Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Skiing courses in Manali from January 11, 2012

Himachal Vacation Travel News

MANALI: With hopes for good snowfall in winters, thousands of ski lovers from across the country are enquiring about the ski courses in Manali. Meanwhile, Atal Bihari Vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports (ABVIMAS) has announced skiing courses in many categories which would kick off from January 11.
Temperature at ski slopes of Manali is appropriate for skiing and private ski operators are hoping for good spells of snowfall in December. The average minimum temperature of Manali is 2 degrees Celsius. Ski operators are happy that only 6 inch layer of snow at Rohtang pass is still intact even after two months of dry spell. They believe that if it snows at Solang valley, the enthusiasts would be able to ski for weeks and provide employment to many local operators.
ABVIMAS deputy director Mahabir Thakur said January is the ideal month for skiing, so institute is organizing short and long term skiing courses in different categories from January 11. “Special ski courses would be conducted between January 11 and 27, February 11 and 27, March 14 and 29. Six 14-days basic courses and two intermediate skiing courses would be organized. Also, after the request of skiers, we are going to organize an advanced skiing course on Solang ski slopes,” he said.
Special skiing courses are being organized for Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, NSS, Nehru Yuva Sangathan Club Chandigarh and other national institutions. At least 800 volunteers from the above institutions would take part in 10-day-long skiing and adventure activities at ABVIMAS Manali, Dharamshala, Narkanda and Hatkoti from January to April. A 21 days method of instructions skiing course is specially designed for the instructors. Thakur said that interested person from any age group can apply for these courses.
Though, there are no signs of snowfall in Manali after two-month-long dry spell, but skiing enthusiasts have strong belief that slopes would have snow-mantle like last year in December. Private instructors and skiers too are getting good inquiries from each corner of the country.
Ludar Thakur, a ski instructor in Manali said, “Winters have begun and inquiries for short-term skiing courses are pouring in. For now, Rohtang pass has a thin layer of snow where seekers are learning the basics of skiing. We are sure to have our all slopes rejuvenated with fresh snow in December which would thrill skiers and generate new sources of income for us.”

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tourists crosses slushy highway at Ranhi Nullah below Rohtang Pass (Photo: Himachal Vacation Travels)
A couple enjoys snow at Rohtang pass

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Homestays beat star hotels in Kullu-Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The popularity of homestay service in Kullu-Manali has outrun luxury star category hotels. Having no effect of off-season, homestay units are flooded with advance bookings from every corner of the world.
No doubt, some villagers have beaten the management of hotels with their innovative strategies and earning handsomely providing accommodation to tourists in a home away from home. Situated amidst villages, clean rooms, freedom to cook the food of choice, watching TV along with family members of house and homely and secure environment is giving tough competition even to five star category hotels in Kullu district. 116 homestay units have been registered only in Kullu district.
Tree House Cottage Manali
The Tree House Cottage in Kullu was the first registered homestay unit of Himachal and is one of the most popular homestays of country. Built on an oak tree, the beautiful cottage, only one of its types in north India, is the result of hard work of a farmer, Ambrish Upadhyay. Tourists are dying to book a room in tree house cottage but some lucky ones get the chance to stay here as it remains fully booked most of the times. “Not only domestic but tourists from Germany, Norway, Denmark, Russia and many countries are loving their stay with my family, cattle, apple orchards and village atmosphere. My local pure Kulluvi dishes are doing miracle on tourists,” Upadhyay said.
Upadhyay Cottage homestay in Jong village is another hotspot for tourists. High end tourists, mostly families and couples are enjoying their stay here. Rajeev Upadhyay, owner of the cottage and an apple grower said his family’s devotion towards guests has earned applaud internationally and now he is unable to handle the enquiries from tourists. He adds, “However each room is attached with kitchen where tourist can cook food of his choice but they like to dine with us our very own dishes. They feel like their own house here and enjoy TV and gossips with us. I’m introducing new gadgets and decoration materials to compete the hotels without tampering with its village look.”
The Apple House, Manali Meadows, Tree Top Cottage and Hamta House homestay units too are attracting number of tourists for their unique hospitality and location. Most of the units in Kullu claim that they do not have any effect of off-season and getting regular guests. While, reeling under lean season, hotels in Manali are reporting only 20 percent occupancy rate.
“The thing I loved the most is home cooked food and homely environment. There is no need to stay in commercial hotels when we get even better service at homestay along with the fragrance of real Indian village,” said a Danish tourist Astrid who is staying in Upadhyay Cottage.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rescue posts to monitor human movement on Rohtang from today

