I went to Gulmarg with Matt Appleford (The Adventure Project) in February 2012. It was a great trip. The terrain is great, the crowds were low, the Indians seemed to be getting things a bit more sorted out than had been the case previously, and the snow was excellent.
That being said, it is India, and Kashmir at that. My buddy and I were a bit concerned as the Indians and Pakistanis started shooting at one another more than usual just before we went. In fact, tensions were high enough between them that the local hell operator was not able to get approval to start flying while we were there. But those concerns wound up not being too much of an issue. The Indian government was more an issue, as they decided to execute a Kashmiri who had been convicted of leading the 2006(?) attack on Parliament, and the valley erupted into riots. It made for an interesting departure from Gulmarg and we didn't get to do one of the things I had most looked forward to (spending a night on Dal Lake).
You've got to keep in mind that you are in a third world country. There's a huge disparity between your wealth and that of the locals. There are people who will try to rip you off. I not suggesting that you be distrustful of everyone you meet, but you do need to be aware of your surroundings. And services are negotiated -- don't be afraid to do so.
As to skiing in Gulmarg, I think you would be very well advised to ski with a guide. The skiing is true backcountry skiing (except for the tiny amount of terrain that is controlled within the ski area boundaries). Avalanche danger can be quite high, and there's a lot of terrain without many people, so if you get in trouble, you need to be able to get yourself out. It might be a long time before anyone finds you. And the terrain is tricky.
I think you should definitely go. I strongly suggest going with Matt at least to become acquainted with the terrain. Here's his website: http://www.theadventureproject.net
Originally Posted by Trixie2000
I guess a few of my questions include:
Is it advisable to have enough cash with me from the outset to avoid using an ATM in Gulmarg?
I understanding cell phone roaming is turned off in Kashmir due to security; did you use (or need) a cell phone?
Are there any specific non reputable companies (or scams) that you recommend avoiding? Sounds like Bill's Trips are some of the best in region from what I gather!
We used the ATM. I don't think you want to carry a huge amount of cash -- what happens if you lose it or are robbed?
Matt's local contacts arranged for a SIM card for my buddy and I. It was reasonable, and we were able to call home and to work.