Shimla : Heavy spells of snowfall after many years in the ski resort of Kufri near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh is attracting thousands of visitors each day here giving a boost to the winter tourist season .
According to one estimate over 2200 tourists are arriving here every day to recreate in the snow spending about 11 lakh each day on many snow activities. Locals say the snow bounty is helping generate higher returns .
This snow tourism based local business will last till March making the entire economy worth about Rs 10 crore. This is providing temporary jobs to about 1100 locals from Kufri and surrounding villages. skiers, sledders , photographers, horse owners and grooms, food and beverage sellers, travel guides and porters make their living on this â€˜white goldâ€™ for nearly three months.
Tourists come from various parts of the country to have a rich feast of snow and adventure thrill on the snowy slopes. Kufri has become a venue to a mini snow festival every day. Locals offer skiing, snow tubing, sledding, photography in snowscapes, horse riding, snow walking and hiking, yak ride for clicking touristsâ€™ pictures and tobogganing. With these snow based activities food based economy is also developing on the Mahasu Peak of Kufri Hills.
All these snow sports are designed by the locals for the novice snow adventurers. This micro initiative done by the locals is giving new dimension to the winter tourism where the resources snow, tourists and locals are weaved together on Kufri hills.
â€œFirst we studied the demand of the tourists and honed our local human resource giving them training on these snow slopes so that they can sell their snow adventure services to the customers. Food, snacks, tea, snow shoes renting, woollen wears etc. all businesses are growing here slowly.
This provides direct livelihood to about 1100 people and feeding other 4400 of their family members,â€ says Dev Raj Kashyap, President of Maheshwari Winter and Sports Club, Kufri.
â€œEach day between over 2000 tourists from various parts of county visit Kufri and this will continue till March as it snowed heavily this year. The snow tourism will generate about Rs 10 crores economy in these three months,â€ adds Dev Raj Kashyap.
Kufri wears a snowy magical veil nowadays. The hills are serene, tranquil and mystical. In the sunny days the snow â€“clad hills glare, trees shine green after the snow bath and the scenes of the inner Himalayas cheer the spirits of the tourists.
â€œThis snow blanketed hill station is so orderly and beautiful that it helps cleansing my internal world crowded with contradictions and conflicts. In the deep forests one feels as if nature is meditating,â€ says P.R Rao, a tourist from Hyderabad, after returning from the snow walk in the deep Kufri forests.
Adventure on the snowy slopes thrills these novice snow sporting tourists. They enjoy skiing down the short snow slopes with the local trained skiers. Snow tubing also gives good recreation to them. These local villagers have made folk toboggans, wooden sleds and snowboards for touristsâ€™ pleasure.
â€œWe first give these tourists lessons on skiing, sledding or snow tubing so that they do not fear or injure themselves. If they cannot, then we support them riding downhill on the snow. We charge them per hour. This is providing us good income in otherwise lean winter season,â€ says Deepak Verma, a trained skier from Kufri.
â€œI saw snow for the first time in my life. Skiing downhill with the skier was an experience which will take a stroll down my memory lane,â€ says Shilpa Sharma , a tourist from Delhi.
â€œOverstressed and over-worked life of the corporate world fragments us within. After enjoying snowy natural world in Kufri I have a feeling of whole person in me. A feel of pure Nature heals us and de-stresses our mind,â€ says R.K. Hedge , a senior manager from a private company in Bangalore.
Snow covered Kufri has potential to weave beauty and bread together. It offers its beauty as a feast to the hearts and minds the tourists while locals earn bread from the snow based activities. The micro initiative of the locals has not found any government support till now.
â€œWe want basic facilities like snow slope development, ice-skating rink, good roads, good water supply, skis, snowboards and other modern snow equipments to be provided by the government. It can give boost to the entire ice and snow tourism in this region thus expanding the economy and creating further employment,â€ adds Dev Raj Kashyap .
This micro initiative of the local villagers in the ice and snow tourism needs macro linkage to develop this economy which is being given special treatment in the neighbouring China and the Western World.