Manali : Powdery snow slopes near this picturesque tourist resort have once again started attracting skiers. And they should be in no hurry – the hills will remain blanketed in white till March end.
Skiing organisers say more spells of snow are expected and will keep the Solang slopes, just 13 km uphill from Manali, covered in white for over two months.
“At present, the Solang Valley has more than a three-and-a-half foot snow cover. The region will continue to experience fresh snow till February,” Randhir Singh Salhuria, director of the state-run Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports here, said .
The institute is conducting skiing courses – for professionals and amateurs – in Solang in the western Himalayas. This season the courses began from Wednesday and will continue till the slopes have snow.
Salhuria said a large number of skiers and snowboarders have come to the slopes for the first time in the season as the snow stopped and road links from Manali reopened.
According to the Met office in Shimla, it snowed heavily in Solang and nearby areas during Jan 5-9.
“What a nice powder,” remarked local skier Vineet Joshi, who had come here with his friends. “As the news flashes, Solang will pull in more skiers and snowboarders across the country,” he added.
District Tourism Officer Balbir Thakur said: “There are a large number of private tour operators in Solang who are providing skiing apparatus as well as instructors to tourists. We have fixed rates and the department is monitoring them.”
According to him, the fee ranges from Rs.300 to Rs.1,000 depending on the time booked and ski kits sought.
Besides skiing, the tourists can also enjoy snow scooter ride and sledging.
Private ski instructor Mohan Verma said like last year, snow on the Solang slopes was quite timely this year too.
“Till February we can easily hold skiing sessions in Solang. After that, the higher slopes of Marhi and Gulaba can be used,” he added.
The mountaineering institute, which boasts of ski instructors of international fame, is charging a fee of Rs.5,300 for a 14-day basic ski course in Solang that includes board and lodging.
The other attraction in Solang’s snowy peaks is a multimillion-rupee ropeway-cum-ski project that was inaugurated by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in January last year.
Set up with an investment of Rs.36 crore, the project is a joint initiative between the state tourism department and a private company, Ski Himalayas Ropeway Pvt Ltd.
The ropeway takes tourists to the ridge of Mount Phatru at an elevation of 3,200 m (10,000 ft).
Amitabh Sharma, the company’s joint managing director, said the gondolas have a special provision to carry skiers to the top terminal to enable them to increase the ski run by at least three kilometres.
Salhuria said the Solang slopes offer a challenging run to both beginners and advanced skiers and are of international standards.
For newcomers, the mountaineering institute conducts basic, intermediate and advanced ski courses at Narkanda, 65 km from Shimla.
Narkanda has shorter and gentler slopes that attract mostly newcomers. The slopes currently have more than two feet of snow.
The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation’s (HPTDC) Hatu Hotel at Narkanda provides accessories like skis, boots and sticks to prospective skiers.