Auli A Date With The Snow God in India

Auli is one of the less explore hill stations in India. Auli, located in the Uttarakhand State of India, is a new entrant in the tourist map of India. Located in the cradle of snow-capped mountains, Auli is one of the very few places in India where skiing is a major pastime.

Gradually Auli is growing like other hill stations in India. The bitter cold winds, the vast snow-covered landscape, the sylvan mountains, all add up to make Auli a skier’s paradise. Representing man’s constant endeavor to triumph over nature, Auli proves to be an ideal locale for the daring.

LOCATION OF AULI
Like many other hill stations in India Auli is situated in Uttarakhand. Auli is towards the north of the state and forms a part of the Garhwal mountain range. It is at a distance of 16 km from Joshimath, on the Badrinath route. The slopes, which are as high as 9000 feet above sea level, are covered with dense deodar and oak forests and this often reduces the velocity of the chilly winds to the minimum. The slopes offer a panoramic view of many a famous Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Kamet, Mana Parvat and Dunagiri.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
If one is an adventure freak, the best time to visit Auli is during the winter season. The period from late November to late March is generally considered ideal for skiers. As the winters set in, the mountains seem to extend to the firmament with arms of snow. From December to March, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam conducts 7-day and 15-day courses for both amateurs and advanced learners.

Ski Opportunities
Only, the thrill this time is not vicarious; a single error of judgment can cost you a precious limb. This may be hard to digest for the buffs of Hindi movies, where seemingly all one needs to do for skiing is to slip into the ski boots, tilt one’s body a little forward, and keep pushing yourself with a pair of clubs.

But reality can bite worse than frost! It requires hours of disciplined training, months of practice, and years of experience before one can actually enact the valiant hero on a ski, chasing the light-of-his-life on thin ice, with a song on his lips.

For the ski enthusiasts, Auli is an active destination. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) offers a fortnight-long skiing course for the amateurs. There is also a weeklong course for the tourists. The charges are Rs 3,500 per head; students may avail of a discount. The skiing equipment is also available at an affordable dent on your purse. But all the time and money is worth spending for one single downhill journey that is made on the skis.

HISTORY
In the 8th century AD, the great Guru Adi Shankaracharya is said to have tread on these fields. The temple built by him at Joshimath still exists. For hundreds of years, the colorful semi-nomadic tribes of the Bhotiyas, of the Mongolian stock, traversed the trails at Auli, locally called Thatauli. Their longhaired yaks, laden with an assortment of goods, assisted them in conducting a flourishing trade with nearby Tibet.

Before Auli was developed as a ski resort, its slopes were the training ground for men of valor and courage-the ski-equipped men of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force. Among the awesome, legendary peaks ranged round Auli, the 23,490-feet-high Trishul (literal meaning, the strident of Lord Shiva) was the scene of a unique expedition in 1958. The mountaineers took four days to climb the peak and only 90 minutes to ski down to the base camp.

TOURISTS ATTRACTIONS
Skiers are naturally provided with clean stretches of 10-20 km of snow-covered mountain slopes. Besides, there is a descent of 500 m from the ridge over a stretch of 3 km. The forests on the slopes also seem to help the skiers by reducing the wind velocity. In the months of February and March, Auli often hosts the National Winter Games. In a planned move, the Government and local authorities have involved the local Garhwali people to explore the slopes that rightfully belong to them.

By eight in the morning, one can see the first of the skiers and other adventure seekers. Until about four o’clock in the evening, when it gets chilly, cold and dark, the skiers make most of the slopes. For the best part of the winter season, Auli is blessed by an unusually large number of sunny days, but there are times when it snows heavily. In the evenings, the activity shifts from the slopes to the bukhari-warmed huts and resorts (bukhari: a quaint, wooden stove). People then generally pass their time listening to folklore and reveling in the local music of Garhwal in the lamp-lit rooms or besides the bonfires.

Where to stay:
At Auli, there is only Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam tourist bungalow with deluxe huts, and a regular vegetarian fare for menu. Charges are upward Rs 700 per night. If the occupancy is full, one can travel down to Joshimath before sunset, where private accommodation is easily available.
The entire hilly route from Rishikesh to Auli has a string of GMVN guest houses at strategic points, with reasonable tariff rates for lodging and boarding. Private accommodation and campsites are also available.

HOW TO REACH

BY AIR – The nearest airport is Dehradun, about 298 km away. Rishikesh, about 235 km away, is the nearest railhead.

BY ROAD – Regular road services are available from Delhi, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Hardwar to Joshimath, 16 km away. From Joshimath one can hire jeeps to Auli. One can also trek the five kilometer between Joshimath and Auli. For further information, contact the GMVN office at Rajpur Road, Dehradun or the UP tourism offices located all over the country.

BY TRAIN:Nearest railhead is Raiwala near Rishikesh (250 km approx); from here one can take a bus/tourist cars early morning to reach Joshimath/Auli by evening.

NOTE:It is advisable to reach Joshimath by 4 pm, from where the ropeway chair can take you to Auli. Road to Auli is closed after dusk.