For the Love of Snow - 10 Winter Destinations in India

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Winter is finally here and it is time that I start craving for a white Christmas. I know many of you like to head to tropical destination during this time where the temperature is pleasant. But some like me, prefer to pull out those stylish winter wears, head to a winter destination, cozy up by the fire place with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book and say "Aah! This is bliss...". When we are not reading, we head out for a snow fight, go snow trekking or for those who can - Skiing!! So for the love of snow (not Jon Snow duh!), here are 10 places in India where you can head to this winter -

1. Gulmarg (Jammu &Kashmir)
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The first place that comes to my mind when I think of skiing in India is Gulmarg. 2 hours from Srinagar by car or bus, Gulmarg is a favourite among skiers, both professional and beginner's alike. Here you can get deep powder snow perfect for backcountry skiing and snowboarding. The ski resort is also proud of its Gondola ride. At a height of 3746 metres, it was world's highest cable car ride, until very recently the La Paz cable cars of Bolivia overtook it. Gulmarg is rated among Asia's 8 best ski destinations by CNN International.

2. Pahalgam (Jammu &Kashmir)

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Perfectly layered with snow, Pahalgam feels like paradise on earth during winters. Sit by the Lidder river, do some winter trekking, make friends with the local kids, attend the 2 day Snow Festival held sometime in January or just play with snow while you are there. You can reach Pahalgam by a shared or hired taxi from Srinagar which would take a little over 2 hours.

3. Dalhousie (Himachal Pradesh)
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Situated in the Chamba valley, Dalhousie is that quintessential winter destination where the land gets covered in a blanket of snow, the air gets chilly, the surroundings misty and its dense pine and deodar forests get shrouded with snow flakes. If all you are looking for is calmness, head to Dalhousie for some soul searching. If all you are looking for is adventure, you can still head there and join the 6D/5N National Himalayan Winter Trekking Expedition being organised by Youth Hostels Association of India anytime between 11-Dec-2014 to 5-Jan-2015.

4. Manali (Himachal Pradesh)

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This beautiful town is a favorite with travelers and tourists alike, be it in summer or winter. But to see it in its full glory and to escape the maddening crowd of peak season, I urge you to head there between December to February. Not only will you be mesmerized by its magical white beauty, you will also benefit from the off season hotel discounts. While you are there, try your hands (or rather legs) in snow trekking, enjoy Himalatan trout fish at Johnson's Cafe or head to Solang valley for some skiing.

5. Shimla (Himachal Pradesh)

If romance is on your agenda or you are newly married, Shimla or Simla (as many like to call it), is the perfect place you could head to. Just cozy up by the fire place or take a walk around the colonial town. If you are the adventurous type, the nearby ski resort Kufri might be of interest to you. And if you want to get away from the crowd of Shimla, head to the quaint hamlet of Chail (42 km) for some peace of mind.

6. Narkanda (Himachal Pradesh)
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The quiet town of Narkanda, 64 km from Shimla, is a hiker's delight and also a skiing resort. Hatu Peak (3400 m) is a famous hiking destination 7 km from Narkanda, on the Hindustan Tibet road. Narkanda is also famous for its apple orchards. Head to Narkanda in January if you want to experience snow.

7. Auli (Uttarakhand)
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Auli is like the new kid in the block which has fast caught up with other Ski destinations like Gulmarg, Manali or Shimla. Auli hosts the national skiing championship annually and was also the host of 2011 South Asian Winter Games along with Dehradun. You can get ski certified here by attempting a training course with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN). Auli offers panoramic view of the nearby snow clad peaks like Nanda Devi, Trisul, Neelkanth and Mana Parbat. To get to Auli, you have to take a taxi from Haridwar (299 km) which is the nearest railhead.

8. Munsiyari (Uttarakhand)

This untouched hamlet is absolutely off the beaten track. Munsiyari is paradise for people interested in high altitude trekking, glacier exploration and mountaineering. If you are in search of ski slopes, you can head to the nearby Khalia Top or Betulidhar. Munsiyari offers awe-inspiring vistas of snow capped Himalayan Ranges and can be reached from Nainital (300 km) by hired taxis or buses. 

9. Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh)
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Very few would dare to venture into the Spiti Valley during the winters, but nothing could be more rewarding than a surreal white Spiti after driving through the harsh conditions on NH 22. If you plan to brave this, you can get a lot of ideas from

10. Chadar Trek (Ladakh)
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Well Chadar is not exactly snow, rather frozen ice. But I had to add it for the love of it. Because for the extreme adventurers, there is no better winter destination than the Chadar. When some villages in the Zanskar valley of Ladakh become inaccessible during winter, the only way to get there is to trek on frozen river Zanskar. The trek is done from Chilling Sumdo to Naerak Camp and back and takes 9 days. The Chadar will entice you every moment while you are there as it constantly keeps changing.

So what are you waiting for? Head out to any of these places, get awed and wonder-struck by the beauty of whiteness all around, run around catching snowflakes during snowfall, pelt each other with snow balls, build a snowman with a red scarf and carrot nose, lie on the snow and make a snow angel and if you don't know how to ski, whee down the slopes in a toboggan. When you get tired, sit by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book and say "Aah... This is bliss...".

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