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Gulmarg

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Several of North India’s hill stations have been treated as a resort in recent years, mainly because these places have beautiful environments and scenery one does not usually find in a bustling metropolis or city. Almost all hill stations offer a back-to-nature atmosphere, with lush and verdant greens and forests set amidst a backdrop of mountain ranges and sloping hills. Gulmarg is one of these hill stations and anyone who wants to break away from the hustle and bustle of city life to relax and just chill should consider this beautiful resort.

Gulmarg, whose name means “Meadow of Flowers”, is a town and a hill station in the Baramula district in Jammu and Kashmir, located 56 kilometers southwest of Srinagar. It is a notified area by the state government – that is, it is earmarked for future development. Being a hill station, the town has an average elevation of 2,690 meters above mean sea level. It should be noted that Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. The 2001 India census states the total population of the town at 664, although this is very malleable as people are required to leave the area by nightfall due to a curfew imposed by the army in 1990. Only tourists and those who are in the tourism industry can stay overnight. Of the population 99% are males. Gulmarg is primarily a huge, cup-shaped meadow with an area of about 3 square kilometers long and about a kilometer wide.

Even before it was visited by both tourists and locals Gulmarg had already been considered as a resort for the kings. Jahangir and Yousuf Shah Chak used to frequent the area during their days. Back then, Gulmarg was known as “Gurimarg”, taken from the name of the wife of Lord Shiva. It was Yousuf Shah Chak who changed the name to Gulmarg. When the British came and made India a colony, Gulmarg became a favorite summer destination for the soldiers and officials who were stationed in India. During the uprising in Kashmir in the 1990s, the area surrounding the resort hill town became politically restive but since India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire in 2003, the atmosphere has become relatively peaceful and quiet. With the militancy in the area abating, Gulmarg has become one of the state’s most visited destinations. Since it is nestled within the Himalayan peaks, it receives heavy snowfall, hence becoming a popular ski resort.

In fact, skiing is one of the prime attractions of Gulmarg. When December approaches and the lush green meadows are covered with snow, the place becomes a natural slope for ski runs of all levels. The first ski club in India was set up by the British in Gulmarg in 1927. The slopes of the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range boast one of the highest and longest ski slopes in Asia. The ski lifts cover a total distance of 5 kilometers, with the resort peaking at an altitude of 3,747 meters, which is accessed by an aerial gondola. During one of its annual summits, the Winter Games Federation of India declared Gulmarg as the winter sports capital of India and was also declared during the PATWA awards ceremony as the best winter destination of India.

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