The opening of the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang is expected to give a fresh impetus to tourism and winter sports in Lahaul, area residents are hoping. On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the tunnel at Rohtang which promises winter connectivity to Lahaul. “Tourist season here currently lasts only a few months beginning June. We’re hoping it will now run from April till November at least. In peak winters, however, tourism is unlikely due to heavy snow and extreme cold,” said Tashi Karpa, who runs a hotel in Keylong.
According to the state tourism department data, Lahaul-Spiti district records the least tourist footfall among the 12 districts of the state. In 2018, 1.33 lakh tourists visited the district while more than 30 lakh did so in neighbouring Kullu.
Karpa added that Lahaul usually acts as a transit camp for travellers headed to Ladakh as it lies on the Manali-Leh route, but is now expected to become a tourist destination due to easier access from Manali.
Another area resident Anil Sehgal said that Lahaul has the potential to host international winter sports competitions because it stays covered in snow for six months, and has suitable slopes and climatic conditions required for such sports. Ram Singh, incharge of the Nehru Yuvak Kendra in Keylong, said that skiing and snowboarding competitions among the residents are held every year during the Yeti Festival in winter.
“A basic skiing training course is also held here during the festival with the help of the local administration and youth organisations who have pooled together resources to buy the necessary equipment. Such activities are likely to increase in future due to enhanced connectivity with the outside world,” he said.
An ice skating rink was set up in Kaza in Spiti last year, which is the state’s highest rink. But Spiti valley will continue to remain cut-off during winters as it lies beyond the Kunzum Pass to the southeast of Lahaul. Lahaul and Spiti were formerly two separate districts which were later merged into one.
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