By: Sarah Mangelsdorf. Contributing Editor to globetotting.com and Masters student
Lives in: Singapore
Children: Xanthe 4yrs, Aston 2yrs and Zachary Taj 6wks
Family Adventure: A family skiing holiday in Gulmarg, a resort town in the foothill of the Himalayas, Kashmir, India
I once went to Barcelona with 1 handbag, 1 passport, 1 dress, 1 pair of flats and 1 bikini, and returned one week later with the same (plus a rather sore head, blistered dancing feet and laryngitis). Our second family holiday to Gulmarg, Kashmir comprised of 5 family members (kids 6wks, 2yrs & 4yrs), 2 nannies, 7 pieces of carry on luggage, 2 snowboard sets, 3 suitcases, 1 travel cot, 2 portable DVD players, 1 laptop, more nappies/games/books/toiletries than a general store and not nearly enough patience for the lack of decent caffeine options in Delhi airport at 5am.
Lack of spontaneous singledom travel aside, Gulmarg was an easy, picturesque and fun filled holiday for everyone. The kids loved being pulled on sleds and carried on the shoulders of porters (as did their parents who didn’t have to). We loved the powder and incredible mountain trails, and the remoteness, yet ease of access that makes Gulmarg an incredible experience. As the ski runs aren’t opened until 10am, mornings at Highlands Park were spent lazing in bed whilst our cabin attendant stoked up our bukharis (traditional stoves) and served tea. This was followed by a sustaining breakfast at the dining room, followed by kitting up for morning powder.
Up at Phase II of the gondola the powder is some of the best in the world. I found it buried me rather nicely, others actually skied on top of it! The kids would stay behind to attack each other and unsuspecting passersby with snowballs, build wonky snowmen and sledge down the beginner slopes right next to the hotel. We met again for lunch and gondola rides in the afternoon. Evenings were spent having stiff legs massaged, playing board games and meeting other visitors around the central bukhari at the bar.
The best part:
Knowing that you are skiing in India! When one thinks of Indian holidays, divine, empty ski fields aren’t usually the first images that come to mind. Mixed with the mountain views way up from the world’s highest gondola, overlooking Kashmir and beyond (then knowing it’s a steep exciting trip back down!), the Kashmiri hospitality, big smiles and helpful assistance everywhere you go. Topped off by the warming food, Khawa chai and home comforts of Hotel Highlands Park where nothing is too much.
Three things you should definitely do:
1. Bring all your personal warm clothing and ski equipment. Ski and snowboarding gear can be hired, but there aren’t any shops selling clothing and accessories.
2. Get out and about, go for walks, ice skating, car trips, sledge rides, take the gondola even if you can’t ski. Remember to take the smaller trails if you can, and ski down to other villages for tea and soup – and then grab a lift back up to do it all again!
3. Stay longer than originally planned. Once you get to Hotel Highlands Park, the rest of India and the world seem so far away, you’ll never want to leave.
Sarah and her family stayed in the Highlands Park Hotel, Gulmarg.
IMPORTANT! There is a long history of conflict within the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Remember to consult your own government’s travel advisory for safety advice such as www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india
See globetotting’s recommended Family Holidays in India