Over the past two years, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam of Uttar Pradesh has developed Auli, (which is situated above back-of-beyond Joshimath) as a winter sports resort. The GMVN organises 7-and 15-day ski courses for beginners and advanced learners between the months of December and March.
A typical day during one of these ski-courses begins with a knock on the dormitory door early in the morning. Two kitchen hands walk in and wake everybody up with mugs of hot tea, which they pour out of a huge dekchi . On rising, the first view to greet one is from the window of the bukhari-cum-common room -a spectacular panorama of the glistening snow-peaks of the Badrinath, the Hathi and Guri Parbat ranges, and several unnamed peaks.
By 6:30 am everybody assembles in the dining hut for breakfast and wasting no time, skis, skisticks, goggles, skiboots and other paraphernalia are collected and the climb Auli Slopes upwards for the skislopes begins. At the peak of winter, the slopes commence at the doorstep itself, but as summer sets in, a considerable climb is involved in getting to the slopes. Reaching the slopes, each one dons skis and boots and separates into batches with each instructor.
The first day sees one unsteadily skidding down gentle slopes with the ski bindings loosely attached so that they would detach the skis from the boots when under tension. The instructors drill in the basic lesson – to fall and to fall the right way. After lots of slipping, falling and getting wet, one gets inured to walking on skis, progressing next to taking on gentle and then not too gentle slopes and falling when wanting to stop.
The snow plough comes next. In this, one learns how to control speed while on a slope and also come to a halt within a few seconds. Next, one takes on the excitingly steep slope of Monkey Top to come swishing down at breakneck speed under the close supervision of the well-trained instructors.
Every day, the group is taken to a more advanced slope and taught a new technique. Skiing, finishes by forenoon after which one is free to explore the lower meadow lands and forests and indulge in one’s own passion — be it flower collecting, bird watching, peak watching, photography, trekking, sledging on jackets, snow-ball fighting or snowman making!
Later in the evening, dinner is accompanied by a movie and then one invariably returns to the dormitory to fall flat into a sleeping bag, tired and content!