Our Ski Guides

“The Gulmarg Guides were all fabulous – knowledgeable, helpful and most importantly good for a laugh.  Having a tail guide was a special treat – have never had that before.  Small Group size is a really key success factor”  Triona, February 2016

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Our Gulmarg ski guiding team is what really sets us apart from the rest.

We are professionals who take the responsibilities of our job very seriously and run the guiding program in line with international guiding industry best practice. We constantly monitor the weather, snow conditions and avalanche danger, and our daily objectives are set in accordance with our findings while taking into account your fitness, skill level and desires.

An adventure to Kashmir is an amazing experience but there is also the potential for serious consequences should anything go wrong. This is why we only use ski guides with the right credentials. Only the professionally trained and adequately equipped can make safe decisions, and, in the unlikely event of an accident, perform a timely rescue. Our skiing guides come from across the globe, are veterans of the mountains and are very experienced and highly qualified in avalanche mitigation, first aid, and mountain rescue techniques. Each guide carries all the communications, first aid supplies and rescue equipment necessary to deal with any situation.

While safety is always the number one priority, we understand that having an all round enjoyable holiday is what you come for and our team are experts in providing great memories both on and off the mountain.

Like you, we are also powder tragics who love seeking out the best snow and having fun.  When not required, we don’t take ourselves (or each other) too seriously, and love having a laugh and a beer at the après session. We enjoy nothing more than introducing others to the magic of Gulmarg; the mountain, the culture and the people.

Through years of guiding, patrolling and exploring Gulmarg we have gained an intimate knowledge of the mountain and know where to find the best snow possible on any given day. Coming from a variety of backgrounds including mountaineering, instructing and patrolling, our combined skills, experience, professionalism, energy and humour, ensure a safe and super fun Gulmarg adventure.

“The terrain was extraordinary. The Gulmarg guides were exceptional”  Rob, February 2016

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“You guys have a brilliant outfit, from your main crew of guides through to the locals and all the staff. They all made it more than just a holiday” Scott, January 2015

 


Bill BarkerBill Barker

CSGA, CAA

Bill was in Gulmarg when the gondola first opened in 2005 and was employed by the Jammu and Kashmir government to manage the avalanche hazard, establish resort protocols and procedures and train the local ski patrol. He has been patrolling for over 30 years, guiding in Gulmarg for over 10 years, and guides on ski expeditions to the Antarctic Penninsula each November.

Bill is very well known in the ski fraternity.  Over the years he has featured on many magazine covers, sponsor’s adds, in documentaries, and written numerous articles on new destinations, avalanche safety and backcountry skiing. When not guiding in Gulmarg or Antarctica he is the Director of ski patrol at Mt Hotham, Australia.

His passion for back-country skiing and out-of-the-way places drew him to Gulmarg, which he now calls home for the northern winters. Bill has formed great friendships with the locals and is well respected in the community.  You will benefit from these connections and also be welcomed as family.  There is no one better to introduce you to the magic of Gulmarg.

While chasing winter in the mountains is a major part of his life, any spare time between seasons is spent surfing and rock climbing either at home on the south coast of NSW or on an extended mission elsewhere.

 

Mark SedonMark Sedon

IFMGA

Mark is one of the best known mountain guides in the business.  He is the chief guide with Harris Mountains Heli Skiing in NZ, and has led ski and climbing expeditions all over the world.  He has guided on over a dozen Himalayan expeditions including summiting Mt Everest and has guided numerous climbing and skiing trips to the Antarctic.  Mark is also a highly respected avalanche forecaster and teaches certified courses to students varying in experience from absolute beginners to qualified guides.

In his spare time he is the Festival Director of the NZ Mountain Film Festival and is a sought after motivational speaker.  Mark’s other passions include kite surfing the long left point breaks of Peru and paragliding the peaks surrounding his home town of Wanaka.

 

Dean Staples

IFMGA/NZMGA Mountain and Ski Guide

Dean 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 and he has also filmed footage for several Everest documentaries and films.  In 2010 he sailed to the Antarctic Peninsular to guide a small team climbing and skiing in rugged coastal mountains.  For many years, he was the chief guide at Harris Mountain Heli and has previously guided for Kashmir Heliski. Dean has done a bit!

