waiting to be frisked by soldiers, part of a security routine that residents say is humiliating.

Growing up here, the turmoil was often so bad that we couldn’t leave our homes, and in fact, until recently, I hadn’t been back to Gulmarg.

The resort, a few miles from the Line of Control that divides India and Pakistan in Kashmir, is surrounded on all sides by Indian forces, who maintain a tight control over the region. Visitors encounter policemen before entering Gulmarg, who search cars and scan passengers.

Still, this was the ski town of my youth, with a few changes. The government rental shop, once offered just a dozen low-grade skis. Now it has a wide choice of world-class equipment. And today you can ride a gondola running along the Apharwat Mountains, one of the highest cable cars in the world at 13,800 feet.

The resort supports 20,000 local residents and 40 hotels. This year, because of the spike in demand, hotel prices have skyrocketed. A double that used to go for $50 costs $200, and many skiers are packing into them, five to a room.

There are still some angrez around — foreigners who make the town their home during the ski season, which can last into April.

Brian Newman, a lanky skier from Colorado, is the head of Gulmarg’s ski patrol. His job includes instructing crews on where to place dynamite to trigger man-made avalanches to prevent natural ones.

“It’s not a world class resort,” Mr. Newman admitted. But, he said, “it is special” because of the wide open terrain and amazing vistas.

Each day, skiers of all abilities pile out of buses and battered Indian jeeps. They take their place at the cable car station where the parka-clad crowds inch forward on their skis, ready to be transported through the clouds to a ridgeline that looks out over the Kashmir Valley.

There are four bunny ski runs for beginners and one slope running for miles, reached only by a gondola. There is also sledding, and each morning legions of young Kashmiri men trudge up the slopes tugging their long wooden sleds. Chai-wallahs stand in clumps, pouring out steaming cups of tea for skiers taking a break in the iridescent sunshine.

On a bright morning a few weeks ago, Fanny Godara, a French businesswomen who runs a restaurant in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry with her Indian husband, watched her children learn parallel turns on a beginner’s slope.

Like every parent, she said, she had been worried about the well-being of her two children during lockdown. Amid canceled holidays and before an impending move back to France, her children jumped at the chance to learn to ski.

“There is something magical about this place,” Ms. Godara said. “You want to come back, again and again.”

Ms. Khan, the skier who rushed to get here at the first sign of snow, had been restless for months, hunkered down indoors, infections surging around her, friends and relatives falling sick.

Staying inside was becoming impossible, she said, and the snowflakes falling outside her window were an irresistible invitation.

Lockdown restrictions have gradually eased in India, and much of the economy has been operating normally the past few months. In Gulmarg, crowded with skiers and snow lovers, social distancing was aspirational at best.

But Ms. Khan, 23, who is studying biosciences, said she still felt safe. As she slid off the chair lift on the 11,500 foot Merry Shoulder peak, she said she had never seen so many other people on the slopes.

Before she plunged down, she looked over her shoulder at her friend Ishani Jamwal, another college student, and yelled out: “How does it look from here?”

“Like a beautiful dream,” Ms. Jamwal yelled back. “I don’t want to blink.”

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi.

View Source

Julie Pomagalski, Former Olympic Snowboarder, Is Killed in an Avalanche

Julie Pomagalski, a two-time Olympian for France in snowboarding and a former world champion, was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday, French sports officials said on Wednesday. She was 40.

The accident occurred in the canton of Uri, according to the Swiss authorities, who said that Ms. Pomagalski was among a group of four people who had been freeriding on a mountain, Gemsstock, when a slab of snow broke loose for unexplained reasons. Freeriding is snowboarding or skiing on ungroomed backcountry terrain, in contrast to a course.

Three of them were swept away by the avalanche, with two dying and one person hospitalized, a police report said. The French ski federation identified the other person who was killed as Bruno Cutelli, a guide and a mountain rescue unit member.

A helicopter and two search dogs responded to the mountain, but Ms. Pomagalski and Mr. Cutelli had been completely buried by the time they arrived, the authorities said.

European Avalanche Warning Services, 85 people have been killed in avalanches across the continent so far in the 2020-21 season. Europe averages about 100 avalanche fatalities annually, the organization said.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks fatalities in every state. The total number of fatalities for all of last season was 23.

Ms. Pomagalski was born Oct. 10, 1980, in La Tronche, France, which is near Grenoble. Details about her survivors were not immediately available.

She came from a line of alpine sporting enthusiasts.

In 1934, her grandfather Jean Pomagalski, a 29-year-old engineer at the time, invented the first surface lift in Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps, according to a history of the Poma Group, a company he founded. The lift carried skiers about 705 feet and a vertical distance of about 210 feet, according to the company’s website. The Poma lift name became widely associated with chair lifts.

View Source