There are those among us who’ve never seen snow–or discovered the magic of a single snowflake. You don’t need to climb high in the Himalayas in India to witness this amazing miracle of Nature… even a visit in the deep winter to the hill stations of the North, popular now all year round, offer the perfect setting for experiences the wonders of the snow peaks and the fun and frolic of the snowfields.
The chill of a Northern winter in India, when temperatures can plummet to single-digits and even sub-zero levels, heralds happy days for snow addicts. Gulmarg, Leh Ladakh, Shimla, Darjeeling Manali, Mussoorie, Naintal, Auli, Naintal…it’s a great line-up for planning your tryst with snow.
The summer alpine meadow in the Kashmir Valley is your most alluring go-to destination for the winter snow. When the meadowlands are covered by a mantle of snow and the pines are dripping with melting snowflakes, you know you have to be here to join the crowds, enjoying sledging, snowball fights, snowman making–and even more adventurous, skiing and snowboarding. Did you know Gulmarg is the most inexpensive place in the world to learn to ski? Its pristine powder fine snow slopes make it one of the most popular spots for skiing fanatics the world over. The fun and frolic on Khilanmarg’s flower filled meadowland, now frozen white, will remain in your memory for long just like the ride up the gondola, one of India’s highest and longest cable cars, which offers grand views of the snow-peaks. You will delight endlessly in the glamour of the Winter Games, which attract competitors from India and abroad. From several vantage points, you can enjoy snow-views of Nanga Parbat and Harmukh. In Srinagar itself, the iconic Dal Lake is ashimmer with a coating of frozen snow, no longer reflecting the surrounding hills or a blue sky. Come here between December and March.
The summer hill resort of Manali in Himachal Pradesh has long been the haunt of snow addicts. The nearby Solang Valley offers a slew of snow sport activities undertaken by professional outfitters. Visitors can indulge themselves with sledging, snow mobile rides, ATV rides, para-gliding, skiing, snowboarding; even the heli-skiing is on offer with an add-on of a cultural extension which allows for generous interfaces with the locals. A drive to Rohtang Pass, 50km from town brings you to this iconic setting of a snow picnic with so many visitors, including honeymooners and families enjoying skiing lessons and yak rides and snow fights. Come here between December and February.
The frozen expanses of the Skating Ring are a huge draw for families experiencing the epic offerings of a Shimla winter in Himachal Pradesh. Hot samosas, jalebis and cardamom tea are perfect for chasing away the cold as the days go by with the falling snow outside your window. Fireside chit chat and cosy quilts and a leisurely full course cooked breakfast go down rather well on those chilly days. The ice skating carnival, organised by the Shimla Ice Skating Club (estab. 1920), is a tremendous hit attracting throngs of visitors. From various vantage points in and around town, you can soak in the panorama of the glorious snow peaks of the Western Himalayas. The snow fields of nearby Kufri and Narkanda offer picture settings to explore the adventurer in you. Don’t forget to pack your skis for some fun filled moments here. An unmissable experience is the frozen vistas of the Tanni Jubbar Lake. Come here between December and February.
The winter months are just heavenly for soaking in those grand panoramas of the Mt. Khanchedzonga and its attendant peaks in the Eastern Himalayas. It’s when the world third biggest mountain throws off its gauzy veil and allows you to gaze upon the unfettered glory of its snowy visage. Winter mornings can be cold, but the afternoons are sunny, with cloudless blue skies and a stiff winter breeze rippling through the evergreens. While it doesn’t snow in the town limits, you should definitely take a ride on the ropeway which offers spectacular views of the snowfields of Darjeeling’s surrounds at higher altitudes and the ice-mantled peaks. Drive down to nearby Tumling or further ahead to Sandakphu to enjoy that grand untrammeled snowline. In the summer, this is a great base for a spectacular trek. Come here between December and February.
If winters here’s can spring be far behind? So what are you waiting for? Head for the hills and unleash the winter days’ adventurer in you… before the snow melts away…