Bill’s Trips update & 2019 season wrapApril 24 2019
I hope you scored your share of face shots wherever you turned them this past northern winter.
Those who visited Gulmarg with Bill’s Trips definitely had their quota of epic days.
Perfectly spaced storms delivered awesome conditions in the trees while blanketing the massive alpine bowls with a few extra feet. Steep and deep days at the lower elevations were followed by amazing windless days laying tracks in silky smooth snow in the alpine bowls. Pretty much Perfect!
“Best run of my Life”, “Best skiing of my Life” and “Best Trip of my Life” where once again claimed by many. This makes all of us at Bill’s Trips very, very happy! We love everything about skiing in Kashmir, but it is being able to share the experience with others that makes it even more special.
This blog post contains a 2019 Kashmir season wrap, a brief report on our incredible trip to Antarctica in November, and some other bits of info you may find interesting. At the bottom of the page, have a read of what some of this season’s guests had to say about their experience with Bill’s Trips.
2020 Trips Filling Very Fast
Bookings are now open for 2020. With many returning guests, our trips are filling faster than ever before so get in quick to secure your preferred dates. Send us an expression of interest if you would like to make a booking.
Check out who has joined our guide team
One of the great things about running trips in Gulmarg is that it makes it easy to attract some of the best guides in the business. Who wouldn’t want to ski untracked powder every day and then retire to the comforts, views, food and hospitality of one of the most stylish ski hotels in the world.
Dean Staples is one of the legends of the alpine and ski guiding world. Among too many other things to mention, he has summited Everest 9 times, climbed 15 x 8,000 meter peaks, was the chief guide at Harris Mountain Heli ski for many years, and previously guided for Kashmir Heliski. Dean has done a bit!
Elliot James is the avalanche forecaster and lead guide for Southern Alps Heliski in NZ and also previously guided with Kashmir Heliski between stints in Alaska and Japan. Elliot loved being back in the big terrain of Gulmarg after a few seasons eating sushi.
Peter Bilous hadn’t been to Gulmarg since the 80’s but knew that he would return someday…and he definitely wasn’t disappointed. He has been guiding for decades in NZ and Alaska, and is the chief facilitator / educator of all the professional avalanche courses in NZ. You know you are in good hands!
Wali, Firdous, Tanveer, Rafik and Showkat
As well as attracting great guides from far off lands, we have also been able to secure the services of an awesome group of local legends. Wali, Firdous, Tanveer, Rafik and Showkat have all grown up living and guiding in the Gulmarg Mountains, and bring way more than just good solid guiding skills to our operation. They are a blast to be around and give us real insight into life in Kashmir.
A foreign lead guide and a local assistant guide work alongside each other to provide the best safety net and cultural experience possible.
I am stoked that we could add a few more of the best to our team, and even more stoked that they are all itching to get back next season.
Antarctica 2018, 2019 & 2020
Last November we scored amazing snow and weather conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula. Fresh snow was falling as we approached, then we were blessed with mostly sunny skies and 20–30 cm of dry powder until we headed back across the Drake Passage a week later. The mountains, glaciers, icebergs and wildlife were as mind blowing as usual, the ship was as luxurious as always…but the water seemed a degree or two colder this year…or am I just getting softer?
It really is an experience that should be up the top of every skier and boarder’s must do list. However, these trips have gained hugely in popularity over the last few years so you will need to book early to secure your preferred berth.
All of the lower deck cabins have sold out for this year but there are still berths available in many cabin classes. Contact us asap if you are keen to jump on board this November.
Dates will be released in May. Join the Bill’s Trips Mailing List and you will be sent an email once confirmed and we are open for bookings.
Snow Travel Expo
Drop in to the Bill’s Trips stand at the Snow Travel Expo to have all of your Gulmarg questions answered. (Melbourne – May 19, Sydney – May 26).
Thanks for the support
Skiing and guiding in the Himalaya and Antarctica requires top notch gear that works and gets you through each day in comfort and style. A huge thanks to K2, Patagonia, Tecnica, Marker, BCA, Black Diamond and Bolle.
2019 Gulmarg Season Wrap
Well, it was probably pretty close to as good as it gets.
It started with a couple of significant and cold storms in November and December that gave the mountain a good base down to low elevations. Mid-January until mid-March was blessed with at least one substantial storm each week. Daily totals of 40 and 50 cm were common, while 78 cm was the biggest overnight event. The great thing about the storms was that they were nicely spaced and there was plenty of sunny windless days to get into the high alpine and make the most of it. The temperatures were also slightly colder than normal so the snow quality all the way to the valley floor (Drang and Tanmarg) remained excellent, so there were always plenty of awesome options for storm skiing.
The only bad thing about the snow this year was that there was too much shoveling for the staff at the hotel.
The snowpack started off the season pretty weak due to the early snowfalls however the big snow events caused many areas to flush naturally during the storms and there were plenty of safe options for epic turns on any given day. There were no reported avalanche injuries during the winter.
I think there was only one day that both gondolas were closed due to high winds or too much snow. However on the days that this may happen we are usually skiing somewhere below the village anyway so it does not impact on our choice of where to lay our powder turns. We skied fresh tracks every day!
In case you missed it, we hosted our first wedding this season… and it was an awesome experience for everyone. I was not too sure how to go about it when Tim and Kate told me they wanted to get married while they were in Gulmarg, However as soon as our local friends got wind of it, it was all perfectly organised and it could not have been better. The heritage church was opened for the day and 2 characterful local priests held a fantastic service before we all moved back to the Highland Park for high energy celebratory dancing to the Kashmiri band.
The event made all of the Indian media and even Prime Minster Modi commented on the special occasion. An Australian couple wearing Hindi dress, getting married in a Catholic church in a Muslim majority state was seen as a very positive news story for the area. Massive thanks to Khaver at the Highland Park Hotel for making it happen.
