With temperature dipping below minus 9 degree celcius in Lahaul valley and intense cold wave gripping Shimla-the popular hill destination with a forecast of snow by the Christmas time, Himachal Pradesh is all set to beat pre-covid winter rush of tourists.
Shimla’s Mall Road and the sprawling Ridge overlooking Christ Church, the 164-year old landmark, are already seeing a fresh footfall of tourists.
A moderate snowfall at Kufri this morning after a sudden change in the weather right ahead of the Christmas has raised the hoteliers' hopes of eventful days till the New Year rush begins to throng the tourists' destinations.
After many years, the hoteliers of Himachal are predicting the possibility of witnessing a 'white Christmas'.
The mercury has plummeted by several degrees. Shimla itself recorded minus two degree celcius on Friday.
Chetan Bragta, who runs a niche homestay 'Daafi' located in Theog near Shimla, says he is all sold-out till January 5 . According to him, this year's trend could surpass tourist rush of all previous pre-Covid years.
There are long queues of tourists' vehicles at the entry points of the state and popular sites like Rohtang Tunnel.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who was in Chandigarh on Friday said the state is ready to welcome tourists .There are no restrictions on mobility of the tourists anywhere but following Covid appropriate behavior would remain mandatory.
The chief minister also advised the tourists to follow the weather advisories and abstain from venturing to high altitude places that are prone to heavy snowfall or landslides.
In Manali, the tourists are heading straight to Rohtang Tunnel to watch snowfall and enjoy the journey through world’s highest tunnel which became one of the biggest selling point for Himachal's tourism.
However, considering the possibilities of sudden weather change, the Lahaul-Spiti administration has temporarily issued a restricted warning to the tourists for not venturing towards Rohtang Tunnel or Sissu (the north portal).
Snowstorm at Rohtang Tunnel North portal -- Lahaul Spiti: Policemen perform life-threatening duty to guard tourists against winter calamities pic.twitter.com/LKBxEkAGZ3— Dr. Ashwani Sharma (@ashwanis1208) December 17, 2021
A snowstorm hit the valley on Thursday which left the police with no choice but to order the tourists to leave the valley immediately.
Police have also imposed restrictions on the tourists' vehicles beyond Sissu.
Most hotels in Manali are packed ahead of the Christmas celebrations and few are already booked for new year celebrations .
“Biggest attraction for Manali is snow and Rohtang Tunnel. Now, because people could not really travel abroad due to the fear of the Omicron, they are reaching the hill destinations of Himachal Pradesh even though the condition of National Highway between Mandi and Kullu remains quite a concern" says Anil Kant Sharma, a hotelier at Manali.
Entire tribal belt is reeling under extreme cold forcing people to stay inside, especially after 4 pm. The temperature at Spiti, the cold deserts of Himachal Pradesh, has already dropped to minus 14 degrees.
The Met department has already predicted rainfall and snowfall after December 22 in Himachal Pradesh.
Bharmour in Chamba district got 5cm of snowfall while Kufri near Shimla got 1cm of snow, Shimla Meteorological Center head Surender Paul said.
Traffic towards Lahaul through Atal Tunnel at Rohtang has been restricted after a snow-storm on its North Portal on Thursday evening.
Lahaul-Spiti Superintendent of Police (SP) Manav Verma said only local vehicles, tourist cars and taxis with four-wheel drive are being allowed through the tunnel. The vehicles going from Lahaul towards Pangi are also allowed.