2016 Season Report from Bill Barker - Best of Gulmarg (Kashmir, India)
Greetings from Bill Barker...
"I hope you scored your share of great powder turns this past northern winter.
Those who visited Gulmarg with us certainly had their quota of awesome tree skiing, and plenty of superb days in the high alpine bowls…….not to mention a close encounter with a snow leopard, and all the other unforgettable experiences throughout the season. A trip to Kashmir is so much more than just the world class terrain and amazingly reliable powder.
“Best run of my Life” and “Best Trip of my Life” where once again claimed by many this season. This makes all of us at Bill’s Trips very very happy! We love everything about skiing in Kashmir, but it is being able to share the experience with others that makes it even more special.
This newsletter contains a 2016 winter wrap up, as well as some other bits of info you may find interesting. At the bottom of the page there are some testimonials from this season’s guests".
2017 Trips Filling Very Fast
Bookings are now open for 2017. With many returning guests, our trips are filling faster than ever before so get in quick to secure your preferred dates.
LIMITED EDITION TRIP DATES - 2017
22 January – 5 February
5 February – 19 February
19 February – 5 March
Double the Guides
Each group of 4 guests now have two guides as standard. A foreign lead guide and a local assistant guide work alongside each other to provide the best safety net and cultural experience possible.
Legendary Bill’s Trips guide Sam Dunlop blew his ACL in early February. He flew home for surgery the following week, and is now well on the way to recovery. He will be back in action and putting us all to shame on his teles in 2017.
A big welcome and thanks to Jef “Uncle” Desbecker and Peter Whitworth for joining the team. They brought with them a wealth of experience and knowledge……. and slightly twisted senses of humour that seems to fit so well. “Uncle” is an extremely energized veteran American / Kiwi ski guide who had previously guided for Kashmir Heliski along with many other operations around the globe. Pete is an ex racer / ski patroller, and is now the avalanche forecaster for Remarkables Ski Resort in NZ. A huge thanks for jumping on a plane with 2 days notice to help us out when Sam blew his knee. Expect to see both Pete and Uncle in Gulmarg more often.
The Biggest Cheers goes out to all who joined us this season. Myself, Natasha, Sam, Jef, David, Pete, Wali, Manzoor and Firdous had an awesome time sharing powder turns and laughs with you. Yousef and Rasool were most impressed with how you looked in your pherins, and the Highland Park staff had tears in their eyes when we left. A huge “Thank You” from all of us at Bill’s Trips for another fantastic Gulmarg winter!
2016 Season Wrap
Like some areas of Japan and Europe, February in Gulmarg had warmer temperatures and less snow than normal. However, unlike Japan and Europe, untracked quality powder was easily found on virtually every day of the winter.
November and December delivered several substantial snowfalls on the upper mountain, and by the time the gondola opened for skiing there was a solid base down to the Gulmarg village.
January saw a prolonged dry spell (but awesome freeze dried turns in the alpine) until the first real winter storm arrived on the 24th which gave us our first deep days in the trees. The next storm ended around Feb 1 (perfect timing for the new arrivals) followed by weekly fresh blanket snowfalls until the end of the month. During mid to late February the temperature rose substantially between storms and we experienced much warmer days than usual, while Srinagar recorded its warmest February day ever. However, even during this unseasonal event we did not have any trouble finding epic powder turns… as the north facing alpine bowls and high elevation trees stayed in great shape throughout.
In early March (and just when you thought spring had sprung), the biggest storm cycle of the season rolls in. The village received close to 3 meters of snow in a couple of weeks, with one storm delivering the lightest density snow of the winter!
The Snow Leopard
If skiing great powder isn’t enough for you, we occasionally throw in a close encounter with one of the world’s most elusive creatures. Although the media would have you believe David (our guide) was being chased, the snow-leopard was probably more startled than him, and made a quick exit stage right once it had a bearing on everyone’s positions. An incredible experience for the first run of the morning.
Kashmir Heli Ski
More sunny days than usual gave Kashmir Heliski plenty of flying opportunity and many of our guests joined them for a day or two and enjoyed many epic runs in the high alpine and steep trees.
Untracked Slopes and Empty Lift Lines
Although Bill’s Trips were once again fully booked for the peak season, the total number of visitors to Gulmarg has dramatically decreased over the last couple of years. There are several theories as to why (most notably the collapse of the Russian economy) but whatever the reason, it gave us lots more untracked laps of the easily accessible terrain. Happy days!
Have a read of what some of our guests had to say about their experience this year.
Love the Skinning
Hi Bill and Natasha,
Just a short note to say how very much I loved the Gulmarg trip. Hand on heart it is one of the great and unique experiences of my life. And way ahead as far as a skiing experience goes. (I can only imagine what a good season is like). Loved the skinning for where it took us, the fitness boost and the whinging we got from my mate. The whole group was a great mix and it made for such a relaxing and happy time after every day's workout. The guides were exceptional for their skills, and for making us always feel very at home.
So Many Laughs!
Hi Bill and Natasha
………. an absolutely amazing trip - such an adventure and so many laughs!
Same Book Twice?
Dear Bill and Natasha,
I just wanted to thank you both once again for the amazing all round experience you organised and coordinated in Gulmarg last month. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but it truly was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. The guides were awesome, in both their knowledge on, and their company off the hill. I thought the group were a rad, diverse group of people and I now have many new friends as a result (except for that plumber mate of yours!). Obviously the mountain is epic. So much sick terrain around that you want to just keep exploring. And the Kashmiri people, in particular the awesome staff at Highland Park, were some of the most friendly and genuinely hospitable people I've ever met. And the good times spent on Dal Lake at the end was the icing on the cake. I've never read the same book twice because I figure when you do you're missing out on an opportunity to experience a new book. And I’ve pretty much applied the same philosophy to travelling. However I think I may have finally found a reason to break that rule, and if there's still places available, could you reserve a spot for me for next year…..
OMG…. The trip is simply ridiculous, so much more than 'just' awesome backcountry skiing in the flipping Himalaya; the whole being in Kashmir thing is unreal and worth a trip by itself….. And the end on a houseboat ... Well you know what happens on a boat ;)
Hi Bill and Natasha,
Thanks for a great couple of weeks!! I think you do a great job. I know you say that it all just happens but clearly the effort you’ve put in over the last 10 years, the network you’ve developed and the great relationships you have with the hotel, local guides and people throughout Gulmarg make it all work. The atmosphere always remained relaxed and the guides always appeared very confident and sure of the conditions. I appreciated the conservative approach to the skiing the day after the big snowfall while the mountain settled.
It was a great experience!!
Trip of a Lifetime!
Thanks for making me a part of the Bill’s Trips family, you have a great crew of people (foreigners and locals) that work with you. Also, the feedback from the locals wherever I went was very positive, and they all have different stories to tell of your time and adventures there with them over the past 10 years. The mountain is a beast and the quality of the snow superb. I can honestly say that I had the trip of a lifetime, and the memories will stay with me forever.
Where will you be next February?