I’m often asked, where is your absolute favorite place to ski in the world. Valdez? France? Argentina? Greenland? British Columbia? Switzerland? Chile? Antarctica? Emphatically, my response is always INDIA. The response to my response? “Are there mountains there?” Just the world’s greatest and highest peaks – the Himalayas.
I’ve skied these giant peaks from many angles and in many different countries — Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and multiple parts of India. Every expedition blew my mind, challenged my mountaineering skills, and expanded my cultural knowledge. Bhutan’s lack of tourism, intact traditional values, intact ecosystems, and commitment to “Gross-National-Happiness” left me wanting to return again and again. Pakistan’s views of K2 while shredding powder be etched in my heart forever.
So why is India my #1, and in particular the Manali Himachel Pradesh region? Not only was the skiing, touring, and mountaineering beyond perfect, but I really was drawn to the various peoples, cultures, and foods. So often in my ski travels, the skiing was phenomenal, but the rest totally sucked – bed-bug ridden hotel rooms, crappy weather, and greasy fast food.
India redefined that notion. Not only was the weather often bluebird like Colorado, I could ski the raddest line of my life in Intercontinental snowpack, and then be in the midst a festival, donning costumes, throwing colored dyes, and eating would impress even Gordon Ramsey. And all on an incredibly inexpensive budget, while living quite large.
The vast amount of peaks to scale and explore never got old. And almost daily we would end up in a town that had never seen white people, let alone skiers. There are zillions of one-two-three day adventures, or longer expeditions, such as our first descent of the NW face of 20,000-foot Hanuman Tibba, shown below:
After several days hiking up the other side, this is what the chute looked like on the way down, and more than 10,000 vertical:
Even with the best packs in the world (Osprey of course!), carrying this much crap up is epic, let alone skiing down. Ten turns at 17,000 feet, leaves me gasping every time.
Shorter excursions with lighter Osprey Packs was never any less adventurous, and almost always ended in great turns, followed by hiking out in lower elevations until reaching villages on the valley floors. Always followed by the best cup of chai known to mankind, no matter how remote.
Ready to go yet? Some resources: Guide Book – Ski Touring in India’s Kullu Valley by CR Spooner is a must have, and not available over there. If you are wanting some assistance rather than organizing it yourself, Ski Tour the Himalayas with Himalayan Extreme Center
ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, pro mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant, and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to her busy careers as an athlete, athlete ambassador and keynote speaking, she runs her KEEN Rippin Chix Camps – women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe, featuring Osprey Packs. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s Woman Adventurer of the Year, Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of theYear” next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Always an advocate of walking the talk, she has reduced her carbon footprint in half and has also spent half a lifetime working to make the world a better place. In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, beginning the next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.