This time we set on for a journey to experience the different set of sports which demands a lot of patience, courage and guts. Patience to learn the art of skiing, courage to face the currents of River Ganga and Guts to jump 83 mts down by yourself only with the support of a rope.
While places like Manali and Narkanda are popular for skiing, we came across a lesser prevalent meadow in Uttrakhand named Auli. But, as far as Bungee Jumping and River Rafting are concerned there is nothing like Rishikesh in India.
We start the voyage from Delhi to en-route all this and more. What makes it more interesting is not the destination but the journey itself for which we hitched on to the public transport this time. FYI, the nearest airport otherwise is Dehradun.
Starting from Delhi we crossed the borders of Noida, Meerut, Haridwar and finally reached Rishikesh at five in the morning. From there one can easily find a shared Sumo to reach Joshimath. The road transport is on only during day time and routes can be closed for days together due to frequent landslides. The local food and music makes it even more intriguing for a traveler to cherish each moment one spends during the ride.
We reached Joshimath by four in the evening. After booking a government guest house at Joshimath for about Rs. 400 we acclimatize ourselves to the winters of Garhwal. Best season to be in Auli is December to March when the temperature ranges from 0 to 17 degrees but be cautious of the unpredictable weather and landslides.
Auli, located at an elevation of 2500 to 3050 mts above sea level, is winter sports capital of India. The pasture hosted its first South Asian Winter Games in 2011. It is nestled in Garhwal range of Himalayas and lies on the way to holy Badhrinath.
Everyone’s been telling that Skiing is more like art of falling. Sheer excitement gushes through the veins when we feel the first snowfall in the foothills and eagerly wait for the ‘falling in snow’ experience.
Auli proudly homes the Asia’s longest cable car of four kms. The cable starts in morning at around 9:30 am and will charge Rs 500 per head for a to and fro trip from Joshimath.
This is where I urge you to take the rope way instead of roads to experience some of the most unique and unsurpassed views of Himalayas from the top. You would witness one of the best panoramic sights encircled by snow covered peaks straddling with coniferous and oak forests.
Apart from the longest Gondola (cable car), there are also two separate ski lifts connecting lower slopes to the top helping skiers for quicker commute. Once you reach the top, the locals will provide the skiing equipment and also help to ski.
Auli is enraptured with the impressive sight of lofty mountain ranges. Most of the peaks have mythological connection like Mana and Kamet. The one that stands out most beautifully is Mt. Nanda Devi. The meadow is also the base for quite a few trekking routes. One of the famed trek Kuari Pass also beings from Auli.
Auli is considered amongst top skiing destinations in the world. There are various skiing routes ranging from 400 mts to 3.1 kms captivating snow white miracles and crossing oak fringed slopes.
It also partakes world’s highest manmade lake. The water from this lake is used to feed the snow guns stationed along the ski slopes providing a good skiing surface.
Organization offers certified courses providing training from 4 days to 14 days including stay, food, ski gear charges and professional trainers.
Meanwhile I realized, whatever said by locals was true. If you aren’t crashing, you aren’t skiing. I believe this is the only time when one can love falling, plunging every time in snow. I fell infinite times but managed to ski aptly for quite times. I also went between and beyond the oak trees but the most difficult part was to climb again for one more ski.
I feel privileged to have this experienced and at the same time disheartened to leave this place in a day. If you are putting efforts to come so far, I recommend you to halt for at least a week or else the partial thirst will haunt you for days to come.
While coming down from the lift we spot a skier who left with us and flawlessly reached down the village in seconds like a cake walk. I wish, I could.
We were fortunate enough to experience the fresh and heavy snow fall. I wish I could seize that moment of eternal bliss and live it over and over again.
Next day we depart from this snow magic for the adventures in Rishikesh