India may not immediately jump to mind when thinking of winter sports, but one of its northernmost states, Uttarakhand, at the foot of the Himalayas is known for its natural beauty and adventure opportunities, including skiing and snowboarding. Here are some of its top winter-sports destinations:
A tiny alpine town nestled in the Chamoli district about 13 kilometres from the city of Joshimath, this is ranked as India's top ski resort due to its well-maintained pistes at both low and high altitude, and well suited for all levels - beginners, intermediate, and professionals. It has 500- and 800-metre chair lifts to serve the higher pistes. Auli also has Asia’s longest cable car after Gulmarg in Kashmir - .4 kms - connecting it with Joshimath, and also bagged the honour of hosting first South Asian Winter Games in 2011. The best ski season lasts through January and February, and there are a good number of teaching professionals.
- Where to stay: Auli has hotels/resorts of deluxe and semi-deluxe categories.
- Other places to visit: Auli is the perfect retreat for summer holidays as well, with a plethora of attractions like Badrinath Shrine, the Valley of Flowers, Gurson Bugyal, and Hemkund Shahib.
- How to reach: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant (Dehradun), 275 km away. Rishikesh/Haridwar Railway station is the nearest railhead to reach Auli, at a distance of 250/285 km.
Khalia Top/Betulidhar is a lovely peak an easy, 700m trek up from the town of Musiyari in Pithoragarh district. At an altitude of 3,500 m, its relatively unsteep slopes are best for novices/first-timers, and there's a ski school here, as well. The best season at Munsiyari runs from December through February.
- Where to stay: Munsiyari offers a wide choice of regional/traditional homestays as well as hotels from basic to luxury.
- Other places to visit: In addition to ladnmarks such as Nanda Devi Temple the hill station Munsiyari is close to other attractions such as waterfalls and a glacier. Chaukori is another picturesque nearby hill station, with similar natural attractions as well as Hindu temples and shrines, along with tea gardens dating back to the British Raj.
- How to reach: Pantnagar Airport is the nearest, at a distance of 190 km, and Kathgodam Railway Station is 215 km away.
More uncrowded and under the radar than the previous two, this hamlet is located 25 km from another famous hill station, Chakrata. Up at 2,775 m, it has many off-pistes perfect for beginners, and skiers/snowboarders can also try their hands at higher altitudes, up to 3,049 m. Mundali is also more of an emerging ski destination, thus has more limited facilities than Auli and Musiyari. The ski season runs from December through February.
- Where to stay: Chakrata is the nearest option, with hotels from basic to luxe.
- Other places to visit: Chakrata with its ravishing waterfalls; the lovely nature of Kanasar; and the ecotourism and adventure options of the Tons Valley are easily accessible tourist spot near to Mundali.
- How to reach: The nearest airport, as with Auli, is Jolly Grant (Dehradun) Airport, 156 km away, and Dehradun Railway Station, 125 km.