Everyone is ready early and excited to get on snow. I lace up snowboard boots for the first time in 20 months after a season off for an ankle surgery. The familiar routine of dressing for the mountain comes back quickly and I’m relaxed. Hand passes hand eye to lace, buttons snap, goggles are levelled. In an instant I’m where I’ve been a thousand times before, readying myself for the day, picturing sweet turns and fun lines.

The gondola barn is only a short, downhill ride from the hotel and we make for it after a quick breakfast omelet. We arrive to discover that avalanche control is still in progress on the upper mountain and the upper gondola will be closed all day. One can hear the explosives going off from time to time, and later we learn that the snowpack is good - the morters did not trigger any avalanches, so it's expected the upper stage of the gondola will open tomorrow.

Instead we take four runs in deep snow on the lower stage and quickly find every flat spot on the hill. Frustrating! I haven't had to unbuckle and walk this much in many years. But it's only a matter of learning the hill and knowing what to avoid, and we soon have it dialled. In the afternoon we do the Gulmarg-Tangmarg run through the trees. It's several kilometers below, so a jeep picks us up and we return to Gulmarg.
Photo credit(s): Griffiths/Smith