Snow-capped Rohtang Pass ’sizzles’ with tourists (With Image)

June 18th, 2009 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Vishal Gulati
Manali, June 18 (IANS) With fresh snow Wednesday blanketing Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh is teeming with tourists who are holidaying in the hills to escape the scorching heat of the plains.

“The magnetic charm of Rohtang Pass never disappoints visitors. Tourist arrivals must be between 20,000 and 30,000 on a normal day. On weekends, the figure goes up to 40,000,” said Tek Chand Thakur, president of the Manali Hoteliers Association.

Rohtang Pass in Kullu Valley is located at 13,050 feet at a distance of 51 km from Manali.

Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office in Shimla, said Rohtang Pass experienced another spell of snow this week too. “Both sides of the pass saw 30 centimetres of snowfall early Wednesday morning, turning the area more picturesque,” he said.

“Most of the hotels in Manali are packed to capacity in this peak season. The volume of tourists mainly depends on the sky. If the sky is clear in the plains, then there will be 100 percent occupancy in the hills and if there is rain, the arrival of tourists declines massively,” Tek Chand Thakur, president of the Manali Hoteliers Association, told IANS.

Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corp general manager Yogesh Behl told IANS: “In the last two to three years, the trend of weekend tourists is picking up in the hills. Thousands of tourists, mainly from the northern states, start thronging popular tourist spots Friday night to celebrate their weekend amid hills.”

Manali gets nearly 60 percent of the tourists visiting the state every year, he said.

Vivek Goneka, a tourist from Mumbai, said: “I have never seen such a thick blanket of snow. My family enjoyed hurling snowballs at each other. We will be a frequent visitor (to this place).”

His teenaged daughter Pragya said: “It’s snowing fun here. We enjoyed the snow-scooter and snow-sledge rides. The photos of snowcapped fun will remind us of the refreshing experience for months to come.”

Located 52 km from here, the Rohtang Pass connects Manali with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.

The 475-km Manali-Leh highway that passes through the most rugged and inhospitable terrain of the Himalayas was reopened for vehicular traffic last month after remaining closed for more than six months.

The climatic conditions of the Rohtang Pass are harsh as much of the land falls under a cold desert. A sudden drop in temperatures even in summer triggers snow-like conditions.

“A sudden change in climatic conditions on Rohtang Pass plummets the mercury and reduces the oxygen level in the air. We are advising the tourists to carry woollens and first-aid kits with them,” said Rajeev Sharma, a senior mountaineering instructor at the Manali-based Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports.

Trekking along the Rohtang Pass is another adventure pursuit. A large number of trekkers trudge the lofty slopes mainly from June to September.

This town has over 40 travel agents who specialise in adventure tourism.

The number of tourist arrivals in Himachal Pradesh last year was well above the state’s population of about 6.5 million. The state attracted 9.37 million domestic and 367,000 foreign tourists. Kullu and Manali are the hotspots for tourists in Himachal Pradesh, followed by Shimla and Dharamsala.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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