Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Snow clearance work on Manali-Rohtang highway from March 1

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Thousands of residents of snow-bound Lahaul would shortly be linked to outer world as Border Roads Organization (BRO) is starting its snow clearance operation to restore traffic on Manali-Rohtang-Leh highway from March 1, followed by a pooja ceremony at Kothi, near Manali.
A snow cutter at Gulaba makes way to Rohtang Pass (file pic)
Rohtang pass (13,050ft) is expected to have covered under 25 to 30 feet thick sheet of snow. Thickness of snow can be over 50 feet at some glacier points including Rahni Nullah. As snowfall would continue till late March, snow accumulation is likely to increase by 10 to 20 feet in next few days. Main hurdle which jawans of BRO would face in snow clearing operation will be avalanches and landslides, in addition to finding the missing road which is similar to finding needle in haystack. For the safety of jawans, BRO will organize a pooja at Kothi, from where the snow clearing work will start.
Residents of Lahaul who are dependent on emergency helicopter service to stay connected with outer world wait for restoration of Manali-Keyong highway which passes through mighty Rohtang pass. The same highway which further connects with Leh in Ladakh region is a vital link in military point of view. The convoys of military also wait for opening of the highway to take necessary military supply to Ladakh.
To restore highway fast, snow clearing will be started from both sides of Rohtang. 38 Border RoadTask Force commander Colonel Yogesh Nair said all preparations have been done to start digging snow from Kothi side. Baralacha-la (16,020ft) would be the second pass where BRO would concentrate after Rohtang pass. Dozens of BRO jawans suffer minor frostbites, cold and face burns with high velocity icy winds of Rohtang while opening the road.
Project Deepak of BRO maintains the 222-km-long stretch of Manali-Sarchu highway which is needed to be restored to open 474km-long Manali-Leh highway. Traffic on Manali-Leh road comes to complete halt after snowfall in November and December every year.

Rohtang to open for pedestrians from March 15
MANALI: Manali based Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports(ABVIMAS) which had earlier decided to set up its rescue posts on either sides of Rohtang pass for safety of pedestrians have postponed its plans till March 15.
Saying that it can be dangerous to cross Rohtang pass due to bad weather conditions and fear of avalanches, ABVIMAS director RS Salhuria said the rescue posts will be installed on March 15. “People may start crossing Rohtang if we install posts in first week of March which may put them into trouble. Weather is hostile on pass and avalanches pose danger all the time. We have taken this decision after discussion with Lahaul-Spiti deputy commissioner,” he said.
Each rescue post shall have medical experts, police, wireless operator and rescue experts who would ensure safe passage of pedestrians through Rohtang pass by registering them on both the posts at Koksar (Lahaul) and Marhi (Kullu). Setting up of rescue posts provide relief to residents of Lahaul who otherwise remain dependant on emergency helicopter service to cross Rohtang pass.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Good snowfall ensures cheering summer in Himachal

