It was a fascination that I always dreamed of. When I watched people playing in the snow, when I saw pictures of landscapes with a layer of snow, when someone compared soft snow to a sea of butter, I wanted to be there and experience it. It never snows where I live, and I had never seen snow until a few years back.
I did get to see snow a few years back, and my experiences and encounters with snow improved gradually. But my expectations remained high and the dream remained unfulfilled through this gradual experiences. My first experience with snow was a small glimpse of bits of snow from a distance. My last one was really the best.
It was in the late winters of 2002 near San Francisco Bay in California. It was a rainy day and I could hear the dripping of water almost all through the night. And when I woke up in the morning, there was a small tip of whiteness in the hills at a distance. I was thrilled to see it though it was many kilometers away. Later in the day, I pointed to a friend – “look at the snow”!! He replied back with complete disregard: “there’s hardly anything, I wouldn’t even bother to call it snow”. He went on to explain how much snow gets deposited on earth in the north during winters and bragged about his experiences. At that moment, I hated him. His speech left me feeling more unfulfilled than before.
But my moment of experiencing abundance of snow was not far away. Only a month later, I was on the plane taking me north – all the way to the Arctic Circle – into Alaska. Alaska is packed with snow everywhere even though it was summer when I was there. From the window of my hotel room in Anchorage City, I could see snow capped Chugach Mountains. I soon travelled into these mountains and took a train that took me through places covered with thick layers and layers of snow. I loved every bit of it. I saw plains that looked white as far as you could see. I saw mountains covered from bottom to top with snow and even glaciers, which were shedding their excess of snow. It was a treat to eye, and yet, I still felt something missing. I never got to touch clean and fresh snow even though I saw so much of it. And since I was there in summer, I never got to see a snowfall. The snow in the towns and cities was cleared away and whatever was piled nearby was too muddy to feel like snow. I still did not get to touch and feel the soft beautiful powdery snow.
Images from Alaska
It was the Himalayas at Sikkim next. Once again it was summer and I was not going to get everything I wanted. I saw the snowy peaks. I saw the mighty Kanchenjunga standing like a big wall of snow. But despite hiking for four days and climbing more than 10,000 feet there was no fresh snow in sight. Only at the end of my journey did I manage to touch some snow but it was the snow from previous winter and was more like hard ice. But at least this time, I got to touch it, unlike earlier.
I went to Sikkim again in October, when the winter is just about to set in. Once again, I hoped to see soft and powdery snow, and hopefully witness snowfall. Wherever I went, there was no snowfall yet and I had to feel good just to see snow capped mountains at a distance. But just before we were about to retreat, we decided to drive much higher and try our luck. And we did get a bit lucky this time. It started raining as we drove up. As we moved higher, to our joy and amusement, we could see occasional crystals falling on the windshield amidst the rain! It sure seemed fun. The small semi-solid crystals would fall on the windshield and spread like a star. We walked out into the drizzle and rejoiced on it. It was great fun. Yet, it was like a short preview of what I wanted to see. I still had not got what I was looking for – a proper snowfall and powdery layer of it on the earth.
After all this, I almost stopped having any expectations. Every experience of snow was joyful, but the longing in me always kept me from making these experiences complete. A corner of me was spent in anticipating more instead of experiencing what was in front of me. When I saw the glaciers, I wished to be walking on them. When I saw the snow capped mountains, I wished to be on the top of them. So the next time I headed up the Himalayas I went without much expectation. This time I was going there to ski, at Auli, and yet I was mentally ready for a situation where I would have to come back without skiing if there was no snow. As if thats how it would end up, Joshimath – the town head to go to the ski lodge had no traces of snow anywhere. But when I took the cable car to the ski resort I started seeing mounds of snow, which soon turned into an ocean of snow. Some branches of the trees had small piles of snow on them that indicated fresh snowfall. It was fun to see it all so close. When we reached the ski lodge, there was snow everywhere we could see. It was the first time I was walking on the snow. And I obviously loved it.
Slopes of Auli
It was so much fun – to walk on it, to learn to ski and even to fall. I could finally experience the soft powdery layers of snow and enjoy the feel of it. I had more coming on my way. Two days of skiing later, the sky turned cloudy on an afternoon and the least anticipated happened. There were flakes of snow falling from the sky! One after another, they would fall and land softly on my head and shoulders as softly as petals of flowers. I suddenly felt a rush of happiness, which slowly morphed into a peaceful and joyous mood. I swayed with the falling snow and let them land on my tongue; I stood still and watched as mother nature blessed us with her bounty. It was all that I could ask for. Skiing was suddenly secondary and I felt all my wish getting fulfilled. My search for snow was complete at that moment!
Also see more about Auli in paintedstork.com
Visit to Auli in 2005
* Images from Auli(plenty of snow)
* Trip report
Visit to Auli in 2006
* Images from Auli(little snow)
* A back-breaking journey: from Rishikesh to Auli
* First Day at Auli
* The days of Skiing
* Spending time in Auli
* Trekking and walking around
* About Auli