Skiing at Auli
During my previous Auli expedition I have decided to take full weeks skiing course instead of doing it for fun and give justice to the sport. So, here I am for the beginners course. The Himalayas are ideal destination for skiing with great height, open spaces, snow clad mountains, and slopes to pump up the adrenaline in any ski enthusiast. The states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand are ideal for skiing during winter. Auli is regarded as the best skiing destination in India with beautiful slopes at an altitude of 2500 to 3000 metres offering skiing opportunities to both beginners and professionals with clean environment. Experts have also rated the slopes of Auli amongst the best skiing grounds in the world with an added advantage of powdered snow. Usually between January to March, the slopes are covered with a thick carpet of snow, about 5-6 feet deep and the stretch of 3 KMs with a drop in elevation of 500 metres is considered to be a very good skiing ground by international standard.
The beginner ski programme
I got myself enrolled for the ski programme through” Trek The Himalayas ”and was eagerly waiting for the same. These courses are organised by various groups and usually are all inclusive package that include boarding, lodging, and skiing equipment. All important information and instructions were given for the preparation of the tour. A group was formed for the course and instructors were assigned for the same. Even though this was my first solo trip to a far off location but I was confident of completing it.
The journey begins
Finally, the day has arrived and I was all set for the tour with essentials packed. Reached Delhi in the morning, took some rest and did final preparation for the tour. Boarded the train at 11:50 pm and reached Haridwar at 4:00 am. Few of my group members also travelled via same train and we met at Haridwar. Since we have reached early, we visited Har ki Pouri (Ganges) and took the blessings. We were picked up by the organisers from Haridwar and started our journey towards Auli. We covered the distance of approximately 300 KMs through Himalayas accompanied by river Ganges and Alaknanda with distinct green coloured water in 10 hours. Finally, we reached our destination Auli and could see the mesmerising snow clad Himalayas. There was a hiccup in room allocation which resulted in disagreement but was finally sorted with rooms allotted to all. A briefing was given to the group about accommodation, equipment, trekking, precaution, and the training schedule.
After an early breakfast, we were introduced to our instructors and marching orders were passed towards the assembly area on hill top. Since our guest house was on the low lying areas of hills it was a decent trek to the top. By 10:30 am we all reached the assembly point. The skiing equipment was decked up for allotment. It was a bright sunny day and a flat bed was assigned for our day one for learning. The instructor informed us about the various skiing equipment and we collected the equipment as per the respective size. We were eager to start the adventure and were carefully listening to the instructions. Post receiving instructions we started wearing ski gears and believe me it wasnt easy to stand with ski on. It immediately started sliding after wearing on a friction less surface. The instructors taught us the importance of body positioning i.e. head, back, knee, & posture to stand and walk with ski. Initially, we took the baby steps to get accustomed with ski gears and balancing. Slowly and steadily we started sliding at times encountered occasional slip and fall as well. It was really a different experience walking on snow with skis. We relentlessly practised the basic techniques during the day. We learnt the sliding techniques as well and at the end of an eventful day we understood the importance of learning from fall.
Once again on next day we trekked to our assembly point and training for this day was scheduled on a slope. After a round of instructions we began to balance on the skies and were more comfortable as compared to previous day. The first few rounds were about learn landing by side falls at the end of the slope. We were told to start sliding with stick and importance of knee control by hand on slopes. We learnt to apply breaks by crossing the ski. We did 50 60 rounds of sliding with few falls till 2 pm. Every time we need to remove our ski and scale back the gradient with heavy skiing boots on. We restarted training at 4 p.m. and practiced for an hour. Every fall was a learning opportunity and we had lots of fun during. During this day trekking down was difficult due to hard and melting snow which also took a toll on our energy. Finally, after an exhaustive day we went for rest so that we are prepared for the next days session.
Next day we went up via chair lift with an amazing view of the Himalayas, snow clad mountains, & oak forests. We reached our assembly point and the task for today was to learn braking, speed & turns. On this day we were exposed to higher gradients in new location. Gradually we were moving upwards on our learning curve. We learnt how to move forward on a gentle slope and started parallel turns and snow plough turns. The snowplough turn is a braking and turning skiing technique for the beginners. The front tips of the skis are brought together and the tails pushed wide apart, with the knees rolled inwards slightly. By applying pressure against the snow with the edges of the skis, speed is reduced and the skier can stop completely. Again it was a fun filled day on higher slopes with lesser fall and more learning.
Once again we took the chair lift to reach the upper deck on this final day of skiing on higher slopes. Our instructor took us to advance slope which was much longer and steep as compared to the previous slopes. We practiced on these slopes for the day and gained more speed as compared to earlier days. By now we have become comfortable with the speed, twists, and turns. We all had become comfortable manoeuvring with ski and took the final lap from higher slopes to assembly point by ski. At the end of the program we were honoured with a certificate of appreciation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Trek The Himalayas as well as the instructors for effortlessly teaching us ski lessons & a very supportive team of adventure lovers who came from varied parts of the country for this course. A special thanks to my friend Vikesh Dimri (Himalayan Adventure Journey) for supporting me in learning key ski lessons. It was time to bid adieu to this beautiful place for our return journey towards Haridwar. The group were getting shifted to Joshimath and few of us decided to extend our stay at Auli in anticipation of snowfall the following day.
Watch the video of our progression…
The risk paid off and we were lucky enough to witness the beauty of snowfall and its mesmerising impact on the surroundings. The walk through the snowflakes with background turning into grey scale was a sight that will remain embedded in my heart forever. The contrasting beauty of the place with prominent colours getting highlighted was a treat to watch. Finally for few of us it was time to bid adieu to this beautiful place nestled in the laps of Himalayas.
Glimpse of Auli post fresh snowfall…
During the beginners program we learnt the basics of skiing and practised the skills on slopes of varying gradients. We fell, stood up, and learnt from every fall. The feel of slipping into heavy skiing boots and clamping them on the ski was awesome. We learnt travelling in cruise control down the meandering snow slopes leaving behind a blazing trail on white powder. Beginner course has given enough impetus to move towards advance learning stage and an ignite to achieve the same.
1) Choose to wear proper fitting ski boots that will help you keep warm.
2) Don’t wear very thick socks or more than one pair, as this will hamper your blood circulation and your feet might become cold again.
3) Wear ski pants instead of jeans or sweatpants.
4) Wear waterproof jackets and gloves.
5) UV protected sun glasses
6) Sun protection cream & Lip Balm / Cold cream
7) Waterproof trekking shoes
8) Thermal wears
9) Woollen Cap
Few Photos are contributed by Archit Ramaswamy and Kiran MP.