SHIMLA/ MANALI: Heavy snowfall on Himachal hills has once again ensured a cheerful summer tourist season, pleasant climate, bountiful drinking water and good time for winter games lovers.
More snowfall in Himachal from February 22
The state is witnessing unexpectedly high flow of tourists in February and is sure about bumper season between April and July when tourists would throng here to get respite from the heat of plains. The current spells of snowfall are acting like magnet to attract tourists to Himachal. Hotels in Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie have already swarmed with inquiries for summer season.
Heavy snowfallin Solang Valley of Manali has cheered the winter games enthusiasts who have flocked here for skiing, snowboarding and other activities. Ski slopes here are covered with hundreds of amateur and professional skiers. “Watching skiers on television always thrills me and now that I’m attempting skiing here, it is like dream come true for me,” a tourist from Indore, Praveen Jain, said.
Some tourists are complaining of swindle and overcharging from them. Harika Kalantri, touristfrom Hyderabad, complains, “I and my husband were charged Rs 4,200 for skis for couple of hours. When we interacted with another couple, we came to know they were charged Rs 2,000. And then we got to know that service providers first entice the tourists and charge arbitrary rent for few minutes. Nobody was present there to control this swindling.”
It is snowing on high hills of Kullu, Shimla, Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur while lower hills are experiencing light showers. A moderate cold wave is persistent in the state and Keylong in Lahaul was coldest inhabited place in Himachal at -10.4 degrees Celsius followed by Kalpa at -5.4 degrees C. Night temperature in Manali (0.6), Shimla (5.5), Dharamshala (7.6) and Solan (4.2) is still cold. According to Shimla Meteorological office, a fresh western disturbance has entered the state and it would bring more snow to high hills of western Himalayan regions from February 22.
While Manali has experienced good snowfall this year, it is still below the average in Shimla. According to hoteliers in Shimla, shortage of drinking water is the main problem in Shimla during summers and they are expecting more snowfall till March. An hotelier, Chandra Sharma, said, “More snowfall means enough drinking water for summers. Otherwise we are forced to bring water from many kilometers for our guests. Snow on hills  also helps keep the temperature down.”

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Snow, rain trigger cold waves in Himachal

SHIMLA: A fresh wave of cold has gripped the entire state after snowfall on higher reaches and rain on mid and lower hills on Friday.

Vehicles buried under thick blanket of snow in Kinnaur, Himachal
(Pic: Hitesh S Negi)
High altitude areas of Himachal including Lahaul-Spiti district, parts of Kinnaur, Manali and Chamba, Dhauladhar ranges of Kangra are receiving snowfall since Thursday night. Blizzards have stopped outdoor movement of residents in Keylong, district headquarter of Lahaul-Spiti, where 5cm fresh snow has been accumulated. Given the heavy snowfall forecast for next 48 hours, high alert has been sounded by Lahaul-Spiti administration. Shimla meteorological office has issued a warning of heavy snowfall on high hills and hailstorms on low hills in next two days.
Solang near Manali recorded 15cm snow while Rohtang pass has got over 30cm in last 20 hours. Total snow accumulation on Rohtang pass is expected to be near 25 feet (750cm). Rain lashed mid hills of the state and overcast sky made the day colder in low hills. At -4.6 degrees Celsius, Keylong was the coldest inhabited place of Himachal followed by Kalpa, Manali and Shimla at -3, 2 and 6.4 degrees Celsius minimum temperature. Decreasing atmospheric pressure has caused increase in minimum temperature by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius in last 24 hours. But Una, in the plains of Himachal, was warm at 27 degrees Celsius, highest in the state.
Hundreds of tourists in Manali thronged Solang valley and enjoyed the fresh snowfall on Friday morning. “We have been to Solang on Thursday but we reached here for one more time as it was snowing here on Friday. We were lucky to see snowfall and enjoyed as much as we could,” tourist from New Delhi, Vikas Mehta, said. Manali administration has also alerted tourists not to go towards isolated areas as snow may trap them.
Dark clouds and light showers in Shimla have triggered the cold waves. High mountains of hill queen also experienced light snowfall. People in Kinnaur and Spiti, where up to 180cm of snow had wreaked havoc earlier this week, are praying for clear weather now. “It would take weeks to melt the heaps of previous snow and now more snow is scaring us. We are praying almighty for pleasant weather,” a resident from Kaza, Tanpa Lote, told Himachal Vacation over phone.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Winter Carnival of fun and joy kicks off in Manali

MANALI: With over 100 tableaus and cultural processions showcasing their art and culture, the carnival of fun, joy, dance, tradition and fashion kicked off in Manali after special puja at Hadimba Devi temple on Saturday.

