Weather and climate create and destroy opportunities for adventure travel and tourism in the Indian Himalayas. For example, snowfall is one of the popular tourist attractions in famous hill stations, including Gulmarg, Kufri, and Mussoorie. The snowfall in picturesque areas with poor infrastructure, on other hand, works as a push factor. The weather related problems further downgrade the appeal of the area, affecting chances of winter adventure holidays. However, all weather related problems cannot be resolved at our end.
This blog post looks into natural and man-made issues hampering growth of the winter adventure travel and tourism segment. Or, actually weather-specific issues are a blessing in disguise?
Winter weather-specific problems
- Fast icy winds
- Snow covered roads and highways
- Limited rescue choices
- Expensive food
- Disrupted power and electricity supply
- All these problems in fact increase the cost of a winter adventure holiday.
Here are some real life examples:
Dal Lake and many other water bodies in Jammu and Kashmir freeze during Chillai-Kalan. The 40-day long Chillai Kalan is known for the extreme winter conditions: steep fall in temperatures and frequent snowfall.
Blessing in Disguise: Heavy snowfall during Chillai Kalan replenishes water table in the Kashmir valley. A rich water table is a necessity for both locals and tourists.
Bane and Boon: The frozen Dal Lake freezes one source of earnings for locals. As tourists cannot enjoy famous houseboat ride. However, snowfall encourages snow tourism. Heavy snowfall hampers air and vehicular traffic, reducing tourist flow.
Bane: Inadequate and delayed snowfall spreads diseases.
Snowfall in Himachal Pradesh
During 1st week of January 2015, high altitude zone including peaks in Dhauladhar in Kangra and Churdhar in Sirmaur received heavy to moderate snowfall. In Kullu, Dhundi witnessed 50 cm of snowfall. Kalpa, Keylong, Khadrala, Moorang, and Theog also witnessed snowfall. The tourist destinations, including Fagu, Jakhu, Kufri, and Narkanda recorded a good amount of snow. The fast icy winds whipped the areas. The low altitude area shivered due to cold showers.
Plus: According to news, the rain did not interfere with traffic flow on Chandigarh – Manali section of NH 21 and the section of Hindustan-Tibet NH 22 leading to Rekong Peo.
Bane: Snow, boulders, and other debris can be removed from the roads. However, fog cannot be controlled. The fog reduced the visibility substantially.
Poor visibility slowed down movement of trucks supplying essential commodities like vegetables. Thus, the supply from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand fell, increasing vegetable prices.
The wintery weather put a spoke in helicopter service. Fresh snowfall in the state also affected day-to-day life.
Snowfall hampered traffic on main roads running across Kinnaur and Shimla districts.
Boon: During winter, cloudy days offer some respite from biting cold. Because overcast skies increase temperatures.
Hoteliers are happy with the white blanket embracing the higher reaches of Kullu district because the snowfall in Manali and Kullu would draw more tourists. So more profits.
Wintery Facts: The Rohtang Pass (3,954 meter / 13,050 feet) received about three feet snow, blocking the Manali-Keylong highway for vehicular traffic. Marhi also received 35-50cm snowfall. The water bodies in high altitude areas froze. The river water volume have reduced because of freezing temperatures at high altitudes where glaciers, the source of the rivers, reside.
Bane: Tourists cannot drive up to the pass for next five-six months.
Locals cannot move between Kullu and Lahaul valleys either.
Tribal valleys of Pangi and Lahaul are cut off from the rest of the world due to snowfall at the Rohtang Pass.
Rescue offices have been removed from Koksar and Marhi.
The General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a part of BRO withdrew its machinery and men from the Pass
The local administration advises travelers against crossing the Rohtang Pass on foot.
Freezing temperatures impact water supply. This may conflict between needs of local and tourists.
Bane/Boon: On December 13-14, 2014, Kullu and Manali received heavy snowfall, disrupting power and water supply. The government issued an advisory stating that tourists should not visit these towns probably for safety issues. Flights were also cancelled due to poor weather. During winter tourism season beginning from December 20, bookings were thus cancelled and tourist flow plummeted. This irked the hoteliers.
Discussion Question: Is it possible to have a weather proof transport system, making the Himalayas more accessible during winter?
Heavy snowfall impacts tourist population in Uttarakhand
In the 1st week of January 2015, high altitude areas of Garhwal and Kumaon Himalayas received heavy snowfall, whereas settlements in plains drenched in wintry rain. Popular tourist destinations like Auli, Badrinath, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Munsyari, and Yamunotri were wrapped in snowfall. The state thus shivered.
Pithoragarh received moderate to heavy snowfall. The higher areas of the Himalayan ranges continuously received dense snowfall. For instance,
The Joligkong Ridge (Vyans valley in Dharchula), located in the vicinity of the Indo-Chinese border, experienced 120 cm of snowfall. Nabhidhang, a post also along the border, witnessed 90 cm of snowfall in 24 hours. Another post along the frontier, Garbiyang received 40-80 cm snowfall.
Chiplakedar, Hansling, Panchaculi, and Rajrambha peaks in Munsiyari witnessed heavy snowfall.
Bane: In Pithoragarh, both rain and snow affected day-to-day life. Electricity supply was interrupted. The local administration alerted to the officials, the residents, and the tourists. All this discourages tourists’ movement.
Bane: Biting cold in Nainital affected the number of tourists. Snowfall in higher reaches of Bageshwar district also interrupted daily life.
Discussion Question: Can we not build all weather electricity plants?
Risk is a synonym of adventure travel and tourism. The risk is the attraction (challenge) that an adventure tourist try to visit (overcome) during the vacation. The snow based adventure activities are not for everyone. Thus, the market is small. A small market can generate limited revenue and profit.
If we are able to develop weather-proof eco-friendly electricity, transport, and water systems in the Himalayas, the mountains may draw more tourists, especially looking for soft adventure activities. Then only adventure travel companies can earn higher profits.