By Sheikh Qayoom
Gulmarg: This world-famous ski resort and tourist destination came alive Monday with scores of domestic and foreign tourists enjoying the snowfall that gave the Himalayan meadow at 8,820 feet a Christmas-card ambience.
As thick and heavy flakes of snow fell on tall Pine trees covered in dense fog, one wonders whether nature has a design to hide this popular hill station from mortal approach.
The 12-kilometre road from Tangmarg up to the meadow has been closed because of heavy snowfall at night as everything looks frozen around the place.
The night temperature was below freezing point as firewood-charged stoves in tourist hutments and centrally heated hotel rooms kept the guests warm besides an occasional sip of brandy for the foreign visitors.
The skiers are enjoying the sport as honeymooners and merry-makers prefer rides on the Gandola cable car that carries them to Kongdoori heights at 12,300 feet above the sea level.
“This place is heaven and if anybody has any doubt, that person had better come here right away to see and find out,” Vinod Kumar, 34, from northern India, who added he was very lucky to be greeted by snow upon his arrival in the “Meadow of Flowers” as Gulmarg is famously referred to, told IANS.
“I came here earlier during the summers. But coming here during winter is an entirely different experience,” said Pramod, 43, from Kolkata.
Mili Sharma, 34, from Mumbai is here for the first time with her family. “I saw snowfall and rode a Gandola for the first time. This is bliss. I request every nature lover to come to Gulmarg and take home an unparalleled experience,” she said.
However, the happiness pervading all around was marred when a tourist and a taxi driver died after the vehicle skidded and rolled over on the Gulmarg-Tangmarg road because of extreme frost Saturday.
More than half a dozen other vehicles carrying tourists and locals also met with accidents while coming down from Gulmarg or going up from Tangmarg.
Tour operator Bilal Ahmad told IANS: “We helped in bringing the two bodies from the accident site. Else, wild animals could have devoured those. Authorities spend millions on upkeep of Gulmarg; why don’t they spend money on developing the roads?”
Traffic authorities Monday said only vehicles fitted with chains and those with 4×4 facility would be allowed to proceed to Gulmarg from Tangmarg now.
More tourists are expected to arrive here for Christmas and also for New Year celebrations.