Foreign skiers crowd Manali slopes

"What a nice ski slope," remarked Canadian skier John Lee. Lee and his friends are skiing on the Solang slopes near this picturesque tourist resort and are among the 336 participants gathered here for a four-day Alpine Premier League that began Monday.

"It's really not so crowded (like the slopes in Europe), we are here for the first time," remarked Aiden, another skier.

According to event organisers, the participants included 12 foreigners from Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and France.

The competitions to be held are slalom, giant slalom, snow-board giant slalom, snow-board cross-country 5-km race for men and women and giant slalom both for junior boys and girls, and men's veteran (40 years and above).

The championship is organised by a private firm, Ski Himalayas Ropeway Pvt Ltd, in association with local ski clubs and the state tourism department.

The state-run Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports is providing technical assistance to the event.

The Solang slopes have more than three-and-a-half foot snow, Randhir Singh Salhuria, director of mountaineering institute, told IANS.

"In the past two days, the slopes piled up around two feet snow. This time the snow is plentiful. It will stay here till end of the next month," he added.

Amitabh Sharma, the skiing event organiser, said teams from the Indian Army's High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Gulmarg, the Indian Air force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and various clubs from Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and the host state will participate in the championship.

After a gap of seven years, the Winter Games Federation of India allowed the Himachal Pradesh Winter Games Association in 2010 to hold the National Senior Alpine Skiing Championship at Solang.

Besides the event, the mountaineering institute is conducting skiing courses both for professionals and amateurs in Solang. The courses began last month and will continue till the slopes have snow.

The Solang slopes offer a challenging run to both beginners and advanced skiers and are of international standards, said Salhuria.

For newcomers, the institute is conducting basic, intermediate and advanced ski courses at Narkanda, 65 km from Shimla.

Narkanda has shorter and gentler slopes that attract mostly newcomers. The slopes currently have more than two feet of snow.

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