Swiss skier dies in an avalanche in Gulmarg, top skiing destination in India

Swiss skier dies in an avalanche in Gulmarg, top skiing destination in India

Travellers are advised to not ski beyond the green zone, but one of the area's key attractions is backcountry powder

A Swiss national died in Gulmarg last Friday in an avalanche. Arno Roy, 59, was skiing in the backcountry with five other people when he took a wrong turn and triggered the avalanche around 12pm. By the time the rescue team arrived, he was dead.

Skiing outside the boundary is not advised in Gulmarg. Sheenmai Bowl is an avalanche-prone area on the Apherwat mountain, where the accident occurred. Sheenmai Bowl is at an altitude of 3,600m lies west of the Gondola Gondola Top Station, to skier's right, and has also seen one avalanche death in the past.

Every season, the Jammu & Kashmir state tourism body and Gulmarg Avalanche Centre issue advisories warning visitors from travelling into the K3 zone. Besides issuing advisories, the centre also has patrol teams to rescue skiers in times of emergencies.

Collin Mitchell, the new head of the Gulmarg Avalanche Centre shared his grief on the incident. "The snow pack is really weak this season. The area isn't cordoned off but skiers don't pay any heed to the warnings by the ski patrol and the police. The backcountry is risky but skiers are ready to take the risk. Despite safety measures being implemented, it was very unfortunate that something like this happened."

The Gulmarg Avalanche Centre organizes an awareness programme every Tuesday and Saturday, explaing guidelines for skiers coming to Gulmarg.

"Ninety five percent of the tourists are aware of the safety guidelines but even after the advisories, they ski in prohibited areas", said Mehraj ud din Dar, an elite patroller in the Gulmarg Ski Patrol.

This is the second skiing death in Gulmarg in the past seven years.

In backcountry skiing, a skier goes on ungroomed slopes, including unmarked or unpatrolled areas either inside or outside ski resort boundaries. Unlike groomed crosscountry and alpine skiing, the land and the snow pack are not monitored, patrolled, or maintained.

Archive image © The Outdoor JournalPlace: New Delhi, India