Winning at winter in Auli

Q.

Hi,

I’m planning a New Years get away to Auli. Dates are 30th December to 6th January. Wanted general help in terms of:

1. Weather warnings if any and things to carry
2. Best route to reach Auli, as there seem to be lots of options on the net.
3. Accommodation + most affordable ski packages for two
4. General sight seeing

We will be travelling from Mumbai.

Please help!

Thanks,

Drashti

Hi Drashti

Sorry it’s taken me longer than usual to respond to you.

I have not been to Auli and I found it difficult to find up to date detailed information about it. I know someone who travelled there but that was in the summer. I also spoke to a local travel agent that I’ve used in the past for work and to the people at Clifftop Club.

But I have not given them any of your details and there is NO OBLIGATION to contact or use the services of either.

Besides this, most of the information I am putting down here is from reliable online sources.

WEATHER & WHAT TO CARRY

Luckily Uttarakhand has already received its first snowfall, which is extremely early. Normally the first snows are experienced in January. Last season (this January) for example, the annual international winter skiing championship had to be postponed. But it doesn’t look like you’ll need to worry about whether or not there will be snow when you go. Nevertheless, skiing only happens when there is at least 1.5 feet of snow so it depends from day to day.

Auli and skiing are synonymous with one another

Something to keep in mind is that the soft powdery snow that falls hardens quickly to ice, so some websites say the skiing ends by 2pm.

There are no weather warnings as of now but apparently the ropeway between Joshimath and Auli can get snowed in, which is why it is recommended that you stay in Auli even with its limited accommodation offerings rather than in Joshimath. When you speak to your hotel you should ask about such an eventuality and what they tend to do for food, supplies, medical aid in such a scenario.

In terms of what you should carry I would certainly suggest you carry appropriate warm clothing (keep in mind that in India indoor heating isn’t as effective as it is in other places so you may be wearing warm clothing indoors as well) and basic first aid, including motion sickness medicine.

For the ski equipment you will either need to approach a local operator or get it from your hotel if they keep any.

ROUTE

Everyone I spoke to said that since you’re coming from Mumbai it’s best that you fly to Dehradun because adding a train journey to the stay may make the already long journey quite tiring. The best route is via Rudraprayag and then Rishikesh / Haridwar. It’s best to break the journey along the way because the entire journey is around 9-10 hours. This is especially true if you plan to stay in Auli proper as the cable car stops operating at 4pm.

You can break the journey in Rudraprayag or Karnaprayag. If you want to and have the extra time, you could spend some time in Haridwar or Rishikesh on this day before heading on. Try and leave early the next day by around 8-8.30am in order to make it to Joshimath well in time by around 1pm. The road is very winding on this day.

You can take the cable car up or drive depending on which hotel you’re staying at. The cable car doesn’t go to all the hotels. If you take the cable car up you will need to walk from the cable car station in Auli to the hotel. The hotel should be able to organise a porter to carry your bags if informed in advance. (Do make sure you do this, unless you feel confident you can carry your own bags).

ACCOMMODATION & PACKAGES

My friend broke the journey in Rudraprayag (5 hours approx. from Dehradun) and roughed it out in the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) Tourist Rest House there. She suggests a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor for the best views. The hotel looks out over the Mandakini and Alaknanda river confluence. You could book a hotel directly or have a local travel agent book the transport plus accommodation along the journey and in Auli. The Clifftop Club Hotel also organises a package including all this and an overnight in a different hotel. Same for the travel agent I spoke to. The hotels along the way are strictly 2 star.

Accommodation in Auli is basic but comfortable

As for accommodation in Auli there are actually only a few options at what is sometimes called ‘Auli skiing village’, basically the bit of Auli at the end of the cable car ropeway where the skiing happens. If you look at TripAdvisor etc, it may look like there are many hotel options, but if you look at their locations on the map they are quite a bit further away from the ski point, which would mean you have to figure out how to get there and back each day. Not impossible if you have to do it, but cumbersome.

The Clifftop Club is considered the upmarket choice out of what is available near the skiing area. But my friend who stayed there said that even though the views and location were fabulous, the service and facilities are strictly lodge-like and not very clean. My friend also recommended that if you stay here you ask for the newer, renovated rooms rather than the rooms in the main building.

If she were to do it again she would choose the cheaper Devi Darshan Lodge but when I tracked down their number and spoke to them they said that sadly the hotel is currently under renovation.

The Clifftop Club offers packages that include transport and accommodation mid-way so it’s best to check directly with them once you decide.

Another accommodation option is the government-run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Tourist Rest House, which Lonely Planet considers “surprisingly good” and is located at the base of the chair lift. I couldn’t find an online booking option for GMVN so here are the contact details from their website instead:

Dehradun
Dehradun (Head Office)
GM (Tourism)
Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd.
74/1, Rajpur Road, Dehradun -248001
Tel.: 0135 – 2747898, 2746817, 2749308
2748478, 2749272
Fax: 0135 – 2748479
Email: gmvn@gmvnl.in
gmvn@sancharnet.in

If, for whatever, reason these hotels don’t work out the other hotels that I can gauge are located closest to the Joshimath end of the cable car ropeway is the Blue Poppy Resort and the Royal Auli Village – Auli Resort. Both have got decent reviews on TripAdvisor.

Some things I suggest you check with the hotels about over the phone:

– What all does the price include? Meals / ski equipment / transport

– What are their emergency procedures in case of cable car being shut and roads being closed?

– What is the best route to get to the hotel? Some hotels are reachable from Joshimath by cable car and others by road.

– What kind of heating do they have in the rooms?

Take a day off from skiing to go sightseeing

There are a number of other things to do around Auli aside from skiing but what you can actually do at that point will depend on the weather conditions. Here are some of the activities that you should be able to do when you’re there:

Gorson Bugyal is a pretty meadow several kilometres away from Auli and is accessed on foot at the end of a trek in the snow.

Chattrakund a beautiful lake surrounded by lush forests, about 3 km from Gorson Bugyal.

Here are the contact details for the travel agent I contacted, should you be interested:

INDIA HIGHLIGHTS TOUR
4/107, 3rd floor Ramesh Nagar New Delhi-110015 (INDIA)
Ph: +91-11-25163775, Cell: +91- 9811231248 (Mr Khem Singh)
website: www.indiahighlights.in

Note: I believe there are also taxis you can take from Dehradun / Jolly Grant Airport and you can also book the accommodation along the way and in Auli by yourself. Or you can book the entire journey through a hotel or local travel agent. Personally, I prefer booking things in advance in locations like this but you may be a more intrepid traveller than me. 🙂

Some useful links:

Times of India

Condenast Traveller

Uttarakhand Tourism Board

Thrillophilia

Travel Triangle

Happy travels! Stay warm!

Shalome

Photos: Header: Amit Shaw
Skiing: Ravi Jain – @aparigrahalife
Accommodation: Akshay Trivedi – @aeykey._
Sightseeing: Prameet Paul – @freaky_wanderer