Unanticipated Dry Spell Challenges Gulmarg’s Snow Tourism: A Closer Look at Climate Anomalies

January 16, 2024: The picturesque landscapes of Gulmarg, nestled in the enchanting Kashmir Valley, are currently witnessing an unexpected dry spell that is casting a shadow over its famed snow-covered slopes. With a significant 79 percent shortfall in December rainfall and a noticeable absence of expected snowfall, the region is grappling with the impacts of El Niño, disrupting the usual climatic patterns.

The dry spell, attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, is causing concern among many resorts in Gulmarg that heavily rely on skiing and other winter sports activities as their main attractions. The shortfall in snowfall, a key element in the region’s tourism industry, has led to apprehensions of a serious blow if the dry spell continues.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has reported 2023 as the warmest year on record, anticipating the intensification of the El Niño event in 2024. El Niño occurs when sea surface temperatures are elevated in the eastern tropical Pacific, accompanied by a weakening of trade winds. The prolonged absence of snowfall disrupts the annual snow cycle, potentially causing socio-economic repercussions if it persists.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) attributes the dry spell to the lack of Western Disturbances (WDs) and predicts minimal snowfall until mid-January. The expected WD on January 9-10 is unlikely to offer substantial relief, raising concerns about the increasing frequency of such rapid weather changes.


The situation on the ground in Gulmarg reflects the tangible impact of the dry spell on the region’s tourism and business. Junaid Rafiquee, owner of Black Bear Brew, a popular cafe in Gulmarg, expressed his concern over the lack of snow this season, disrupting their usual winter season operations. The cafe, known for its “pre-ski coffee,” usually attracts foreign tourists during this season, but the absence of snow and closed resorts have led to a disrupted season.

Despite the challenges, Rafiquee and other local business owners remain hopeful that Gulmarg will experience decent snowfall in the remaining days of Chilai Kalan, drawing parallels with a similar scare in 2018 that saw late-season snow.

However, the situation presents a double bind for businesses like Black Bear Brew. While they await snow, foreign tourists are already canceling their bookings, adding an additional layer of uncertainty to an already challenging scenario.

As Gulmarg grapples with the unexpected weather patterns and their impact on tourism, the resilience of the local community and hope for a late-season snowfall stand as beacons amid the challenges posed by the unanticipated dry spell.