Chill not to freeze New Year’s Eve thrill in Himachal’s hills

Shimla, Dec 30 (IANS) The snow will not freeze the thrill in the hills of Himachal Pradesh as the sun will add warmth to the celebrations. Tourists will thus herald the New Year on a sunny note, the Met office cheerfully says. There will be long sunny days at most of the tourist destinations in the state till the New Year dawns.

Nearly 75,000 tourists are expected to make their way up to the hills during the four-day holiday bonanza that starts with two offs from December 31 and ends with a four-day weekend, tourism industry stakeholders said.

“This weekend most of our properties have been sold out totally as the tourists’ response is overwhelming,” Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) deputy general manager Vijay Sharma told IANS.

The New Year’s Eve falls on Thursday.

“Most of the visitors are planning two offs and, combining the holidays with the weekend, they are practically partying for four days,” he said.

Sharma said Shimla, Kasauli, Kufri, Narkanda, Manali, Chamba, Dalhousie, Dharamsala and Palampur have been getting good response.

In any hill station, snow is the biggest driving force for the tourists. Sharma said most of the guests have been enquiring about the possibility of snowfall. “We are advising them to visit either Shimla’s nearby destinations like Kufri and Narkanda or visit Manali or Dalhousie to enjoy a snowy landscape.”

Unlike Shimla, the heart of the apple belt Narkanda, some 65 km from the state capital, and honeymooners’ paradise Kufri are still covered with snow.

Mudit and Sabha Sharma, tourists from Chandigarh, said they have decided to spend their New Year holidays in Dharamsala and nearby destinations.

“After bidding farewell to 2015 in McLeodganj, we will head straight to Bir-Billing where we will enjoy paragliding on the first day of the next year. Of course, the majestic snow-capped Dhauladhar ranges are an added attraction,” Sabha said.

The chuckling mountain peaks viewed from Shimla and the Dhauladhar peaks overlooking Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama’s official palace in McLeodganj near Dharamsala are literally covered with a white blanket.

Members of the hospitality industry say most of the tourist resorts in Manali and its nearby areas are booked chock-a-block due to revellers for the New Year’s Eve bash.

They say the upcoming five-day winter carnival in Manali, beginning January 2, and plentiful accumulation of snow there are an added draw for the tourists who want to extend their stay.

Likewise, the Solang ski slopes, 13 km uphill from Manali, and Kalpa, 250 km from the state capital, are under a thick blanket of snow.

Shimla’s meteorological director Manmohan Singh said the popular tourist destinations have been experiencing balmy days and chilly nights unlike most of the cities in the plains.

“There are no chances of snowfall or rain across the state till January 5,” he told IANS.

Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, has experienced only snowflakes so far.

According to the Met office, it snowed in Shimla on New Year’s Eve in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2002.

The state economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.

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