When he finally makes it home to Lake Hawea outside Wanaka, he occupies himself with kite surfing and tearing around the winding roads of NZ on his motorbike.  Or just starts packing for the next adventure.

 

Sam Dunlop

Sam grew up in the small town of Merrijig at the base of Mt Buller in Australia.  He skied freestyle and nordic as a kid before swapping to tele’s when plastic boots became available.  He has years of ski touring experience and is a world class tele skier who has achieved podium finishes in big mountain free ski events in NZ and the US. Sam also ran a very popular high-end telemark clinic in the Craigieburn range of New Zealand.  He has now mellowed (a little) and prefers to spend his time exploring new areas, hunting powder and introducing others to the lure of back-country skiing.

Sam has worked as a qualified alpine instructor and patrolled for over 10 years, working at resorts in Australia, the U.S and New Zealand.

Sam is one of those guys who are always there when you need a hand.  If you’ve had a yard sale and your bits are strewn all over the hill, he will be there to pick up the pieces and then casually blame the snow, the visibility or the mountain for you.

When not in the mountains, you will probably find Sam practicing bizarre yoga techniques or fine tuning his kite surfing skills between writing a thesis on new agriculture methods, reading something weird or having a few beers with his mates.

 

David ‘Borat’ Marchi

When David isn’t guiding in Gulmarg, he is most likely guiding somewhere else on the planet.  He has guided with Chugach Powder Guides in Alaska and led skiing and mountaineering trips all over the world including Mt Denali, Patagonia the Himalaya and Antarctica.  David also spent the winter of 2006 in Gulmarg passing on his years of experience to the newly formed ski patrol team and formed a great connection with the locals.

Growing up in Mt Shasta, California, David ski raced at college before becoming an instructor and then race coach with the US ski team. His combined guiding and solid teaching skills gives him the ability to challenge, yet inspire confidence in those he skis with.

David now lives in Oregon where he is owner of ‘Crows Feet Commons’ and, when not away on guiding jobs or ski mountaineering for pleasure, he spends the rest of the year guiding cycle trips either on road or in the mountains.

David is an awesome guide / guy to hang out with, especially when he is sporting his “Borat” style moustache and talking with a slight Kazakhstani accent.

 

Elliot James

NZMGA

Elliot is the avalanche forecaster and lead guide for Alpine Heliski in New Zealand.  Both a ski and snowboard guide, his knowledge of the Gulmarg area stretches back to his time with Kashmir Heli.  He has also spent multiple seasons guiding in Alaska and Japan.

When Elliot is able to drag himself away from the mountains, he takes solace surfing the wild Dunedin coast on the NZ South Island and kicking back in his self-built Tiny House on a rural property out the back of Queenstown.

 

Peter Bilous

NZMGA

Peter first experienced the magic of Gulmarg in the early 80’s, well before the gondola was installed.  He finally returned in 2019 and reckons Gulmarg retains all its charm, with a few welcome upgrades on facilities.  Growing up in the US, he now calls New Zealand home and has been guiding for decades in NZ, Alaska, Japan and Canada.  He is the chief facilitator / educator of all the professional avalanche courses in NZ. You know you are in good hands!

Another Wanaka local who, it seems, like all good guides from NZ, surfs in his time away from the mountains.

 

LOCAL GUIDES

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, Rafiq and Showket 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.

 

Wali Mohammed Lone

Wali is a Gulmarg local who knows the surrounding mountains like the back of his hand.  Growing up in the area and working as a summer trekking guide from a young age has given Wali an understanding of the area that very few other people have. Wali is a registered guide with the Gulmarg Tourism Department, has solid mountain skills and is a great, easy going guy to have as part of our team.

Wali works with us as an assistant guide for the winter. He fills the role of tail guide, helps co-ordinate local transport and is instrumental in contacting the relevant parties if ever a mountain rescue is needed.

Wali has a wealth of knowledge about Gulmarg, Kashmir, its people and its history.  His cruisy nature and classic delivery makes it a pleasure to learn about the local’s lives and hear the stories of past and present.

 

Firdous Ahmad Mir 

Firdous grew up in, what he rightly calls, the ‘Gulmarg Paradise’ and lives just 12km below the Gulmarg plateau.  He joined the team in 2015 and since then we have shared many memorable days in the mountains with him.  A calm and dedicated guide, Firdous will be there to assist with every client’s needs and is sure to keep you laughing along the way.  He is as equally at home ripping around the upper mountains, competing with Sam for best ski model photo (Firdous usually wins), as he is guiding us through the lower villages to meet the locals and discuss aspects of Kashmiri life.

