High-altitude areas of Jammu & Kashmir, including the famous ski resort of Gulmarg, experienced the season's first heavy snowfall on Friday leading to closure of the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway. Traffic on the strategic highway, the only road linking the frontier region of Ladakh with the rest of the State, was suspended after the snowfall.

An official spokesperson said about five inches of snow had accumulated on the road at the 11,578-foot-high Zojila Pass, 107 km from here, which attracts the heaviest snowfall in winter and remains closed for nearly six months each year. Nearly half a dozen Srinagar-bound trucks were stranded and efforts were on to take them to safety. “If weather permits, the highway will be thrown open to traffic again in the coming days before the scheduled closure later this month,” he said.

The snowfall also snapped road links with the border towns of Gurez, Tangdhar, Machil, Karnah and Keran in north Kashmir, official sources said.

Reports of moderate to heavy snowfall were received from almost all high-altitude areas including Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Khilanmarg, Aferwath, Sadna Top, Gurez, Pahalgam, Amarnath cave shrine, Razdan top and Z-gali.

While Gulmarg was covered under a four-inch blanket of snow, nearby areas recorded over one foot of snow.

The icy winds, coupled with rain in the plains including Srinagar, sent temperatures across the region falling by several degrees. Gulmarg, a star attraction for tourists in winter, was the coldest place in the Valley with the minimum temperature there plunging to minus 2.2 degrees Celsius. Leh in Ladakh was the coldest place in the State at minus 4.