Tourists head to Sinthan Top amid lack of snow in valley

Tourists head to Sinthan Top amid lack of snow in valley


Sinthan Top, Jan 17: Tourists are making a beeline to Sinthan Top as the off-beat destination boasts of being the only place in Kashmir which is snow-clad these days while the rest of the valley battles with dry weather.

Sinthan top is a snow-clad mountain peak situated at 12,500 feet connecting Anantnag in south Kashmir to Kishtwar in Jammu region via Kokernag.

As Kashmir is going through one of its worst dry phases, snow has melted at most places which usually remained covered under a thick blanket of snow for this time of the year, officials said.

Higher reaches of the valley, which used to look pristine with a white carpet of snow, are looking barren as most of the glaciers have melted up. Similar is the case in Ladakh region, they said.

The officials said scores of tourists have returned home from Kashmir dejected without getting a feel of snow. A large number of tourists, who arrived here around the New Year’s Eve in the hope of enjoying skiing and other snow-related activities in the Gulmarg bowl, had to go back disappointed due to the lack of snowfall.

However, the only silver lining is the snow at Sinthan Top which has retained some amount and is providing some solace to the visitors, the officials added.

An otherwise off-beat destination, Sinthan Top is attracting tourists in hordes these days as local travel agents redirect the visitors to the spot to experience some snow.

“There is no snow elsewhere in Kashmir in the month of January, but my heart filled with joy when I reached here. The weather is very good, Kashmir is truly a paradise,” said Aslam Saleem, a tourist from Dhaka, Bangladesh who visited Sinthan Top to see snow.

“This is a very nice place. I am here with my family, and we became very happy when we arrived. We are enjoying it very much,” another tourist from Bangladesh said.

Vaishali, a tourist from MP’s Bhopal, said they changed their plans when they heard about snow at Sinthan Top.

“Except for this place, there is now snow anywhere in the whole of Kashmir. We had plans of visiting Aru and Beetab valleys, but, when we came to know that there is snowfall in Sinthan Top, we changed our plans. We are enjoying it so much here and are happy that we changed our plans,” she said.

Local travel agents were now advising tourists to include Sinthan Top in their itineraries.

“The tour operators are providing options to the tourists to change their itinerary and go to places like Sinthan Top to see snow. Many tourists are opting to go to Sinthan Top rather than other places in Pahalgam because of snow there,” President of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Rouf Tramboo, told PTI.

He said the tourism players in the valley are worried in the absence of snowfall and the month of January has been a “total loss”.

“The bookings have come down 75-80 per cent. Tourists used to come here for snow especially at Gulmarg and then it used to trickle to other places including Srinagar. But, now, there is a loss at the source as Gulmarg is snow-less,” he said.

Tramboo said the tour operators were now providing an option to the tourists to delay their visits till February or March.

“We are trying our best to retain bookings, but we are not sure about the snow,” he added.

Asif Burza, a young hotelier who is the managing director of Ahad Hotels and Resorts, said bookings and tourist arrivals have decreased, but there was hope still for a boom.

“Many tourists come to Kashmir to experience snow. In the absence of it at many prominent destinations, tourists are preferring to visit places like Sinthan Top. We hope there is snowfall and the numbers increase,” Burza told PTI.

Experts have said that studies show the glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir have dwindled by 25 per cent in the last six decades, while 48 per cent of them could vanish by the century’s end even with moderate climate change.

Earth scientist and glaciology expert, Shakeel Ahmad Romshoo, has voiced concerns, highlighting the significance of snow and glaciers for J-K and Ladakh.

The scientist has noted that under climate change and increasing temperatures, the glaciers in the region were melting.

“The other thing that is happening in this region under the climate change is that we get less snowfall and comparatively we get more rainfall,” he said.

An official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said there has been a large deficit in winter snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh this year and the situation is unlikely to change before Republic Day.

According to the IMD’s data, December 2023 saw 79-per cent deficit rainfall, while the first half of January this year has also been largely dry except for a one-time light snowfall in places like Gurez.–(PTI)