Shimla: Tourists are drawn by snow in Shimla on Christmas. Will the Queen of the Hills see a blanket of white this Christmas? The capital of Himachal Pradesh is known for the grandeur of many of its buildings that once housed institutions of imperial power when Shimla served as the summer capital of British India. This year, after a gap of over two decades, there are hopes of a white Christmas here.
Met officials, however, are wary. They say it is still too early to predict whether Shimla will have snow cover this Christmas. Christmas snows have been eluding Shimla since 1991 when heavy snowfall occurred on Christmas Eve. And except in 2010, there has been no white New Year's Eve either in the past nine years.
The town this month experienced significant snow after a gap of five years, Manmohan Singh, director of Shimla's Met office, said. He said it was Dec 14, 2007, when the town recorded 19 cm of snow. "Except in 2010, there was no snowfall at all in the town in December. In that year (2010) too there was just mild snowfall on New Year's Eve," Singh told IANS.
The state capital saw a light spell of snow, the season's first, Dec 14. Nearby places like Kufri and Narkanda also experienced moderate snowfall in December this year. "It's too early to predict snowfall on either Christmas or New Year's Eve. But prevailing higher moisture content and extremely low temperatures indicate good chances of snow if the western disturbances are active again in the region," the director of the met office here said.
Snow cover is a big draw for tourists, and the hospitality industry is excited by the possibility of a white Christmas. "Enquiries have begun about the possibility of snow in Shimla around Christmas and thereafter. Now we are hopeful of getting more snow spells in the days to come," Clarke's Hotel general manager D.P. Bhatia said.
"Last weekend was good in terms of business. It was mainly due to the season's first snow. More snow means more business," said Vijay Sharma, assistant general manager of Holiday Home Hotel here, a government-run venture. Local tour operators have been advising tourists to plan trips to Shimla's neighbouring hills like Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda for enjoying the snowy landscape. Even the mountain peaks viewed from Shimla's historic Ridge have been wrapped in a thick white blanket of snow.
The hospitality industry has been looking for holiday bonanzas, and has greater cause for cheer this year, as Christmas eve falls right after the weekend. "If one takes leave on Dec 24 and combines the Christmas holiday with the weekend, one can practically party for four days from Dec 22," a tour operator says. Rajat Malik, a senior executive with a Chandigarh-based multinational company, said: "If the weather is favourable and it snows, we would love to spend Christmas holidays in Shimla. Otherwise, we will travel to Manali, which is already white."
According to records of the meteorological department, snowfall has been eluding Shimla on Christmas eve for the past 21 years. In 1991, a 49-cm thick cover of snow enveloped Shimla on Christmas eve. It also snowed in Shimla on New Year's Eve in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2002.