Himachal Pradesh may get a chance to host the South Asian Winter Games at its Solang slopes in Manali if state government shows its interest, an official from Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said.
First South Asian Winter Games were organized at Auli and Dehradun in January 2011. A total of seven countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh had participated in the event organized by IOA and Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI).
IOA now plans to give chance to Himachal and Kashmir to conduct the games.
“We are in favour of giving chance to Solang and Gulmarg. I personally favour Himachal as the athletes here have talent but slopes are neglected,” IOA convenor Rakesh Sharma said. He added that Gulmarg is still in the race.
“South Asian Winter Games at Solang slopes are possible only if Himachal government shows interest in it. Solang is beautiful. Unlike most of the slopes of the world where skiing is mostly dependent on snow-making machines, Solang gets good natural snow. The only setback is weak infrastructure here which is needed to be improved by government. If money is the problem, I assure government of possible help from IOA,” he said.
Proper grooming of the slopes, installation of chairlifts, deployment of snow making machines as a back-up and requirement of snow beating machines is mandatory for organizing big winter sports events.
Unfortunately, none of these are available at Solang. Skiers are using the natural slopes after natural snowfall. These days Solang’s rough slopes of with bumpy surface are hosting national level alpine skiing and snowboarding races.
Besides skiing and snowboarding, ice skating and ice hockey are parts of the SAF Games. Manali has no ice skating rink for both the events.
Sharma suggested state government through local MLA and bureaucrats that a natural ice skating rink was possible at Solang and IOA was ready to help financially to build one.
Crores of rupees were spent by Centre to improve the winter sports infrastructure in Uttarakhand. Ice skating rink at Dehradun was built at Rs 110cr. Unfortunately, inadequate snowfall in last many years did not allow organizers to conduct any tournament at Auli slopes.
Even snow making machines were not making snow in high temperature. This year Auli slopes have received good snow which encouraged local ski club to conduct national level competitions.
Despite the fact that Solang receives more snow than majority of ski resorts of the world, government did not care for its development. The slopes here remain covered with 60 to 150cm of snow in winters.
The bumpy slopes of Solang have hosted many national events but fail to fulfill the requirements for international events. Local skiers are now hopeful that if Himachal hosts the South Asian Winter Games, Solang slopes will get a facelift.