Gangtok, Mar 22 (UNI) Like a toddler learning his first steps, 23- year-old Shivadeep Rai straddled on a ski-board on the snowy slopes of 11800 ft Yumthang Valley in north Sikkim to explore his skiing skills.
Yumthang valley, a virgin destination for ski and other winter sports, has been thrown open for tourists for the first time.
Rai was among a group of youth from Gangtok, participated in a skiing trip at this hotspot, which is being developed as a skiing destination by the state tourism stakeholders.
This ice breaking event was conducted by a local tour operator with technical support from Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association (SAMA).
Yumthang Valley, situated just 18 kms away from Lachung, another premier tourist stop is 150 kms away from here and is famous for its alpine forests and Rhododendrons.
The introduction of skiing further augments the tourism appeal of the valley making it all the year around.
''Yumthang has an ample area for skiing which is doubly larger than the area of Manali,'' said Lachungpa, a MD of a local tour operator.
''I really had one of the wonderful and unforgettable moments like this in Sikkim and now I don't need to visit Manali for ice skiing,'' said a tourist, who was participating in the first week of the skiing trip.
Not only the tour operators who are now brimming with confidence for winter sports taking root but the Army has realised as they spend most of their life in this high altitude areas of this Himalayan state.
The Black Cat Division of Indian Army posted at Sikkim is considering the inclusion of skiing and ice skating in its sports curriculum by developing the necessary ifrastructure.
The division has identified a couple of locations in the high atitude areas of Sikkim were the conditions are ideal for skiing and ice skating.
''It is where the state government must intervene to encourage winter sports to sustain tourism all year around,'' the stakeholders said.
The army on an earlier occasion has expressed their confidence that if the government and Army develop the necessary infrastructure for skiing and ice skating then it will not only boost tourism but also draw the local youth towards winter sports.
''Sikkim has very good future prospects in skiing and other winter sports but it should be supported by the sState government,'' Lachungpa said.
The most suitable season for skiing is during the month of January to March where the fields of Lachung and Yumthang is covered with soft snows.
Skiing could also come very handy for traveling during winters when heavy snows blocks the road in this region.
A national level skiing competition in the near future is being planned by Blue Sky Tours and Travels to introduce the local children into ice skiing and to show the potential of Sikkim in it.
Promotion of winter sports in Sikkim will not attract more tourists but also generate further employed for the local youths.
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