Monday, October 20, 2008

Chillin' in Manali

Mariska's clutch incident gave Anu another day to get the correct wiring harness, so Bill's bike is ready to roll. We took a rest day while Anu had a look at Mariska's bike. Our tentative plan was to leave the next morning with Mariska on Anu's Enfield. We would do the loop in reverse order. That way we would be able to return to Manali and Mariska's bike would be fixed so we could do the switcheroo.

I spent the morning on correspondence and laundry. Once the emails were sent and the socks and boxers drying I set out on a ride to have lunch somewhere down valley. I ran into Matt and Carl instead. They had scouted a shortcut(which in India means narrow, steep, mud-filled trails) to Recong Peo and were headed to chat with a local that had invited them for tea.

I decided to join them. We drove up valley about 10 km past Manali to meet Himal. He heads up the Himalayan Ski Village project. They hope to be operational by 2010. Office buildings and a patrol/equipment shop dot the base area.

A gondola will rise two thousand meters from the base to the summit. Himal pointed to the beginner terrain and Matt raised his eyebrows at me. They either need to do some serious blasting or they consider advanced intermediates "beginners."

The project began in 1990 as a heli-ski business. Heli operators from all over the world, including Theo Minor of Valdez came to explore the opportunity. The company ran the heli operation until 2003. Himal wouldn't elaborate as to why they no longer heli-ski.

Himal and his staff have been sent all over the world to learn the ski industry. The investors want all the key staff to understand the whole business from instructing to snowmaking to real estate development.

Himal has what he calls "the alpha team" that will serve as the patrol/snow safety crew. He brought AMGA instructors down for an entire season to teach snow science and to augment their rescue skills. The alpha team serves as Manali's rescue squad and deal with landslides and buses full of tourists on a regular basis.

I looked up at the mountain and all its starting zones while I sipped my lemon tea. I asked Himal how they planned to do their control work. They will not use artillery or explosives. They think they can do it all with forecasting and area closures. I think they've been drinking too much bhang lassi.

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