One dead as Russian skiers get trapped in Gulmarg avalanche

Helicopters were pressed into service for effective rescue operation and evacuation of the persons caught in the avalanche

February 22, 2024 03:30 pm | Updated February 23, 2024 01:29 am IST - Srinagar

An injured Russian skier gets treatment at a hospital in Tangmarg, near Gulmarg on February 22, 2024.

An injured Russian skier gets treatment at a hospital in Tangmarg, near Gulmarg on February 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

One Russian skier was killed and another was injured when a group of foreign skiers were caught in a major avalanche on the ski slopes of Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla on Thursday.

An avalanche hit the slopes of Kongdoori, an upper reach of Gulmarg, around 1 p.m. The group of five Russian skiers was hit when they were skiing down in the red zone area, an avalanche prone area, officials said.

“A collaborative effort between the Gulmarg Ski Patrol of the Tourism Department, J&K and the J&K Police resulted in the successful rescue of a group comprising six Russian skiers and one local guide following an avalanche at the higher reaches of Gulmarg, known as Army Ridge,” an official spokesman said.

The spokesman said despite the valiant efforts of the rescue team, one Russian skier tragically lost his life due to the avalanche. The deceased skier was identified as Anton.

One injured skier was shifted to a hospital for specialised treatment. It took rescue teams around one hour to retrieve the foreign skiers from the affected areas.

The avalanche was triggered by the heavy snowfall observed in the region since February 17. On February 21, a medium danger level avalanche warning was issued for Baramulla district, J&K.

A spokesman of the Embassy of Russia in New Delhi said it was maintaining constant contact with the local authorities.

Around 125 foreign skiers have reached Gulmarg this month for high-adrenaline skiing located at more than 4000 metres.

The incident took place at a time when around 600 athletes had converged in Gulmarg to participate in the 4th Khelo India Winter Games.

The spokesman said the avalanche site is located far from the Kongdoori area, where the 4th Khelo India Winter Games are currently underway.

Nuzhat Gull, secretary, sports, J&K, said all athletes were safe after the avalanche hit Khilanmarg area of Gulmarg, J&K. “All the fixtures are being run as per schedule,”she said.

She said the incident has not impacted athletes taking part in ski and snowboard events of Khelo India Winter Games 2024 at Kangdoori Phase 1. “All necessary precautions have been taken for safety,” she said. 

A spokesman of the Sports Council said all precautionary measures were in place to ensure safety of the players.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who was skiing in Gulmarg till Wednesday, prayed for the safety of the skiers.

“While the details are still sketchy some skiers are reportedly missing after an avalanche was triggered in the area around Gulmarg. It appears the skiers were skiing off the piste or groomed slopes in the ‘back country’.

“Days like today remind us that while the skiing is fun, the fresh powder exhilarating & the visuals spectacular, skiing is not without its dangers & risk to lives. Praying that all the missing skiers are found alive & the reports of a casualty end up being unfounded,” Mr. Abdullah said in a post on X.

(With inputs from PTI)

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