Solang Valley (Himachal Pradesh), Jan 14 (IANS) "Oh god! Please let it snow heavily tonight," said John Kennedy, an Australian skier. He and his fellow skiers have been camping in the western Himalayas awaiting a big snowfall.
But organisers of skiing in Solang, 13 km from the tourist hill station of Manali, say that after two bumper seasons, the slopes are totally bereft of snow cover this year.
"This year, the Solang slopes are devoid of snow. We had to postpone skiing courses and events slated from January 11," Randhir Singh Salhuria, director of the state-run Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports here, told IANS.
He said there was mild snowfall Jan 12 in Solang, the first spell in this year, but it thawed within a few hours.
"The slopes require at least two feet of snow for perfect skiing," he added.
Officials of the mountaineering institute said that in the past two years, the slopes had more than three feet of snow by this time of the year.
The institute is conducting skiing courses in Solang for professionals and amateurs. The courses that begin in January continue till February-end.
Salhuria said a large number of skiers have been camping here and hoping for a sudden onset of snowfall to start the skiing season.
Skiers say sometimes, snowfall tends to start a little bit later but lasts longer.
In 2010, the Winter Games Federation of India organised the National Senior Alpine Skiing Championship in Solang during February 7-11. "That time, the slopes had negligible snowfall. But a few days before the event, the slopes got plenty of snow," said Roshan Lal Thakur, secretary general of the Winter Games Federation of India.
Thakur, a skier and an international coach here, said the Gulmarg skiing fields (in Jammu and Kashmir) have just two feet of snow, quite less compared to the previous years, while Auli (in Uttarakhand) had conditions similar to Solang.
But the skiers are pinning their hopes on the snowfall forecast.
Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office in Shimla, said more western disturbances were on way this week.
There are chances of good spells of snow in the next few days with a fresh western disturbance affecting the western Himalayan region from January 15, he said.
The Solang slopes witnessed more than two feet of snow Dec 11 and Dec 14 but the snow melted within a week owing to high temperature.
Mehar Chand Thakur, a travel agent in Manali, said skiers have already started cancelling bookings.
"The recent snow didn't give much chance of skiing. If there is more delay (in snowfall), it will affect the ski tourism business. But we are still hopeful," Thakur told IANS.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)