With or without natural snow, enthusiats can now ski down Manali's slopes
Manali, Dec 28 : Now you don't have to depend on natural snow to ski in the Solang Valley of Himachal Pradesh.
The slopes of the picturesque Valley in the western Himalayas, near this tourist resort, beckon you to put on your skis and slide away at your pleasure - thanks to a newly-imported "snow gun".
It was used for the first time on Thursday night to freeze snow in Solang -- popular among skiers for its great snow and steep pistes just 13 km uphill from Manali -- where the country's first artificial snow park has been set up to boost tourism in the region.
The brain behind the venture, set up on a private land, is international skier Roshan Lal Thakur, who has long been associated with the Winter Games Federation of India.
"We have procured a snow gun from Europe with a cost of Rs 60 lakh. For the first time we used the gun on (Thursday) night to form the snow," Thakur told IANS.
"By using 60,000-70,000 litres of water, we managed to freeze over one feet of snow spread over a 100 metre radius," he added.
This year, the Solang ski slopes are not adequately covered with the natural snow and skiers were desperately awaiting the onset of heavy snowfall.
During this period, the slopes are normally covered in three to four feet of snow.
The initiative to set up the snow park has brought cheer to the faces of members of the hospitality industry.
They feel renting out the snow park to the skiers will boost adventure-related tourism in the Kullu-Manali region, a hot spot for tourists, which is followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.
Besides skiing, tourists can also indulge in sledging at the snow park, where the entry fee is Rs 500 per person.
Prem Thakur, a prominent local hotelier, said the initiative would boost the hospitality industry.
"It will generate additional employment for the locals, besides promoting economic activity," he added.
Experts say the Manali skiing industry could collapse as the winter has become too mild for regular snowfall.
A continuous decreases in the snow cover been observed over the last decade, said Thakur, whose daughter Aanchal Thakur secured a bronze at the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup organised by the Federation International de Ski (FIS) at Erzurum in Turkey in January.
She is the first Indian to win an international medal in skiing.
"If the snowless trends continue, disaster looms with devastating consequences for local economies," Thakur warned.
As it is, the Indian Olympic Association has twice postponed the National Senior Alpine Skiing Championship this year as the Solang slopes were bereft of snow cover. The event wil now be held in February 2019.
Besides Solang, Himachal Pradesh has ski runs in Narkanda, just 65 km from state capital Shimla. These are shorter and gentler and attract mostly newcomers.
But, at present, Narkanda has no snow cover at all.
According to the Met Office in Shimla, there are chances of widespread snow and rain in the state from January 3, 2019.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])