The Story of Auli Ropeway

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On 27 October 1974 an article appeared in the Pioneer Magazine of Lucknow which reads as follows:

The Discovery of an Englishman- A Perfect Skiing Resort

In the forties, a tall Englishman was often seen around Joshimath with a pair of queer horn–shaped bamboo poles. Inquiries revealed his name to be Mr Vernedy, deputy commissioner of Pauri Garhwal. Observations showed him as a crazy man.

A man who was obviously enamoured by the snow and revelled in it, appeared insane to the snow-tired locals whose lives was made miserable by the heavy snow drifts. The Englishman’s passion for gliding on his odd pair of shoe horns confirmed the popular notation. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately Mr Vernedy was totally sane. He was probably the first person to discover Joshimath as a perfect skiing resort. The bamboos were a pair of skis, a common word today.

The writer goes on to state that ” Skiing once so totally foreign has become a local sport practiced with great enthusiasm by the inhabitants of this village. “

The writer of this article was a local by the name of Kedar Singh Fonia. When the writer was a small kid he had himself seen the Englishman around Joshimath with his pair of wooden bamboo skis, and this had ignited a curiosity which was to later inspire him to develop Auli as the ski resort that we know today.

 

Fonia went on to serve as a General Manager in the State run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam which today manages a ski resort in Auli and manages the ski lift and ski slopes of Auli. As the GM of GMVN he persuaded the State Govt to carry out a survey of Auli as a skiing destination. A well-known Austrian firm by the name of Voestalpine and the Indian Company Triveni Structures carried out the survey. The Austrians, who are no strangers to skiing, immediately gave their opinion that Auli slopes were perfect for skiing and that they could easily be developed with minimal interference with the natural contours. The only missing link was a reliable means of reaching Auli in winters during heavy snowfall, and a ropeway was the best means for that. The proposal initiated by Fonia went off to a good start but soon fell victim to Govt indifference and apathy when Fonia left the State govt job to work in Delhi.

 

Several years later the writer Kedar Singh was to go on to become a Minister in the then UP government and the Auli Ropeway project was taken up again in earnest with his initiative. Funding was received and work stated. All the critical components had to be imported. The cables were so heavy and huge that it took 30 days to transport from Rishikesh to Joshimath, along the then narrow two-lane highway.

 

The project was inaugurated in February 1994 by then Union Minister for Tourism Gulam Mabi Azad who took the first ride to Auli on the ropeway. At the time of its commissioning it was Asia’s longest ropeway. Even today, it is the second longest in Asia and the longest in India ( in spite of the claims of the Girnar ropeway in Gujarat).

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