So you’re interested in skiing in India, huh? The Himalayas have some of the most stunning ski resorts in the world, but Gulmarg, Kashmir is by far the top choice for a skier’s paradise, and we are pumped that you’re interested in joining a Gulmarg skiing course.
The point then, of this blog, is to give those who have never skied before and are curious what a beginner’s course is like an overview of what life learning to ski in Gulmarg is like and what skills you can expect to learn during your time in a week-long course.
Beginners' Ski Course in Gulmarg
First things first, after settling in your cozy Gulmarg log cabin-style hotel, you’ll meet the rest of your coursemates and instructors to gear-up for the first time. Gulmarg weather can range from sunny to white-out in the winters, with daytime temperatures averaging around -5 degrees, so make sure you bring proper clothing to the ski site!
Here you will learn the basics of the skiing gear you will be using for the next seven days, starting with the terminology and how to put it on correctly to make sure you’re safe and secure. You will be provided with ski boots, skis themselves and poles, selected according to your height.
The first step will be to fit your ski boots. Boots should not cut off circulation, but should leave almost no room for the foot to move around. While you should be able to wiggle your toes, when strapped shut, the calf and ankle should be largely immobile from side-to-side movement. The third buckle from the bottom, where the ankle bends, is the most crucial. Ensure that all buckles are clasped as tightly as you can get them for a snug fit.
Next comes attaching the boots to your skis. The bindings are made on the ski so that the heel cup is adjustable and can be slid forward and backward along a track by pushing a small silver adjustor at the back to fit your boot. The track will have incremental measurements on it - ensure that they are the same on both skis when done with your fitting.
To attach your boot, ensure that the toe of your boot is placed centered in the toe cup, and then give a strong downward push with your heel into the heel cup until you feel it latch and hear a ‘click.’ If you are having trouble attaching the heel, slide the heel back on the track a notch or two until your boot clicks in firmly. If you have been walking around in the snow, kick the bottom of your boot along the heel lever to dislodge snow and ice before attaching your boot to the bindings.
The last thing your instructor will show you while fitting gear is the proper way to grip your ski poles - with the strap wrapped around your wrist and firmly held between your fist and the pole. The strap should emerge through the underside of your fist, not descend from the top.
Movement in Place
Now you’ll find yourself and your coursemates, newly geared-up, at the top of the beginner slopes, but it’s not quite time to get on the move yet - it’s important to first learn how to manage movement in place. This is necessary to both give you more control and protect your skis from damage.
To hold your skis when covering longer distances, take the two brake arms (the little poles that protrude from the bottom of the skis to keep them from sliding when not attached to your boot) and interlock them, with the bottom of the skis facing. Place the skis, nose facing forward, on the meat of your shoulder, holding both poles in the other hand.
How to turn in skis is first. Once your skis are on, plant both your ski poles firmly into the downslope to use as a brace to keep you from falling that direction. While holding the poles, to turn you need to bring the nose (front) of your ski diagonally inward toward the direction you’re turning to meet the nose of your other ski. Make sure however, not to cross your skis or step on one with the other. Continuing the same direction, move your other ski out to form a v-shape, and continue alternating feet as you touch ski noses and tails until you have turned the direction you needed.
Next you learn how to traverse on flat snow. Simply lift your foot to take a normal step, and place the opposite hand’s pole into the snow when stepping back down.
For ascending an incline, your instructor will show you the sidestep, where you take your skis perpendicular to the slope and use the edge of each ski facing the slope to push you up. After you’ve placed the outer edge of your upper ski into the incline, take your lower boot and bring it in to meet you upper foot, pushing the inner edge of the ski into the snow instead. Repeat.
Snowplough and Movement
You will now be ready to begin moving down the slope, slowly. To do this, your instructor will introduce you to what is called the snowplough position. Essentially, this is how you control your speed and brake as a beginner. You sit with your weight centered between the two skis, the nose of each ski pointed in toward each other in a wide A-frame, and gently push off with your poles.
The goal is to practice control. We don’t want speed right now, just enough to keep you moving slowly down the slope in a straight line. It’s okay to fall. You probably will… multiple times. If you ever feel you are losing control and speeding up unintentionally, widen your snowplough and lean your bodyweight forward, your shins using your boots to lean against fully. The inner edge of each ski should be slightly angled into the snow for additional control.
Once you’ve become comfortable with straight descents and snowplough stops, it’s time to start one of the most rewarding parts of the course- learning snowplough turns.
This is essentially a controlled way to steer your body, avoid other beginners on the slope and honestly just have some fun. The primary concept is to keep your torso straight, weight pushing on the inner edge of the ski opposite to the direction you intend to turn. For example, if you want to turn right, begin with a straight snowplough with weight evenly-distributed and push your left ski into the snow once you want to turn, hands always holding the ski poles out in front of you with them pointed back. You will practice this until you are comfortable with the new level of speed that comes along with these turns.
Stem Turns and Parallel Turns
Snowplough turns prepare you with the technique and confidence that you need to begin stem turns and eventually parallel turns on the final day of your course when your control, balance and confidence with speed has increased.
Stem turns are a hybrid between the two. Since the skis in snowplough position will naturally act to slow you down, parallel skis help you to accelerate. On a stem turn, you begin cutting across the slope with parallel skis, shifting into snowplough when it is time to turn and push the appropriate foot into the snow. Once the turn is complete and you are moving back across the slope, you resume the parallel position and once again pick up speed.
Once you have practiced this considerably, it is time to test your newfound confidence on one of the final learnings of the course - parallel turns. Just like they sound, these are much faster since they no longer involve the use of the snowplough. They still require you to shift your weight according to the previous turning methods, just without the speed reduction.
Mastering parallel turns means you’re ready to take on some of the bigger slopes - and you should be excited. You have learned how to ski, and you’re ready to show it!