Since hearing about it back in Jan 2016 I had been dying to see if my Skate & Surf skills could translate to Snowboarding. This year I decided I was not going to wait any longer. I needed to find out for myself! First thing I did was call up Pagalxoro to see if he would be down to join me on this new adventure. As if i even needed to ask, he said yes before I finished asking!
Because snow gear is so expensive in Kashmir, we made sure to get what we needed Nepal so we could save money and extend our stay. Before we knew it we had landed in Srinagar and were in need of a ride to Gulmarg. We managed to pack ourselves and all our luggage into a small car and head towards the mountains. After reaching our hotel, our friend and guide Anish came over to greet us. Anish is a 22 yr old local snowboarder from Kashmir who usually works as a guide during the tourist season time. Thanks to him we didn't have to do much to get settled in. He helped us book the hotel, the snowboard equipment and anything else that we wanted. We were so grateful that everything we needed was sorted by the time we got there. After we had settled in, we were told that we needed to get some rest so we could start snowboarding the next day. Before long, we turned in for the night eager to hit the slopes in the morning.
For the first week of our stay we spent all our time on a small hill learning and practicing the basics of snowboarding. We knew our trip would go by so quickly that we decided to take advantage of every second. While the instructors backs were turned we constantly tried to get some air and pop as many ollies as we could. Even though we kept landing on our faces, nothing was going to stop us from making the most of the experience.
During the first week, while we were learning, we couldn't help but look up at the mountain next to us and wonder when we would get to ride it. Seeing it everyday motivated us to learn fast but stay disciplined so other riders wouldn't get hurt. We knew we were picking up the basics faster than expected, so we were dying to test our skills on something more challenging. Even though it was Off-Season, the beginner / practice hill was packed with people. We just wanted to explore more and do it somewhere peaceful. We wanted to ride alone and we want to ride fresh trails.
So finally after week of constantly going up and down this small hill, the time had come for us to move forward. We finally got the go ahead to ride down the big one! We didn't expect how tough it would be but our first ride was so much bigger and longer than what we were used to. It was so tiring that by the end of it, all the muscles in our legs were burning. But we soon toughen up after doing 8km downhill nearly 20 times everyday. The only good thing about sliding down the small hill was that there was a cable car that we could just sit on and have it take us to the top. Because it was off season, we had to walk up the big one every single time.
There are actually three sections of cable car available during season time. Phase one, which you could only use after finishing the beginner course. In between phase 2 is also another section the cable car which leaves you around the middle of the mountain. Phase 3 takes you to the top of the mountain which is above 14000 feet.
If you enjoy back country roads and untouched trails, then all you have to do is ask. Anish took us to some awesome and secluded back country spots that only he knew about. He took us to areas that were covered in soft fresh powder which no one had ridden it. Although it looked amazing, getting to these spots was not easy. We had to take a car journey for about 40 minutes and then follow it up with another 40 minute hike. The hike was intense because there was no existing path through the snow and we had to make one for ourselves. Whoever was walking first had to create the trail for the rest of the group through 2-3 feet of snow. So after we finally reached to the mountain top, I looked down and asked "are we seriously going downhill from here"? To which they replied "yeah".
Every time we looked at riding a new slope, the path always looks a bit sketchy. Just have a look at the view below:
After we caught our breath and rested for a bit, we geared up to go down the mountain. We lined up and waited for one of our guides to make the first move and of course it was Anish who went first! Making it look super easy, he just ollied down and told us to follow him. Initially we didn't know if we were going to be able to make it but after taking our time we made our way down. Everyone including Milan had trouble going down the first time, but it was definitely worth it. When we got back to the bottom, we were so stoked that we were ready to go all over again. We couldn't believe that we had ridden down the mountain after only being there for a week. That day we ended up doing 4 to 5 trips and from there the trip just got better and better.
By the end of the trip we were able to trek, navigate and snowboard all at a really decent level. We were also able to anticipate what the runs would be like the next day. As in, if it snowed today, the fresh snow would improve all the trails and add a fresh layer of powder on to the existing trail. Fresh powder meant that we could go at it at full speed. Riding the fresh soft powder fresh before anybody else was amazing. On one of our last days, I followed Pagaxoro down the whole mountain through a fresh layer of powder. That early morning ride was one of the best moments of my trip.
We're definitely going to be back next year and hopefully every year. I hope to see more of you Hauligans there too! #shitslegit