Covered in a blanket of white, Himachal Pradesh is a winter wonderland. However, a fresh spell of snow has limited all exploration of the mountain state’s districts to the Atal Tunnel in Lahaul. By Eshita Srinivas
Fresh snowfall prompted many tourists to throng Himachal Pradesh, particularly Manali in the region’s Kullu district. Most headed straight to the Atal Tunnel, which connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Built under the Rohtang pass, the Atal tunnel is the world’s longest highway tunnel and is a popular destination for travellers looking to experience snowfall in the region. However, owing to the sudden change in weather conditions, the Lahaul-Spiti administration temporarily halted the movement of vehicles towards the Lahaul valley beyond the Atal tunnel, according to a report by the Times of India.
Extreme conditions are to blame for road closures and restrictions in Himachal
Snowstorm at Rohtang Tunnel North portal — Lahaul Spiti: Policemen perform life-threatening duty to guard tourists against winter calamities#wisehimachal #ataltunnel #himachalpradesh #snow #storm pic.twitter.com/9Vt66Oje1a
— Wise Himachal (@WiseHimachal) December 17, 2021
Heavy snowfall, which has rendered the Manali-Leh highway too slippery for the movement of vehicles, stands as the prime reason for the restrictions placed on tourists. However, this is not the first time that these regions in Himachal have been shut down. Earlier this week, extreme weather conditions forced the Himachal Road Transportation Corporation (HRTC) to suspend bus services on the Kullu-Keylong route as well as the Keylong-Udaipur route, while only 4×4 tourist vehicles were allowed to go up to Sissu from Manali, according to a report by the Tribune India.
Regardless of further snowfall, the Atal Tunnel will remain shut twice a week from 7:00 am-9:30 am for regular maintenance and vehicles will not be allowed to pass on Mondays and Thursdays starting December 20.
The Indian Meteorological Department (MeT) had earlier predicted the continuation of cold wave conditions as well as both rain and snowfall in Himachal Pradesh in the next few days, particularly in Shimla, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba. The cause for this is believed to be a fresh western disturbance, according to two separate reports by the Hindustan Times and Outlook India.
Hoteliers remain optimistic about a bustling tourist season
Himachal Pradesh: Manali receives fresh snowfall; visuals from Mall Road in the city pic.twitter.com/a5RVgVb4pH
— ANI (@ANI) December 17, 2021
Despite the restrictions, hoteliers in the region are optimistic about a promising season for business. And they have good reason to be. As per a report by the Tribune India, there has been a steep rise in online enquiries for rooms with the arrival of snowfall, particularly in Manali. Manu Sharma, press secretary of the Hoteliers Association, Manali said, “We witnessed a surge in the tourist influx to Manali after fresh snowfall yesterday. In the coming days, we are expecting an increase in the tourist footfall to Kullu-Manali.”
True to this, room occupancies in the region have gone up by 70 percent and the numbers are expected to go further up with the holidays fast approaching according to a report by the Times of India. Earlier this month, this influx had led to traffic congestion at the Atal Tunnel as well, according to a report by the Hindustan Times.