Gulmarg Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (m)
      2,650 - 3,980 (1,330)
  • Average Snow Fall
    14 metres
  • Lifts (4)
    1 Gondola
    1 Quad
    3 Pomas
  • Ski Hours
    8:30am to 3:00pm
    December to March
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs - Infinite
  • Longest run – 8 km
    Advanced - 70%
    Intermediate - 20%
    Beginner - 10%
Gulmarg Skiing and Snowboard Terrain All the Gulmarg ski action takes place on the Pir Panjal range, of which the most obvious highpoint is Mt Apharwat at around 4,200m. The range and views are breath-taking (literally)!

There are at least four things that you need to understand about Gulmarg skiing before reading on:
  1. Gulmarg Resort is an advanced snow riders’ hill. Beginners and intermediates need not apply.
  2. To get to the goods, Gulmarg requires a certain amount of hiking beyond the main ‘inbounds’ terrain. Skiers and borders that can’t or won’t walk up a hill in ski boots or on skins need not apply.
  3. Much of the high alpine terrain is highly avalanche prone. In addition to snow stability issues at certain times, many of the alpine bowls funnel into chokepoints creating potential avalanche terrain traps along their entire length. Using a quality guiding service is essential for first time visitors.
  4. Things do go wrong in Gulmarg. Some days the gondola will open late or not at all, or it will snow 120cm in two days and the avalanche danger will be extreme in the high alpine. This is all part of the Kashmir adventure, and regardless of the gondola and avalanche hazard level, there is always a safe place to slide down and have some fun. Just face it, you’re not in Deer Valley anymore Toto!
The lifted terrain at Gulmarg ski resort is best described as three separate zones. There are three pomas for beginners on the flats, the forested slopes of the phase 1 gondola and surrounds, then there is the quad chairlift and the huge treeless high alpine accessed by the phase 2 gondola.

It is the backcountry of Gulmarg that makes the place shine. By using the gondola as access, most of the hard work is done for you. Bowls stream off the main ridgeline north and south of Mt Apharwat (4,200 metres ish), giving endless possibilities for muscular meltdown. To the south of the top Gulmarg gondola station, the spurs and bowls run east for miles into a deep valley, emerging at the town of Tangmarg, several kilometres below Gulmarg. To the north, it’s possible to get within shouting distance of Pakistan.

The Gulmarg ski terrain on the northwest side of the summit is glacier-like, but without the glacier. Many of the lines to the extreme north of the range were skied for the first time in 2010, so it’s still possible to feel like a true pioneer. The terrain varies from steep chutes to beautifully pitched glades.

During blizzards, delightful gladed terrain can be skied below Gulmarg leading to local shrines. At the end of a backcountry day, aside from all the skiing, you might have only used the Gulmarg gondola once, skinned a few kilometres, hiked a few kilometres and taken a taxi for the rest of it.

Gulmarg is gaining in popularity and skier numbers are on the increase. Having the mountain to yourself is a thing of the past, so the usual rules of starting early and earning your turns apply.

Gulmarg Gondola and LiftsThe lift system is simple in Gulmarg. Up the side of Mt Apharwat are the two phases of the Gulmarg gondola, and down on the flats near the village are three pomas. We’ll ignore the three pomas because honestly, who cares!? Adjacent to the mid-station of the Gulmarg gondola is a relatively new detachable quad chairlift.

The Gulmarg gondola, whilst it has only been fully constructed in the last 5 years, is in fact over 20 years old. It was purchased long ago but sat idle on the ground because of the military and civil unrest that has plagued the region. The large Indian military presence all through Kashmir attests to this.

Designed to seat six persons, the most that generally can squeeze in is four. The ‘clamshell’ design of the gondola doors can make entries and exits with backpacks and big skis interesting to say the least.

The gondola is split into two phases. The first phase starts at 2,650 metres up to the mid-station (Kongdori) at 3,050 metres, and serves 400 vertical metres of flattish gladed terrain. One or two groomed trails wind their way through the trees to the base. Otherwise it’s a free for all in well spaced pines. Summer huts from the local herders dot the hillside through the trees and make an interesting distraction, or jump when there’s enough snow. Boarders need to maintain their speed over some of the flatter sections, and you’ll want to go fast anyhow as wildlife enjoys the protection this area affords, and you don’t want to become snow leopard bait!

The 2nd phase of the Gulmarg gondola that goes up to 3,980 metres is the juice. Heading up just shy of 1,000 metres of vertical, it accesses some gob smacking lines.

