The High Line: Gulmarg Ski Season Report 2011-2012

The High Line: Gulmarg Ski Season Report 2011/2012

Gulmarg, Kashmir | 14 April, 2012 Paul Lalley

K-Line’s 100th Anniversary!

No, we’re not quite 100 years old, but we are celebrating 100 clients for our first official year of operation. Optimists though we are, we never anticipated this kind of success and we’re very excited about spreading the K-Line bug for seasons to come. We’ve had a great time with all of you and can’t wait to hit the mountains again in 2013.

The Gulmarg ski season and when it all started

The Gulmarg ski season itself began with great snow conditions in early January. However, the resort itself got off to a late start with most riders arriving in earnest in the last two weeks of January, meaning that some people missed the great conditions on offer in early January. February is of course the typical herding season for those seeking big snowflakes and endless face shots. Everyone indeed got what they were expecting along with much more tree riding than usual, resulting in some pretty  amazing riding. The K-Line season finished up in the first week of April, with plenty of good riding still to be had at the second phase of Mt. Apharwat. Along with virtually empty mountains, our spring clients definitely had a trip to remember. One of our clients busting out mid run through the trees to Baba Reshi.

  Mushtaq (partner and guide) getting serious on his Klint Krypto’s. Mahmood (partner and guide) enjoying some fresh on a day off.

The season’s conditions, weather and snowfall

In terms of safety, it was a mixed bag ranging from considerable danger in the alpine region with avalanches at the ready, to epic tree riding conditions with plenty of hits, drops and pillow lines waiting for those who ventured out into the woods.

We had a total of 5-6 metres of snowfall on the loaded leeward southwest aspects where slabs were well developed. These slabs were generated from both heavy wind blown snow deposits and moderate to heavy of snowfall in February. Throughout that month, instead of a few heavy snowfalls we got more consistent snow, which helped to settle the snowpack considerably by the end of February welcoming some great spring skiing. It was also more windy than usual, with many locals stating that it was the windiest weather they had ever seen. One particularly strong windstorm toppled thousands of trees, making tree riding almost impossible in late March.

Apparently the strongest windstorm in 100 years!

The snowpack saga

During the Gulmarg ski season, there were three significant avalanche incidents involving other companies. K-Line has a core philosophy of safe travelling in guided groups of no more than 5 clients to 1 guide. The groups involved had a large number of clients per guide, meaning that the group size was simply too large for the guide to ensure proper safety and group control. This was especially true given that they were venturing out the day after a huge storm with the avalanche advisory rated at “Considerable”. It is fair to say that at the onset, the team should have read and paid close attention to the avalanche advisory provided by Gulmarg Avalanche Information Centre, which stated that “human triggered avalanches are highly likely”, and knowing the terrain they were taken into should have never ventured there. One of the avalanches was a destructive size 4 avalanche comprised of 5 alpine bowls all ripping out to ground level, pretty serious stuff – fortunately no one killed but there were moderate injuries.

The second mistake was that the company owner instructed the guide to venture out to areas that the clients wished to ride, but which were also widely recognised as being unsafe that day given the conditions. At K-Line, we consider it our professional duty and responsibility to ensure the planning of safe travel at all times and in all types of conditions. Although we understand that all our clients wish to have the best riding experience possible, our guides will never take you to an area that they deem unsafe even if you demand it. Regardless of enthusiasm, it is far more important to focus on riding with awareness in avalanche territory.

Thanks to the expertise of our awesome guides, none of our clients to date have had any involvement in avalanches. As a continued push towards safety, our senior guides completed Kashmir’s first formal international avalanche accreditation provided by the Gulmarg Avalanche Information Centre on behalf of the American Avalanche Association. We’re proud to state that four members of our team are now formally qualified and certified with the American Avalanche Association. These senior team members will train the rest of our team to ensure that we continue to strive towards the highest of safety standards.

The remains after yet another naturally triggered avalanche this season.

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