing and added that once proper infrastructure, akin to international standards, is established, more and more heli skiers will relish traveling to the Valley to enjoy the sport.
Mr. Saudon is an extreme skier of Swiss origin who, many say, is a once in a lifetime talent. Cited thrice in Guinness Book of World Records for his daredevilry, the 73-year-old is a frequent traveler who has been visiting Kashmir for over two decades.
At Koungdori, 2.5 km Gandola ride from Gulmarg, the Swiss skier advised laying of a carpet for beginner skiers, who have to be groomed to the intermediate level. He said the place was ideal for heli skiing, adding the leveling of the area and removal of the humps will create a big enough carpet size for the beginners.
At Aparwat, 5 km from Gulmarg, Mr. Saudon said the entire area up to the ridges can be developed for heli skiing. He said initial brass-stacks have to be imagined in such a way that the entire region’s potential for this daredevil sport is tapped.
Asking the government to take effective steps in developing Gulmarg as a heli skiing destination, Mr. Saudon promised that he will bring in foreign skiers to the Valley once the infrastructural facilities are created.
The possibility of building a circular restaurant at Aparwat giving a glimpse of the Aparwat end point was also explored during the visit.
The Ministers assured Mr. Sylvain that his precious inputs to augment winter sports like heli skiing will be incorporated while finalizing proposals.
Mr. Jora, while thanking Mr. Saudon, said the Government is seriously considering to optimize Gulmarg’s potential in winter sports, especially heli skiing, which, he said, will be a special feature in future tour calendars of the health resort. He said the Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah was keen to promote winter sports in the Valley, adding that special interventions will be made to formulate plan extensions in this regard. “By next winter, I hope we will be in a position to make sound headway on the project,” Mr. Jora said, adding Mr. Saudon’s 20-year experience of skiing in Gulmarg will be utilized to push the project in the right direction.
Mr. Nasir assured Mr. Saudon that the government will travel extra yard in expanding Gulmarg’s tourism potential so that it is presented as an ideal destination for international tourists offering cluster of activities. “Gulmarg development will trigger a chain reaction and other tourist spots will be developed keeping in view their unique characteristics,” he said, adding the government has vastly benefited by the knowledge of Mr. Saudon about the mouth-watering slopes of Gulmarg that throw a challenge to extreme skiers.
Earlier, the Ministers were briefed by CEO, GDA and MD, Cable Car about the initiatives taken to attract tourists to the resort. They were informed that a proper removal of disposals has been put in place and strict watch is being kept on encroachers.
On the occasion, Mr. Jora asked MD, Cable Car to replace grills from ticketing sites and restaurants with glasses that offer an expansive view of the Gulmarg countryside.
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