Skiing at Aru Valley can be challenging yet enjoyable especially if you’re doing it for the first time. It can give you the thrilling feeling of Adrenalin flowing through your body. Skiing at Aru Valley against a lush white backdrop of snow at the ground and the Himalayas up high will stay imprinted in your mind forever. Let go off all your fears. Take the leap of faith and pursue skiing.
When I had enrolled myself for a course of Skiing at Aru Valley I thought it would be easy for me. I was so wrong. Although it was really fun, there were times when it was physically and mentally gruelling.
Through the means of this article, I would like to share my experience of skiing at Aru Valley and offer some handy tips for beginners.
The beautiful Aru Valley in Kashmir. Photography by Riyaz Ahmad Pakhtoon
Skiing at Aru Valley in Kashmir: An Overview
|Kashmir, North India|
|How to Reach Aru Valley|
|Option 1 – You can take a train to Jammu. From there, you can travel to Banihal in a shared cab. From Banihal (which has arguably the best railway station in the country), you can take a train to Anantnag (aka Islamabad).|
Option 2 – You can take a flight to Srinagar. From Srinagar, you can take a shared cab to Anantnag. From Anantnag, take a shared cab to Aru Valley which goes via Pahalgam.
|Best Time to Visit|
|For Skiing, December to February is the best time to visit Aru Valley.|
|The days are cold with temperatures ranging from -5 to – 12°C, and nights are extremely cold and the temperature can fall below -20°C.|
|During the winter season, the cold can be brutal at times when coupled with the wind. However, if you dress properly in layers, you can be assured that the cold can be negotiated without any trouble.|
|Nearby Places of Interest|
|Pahalgam, Kolahoi Glacier, Katrinag Valley and the Tarsar-Marsar Lakes.|
|Jammu & Kashmir|
|Nearest Railway Station and Airport|
|The nearest Railway Station is in Anantnag, while the nearest Airport is in Srinagar.|
|By Road and by Trek|
|Nearest Popular Town|
|Trekking and Skiing. Make sure to catch a glimpse of the spectacular night view of the lake.|
|If you do a Skiing course from Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (JIM&WS), your course fee would be INR 10,100 (if you are an Indian) or USD 1,000 (if you are a foreigner). If, however, you choose to Ski on your own, you can find a few Ski rental shops in the Aru valley region.|
Accommodation is quite expensive, but the food is reasonably priced. So traveling in a group would be nominal.
|Food Options Available|
|Maggi, Boiled Eggs, Paratha, Rajma Chawal, Mix Vegetable, Roti, Dal, Kadha (a local non-alcoholic drink), Kehwa tea, and a variety of non-vegetarian dishes (wazwan dishes).|
Skiing at Aru Valley: Day Zero
|Everyone who had enrolled themselves for a course of Skiing at Aru Valley had to report a day in advance at the institute’s headquarters nestled in Pahalgam. |
By the time I reached, about 20 students were already present. After signing the Indemnity Bond and other important documents, I was asked to collect my sleeping bag and a mattress.
The amenities were pretty basic but that didn’t matter. Being in the company of 27 other people, the evening was spent in interactions with each other.
Abiding by Army rules (JIM &WS is managed by the Indian Army), dinner was served at 19:00 hours. The food was simple but scrumptious.
Soon after dinner, I went out to the main building in order to use the washroom braving the cold. I looked up to see the sky full of stars. Seeing so many stars for the first time, I just stood there, staring in awe of nature.
Skiing at Aru Valley: The Beginning
|On the first day of the course, we hiked all the way from the headquarters to the base camp in Aru Valley. We covered a distance of 13 kilometres on foot to acclimatize since the Valley is located at a height of about 9,000 meters.|
The entire valley was enveloped in freshly fallen snow. That was when the popular statement – Kashmir is a paradise on earth – started to make so much sense.
Later in the afternoon, we were provided with one set of Skiing equipment each and taught how to use them. When I wore it, I felt like Alberto Tombo (a legendary Skier).
The rooms provided to us were pretty good. The floors and the walls were made of pinewood and each room had its own bathroom.
Skiing at Aru Valley: The Overall Experience
|From Day Two to Day 12, we followed the same routine:|
Wake up early in the morning, get ready, and get done with breakfast by 07:15 hours.
Exactly at 07:30 hours, we would leave for our Skiing practice on one of the hills.
