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Sports in Kashmir

Skiing - Skiing in Jammu and Kashmir is a thrilling and exciting experience for any adventure enthusiast. The Ski Club of India was established in Gulmarg in 1927, which is now considered as the ski paradise of India. Just 50 km from Srinagar, situated at an altitude of 2,730 m, Gulmarg changes its scenery from a flowery meadow to that pf a small ski resort in winters. Ski-lovers from all over the country flock to the place because it is the only ski-resort in the mighty Himalayas where you can ski with a magnificent view of the Karakorams and also the cheapest one in the whole world to learn skiing. Gulmarg provides an altitude difference of over 1,500 m with lengths of more than 10 km. However, only a ski-mountaineer can reach these higher slopes. The beginners may hire any of the four ski lifts or a chairlift.

 

 
Here, the latest Austrian and French equipment is available on hire and the ski school known as the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, which conducts 10 day and 21-day short ski courses for beginners and advanced skiers. The best season for skiing is mid-December to mid-April and the road is kept open to Gulmarg with the help of powerful German machines throughout the winter. There are cross-country runs apart from downhill skiing and there are delightful excursions to the shrine of Baba Reshi through the 'powder chute'. Heli-skiing is the recent addition to the place and there are numerous possibilities of finding new tracks throughout the winter season. A look for a helicopter is even more majestic.

There are other places apart from Gulmarg, where one may find the pleasure of skiing including Srinagar. Ski tours from Pahalgam to Sonamarg through high mountain passes are not only demanding but also exciting. Wardwan Valley of Ladakh also attracts some ski-enthusiasts during the season.

Aero Sports - India is fast emerging as a major aero-sports destination because of its long Himalayan range that offers opportunities for activities like Para Sailing, Para Gliding, Hot Air Ballooning, and Para Jumping. Though, it will still take some time for the state of Jammu and Kashmir to gain popularity as a hand-gliding landmark, yet the location of a flat valley surrounded by high mountains is an ideal terrain for hang-gliding. The best places to try hand gliding are the meadows at the foot of mountains such as Yusmarg, Gulmarg and Sonamarg and one may go to the Suru and Zanskar valleys for hot air ballooning.

Paragliding is the latest aero sport to take the world by storm and its origin dates back to as late as 1940s, when an aviation pioneer, Dr. Francis Rogallo filed for a patent for his flexible Delta Kite. But it was not until the early 1980s that parachutes were foot-launched regularly from hills. Since then this sport has been rapidly expanding. Thousands of people all over the world have found this sport convenient, sheer fun and a safe medium of soaring in the air. With a vision to make India the leader in paragliding, over the past three to four years, many training courses were organized by several organizations such as Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering. A sizeable number of people have been trained as pilots now and are capable of flying solo. Sansar in Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most interesting spot that offers a bag full of wonders when the pilots take off for the flights.

Golf - Kashmir Valley offers verdant golf courses at Srinagar and Gulmarg, where one can play golf all through the summer, stretching from April to November. Bordered by trees of Chinar and Pine, one may play for longer hours here than in the plains because of the lower temperatures and invigorating climate.

 

The golf course at Gulmarg is one of the prettiest ones. Located as high as 3730 metres above sea level, it is the highest green golf course anywhere in the world. Hardly any stretch of the course is flat, which is full of the land slopes and inclines along the complete area of the course, which has a par of 72. The place has rarefied atmosphere, which carries the ball further, and the turf, since it lies buried six to eight feet under snow for five months of the year, is soft. The greens have a combination of moss and a high variety of grass and natural slopes, which are fast to play on.

The Kashmir Golf Club at Srinagar is spread over 52 sprawling acres of lush land. Its president, the noted politician Dr. Farooq Abdullah, is himself a keen golfer. With well laid out bunkers and hazards, interspersed between Chinars and Pine trees, is a professional 18-hole course and has been the venue of many tournaments. The course has common fairways and a par of 70.

Stretching across an expense of 300 acres near the famous Cheshma Shahi at Srinagar, The Royal Springs Golf Course was designed and laid out by the World-renowned Golf architect, Robert Trent Jones Jr. II, who has been known to design about 500 courses all over the World, including the cities of Bangkok and China. Overlooking the famous Dal Lake, it is set in a natural environment created against the dramatic backdrop of Zabarwan hills. Course at a par of 72 offer a challenge to all levels of players. The fairways are turfed with cool weather grass of different Shades. The trees bordering it are Rye, Kentucky blue and tall frescoes that lend a touch of color throughout the golfing season.

River Rafting - The valley of Kashmir is as famous for its rivers and lakes as it is for its beautiful mountains. More than just an object of beauty, the waterways offer activity-oriented leisure sports too. While the more sedentary ones may opt for a Shikara boat ride, which have sprung-cushion seats and chintz curtains, on the Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar, the others may opt for motorboats or go for water skiing. There are people who live in boats called Doongas and claim to be descendants of Noah, constantly sailing on the Jhelum River of Srinagar. One may see the old city of Srinagar while cruising on a slow boat that can be hired from them. As one passes under the numerous bridges spanning the Jhelum, the river changes character as it widens and meanders past visages in the valley.

 

 
However, it is the white water rafting on the two mountain streams of River Indus and River Lidder that is the favorite of the adventure enthusiasts. Rafting is a very recent sport in Kashmir. The Indus in Ladakh, in particular, has three portions that are ideal for this sport - a half day run for amateurs from Phey to Niemo, a two day exciting run from Phey to Alchi on the first day and Nurla on the second day with a choice of going further to Khalsi. The Zanskar River, also in Ladakh, can offer professionals six days on rapids that begin at Padum and passes through the picturesque Zanskar valley. The best season is August to September. Similarly, the River Lidder near Pahalgam has two short stretches suitable for white water rafting, especially for day trips. As the gradients are not steep, they are excellent for the first timers.