A tableau in Manali Winter Carnival - 2013

The snow-laden calm mountains of Manali echoed with folk music of Himachal and other states of the country. The procession that started from circuit house concluded at ManuRangshala and stage was set for five-day-long entertaining and cultural programmes. Earlier, the procession used to start from Hadimba temple, but it started from circuit house due to narrow road to temple after recent heavy snowfall here.
Thousands of people, including tourists, thronged Manali to witness the blend of art, culture and ancient living style of people of Kullu. Despite biting cold and walls of snow on both sides of the road, the fervour of carnival didn’t reduce. “It’s good to be here and watch the women depicting years-old lifestyle of Kullu,” a tourist from Gujarat, Neeraj Bhuva, said.

Mahila Mandals in Manali Winter Carnival

In addition to 85 local mahila mandals, over 30 other cultural groups from various parts of the country took part in procession. Delhi gang rape case, save environment, save power, women empowerment, and ancient lifestyle of Malana and years-old living style of Kullu were depicted in unique way, besides tradition of Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and other states. Also, tourists would get to taste the Kulluvi traditional food on Mall road where stalls have been installed for local mahila mandals and self help groups.

Winter games lover had to be upset as winter games, which used to be a part of carnival, are not being organized this time for some reason. Meanwhile, the sunny day has brought hopes for good time in next five days here.

Winter Carnival, Manali

Kullu deputycommissioner Sharab Chhopal Negi, who is the president of carnival organizing committee said, Winter Carnival is successfully drawing the attention of tourists towards Kullu Manali and also promoting adventure sports of the region. “Winter Carnival offers a platform to display young talent, tourism, weaving industry and winter sports of Kullu-Manali. The carnival is achieving new heights of success every year,” he said.

Manali Winter Carnival is being celebrated since 1977 during the off-season in winters to attract more tourists. Carnival would continue for five days at Manu Rangshala. People would enjoy the folk dances, western dances, fashion shows, singing competitions, laughter shows, men’s personality, winter queen contests and variety of other programs.

Road to famous Bhrigu lake soon

MANALI: Tourists would soon be able to see the hidden and virgin beauty of Manali as chief ministerVirbhadra Singh, who inaugurated the Winter Carnival, has accorded approval to Kothi-Bhrigu road. Famous Bhrigu lake, which is a famous pilgrimage and camping site, lies in axis close to Rohtang pass and is only accessible through a day long trekking. Construction of Kothi-Bhrigu road would open new opportunities for tourism of Manali and encourage pilgrimage as well.

More pics from Carnival

Manali villager Suresh Rana’s presence in Desert Storm scares top rallyists of the country

Himachal VacationTraval News
CHANDIGARH: Suresh Rana, the champion rallyist from a village in Manali, is ready for one of the biggest challenges on the Indianmotorsport calendar – The Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm – the six-day-long annual event, one of the toughest and popular motorsport rallies of the country.

Suresh Rana with his co-pilot Ashwin Naik during a rally (file photo)

 Entry of Suresh Rana, eight time winner of Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya, one of the top ten toughest motorsport rallies of the world, has scared his 250 competitors, all the top rallyists of the country. He drives for Team Maruti and was numero uno at the Desert Storm 2012. He drives Maruti Gypsy, but for the first time, he would be on the terrains of Rajasthan with his Grand Vitara. The village guy and rising star in the history of Indian motorsports, Rana, is confident to win the rally, while many of his competitors have already given up by their mind.

“I have competed in the Desert Storm earlier driving a Maruti Gypsy. This year, I will be driving a Grand Vitara in the event for the first time. The Desert Storm is an iconic motorsport event and I am looking forward to getting the winner’s crown for Team Maruti this year too,” said Rana, who is in his mid-30s. Rana had won the 14th Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya in 2012 driving a Grand Vitara.

Pride of Rajasthan, Desert Storm presents highly challenging conditions, tough stages and spectacular terrain, ranging from desert stretches and vast salt flats to deceptively simple dirt tracks. Manali’s man Suresh Rana has emerged as the most formidable opponent at the Desert Storm and is being seen as the biggest challenge for the top stars of the Indian motorsport circuit.