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: With weather conditions on Rohtang pass turned hostile, two rescue posts would be installed at both sides of the pass for safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians on Tuesday.
Manali based Atal Bihari Vajpayee institute of mountaineering and allied sports (ABVIMAS), who is responsible for safe movement of travellers across Rohtang after November 15, is installing its rescue posts at Marhi (Kullu) and Koksar (Lahaul-Spiti). Now, all travellers, using the Manali-Rohtang-Lahaul-Spiti route, would have to register themselves at both the posts to ensure safe passage.
ABVIMAS deputy director Rajeev Sharma said each post would have nine persons including police, wireless operator, medical teams and rescue experts. “Posts would be installed in two phases from November 15 to December 15 and March 15 to May 15 in first and second phase respectively. Both rescue teams shall monitor movement of people and if necessary, prevent them to cross Rohtang,” he said.
Rohtang has been receiving light snowfall intermittently. Vehicular movement has already been stopped here officially. The rescue posts at both sides of the pass would control the flow of traffic and pedestrians crossing the pass. Teams would act fast in case if somebody is trapped between flurries.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Snowfall on higher reaches, Keylong at lowest of -0.6 degree C

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: The higher reaches of Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba have been experiencing mild snowfall since Wednesday morning triggering cold waves in the valleys. With mercury settling at -0.6 degree Celsius, Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti was the coldest inhabitant region of Himachal this season.

Snowfall on peaks near Manali
A fresh white sheet of snow has covered Seven Sister peaks, Hanuman Tibba, Makarved, Shikarved and Kinner Kailash peaks. Many snow lovers thronged Rohtang pass in hope to see fresh snowfall, but they had to enjoy only with old frozen ice.

Maximum temperature in Keylong was 10.9 degrees Celsius. Kalpa, Solan, Bhunter, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, Dharamshala and Una recorded minimum temperature of 4.2, 4.3, 5.7, 9.8, 5.7, 9, 13.5 and 10.2 degrees Celsius respectively.
Shimla Meteorological director Manmohan Singh said Keylong was the coldest place in Himachal and Una was the warm at 30 degrees Celsius. Weather will remain mostly dry in coming five days, he said.

Monday, 7 November 2011

No luxury bus service within Himachal irks tourists

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Eager to attract lakhs of tourists to Himachal with luxury modes of transport, the state government is neglecting those looking for luxury buses between the hill resorts of Himachal.
It is strange that thousands of tourists travel between Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala and Dalhousie every day, but there is no luxury bus service available between these routes. Tourists, including regular commuters, are forced to travel by ordinary or semi-deluxe buses that stop at domestic bus stops and take long time to cover small distances. Hiring a private taxi is the only option to reduce timing and avail luxury on local routes but the cheapest taxi for nearest hill resort comes for not less than Rs 4,000. The fastest bus service between Manali and Shimla takes minimum 8 hours to cover 265 km.
When Himachal Vacation tried to ascertain experience of travellers reaching Manali by deluxe buses from Shimla, everyone had bitter memories. A backpacker from England, Joshua, who was looking fully exhausted, said, “I inquired about luxury bus or Volvo to Manali at tourist information centre and government bus stop in Shimla, but it was the only bus which they said would be comfortable on this route. Locks of sliding glasses were not working and I spend a horrible night in cold. Bus was picking up domestic travellers. The stingy seats were uncomfortable to sleep.”
Nilambari and Anmol, tourists from Gujarat, who had estimated it 4-5 hour-long journey between Shimla and Manali were upset when they reached here after 9 hours. “When hundreds of tourists travel between Manali and Shimla every day, then why government is not taking interest providing luxury service in this route. We cannot dare to travel in such buses again in future. Now we have decided to complete our onward journey only by car,” they said.
Himachal roadways transport corporation (HRTC) vice chairman Rajiv Bhardwaj said a fleet of luxury buses is to be added to the corporation soon and they are planning to run luxury buses on Manali-Shimla, Shimla-Dharamshala routes. “We are collecting stats that how many tourists want luxury buses within tourist spots of Himachal. We are starting a luxury bus service between Pathankot and Manali,” he said.
Himachal Pradesh tourism development corporation (HPTDC) officials said they do not have a route permit and they run their buses on contract permit depending on the number of tourists. Shimla marketing officer Prakash Thakur said, “HPTDC buses provide service to tourists in season time. However, if there is special demand of tourists, we can provide them a bus for special route any time. No regular Volvo or luxury bus service is available on routes within Himachal.”