Skiing at Aru Valley session would begin at 8:30 hours.
After practising for three hours and taking a break in between, we would get back to the base camp for lunch.
Post lunch, we would get two hours to relax before the theory class. After the theory class, we would get another one hour for ourselves.
Dinner time was 19:00 to 20:00 hours.
After dinner, we would play games or watch movies before going to sleep.
Simple as it may sound, the course was not easy. It was designed by professional skiers who serve the Indian Army.
Carrying about 20 kg of weights in the form of your Skiing equipment and our personal stuff whilst trekking for 50-60 minutes uphill was not easy. After three hours of Skiing practice, returning to the base came with nearly the same weight while walking down the slippery route seemed scary even on the penultimate day of the course.
But this is the reason why learning an adventure sport makes one feel stronger and teaches one about so many things that one can never learn in their comfort zone.
Why I Would Recommend Skiing at Aru Valley ?
|There were days when we would wake up feeling feverish and our bodies aching. But the imagination of moving down a slope was enticing enough to make us get out of our sleeping bags and get ready at the drop of a hat.|
The lowest temperature recorded there during the course period was -23°C. There were a few students who decided to quit mid-way but there were also two students who came for the course to celebrate their marriage.
All the instructors, led by a former Gurkha soldier, were really nice and made us believe that we were all in safe hands. However, pretty much all of us had one thing in common – we disliked for the lazy Medical Officer.
With little to no connectivity, we lost the link with the world, and yet we found a world which welcomed us with open arms. The locals always ensured that the guests had a memorable time and adhered to ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. Whereas, nature always delighted us with something new every now and then.
Also, there is an old (seemingly lonely) mountain dog named Juno with whom I befriended.
While it was the first time had seen a sky full of gazillion stars, it was also the first time when I witnessed snowfall, made a snowman, pitched a tent, spent four days on the trot without bathing, and made so many friends in such a short span of time.
Also, it was also the first time I did Skiing.
As I look back, those two weeks gave me an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions by First Timers
|Is there a possibility of a blizzard while skiing at Aru Valley ?|
If the weather conditions turn extreme, yes. However, you will be informed in advance and the authorities will make sure that you don’t try skiing at Aru Valley.
Does fitness level matter while skiing at Aru valley or any other place ?
Is it ok to try skiing without instructions?
No, it never is ok.
Is it important to stay hydrated?
Absolutely yes. Drink lots of warm water.
What is the ideal climatic condition to try skiing at Aru Valley ?
Three days after a snowstorm.
Which climatic conditions are not suitable for skiing at Aru Valley ?
After a fresh pour of rain.
Useful Tips for Skiing at Aru Valley
|Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned skier, never over exhaust yourself while skiing at Aru Valley.|
|Always dress in layers. It will protect you well against the biting cold.|
|Stay hydrated at all times but only with water or herbal teas. Avoid coffee and alcohol.|
|Train yourself in cardiovascular exercises at least 3 months before skiing at Aru Valley.|
|Mountains have a stronger solar flare. Avoid getting sunburnt while skiing at Aru Valley.|
|Do not venture out alone to try skiing at Aru Valley.|
Skiing at Aru Valley versus Gulmarg
|Aru Valley is considered the second-best place in India for Skiing. Gulmarg is the best one. However, if you want to avoid the crowd, Aru Valley should be the place you would want to visit.|
Being in Kashmir, it is advisable that visitors do not engage in any kind of talks related to regional politics (especially with the locals). Having said that, the locals are extremely nice to the visitors and will make sure that you have a great time in the valley during your stay.
Beautiful Destinations to Visit After Skiing at Aru Valley
Kashmir is known as Paradise on Earth for a reason. If you’re visiting the state and pursuing skiing at Aru Valley, make sure to explore other gorgeous places as well.
Happy wayfaring 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mehul Manot is a featured author at platforms like Sportskeeda, Ithaka, Live My Sport, Stack Pack Go and Bugyal. Professionally, he’s a Digital Marketer. He loves mountains and beaches equally. He is a Paragliding Pilot, a Skier, a Surfer, a White Water Rafter, and a Scuba Diver. His love for wildlife has taken him to places where he has seen Blue Whales, Dolphins, Turtles, Black-tip Shark, a Tiger, Elephants and One-horned Rhinos in the wild. He loves juggling, dancing, and playing pretty much any game. His only advice to travelers – “Please don’t ride elephants.”
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