Kashmir Heli Ski
Between the storms, the staple snowpack, great weather and excellent snow quality gave many of our guests their best ever heli skiing days. They probably did not fly as often as usual but when they did it was epic.
Nearing the end of our winter in Gulmarg the tension between India and Pakistan increased after a suicide bombing of a military bus in Southern Kashmir. A couple of fighter jets flew over the boarder to target a terrorist cell that was blamed for the attack, and a pilot was captured. Fortunately Pakistan released the pilot as a show of good will and diplomatic talks began soon after and there were no major impacts on our operations or the people of Kashmir. All roads were open and it was business as usual in Srinagar and on the mountain.
Untracked Slopes and Empty Lift Lines
Although Bill’s Trips were once again fully booked, the total number of visitors to Gulmarg has decreased over recent years…meaning empty lift lines and more untracked laps of the easily accessible terrain. Happy days!
After several years of procrastination, I have finally started posting Snow Reports on our website. They are not yet done daily but should give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive…or if you are just wishing you were there.
The Biggest Cheers goes out to all who joined us this season. Myself, Natasha, Sam, Mark, David, Elliot, Dean, Peter, Wali, Firdous, Tanveer, Rafik, Showkat and Mez had an awesome time sharing powder turns and laughs with you. Yousef and Rasool were most impressed with how you looked in your pherins and the Highland Park staff had tears in their eyes when we left.
A huge “Thank You” from all of us at Bill’s Trips for another fantastic winter in Kashmir!
Receiving feedback like this make all of us at Bill’s Trips very proud and keeps us striving to deliver the best service possible. Have a read of what some of our guests had to say about their experience this year.
Hang up my Boots and eat Marmite!
Wow, what a f****** great holiday.
Thank you so much for giving us the Gulmarg experience. Everything that you did for us was way beyond my expectations. The skiing was the best that I have ever experienced. It does, however, pose a problem – do I hang up my ski boots now, knowing that I’ll probably never have such fun on skis, and quit skiing on a high?
The team of guides were A1 and gave such confidence with their consideration of every run…. and they were really good fun, too. The hotel was full of character and great staff. I’d loved to have spent time in the kitchen learning how to cook such great curries.
All in all, a fantastic week, but spoilt by one very minor detail – Vegemite! Really tough people eat Marmite!
Bottle Bill’s Trips Gold Standard!
Many thanks from all of us for a fantastic trip to Gulmarg. It was perfect – great skiing, weather, accommodation and food, but most of all, good people. We had an amazing time and the main challenge now is to work out how we can top it for next year, although it looked from the fresh snow as we left that this week would have been even better- I hope you have managed to squeeze in plenty more turns.
I think we got fresh tracks pretty much all day, every day. We got the best guiding possible; we were fed like kings and it all had the Bills Trips gold standard of incredible professionalism in a relaxed environment. I think you should try and bottle it!
Best Skiing of My Life
Just dropping you a line to say thank you.
Last week was the best skiing week of my life. It was a fantastic experience made possible by your super professional guides. I have to be honest that I was a little apprehensive about the skiing but going with Elliot and Dean just made me feel safe and allowed me to enjoy the turns. In addition, everyone was so helpful, supportive and friendly.
I very much hope to be seeing you guys in the future.
Luck of the Irish?
Just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for the trip. I think yourself and all your guys go above and beyond to put us on the best snow. I was a bit concerned when I had no luggage but Mez really did great to get me out with the limited gear at her disposal, and when the luggage thing was getting me down even went and sourced another board she thought might suit me better. I think yourself and Natasha actually put proper time into trying to match group abilities, and I really appreciated this end of things. I’ve been plenty places where they say they do but really don’t.
I think the Highland and its staff were fantastic, and compared to a few of the horror stories we heard from down the village I was thanking my lucky stars we were where we were. Sorry I couldn’t make the house boat for the grand finale but I’m sure Stevie kept the show on the road for the Irish.
Hopefully our paths will cross again.
I just wanted to say thank you for a great trip, you and your team are so friendly and welcoming. Even during the minor military issues it never felt like we would be in any trouble. Some of the best snow I have ever had, and was great to learn more about touring while I was there.
I can see why you get on so well with the Kashmiri guides and staff. They are so friendly and just seemed glad that we made the effort to come in a slightly difficult time.
Thanks again …and see you in a Feb 2021.
Hi Bill and Natasha
Fabulous trip!!! Loved every minute of it!!! Without doubt, exceeded my expectations.
Great group of people, “extraordinary guides” and first class organisation. For me personally, the skiing was the perfect balance of down hill and touring. The opportunity to learn about touring, a little snow craft, safety and mountain awareness with the pros was a fantastic opportunity and exactly what I was after. The culture aspect was the icing on the cake.
What a mountain! Would love to have had more time there!
Have been flying the “Bill’s Trips” flag since returning!
Thank you for putting this all together, and congratulations!
Freedom from Choice
Bill and Natasha
A belated, but nevertheless huge and heartfelt thanks for our fantastic trip to Kashmir.
As Devo infamously said, “Freedom from choice is what we want” or at least that’s the excuse we’ll use for failing to pick a single highlight. There were simply too many – the guests, the guides, Gulmarg, the snow, the slopes, even the skinning (eventually), Srinagar and the Shikara tour of Lake Dal (with the competing calls to prayer from various mosques drifting across the lake in the gathering dusk) – all brilliant!
I owe you a few Kingfishers.
Regards and best wishes
Neil and Kyle
Scratch that Itch!
Bill and Natasha
I trust you are well and back into normal life back in Oz. We had an incredible time in Gulmarg. Certainly ‘scratched’ the itch but I think it may need more scratching! It appears to be that sought of place….