I remember, I was very excited for my upcoming skiing vacation to Auli, Uttarakhand. Auli is a small town near Joshimath. The place is easily accessible by motor road from Haridwar.
My five day camp was organised by Trek the Himalayas. The meeting point was Haridwar, where we were picked for the onward journey. I left by the roadways bus from ISBT, Delhi at 8 pm and reached at 02 45 am. I waited near the entrance of the railway station for almost 4 hours as our pickup was to arrive at around 6 am. All this time I couldn’t help but notice people sleeping happily all over the railway station in chilled weather. Meanwhile towards the dawn, my fellow members of the camp made their arrival and all five of us boarded our jeep to Auli.
We crossed Rishikesh, followed by Shivpuri from where white rafting to Laxman Jhula begins. It’s an amazing 16 long kilometres of rafting in the chilled water of Ganges. The road kept bending beside the river as we drove higher and higher. We stopped at Byasi for a cup of tea and aloo parantha. It was a long morning, especially for me. Back on the road, we crossed Devprayag, where Bhagirathi meets Alaknanda. The road further was curvy and especially scary where we could see the gravel from the landslides on the road. The speed of our car was almost 15-30 kmph. We passed Srinagar, not the J&K one, where the Alaknanda hydropower station was located. Further down the road we reached Rudraprayag, where Alaknanda meets Mandakini. We had to follow the road which went along Alaknanda. Next town on the way was Karnaprayag, where Alaknanda meets Pindar River. A few kilometres ahead was a town with a funny name – Langasu. I tried to do my facebook check in there to remember the name, but couldn’t do that because of the poor gps signal. As we reached Nandprayag I dozed off for a few minutes and missed some beautiful scenery. In next few hours we reached Joshimath.
Our eyes were wide open as the layers of mountains receded and snow covered peaks emerged. The 16 km long road from Joshimath to Auli was surrounded by never ending greenery. In the last 6 km the first sight of snow on the roadside came into sight. We reached our destination Hotel Shail Shikhar heritage. The place was good with the cooking tents in the yard with a dining area and rooms around it. We had our evening tea and snacks and met our tour guide and the hotel administrator. We were strictly instructed to follow the time table for our skiing tour guide.
The first day started with a long walk from our hotel to the GMVN from where we got the first view of the skiing slopes. We had to walk up to the slopes to a hut which had all our skiing gear. The hike in the snow to the top was beside the ITBP’s camp. All we could see was white snow everywhere. The view of the Nandadevi peak with Roopkund and Junargali to its side was mesmerising. As we got ready with our Alpine skies made in Austria and Head skiing shoes for the briefing, it started to snow heavily. The view was amazing. We started to practise and it was a wonderful experience. All of us went falling in the snow and it was fun to see everyone laughing and again getting back on their feet and keep trying. The day on the slopes ended at 2 pm and we walked down to our hotel. We were served with nice and warm food and a spicy advice to be on time for lunch daily. We spent the afternoon sleeping in the warm and cosy bed. In the evening another group member joined us. She was late by one day.
The next morning I was more excited as I was after my guides to allow me take the ski lift to the top of ski slope. After a few hours of initial skiing when he saw that few of us were making ‘S’ and ‘A’ correctly, we were allowed to walk towards the artificial frozen lake. The best part of skiing was the speed at which we came down the slope and the worst part was carrying the skies on shoulders and walking up the slope again.
It was a wonderful sight to see the small kids of 3 to 4 years skiing skilfully. We were especially awestruck to see the practice of the Indo Tibetan Border Police Jawans on the expert slopes for the upcoming skiing event. We saw guys snowboarding in style, Jawans carrying hot tea kettle in one hand and a tray of glasses in other.
At the hotel in our spare time we watched the TV in the dining room and chatted about the days activities. The next day we took the chair lift and practised skiing near the start of the ski lift. After an hour of practise we took the ski lift to the top. I wanted to take the ski lift from so long! I had seen it first at the Badger pass and Manali. The view from the top was hypnotising. I stood there gathering all my confidence to get down. I started to glide and gained speed in a jiffy and crashed! My skies came off and I landed in a very awkward position. I got up and completed my downward journey. The second time I fell off mid way on the upward journey from the ski lift! I slid down the slope twice on that day. We took the ropeway to Joshimath and had a late lunch there. In the evening it snowed heavily.
The next morning we could see a sheath of fresh snow on all the peaks surrounding us. Next day we got up at 06 30 am to view the sunrise with Nandadevi. In the night temperatures were five degrees below zero, as the water stored in drums had a layer of ice on them. The potholes on the road with water were frozen. The peaks around Nandadevi with the sunrise seemed whiter with fresh snow everywhere. We had a nice breakfast of bread toast and omelette before leaving for the last day of skiing. We met Ajay Bhatt, the coach of Indian junior skiing team and had a nice interaction with him. He was very happy to see our enthusiasms in the program. The coach had planned the last day perfectly. There was two hours of skiing on the slopes culminating with a nice group photo and a snow fight.
In the evening we left Auli and stayed at the hotel Himalayan abode over night at Joshimath. The hot water in the shower was blissful. We had our same jeep the next day to take us back to Haridwar. The complete trip was made remarkable by the beautiful place and people who were part of this week long adventure.
Towards the slopes crossing the ITBP camp
Fresh snow on the peaks, from the ski slopes