Gulmarg Snow Safety Program
Gulmarg Avalanche Center is a non-profit organization providing daily bulletins and education in the Himalayas of Kashmir. Arc'teryx first became involved with Gulmarg following the 2010 ISSW meeting in Lake Tahoe attended by Brian Newman, avalanche forecaster and founding Director of the Gulmarg Snow Safety Program.
Gulmarg is a Himalayan resort located in Kashmir, India. Vast backcountry terrain is accessible from a gondola reaching 4000m. Large avalanche paths surround the ski area but the culture of India has limited knowledge of avalanche phenomena. Not a traditional recreation for the people and within view of the Pakistani border, the reasons for the spotty and slow development safety measures are both cultural and political. The danger however, remains real. In 2009, a single avalanche killed 17 soldiers at an Indian military base just outside the ski area boundaries.
Brian's presence and efforts have changed a skeptical outlook toward a push for education; "As western interest in Gulmarg grows, we work with the government (which owns the ski area) to develop the same standards of safety used by countries with a long history of winter recreation." Avalanche related deaths have dropped to zero in the recreation sector since 2008 and avalanche courses are offered in the Kashmiri language.
The long term goal of the Gulmarg Snow Safety Program is to create a self-sufficient ski patrol, with staff that is educated in first aid, evacuation skills and avalanche control. In 2010, Arc'teryx provided uniforms for the Gulmarg ski patrol. To earn these coats and the moniker professional ski patroller, Kashmiri candidates endured training and exams spanning 4 winters. Many of these pros have begun training in the sophisticated field of avalanche forecasting. "These men are the future leaders," says Brian. "I hope to see them one day as delegates representing India in the field of snow science."
Arc'teryx plans to continue with equipment contributions as continuity is an essential element to the success of the program. It is what keeps Brian Newman involved, that and the unique community of skiers, riders and local people who depend on the forecasts being broadcast for their safety. Good habits for safe travel are not only good practises, they are a gesture of goodwill toward others. Thanks to Brian Newman, the Gulmarg Snow Safety Program and the patrollers, the charmingly named curry powder awaits us all.
For more info on Gulmarg: www.gulmargsnowsafety.com
Learn more about the Arc'teryx Pro Program.