White water canoeing also has has extensive possibilities in the rivers of Lidder, Sindh, Drass, Suru, Indus, Zanskar, Chenab and for the less adventurous, even the Jhelum. The high altitude lakes of Tarsar, Marsar, Kaunsarnag, Kishensar, Vishensar and Gangabal could also be interesting for canoeing, thought the sport has not yet caught on here. Similarly, no one has yet tried diving in the lakes of the valley and it will be certainly a fun to discover the truth of the legendary city, which is believed to lie at the bottom of Wular Lake and the popular belief that Manasbal Lake has no bottom.

Trekking - Trekking forms an integral part of the adventure sports flourishing in the hilly tracts of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Ladakh takes away the prize of being a trekker's paradise despite of its harsh weather conditions and snowfall. It is only recently that adventure tourism has got its long-due attention from the tourism industry but now, a considerable part of the tourists who visit Kashmir like to trek, if just to glimpse at its matchless natural beauty. The major trekking regions in the Kashmir Valley are:

Shri Amarnath Yatra - A long trek, equally that is popular among both the trekkers and the pilgrims is the Amarnath trek that takes one to the naturally formed shrine of Lord Amarnath, one of the holiest pilgrimage spot for Hindus. As many accidents have occurred here in the past, all the stages of the yatra is carefully controlled by the Indian authorities. The first stage of the trek is to Chandanwadi, the second to Sheshnag and the third over the Mahagunas Pass to Panchtami. However, many pilgrims visit the cave from Panchtami and return to Sheshnag the same day, walking back to Pahalgam on the fifth day.

Gulmarg Trekking - An excellent base for trekking in the northern Pir Panjal Range, one can see Nanga Parbat from here from several viewpoints. One such viewpoint is Khilanmarg to the west of Gulmarg. From a distance, the Pir Panjal appears to be rounded but while trekking one realizes that it seem quite equal in steepness to those of the main Himalayas. To the south of Gulmarg is a pleasant trek of the walk up the Ferozepur Nala and beyond to the hamlets of Danwas, Tejjan, and to Samaidan. One needs a guide for trekking here as many stock trails intersect the route. The walk from Gulmarg to Tosamaidan is considered to be three stages long. One may return by way of Riyar and Khag villages or continue south toward Sunset Peak and then walk into the foothills along the Romushi Nala to Yusmarg.

 

Sonamarg Trekking - Sonamarg is the starting point of a major trek passing several mountain lakes that include Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. One trek even leads all the way to the Amarnath Cave.

Thajiwas Trek - A popular short walk from Sonamarg, which is a major highlight of the place in the summers, is the 4-km route to Thajiwas, a small valley at the foot of the Sonamarg glacier. It leads up to the Shakhdar hill that overlooks the glacier from the northeast. Climbing the steep slope leading up to the glacier can prove to be dangerous and one may hire opt for ponies for the trip. In early summer, one may also spot the nomadic groups of Gujar passing through Sonamarg on their way to the alpine meadows for the summer.

Trek From Sonamarg to the Valley Via Gangabal Lake - To the west of Sonamarg, is a fine trek where one crosses the Nichinai pass to Gangabal Lake. Accompanied by a guide, the starting point of the trek is the bridge in Shitkari village, where the road crosses the Sind River. One starts across the right bank of the river to the lakes called Krishan Sar and Vishan Sar, all the way to Gangabal Lake near Haramukh, which is the highest peak in the vicinity of the Kashmir valley.

Mountain Climbing - Mountain climbing is one of the most popular adventure sports of Jammu and Kashmir. Boasting of some of the best peaks of Himalayan and Alpine mountain ranges, the four regions into which the mountains can be grouped are - Kashmir, Kishtwar, Zanskar and Ladakh. The best renowned peaks are Kolahoi at an altitude of 5,425 m above sea level, known as the Matterhorn of Kashmir; Harmukh at an altitude of 5,148 m above sea level, whose north face resembles Eiger; Tattakuti at an altitude of 4,742 m above sea level; Sunset at an altitude of 4,745 m above sea level, the highest peak in the Pir Panjal range, and numerous other mall peaks in Sonamarg and Pahalgam.

Kishtwar presents small but challenging Himalayan peaks with great technical difficulty and involve weeklong trekking to the base camps. The popular peaks in this region are Sickle Moon at an altitude of 6,575 m above sea level; Eiger at an altitude of 6,001 m above sea level; Brammah-I at an altitude of 6,416 m above sea level; Brammah's Wife at an altitude of 5,297 m above sea level; Crooked Finger at an altitude of 5,630 m above sea level; Flat Top at an altitude of 6,100 m above sea level; Cathedral at an altitude of 5,370 m above sea level; Barnaj-I at an altitude of 6,100 m above sea level; Barnaj-II at an altitude of 6,290 m above sea level; Arjuna at an altitude of 6,200 m above sea level; Agyasol at an altitude of 6,200 m above sea level; and Shivling at an altitude of 6,000 m above sea level.

Fishing - It is a sport very much liked by tourists. Mahaseer fish is found in the river Jhelum near Sumbal, Sopore, and Baramulla bridge. Trout fish is found in Harvan Hatchery and Achhabal Hatchery. Common carp is found in the river Jhelum and its tributaries. The Wullar lake, the Dal lake, the Manasabal lake and the Anchar lake are other fishing spots.

Hunting - The hills and mountains of the state of Jammu and Kashmir are known for Big Game. Markhoor, Brown Bear, Leopard, and Barasingha are mostly found in Kanag, Baltistan, Pirpanjal and in the Middle and Inner Himalayas.

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