Gulmarg's Poma designed gondola features 36 six-seater cabins to lift snowriders 1330 vertical metres to the top station at 3980 metres above sea level. From the top station an optional 30 minute walk will take you to Mt Apharwat's 4124 metre peak.
From the peak it is possible to glide for over a couple of kilometres in either direction along Apharwat's high Northwest and Southeast shoulders, before descending the mountain's multiple ridges, faces and bowls. From the Northwest shoulder this includes magnificent and consistent advanced slopes to distant parts of the Gulmarg meadow.
In the other direction, gliding the Southeast shoulder from the gondola exit door, before descending past Gulmarg to the valley floor near Drang, provides a total ride of over 1700 vertical metres of serious off-piste terrain. Please do not attempt either of these adventures without appropriate knowledge.
Apart from the more exotic routes described above, the central area from the gondola's top to mid stations provides a superb array of high alpine slopes for advanced and expert level skiing and snowboarding. This is almost entirely challenging and ungroomed off-piste terrain. Due to the area's size (and the small number of individuals who comprise the local snowriding community), the only "in bounds" terrain managed for snow and avalanche safety is the main bowl to the right of the gondola line (looker's right, skier's left).
The slopes served by Stage One of the gondola, below the mid station restaurant at 3050 metres, are far more gentle. With plenty of gigantic pines and firs to help visibility, the area provides well protected riding in all weather conditions. Intermediate riders should be aware that there is only one marked run from mid-station to the gondola base and that it is only groomed on an infrequent basis. There is a "return track from skier's left", which will provide an easy finish for skiers to numerous unmarked descents through scattered trees including plenty of "powder stashes".
One of our favourite home tracks is the old chairlift line which runs parallel to the gondola - "Mughuls" is the closest Gulmarg has to a bump run. Empty chairs hang overhead, defunct and motionless, like ghostly spectators of your powder snow finesse - a surreal reminder of skiers from bygone days and their earlier adventures in Gulmarg!
ęCopyright, Peter Robinson, Ski Himalaya