The detachable quad chairlift provides about 500 metres of vertical rise, and is a handy chairlift for days when the gondola is not fully operational.

The final important “lift” is the local taxis. The taxis do backcountry pick-ups from any accessible location and will either return you to your hotel or back to the gondola for another run. Your local guides will arrange taxis, or if without a guide, try asking the chaps at the Gulmarg Ski Shop for the best way to arrange pick-ups.

Lift Tickets If you don’t have lift tickets included as part of your Gulmarg ski package, there are two rules regarding lift tickets. Only ever buy single ride tickets and have the right change. Daily, weekly and even season pass tickets can be purchased, but you might do your dough depending on the lift status and type of backcountry journeys undertaken.

Gulmarg Snow and Weather Whilst the powder is generally not described as “dry”, Gulmarg Resort is normally blessed with unbelievable amounts of snow. It ranks in the realms of Utah and Niseko in the snowfall stakes. The average annual snowfall is not well documented, but it is thought to be about 14 metres, whilst during the 2004-05 season there was an amazing 20 metres of snow! The 2010 season was very slow to begin, but really cranked up in February.

Falling snow, high winds and poor visibility at the top of the range will generally close the phase 2 gondola, meaning the trees (or the market) beckons.

Temperatures at Gulmarg are not super cold. It’s generally milder than the toe numbing frigidity of interior Canada and the USA.

When the sun shines in Gulmarg you quickly notice how warm it is. Europeans would love to soak up the rays at the gondola mid station, but fortunately there are no comfy lounge chairs available for them to do so!

Gulmarg Avalanche Risk Avalanche danger in Gulmarg is at times extreme. A beacon, probe and shovel, plus the knowledge to use them, is standard attire. The main bowl under the gondola is the only area controlled by the ski patrol, and they are now able to use blasting without the fear of a neighbouring country mistaking their intent. Other areas are at the mercy of Mother Nature and people from the Eastern bloc. One of the biggest challenges in Gulmarg is avoiding an avalanche triggered by any number of mad Russian or Ukrainian folks dropping in from above!

For the Beginner A few pomas down the bottom of the hill service beginners. The expanse of terrain is very limited, and is predominantly occupied by the locals. Go to Colorado to learn instead. Copper Mountain is good.

Intermediate Gulmarg Skiing Gulmarg is a great place for intermediates to get injured, and experience shows that you don’t want to end up in the hospital in Kashmir – you wouldn’t like the cockroaches and other people’s body fluids on the sheets! This is not the best mountain for intermediates. Go to Colorado. Vail is nice.

Gulmarg Skiing for the Family/Kids If your family and kids are advanced skiers that are looking for a major adventure Gulmarg is worth considering. Otherwise, stay home or go to Colorado. Wolf Creek is great.

For the Shredder There are no man made terrain parks in Gulmarg. Put your shovel to good use and build your own kickers, or there are plenty of natural and man-made features to break bones on. Boarders should also note that the phase 1 gondola has flat sections that may require some effort and plenty of wax to get through.

Gulmarg Ski Terrain - Advanced & Expert  Advanced and expert terrain are lumped together because the Gulmarg ski terrain basically requires competent skills wherever you go, and the difference between an advanced or expert line might be a matter of metres left or right.

The main bowls under the phase 2 Gulmarg gondola offer fast lines down a number of spurs. There are even some pitchy trees skiers’ right of the lift line above the mid station restaurants.

A short hike halfway towards the summit and one can access the North and South Apharwat bowls via a traverse. They can also be accessed via the summit proper. The skiing here is sublime. The bottom half of the North Apharwat bowl is so good that you can do massive super fast GS turns down it.

Beyond the summit the possibilities are endless.

For the Powder Hound Local knowledge, or the ability to access it via a quality guide, is the essential ingredient here. Be it Monkey Hill, North Apharwat bowl or something beyond that.

When it has dumped and the gondola doesn’t look like running, Baba Reshi shrine is a cracking long run through gorgeous gladed terrain. If one starts early and the taxi at the bottom is on time, a competent group should be able to get in two runs before anyone gets a look in...

Again on gondola closed days, skiing Monkey Hill can be great. It is located between the gondola base and the market area. It has some lovely steep trees and gullies and one can skin to the top via easy ridgelines from either near the gondola base or at the entry gate near the market. The market side climb goes through several interesting stone ruins.