The Desert Storm is among the few cross-country motorsport rallies of the world that boast of extremely testing night-driving. It will pass through the vast stretches of the Thar Desert in the outback regions of Jaisalmer and Bikaner, and reach the finish line at Jaipur. Among the most formidable champions of Rana at the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm are champion rallyists Gaurav Gill of Delhi, Karamjit Singh from Malaysia, Sunny Sidhu from Chandigarh and Lohit Urs from Mysore.

Mayank Pareek, the managing executive officer of Maruti Suzuki, said the 11th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm will be organized from February 18 to 23. It will begin from Sardarshahar and will end at Jaipur. “The Desert Storm will traverse about 2,200 kilometers this year. It is a matter of pride for us that Maruti Suzuki has made it possible for motorsport to reach the masses and flourish in the country. Our rallies now draw the best motorsport talent in the country, and also nurture new talent among youth each year,” Pareek said.

Each February, over 250 motorsport enthusiasts from across the country converge in Rajasthan for this event. Participants compete in four-wheel drives, two-wheel drives and motorbikes in diverse categories such as Xtreme, Moto, Ndure and Xplore, to take on the challenges of the wilderness. And Suresh Rana, who is finding way to international rally events, has always been a most feared competitor in extreme rallies.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Despite havoc, tourists throng Himachal to enjoy snowfall

SHIMLA: Despite paralyzed roads, power, water supply and communication facilities, the glittering snow has continued attracting thousands of tourists to Himachal Pradesh who are ready to pay any cost to enjoy this precious gift from almighty.
These days this is common view on roads of Himachal when tourists are pushing their cars that have stuck in snow or couples walking on blocked roads to reach their destinations with luggage in hands. Most of the hotels have no heating arrangements and taxi drivers are charging huge fares. But the number of tourists arriving in state is not decreasing despite very heavy snowfall since Monday. Not only honeymooners, but hundreds of families and winter sports lovers from plains are rushing to Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie and other tourist resorts of the state. Very few are complaining of problems that they are facing but others are enjoying cold and white nectar to the full extent.
Heavy snowfall in Himachal. Pic: Manali-Rohtang highway
“Closure of roads and power failure is common on hill stations after heavy snowfall. Contrary to complaining, we should understand the situation and enjoy the weather,” a tourist from Noida, Manshu Ahuja, said, who himself had to walk to reach his hotel in Manali on Wednesday. Another tourist from Chandigarh, Sumit Kumar, who stuck in traffic jam for whole day to reach Manali, said, “We are here to see snowfall and not the traffic jams. Authorities should arrange for proper machineries to remove the snow fast and appropriately.”
According to sources, in addition to over 700 tourist vehicles, including 30 Volvo and other tourist buses, many private cars wearing non-Himachali registration number are entering Shimla, Manali, Dalhousie and Dharamshala every day. However its off season in Himachal, but constant arrival of tourists is keeping hoteliers’ chin up.
Tourists from neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi have thronged Shimla to see the snowfall. Shimla has received 15cm snow since last 24 hours. Snowfall continued on Wednesday and tourists congregated on the Ridge to enjoy it. Tourists are enjoying snowfall in Dalhousie, but hoteliers in Khajjiar were not happy as tourists are avoiding this beautiful place due to weak infrastructure and chances of road blockade.
As according to forecast, weather would be pleasant after Friday, hotel occupancy in Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie is likely to increase by 10 to 20 per cent. “Even more tourists from neighbouring states would throng Himachal after two days when weather would be dry. We expect numbers of tourist to be double by the next week,” a hotelier, Roop Singh Negi, said.
Meanwhile, denying the reports by national TV channels and newspapers that dozens of ski trainees have been stranded in Solang Valley near Manali, director of AtalBihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Randhir Singh Salhuria, said all students are safe and having fun in fresh snow. “Parents of these trainees are concerned about their children. Some irresponsible persons have published these fake reports. Children are safe in their hostels at Solang,” he added.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Heavy snowfall in Himachal Pradesh

Most of the parts of Himachal, including Manali, Shimla, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti have been experiencing heavy snowfall since Monday morning.