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Soaring flower prices keep honeymooners deprive of decoration

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Honeymooners coming to Manali are finding their bed sans flowers much to their disappointment. Hoteliers are finding it hard to decorate the rooms for newlywed couples as flowers required are not available in local market and those available are extremely costly.
Besides Delhi, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Punjab, flowers are being imported from Thailand which has caused steep rise in its prices. Only two varieties of flowers -- Marigold and seasonal roses -- are available in local markets of Himachal and they, too, are selling for unusually high prices. Demand of flowers in Manali is such that flower vendors are ordering for used flowers from Delhi comparatively for low prices. Meanwhile, given the good demand for flowers in local markets, many farmers have chosen to grow variety of flowers in polyhouses.
Upset with quantity and quality of flowers, honeymooners from Delhi, Udit and Sonakshi Jain said, “We had booked a luxury honeymoon package in Manali. Everything was quite good except for flower bed decoration where on the name of flowers, handful of petals were placed. Hotel manager attributed this to the unavailability and high prices of flowers.”
Arshdeep and Gurleen, another honeymooner from Kanpur, staying at hotel Hilltop, cancelled room decoration option out of their honeymoon package which was costing them Rs 5,000 extra. “A bouquet, couple of bunches of flowers and simple bed decoration was costing too much. So we adjusted only with candle light dinner.”
Hoteliers say they do not have raised prices for simple bed decoration but complete room decoration which earlier was costing them up to Rs 5 thousand, is now costing for about 9 to 10 thousand. Owner of Hotel Holiday Cottages, Roshan Thakur said hundreds of honeymoon couples are reaching Manali every day but soaring prices for flowers have reduced the quantity of flowers on bed. “We cannot charge extra from customer for expensive flowers. We are forced to adjust with available flowers. But a full room decoration is costing double as compared to August and September,” he said.
A stick of Thai orchid, which is in great demand, is selling for Rs 50. During August, a stem of each zerbera, glad and carnation brought from Delhi were being sold for Rs 5. Now they rose to Rs 15, 15 and 10 respectively. Locally grown stick of rose is not available for less than Rs 25. The famous garland of marigold of Kolkata which generally is available for Rs 10 per meter is now selling for Rs 20.
Seasonal flowers of the state are not meeting demands of local markets. To protect people from burden of inflation, florists in Manali were purchasing used Thai orchid from Delhi markets which was costing them Rs 35 to 50 for a stem.
Manali Flower’s owner Sumant Upadhyay said flower markets of the country are lacking stock of quality flowers, so he is importing flowers from Thailand which is famous for its orchid that lasts as much as a month. “Unavailability of flowers have caused rise in its prices which further has affected the market demand. Very few honeymooners and hoteliers are asking for flower decoration. The trend is likely to remain same till new flower harvest in March,” he said.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Manali-Leh highway closed officially for next six months

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Due to high possibilities of heavy snowfall, the Manali-Leh highway has been officially declared closed from November 1 till the onset of summers next year. Lahaul-Spiti administration has speed up stocking process for essential commodities for emergency use in winters when district would go cut off from rest of the country.
Earlier, Border Road Organization (BRO), who looks after maintenance work of Manali-Leh highway, had decided to keep the highway open till November 30 but organization has changed its decision. To avoid any untoward incident due to blockade of highway, BRO has declared it unsafe for vehicular movement. Though, vehicular movement would continue normally until snow blocks the highway, but BRO officials said they will not be responsible for safe passage of vehicles now onwards.
Pic: Manali-Leh highway
BRO commander Yogesh Nair said snowfall may block the highway any time and left many people including tourists stranded, so they have issued advisories. “Copies of decision to close highway from November 1 have been forwarded to Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti administration. Maintenance work of highway will continue during winters. We shall clear the highway in case of mild snowfall. But if it snows heavily, we won’t be in condition to reopen it,” he said.
With declaration of BRO, the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti has officially cut off from the country. Residents have stored enough ration, fodder and woollens to face the six-month long harsh winter. About 20,000 quintal firewood has been stored in district wood depots. More than 90 percent of potatoes, the cash crop of Lahaul-Spiti, have arrived at Kullu for further transportation to several parts of the country. Remaining crop is expected to reach here within a week.
Lahaul-Spiti deputy commissioner Rajeev Shankar said 95% supply of ration, kerosene, fuel and other essential commodities have been stored for winters while remaining stock would arrive here soon. He said, “As long as it is safe, emergency vehicles and public buses of Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation would be plying the highway. All preparations have been made to tackle winters.”