Braving biting cold, tourists throng Gulmarg for New Year bash

Sub-zero temperatures failed to dampen their spirits as tourists from various corners of the country.

Gulmarg (JK): Sub-zero temperatures failed to dampen their spirits as tourists from various corners of the country thronged up in large numbers to the famous ski resort of Gulmarg in Kashmir Valley for saying a goodbye to 2012.

The high-spirited visitors, who turned up in large numbers, left nothing to make the best of their trips, even though many of them had to change their plans due to non-availability of accommodation in hotels.

The tourism department had made elaborate arrangements to give glittering touch to the celebrations at the 8000-feet high resort, which is flooded with large number of tourists.

While the `Snow Festival` and a fire-cracker show remained the main attractions, local music band `Expressions` also enthralled the visitors who danced to the tunes of some hit Bollywood numbers.

Local hotels had also arranged musical and cultural programmes as part of the New Year celebrations to attract tourists.

For newly-wed Vandana Mehta, the trip to this famous resort in north Kashmir was getting her childhood dream fulfilled.

The 29-year-old software engineer from Delhi, who is on her maiden visit to the Valley on a honeymoon trip, was among large number of tourists who braved biting cold to bid adieu to 2012.

"It was a dream I had nurtured since I was a child. After my marriage I asked my husband to gift me a trip to Kashmir which he promptly agreed to and we are very happy to be in the Paradise on earth at a time when it is covered by white carpet of snow," Vandana said.

"It is a wonderful feeling to be here and believe me, we are on cloud nine. Celebrating new year here in Gulmarg has made it extra special?a memorable trip," said Vandana`s husband Pankaj.

"It is good to welcome the New Year with snow everywhere around you... It feels like heaven. I had made advance booking a month ago because I did not want to miss this opportunity," said Amit Patel, who has come from Gujarat.

As part of the Snow Festival, the tourism department organised various activities like cross-country skiing, free style skiing, snow cycling, ice skating, snow-sculptor activity, sledge-race and snow rugby.

"Snow-trekking, snow-boarding and snow-marathon were the other highlights of the event which culminated with a great cracker show," tourism department Director Talat Parvez told a news agency.

He expressed hope that the large number of tourist arrivals, especially for adventure and winter sports, will continue in the coming months.

Parvez said the recently introduced chair lift, a part of Cable Car Project, is expected to provide impetus to the skiing activities in the resort.

"We hope to conduct various national level competitions in adventure skiing which will give fillip to winter tourism in the state," he said.