Shimla: Timely and continuing snow in Shimla brings along with it the sublime promise of a White Christmas, which has been elusive since 1991 when heavy snowfall occurred on Christmas Eve.
Though Saturday's snowfall was moderate, it has warmed up the Yuletide spirit of the hospitality industry. There is expectation of more spells before the New Year dawns.
"It was moderate (snow) but good. It indicated that this winter season would be the best for the hospitality industry," Clarks Hotel general manager D.P. Bhatia said.
Snow is a big draw for tourists, especially from the plains of northern India.
But Met officials are wary. They say it is still too early to predict whether Shimla will present a snowy landscape this Christmas.
Some areas like Jakhu and the US Club in Shimla Saturday experienced moderate snow but it melted immediately, Manmohan Singh, director of Shimla's Met Office said.
Nearby places like Kufri and Narkanda, however, experienced moderate to heavy snowfall.
Likewise, Manali and its uphill Solang ski slopes also saw snow, the season's first.
Manmohan Singh said it was in 2012 when Shimla experienced significant snow in December, that too, after a gap of five years. But there was nothing on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.
On Dec 14, 2007, the town recorded 19 cm of snow.
Last year, the state capital saw a light spell of snow on Dec 22.
"The prevailing higher moisture content and low temperatures are ideal for snow. If the western disturbances remain active again in the region, there will be more chances of snow this month," the director said.
"Last year too we had to return home without enjoying the snow cover in Shimla on Christmas. But this snow has come with an assurance of more spells ahead of the big day," corporate executive Sherry Mann from Chandigarh said.
He said this time he and his family are planning to travel beyond Shimla too due to the extended weekend holiday bonanza commencing Dec 25.
"Christmas falls on Thursday. So we are planning a leave Friday and combine the holidays with the weekend, which means we can practically party for four days," he added.
Likewise, New Year's Eve is on Wednesday. So, prepare for weeklong partying!
Hospitality industry representatives are expecting good tourist arrivals during the four-day weekend bonanza.
"This Christmas we are expecting a record footfall of tourists at all our hotels, especially in Shimla, Kasauli, Dharamsala and Manali owing to the long weekend," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) general manager Yogesh Behl said.
He said the snowy landscape is always an added attraction for tourists.
"As news of the snowfall in Shimla and nearby destinations flashed, tourists started pouring in," Vijay Sharma, assistant general manager of Holiday Home Hotel here, a government-run venture said.
He said a number of enquiries started pouring in about chances of snow on Christmas and New Year's Eve.
The mountain peaks viewed from Shimla's historic Ridge have been wrapped in a white blanket of snow.
Tourist arrivals in Himachal Pradesh every year surpass the state's population of about 6.8 million.