A Winter of Adventure
The more the risks, the more the thrills. Welcome to the world of adventure sports! They are compelling, intriguing, exciting, exhausting and fulfilling. And those who indulge in them claim they are as addictive as drugs that hook you for life.
So, if you are an adventure sport enthusiast where do you go to indulge in your favourite pastime? Switzerland, France, Austria, America, Canada? But why go so far, especially as the world is scraping through the recession? India offers a host of winter sporting destinations, which not just compare to the best in the world, but are also the most inexpensive globally.Skiing, heli-skiing, ice skating, ice climbing, mountaineering and snowboarding are all happening in India.
Kashmir: Helli-Skiing and Snow Boarding
Khilanmarg offers excellent slopes to the winter sports aficionados. Pahalgam and Srinagar are also favorite destinations for the adventure-minded tourist. Gulmarg, which is known as Kashmir’s premier upland hill resort at the altitude of 2,730 mts, offers skiing and heli-skiing, ice-skating, ice-hockey and cross country skiing.
Gulmarg is now best known for snowboarding. The rider stands on the board with the left or right foot forward. The feet are attached to the board via high back or plate bindings which are strapped tightly. Snowboarding means making your way from the top of a steep mountain to the bottom. In the process, spectacular jumps and free falls are often undertaken. It is not unusual to have 15 20 metre drops and falls.
Manali: Trekking and White Water Rafting
Manali with the nearby Solang valley and Rohtang Pass are very popular adventure sports destinations in Himachal Pradesh. Skiing and heli-skiing on slopes are very popular here. But it is the white water rafting that brings in the thrill seekers.
Here, river rafting can have an altogether different connotation: the exhilarating excitement of chasing rapids and the thrill of an unridden wave lurking in the gushing waters. Apart from winter sports in and around Manali, there is the winter mountain trekking and mountain peak climbing for the more daring.
The two resorts of Fagu and Kufri close to Shimla are well known for their ski slopes. Their snow-covered slopes are also known for tobogganing — riding downhill on a sled with handrails. Riders often have to tackle huge drops and treacherous rocks on their way to the bottom – and without the help of sticks or poles traditionally used by skiers to balance their body weight.
Auli: Slalom Racing
Canoe slalom is an unusual winter sport. But once you are in Auli (in Uttarakhand), it will take your breath away. Slalom is a sport that involves canoeing through the rapids – usually against them. It involves tossing and turning of the canoe that is synonymous with the tossing and turning of the stomach for those who participate in this sport.
Ladakh: Extreme Mountain Biking
Of late, Ladakh in the North is getting extremely popular for extreme mountain biking. Bikers come from far away places for the thrills of this sport. Balance is very critical and most competitors will only have front shocks to reduce weight. Very high fitness levels are required in mountain biking, but more than fitness, it is the reflexes which have to be razor sharp. For who knows what lurks around the mountain bend – a rock which can propel you skyward or a steep drop which could mean something more serious. The challenge is to survive these pitfalls.
Adventure sports in India attract true addicts – those who would not be happy unless they push the limits; those who do what other people only dream of. Instinctive and compulsive, they let nothing come between them and their resolve to seek adventure. The late
Sir Edmund Hillary – of the Mt. Everest -tells it like it is, “The Indian mountains are a marvelous experience – dozens of untouched peaks all around waiting to be reached, scores of glaciers to explore. It is the sheer sense of isolation and remoteness that brings adventure seekers like me back here again and again.”