From Gulmarg’s Blues to Bangus’s White Embrace
By: Javid Amin
In the mystical embrace of Kashmir, where Gulmarg often steals the spotlight, a hidden gem emerges, gleaming under a thick blanket of snow—Bangus Valley. This snowy sanctuary, tucked away in the north of Kashmir’s Kupwara district, has recently captivated the hearts of snow enthusiasts, drawing them away from the well-trodden paths to witness a winter spectacle like never before.
Traditionally, Bangus Valley was shrouded in a snowy veil making it inaccessible in January. However, the whims of nature have choreographed a different dance this year. The usual heavy snowfall, which forced shepherds and even security forces to retreat to the plains between November and April, has taken an unexpected pause. Unlike the typical 10-foot snow cover in January, Bangus Valley, this year, sports a stunning white carpet of approximately 3 feet, attracting locals and tourists alike into its serene embrace.
“Almost 6000 people earn their livelihood during summer in Bangus either by establishing stalls or by giving horse rides to the tourists. We are happy with the present trend as tourists are thronging here in winter, paving the way for us to earn a livelihood,” shares Manzoor Ahmad, a local tourist guide, capturing the economic ripples of this unusual winter phenomenon.
A Winter Wonderland Unveiled
Bangus Valley, with its pristine allure, can be reached through three enchanting routes—Chowkibal Kupwara, Rajwar Handwara, and Mawer Handwara. For those yearning for an immersive experience, homestays at Puthwari and Rangwar offer a taste of the authentic local life, turning a visit into a cultural journey.
The valley’s transformation into a winter wonderland has sparked discussions about hosting this year’s winter games in Bangus instead of Gulmarg. Mir Sulaiman, a member of the District Development Council (DDC) Rajwar, believes that Bangus Valley, with its expansive slopes, is a potential hub for ice skating. His enthusiasm spills over as he advocates for the Lieutenant Governor’s administration to consider organizing winter games in this hidden gem.
“Boasting large slopes, Bangus can be a great prospect for ice skating. I hope the tourists from all over the world visit the beautiful valley of Bangus in the coming days and enjoy their time here,” expresses Sulaiman, painting a vivid picture of the untapped potential of this scenic valley.
The Roads Less Traveled: Bangus Beckons
As the Gulmarg blues fade into the background, the charm of Bangus Valley beckons those seeking a different facet of Kashmir’s winter magic. The absence of the usual snowfall in Gulmarg, which draws thousands each winter, has diverted the attention of snow lovers to this lesser-explored destination.
“The scenario is altogether different this year. Generally over 10 feet of snow would be recorded in January, but still significant snow happens to be present here compared to Gulmarg and other tourist destinations,” notes Manzoor Ahmad, underlining the rarity of this winter’s gift to Bangus Valley.
Unlocking the Economic Potential
Beyond its scenic beauty, the influx of winter tourists to Bangus Valley is transforming the economic landscape of the region. The livelihoods of thousands, deeply intertwined with the summer season, find an unexpected extension into winter. Entrepreneurs establish stalls, offering a taste of local culture to the visiting tourists, and horse rides become not just a summer venture but a year-round means of sustenance.
As Tariq Ahmad, another local resident, points out, the accessibility of Bangus from multiple routes opens up opportunities for tourism expansion. The prospect of homestays in Puthwari and Rangwar invites tourists to not just visit but to immerse themselves in the warmth of local hospitality.
The Vision for Winter Games
Mir Sulaiman’s vision of hosting winter games in Bangus Valley is a call to recognize the untapped potential of this hidden sanctuary. The valley’s sprawling slopes, now adorned with a generous layer of snow, offer an ideal canvas for various winter sports, with ice skating leading the list.
This proposal, if embraced, could diversify the tourist experience in Kashmir, distributing the winter tourism boon beyond the familiar landscapes. It’s a call to explore the uncharted, to celebrate the beauty that hides away from the spotlight, and to envision Bangus Valley as not just a temporary refuge for snow lovers but a thriving hub for winter sports enthusiasts.
A Symphony of Seasons
As nature weaves an unusual tapestry this winter, turning Bangus Valley into a snowy sanctuary, it beckons explorers, adventurers, and those seeking a different rhythm in the symphony of seasons. The landscape, draped in white, narrates a story of resilience, adaptability, and the intertwined dance of nature and human livelihoods.
So, as Bangus Valley emerges from the shadows of Gulmarg blues, it extends an invitation—an invitation to witness its snowy spectacle, embrace its warmth, and perhaps, envision a future where it stands not just as a winter sanctuary but a vibrant hub for the world to explore and cherish. In the heart of Kashmir, a hidden gem awaits, ready to script a new chapter in the tale of winter wonders. Will you be there to witness it?
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