Play it Safe at COVID-Ready Skyview Patnitop

patnitopPop the question during a romantic gondola ride, or welcome the New Year amidst the snow-dusted mountainscapes at Patnitop, a pine-forest-shrouded mountain resort in the foothills of the Himalayas. Or glide down Asia’s longest zig-zag zip line, go mountain biking, trekking and birding… All this at Skyview Patnitop, a Covid-ready getaway for the Covid-weary traveler.

“Play safe” appears to be the mantra at Skyview Patnitop by Empyrean, India’s newest adventure tourism destination, just a two-hour drive from Jammu city in the north Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The largest Indo-French collaboration in the country, in terms of mountain infrastructure development, this multi-season, multi-entertainment destination sprawls across 11 acres. The adventure destination is now open from Thursdays to Sundays, and from January 2021 onward, it will be open six days a week.

Syed Junaid Altaf, managing director, Empyrean Skyview Projects, says the company has a Covid-ready compliance certificate from SGS – a leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.

When thrill seekers and tourists swish upward in the state-of-the-art rope way from the Lower Terminal at Sanget to Patnitop (the Upper Terminal), they can feel secure in the knowledge that the cabin cars undergo deep disinfection and sanitization before guests step in. Only four passengers are allowed in each cable car (versus 8 in normal times). Guests can sit back and take in views of terraced farmlands in the distance and revel in the experience of skimming over snow-dusted pine trees in one of the country’s safest and highest ropeways (in terms of clearance). The gondolas soar 213 feet above the ground, with the longest span of 2785 feet between two of the eight towers.

Only 200 guests are allowed at any given time, and stringent standard operating procedures are in place. So masks are mandatory for staff and guests, and safety measures include online bookings, thermal screening, continuous sanitization of all equipment, social distancing everywhere, including in the restaurants where digital menus and bio-degradable cutlery have been placed.

After re-fueling at the Lower Terminal, we geared up to zip down Asia’s longest zig-zag zip line which stretches 1,900 feet, at an altitude of 4500 feet and ends at 4400 feet, stretching across nine cables and 10 platforms. As we zipped down the lines, the vast landscape un-scrolled like a painting at our feet. We gratefully inhaled the pine-scented air while gazing at the bewitching Upper Terminal at Patnitop in the distance, hunkered under white snow banks that resembled whipped cream.

patnitopWe tried the all-season tubing sledge, bumping downhill like buoyant corks in a swirling river and the Magic Carpet ride, which was akin to moving uphill on an airport conveyor belt. With World Travel and Tourism Council safety protocols for adventure travel in place, there are also off-site activities, such as guided mountain biking, trekking, birding, and interactions with local villagers on offer.

patnitopThe adventure and leisure destination is sleek and modern. The Lower Terminal, with its ticketing block, an area for food kiosks and restaurants fits in nicely with the more spartan Upper Terminal. The wood buildings (constructed from responsibly sourced timber) with pitched roofs and the generous use of glass and skylights provide in entrancing vistas of jagged peaks capped by candy floss clouds and mysterious pine forests.

Local craftsmen hand-chiseled and dressed over a million stones for months for the retaining walls, and a natural spring feeds the water reservoir created for construction. The gardens are filled with native indigenous plant species.

We recalled what Syed Junaid Altaf had told us: “If you take care of the mountains, the mountains will take care of you.”

They certainly did.

Read about more adventure travel in India.