Manali town after snowfall on Tuesday.

Friday, 1 February 2013

After tourism, flight cancellation takes toll on film shootings in Manali

SHIMLA/ MANALI: It’s not just the tourism industry which has suffered the brunt of suspension of flights to Himachal, but according to sources with Bollywood film units, big banner movies having big stars are cancelling their shooting plans in Manali, which is reachable only after 10 hours exhausting road journey from Chandigarh airport.
Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai during a shooting in Manali
According to sources, no flight has been operated to any of the three airports of Himachal since September which has caused losses to the tune of over Rs 15 crore only to tourism sector. As it takes minimum of 10 hours to reach Manali from Chandigarh airport and 14 hours from Delhi airport, many filmmakers are opting out Manali from their shooting venue.
With snowcapped mountains, Manali provides a perfect backdrop for shooting between December and April. Dozens of small and big budget film units, commercials and music video album makers used to throng Manali during this season. But, except for one commercial and one film shooting unit, nobody has confirmed their arrival in Manali for shooting in next two months as it is not possible for all filmmakers to arrange for chartered aircraft.
Manoj Kumar, chairman of Himalayan Film Productions, who has worked as line producer for films like Maa Tujhe Salam, Diljale, Ishq, Jaal, Barsat and 1971, said indefinite cancellation of flights to Himachal is adversely impacting the shootings here. “Big stars do not have this much time to spend on travelling. They want comfort. Hiring charter plane for whole shooting unit is not that cheaper,” he said.
Aishwarya Rai in Manali
It is possible that the beauty of Himachal could be missing from movies in coming years. Manoj added that films are the best way of promoting tourism and he has noticed a big difference in last two decades ever since he is bringing shooting units to Himachal and other northern states of the country. “Shooting of 3 idiots at Pangong lake doubled the tourism in Ladakh. Similarly, outer world got to know about Manali after watching it on screen. Maintaining a distance by shooting units just because of transportation hurdles is not good sign for Manali and entire state,” he said.
Dozens of meetings, even more request letters regarding continuation of flights have been sent to various departments and ministers by tourism entrepreneurs and hoteliers that have ended up with nostalgic replies from government. In a new development, a group of hoteliers from Manali visited Himachal chief minister and repeated their request to restart the flights to Himachal and also improve the infrastructure here. At present the hotel occupancy rate in Manali is below 20 per cent and similar is the condition of Dharamshala, Dalhousie and Shimla.

Manali Winter Carnival from February 9

MANALI: The much-awaited five-day-long Winter Carnival, the biggest event of Manali, would be celebrated from February 9 this year, an official said here. Performers from over ten states have applied to perform in the second national level carnival and preparation as being made on war footings.
A tableau in Manali Winter Carnival (file photo)
Organized on the pattern of Goa, Manali Winter Carnival is being celebrated since 1977 during the off-season in winters to attract more tourists. Carnival organizers claim that it triggers a surge in tourist arrival and helps in increasing the economy of Manali. Carnival would be celebrated for five days at Manu Rangshala. People would enjoy the folk dances, western dances, fashion shows, singing competitions, laughter shows, men’s personality, winter queen contests and variety of other programs. Meanwhile, winter games lovers would enjoy junior and senior skiing competitions at Solang valley.
Winter Carnival committee vice president Balvir Thakur said all possible efforts are being made to make this national level event a success. “Carnival would keep Manali busy for five days with variety of programs. Both locals and tourists would definitely enjoy the blend of various cultures,” he said.
While talking to HV, Kulludeputy commissioner SS Negi, who is the president of Winter Carnival Organizing Committee, said 13 groups from various states have given nod to participate in the carnival. Said Negi, “All needful preparations have been made and subcommittees have been formed for better operation.”