In what could be significant for global acceptance of Gulmarg as a top winter sports destination, global helicopter leaders, Airbus Helicopters in collaboration with Kashmir Heli Ski organized three-day Heli-Ski Challenge at the world famous ski resort from February 20.
The first ever Heli-Ski extravaganza held at Gulmarg saw around 250 skiers taking part in the event, that include locals as well as foreigners.
“It will be for the first time ever that any type of extreme Heli-Ski competition would be held at Gulmarg that too by a World renowned company”, said Billa Majeed Bakshi, Director Kashmir Heli-Ski.
A statement released by Airbus reads: “There is hardly any other landscape in the World which simultaneously is so rich, varied, challenging and inviting. The participants will enjoy an amazing view over the stunning mountain landscape of the Himalayas”.
“Put on your ski and take challenge and throng to winter sports location in the heart of Kashmir. Airbus Helicopters brings you Heli Ski Challenge,” it adds.
The organizers say the event is aimed to attract elite and world known skiers to Gulmarg which held from February 20 to 22.
Skiers will board Helicopters at Gulmarg bowl and will be released from the top of 13500 feet high Mount Apharwat. On first day inaugural runs would be held while as on second day selection and qualifying round would continue. The finals would be held on February 22 and will follow with prize distribution ceremony.
Giving details Billa said, “Finally after two to three years I was able to motivate company like Airbus Helicopters (global leaders in helicopter sector) to foray into Kashmir. Initially they were hesitant but after seeing success of my project Kashmir Heli-Ski they agreed on to organize a grand Heli-Ski Challenge in Gulmarg”.
“It will be an extravaganza that has never before been seen, with around 250 skiers that include some of the high profile world known skiers coming down from top pf Mount Apharwat at same time. Helicopters will drop skiers at top of mountain which is way above from Gondola 2nd phase,” Billa said.
Billa, who is more famous among foreigners than the locals, said that conducting of the event by Airbus will bring Gulmarg on the world map of winter sports and will get huge publicity all over World.
“It is not a small thing that company like Airbus which is global leaders in their own sphere is organizing something like this in our ski resort. They will bring Gulmarg and Kashmir Heli-Ski on World map and it is going to help Kashmir tourism,” he said.
He said that when Government is not doing enough for the promotion of winter sport in the Kashmir he feels it his duty to make his own efforts.
“I survive on tourism sector and mostly on winter tourism. I have worked so hard for more than 15 years to earn reputation among my customers who hail from Countries like New Zealand, Australia, SA, Canada, USA and Europe. When I see Government doing nothing I feel it my duty to plead our case in front of my customers and their contacts. I have been pretty successful so far by bringing in top skiers, celebrities and companies like Airbus here”.
“My sole aim is to show them the potential that we have got in this sector. After coming here they say that Gulmarg is only small part of Kashmir’s vast potential which mostly remains unexplored,” he said.
“The Himalayas are known for remarkable deep and dry curry powder snow. The snow quality in Gulmarg is absolutely unique due to the high altitude plus the very southern exposure of the continent on around 35° degrees latitude. It is this quality which attracts ski mad enthusiasts to our part of World,” he added.