I have been to India twice before. I skied in the Himalya, and earlier last fall I was there for a volunteering trip, working with kids rescued from the slave trade. We brought them bicycles and taught them them how to maintain them. That trip helped inspire this trip.
Kasmiri’s are very harsh-looking, and Americans are taught to be afraid of them. But they all begged us to take a photo with them. Everyone asks “One photo, one photo!”
I was surprised at how welcomed we were—even more welcomed than my last Warren Miller shoot at Crested Butte. In Colorado, many of the locals were annoyed because we had to shut down their terrain. The Kashmiri’s were very sweet and excited to have us.
These guys drove by in an armed vehicle, with guns on top. Just ahead of us they stopped and started climbing out of the roof with guns in their hands, all ten of them. I put my camera away, thinking, “oh no, are we in trouble?” but they just wanted a picture.
It was epic terrain. There’s so much that’s untapped there. Also, this was the first year of the heli operation in Gulmarg, so everything was a first descent, and the conditions and snow stability were perfect. We found steep rocky airs, chutes, couloirs, and everything in between. The mountain range was so unique: like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and the possibilities were endless.
On the down days, I took a lot of photos, was drawing a lot, I played with the kids, and hiked around in the snow. We were really waiting for the opportunity for a good day to ski, so we didn’t go far from the village.
We skied this first descent at over 5,000 meters. The only way we knew how high we were was when the pilot very casually put on an oxygen mask. We were like, “Where’s ours?”
At the top of one of our lines, we were skiing across the disputed border of Pakistan and India. It was really cool to be that high in the mountains, and that we were given such freedom.