In summer he guides groups on classic Enfield motorbikes along the famous ride from Srinagar through the mountain passes of Leh to Manali.

 

M Rafiq Sheikh

Rafi brings years of summer and mountain guiding experience to the Bill’s Trips team.  He is a Gulmarg local who loves to share his knowledge of the region and is committed to ensuring clients are given the best possible experience of his home mountain and surrounds.

His friendly, relaxed personality belies his determination which he demonstrated by winning the 2017 and 2018 Ski Freeriding Championship and becoming Gulmarg’s fastest man.  A race not for the faint hearted!

 

Irshad Ahmad Sheikh(Showket)

Showket lives in the village of Gazipora and has spent years exploring the Gulmarg terrain in both winter and summer conditions.

Cool and calm, he’ll make sure everyone in the group is provided the renowned Gulmarg service and returns from their day skiing or snowboarding completely satisfied with their experienced.

 

Tanveers Ahamd Lone

Tanni is a very well respected local and a gentleman of the mountains.  Below his quiet, thoughtful exterior, Tanni has the strength and stamina of a snow leopard and brings a wealth of knowledge to the Bill’s Trips team.

He is also known as the second fastest man in Gulmarg!

 

OTHER GUIDES

 

Jef ‘Uncle’ Desbecker

NZMGA, NZ Avalanche Level 2

Uncle grew up skiing the mountains of the eastern US states and spent many years thereafter travelling throughout North America exploring the mountains.  His guiding career kicked off in 1980 in Sun Valley, Idaho and since then he has led people on adventures on mountain ranges across the world.

A telemarker for 35 years, he started calling NZ home in the mid 80s where he set up and ran a training program for telemark instructors. His resume includes being the Chief Guide with Harris Mountains Heliski, Instructing avalanche courses to the highest level and guiding for Kashmir Heliski.

Joining the Bill Trips team in 2016 he soon became known and appreciated as Uncle Jef, the wise sage of the group.  Uncle can usually be found up before sparrows, checking our snow plot and compiling weather data long before the whipper snappers have pulled the covers from their heads.

Uncle once dragged a sled across 400km of the Wrangell St Elias Wilderness area in Alaska/Yukon/BC and then took on the challenge again up and down the Baltoro to the base of K2.  We reckon neither tortuous journey would have dampened his boundless energy and enthusiasm one bit.  He is a Woodstock survivor and was the first person in the world foolish enough to pay for a bungy jump.

 

Mark ‘The Professor’ BrownMark Brown

NZSGA

Mark spreads his year between the mountains of New Zealand, France and India. He is a fully certified NZMGA Ski Guide and Avalanche forecaster.  Mark guides for Methven Heliski in NZ during the southern winters, and is based in Chamonix when he is not guiding in the Himalaya.

Born in New Zealand and spending much of his youth in the mountains, Mark’s original passions were mountaineering and rock climbing.  As well as a ski guiding, ‘The Professor’ lectures in Criminology at universities across the globe to support his mountain pursuits.  Mark first skied the Himalaya in 2000 and was also in Gulmarg for the 2005/06 season when the gondola first opened.

‘The Professor’ is a great asset to the Bill’s Trips team not only for his obvious mountain skills and knowledge but also for his ability to hold an in depth and informed conversation on just about any topic you choose.  We are not sure if he really knows that much or if he just has the knack of making himself sound like he knows what he is talking about.

 


A few comments from some of our past guests

Kick arse

Thanks for a kick arse tour mate. Loved it. Onwards and upwards!

Been raving about it!

Hi Bill,

It was a truly awesome trip, and not just the great powder but the whole experience, so thank you! I’ve been raving about it, (but only to the right people).

I am missing it every day, and will definitely be back!

Best trip yet

Just a quick note to say again thanks for a really great trip, even though it was my second time to Gulmarg it was definitely the best.

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!

Best wishes and I hope that we get to meet up again in the future.

Sir William

Sir William of Kashmir – good to hear you have returned back safely to the motherland! It was a truly epic trip! Every time the boys get together it’s still all we can talk about. See you in another part of the world one day I’m sure. Cheers.

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