The history of the Kullu Valley is like a complex storybook of Northern India. It all began around 1500 B.C. when people from Central Asia and Afghanistan, known as Aryans and Mongoloids, started settling in the northern parts of India, including places like Kinnaur, Lahaul, Spiti, and Kullu. In 327 B.C., even Alexander the Great ventured into this region but had to turn back due to his army's rebellion.
You can find Greek coins from that time scattered around, suggesting that some of Alexander's soldiers might have settled in places like Malana, located north of the Parvati Valley. References to the Kullu Valley can even be found in ancient Hindu texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, written around the first millennium B.C. In those ancient times, the Kullu Valley was called 'Kulantapitha,' which means 'the end of the habitable world,' referring to the transition from the green Kullu to the stark Lahaul. The term 'Kuluta' appears in Sanskrit literature, including the Puranas, and stayed in use for over 2000 years.
The first recorded history of the Kullu Valley goes back to the 1st Century A.D., when Behangamini Pal became a settler in the valley. For about 1500 years, the Pal Rajas ruled Kullu, first from Jagatsukh and later from Naggar after overthrowing the Thakurs of Spiti. During this time, the Pal Rajas engaged in numerous battles with the Thakurs and Ranas. However, the rise of the Sikhs in the 17th Century put an end to the Thakurs' rule, and King Raja Jagat Singh moved the capital from Naggar to its present location, Sultanpur, known today as Kullu.
The Kullu district was not initially part of Himachal Pradesh when the Shimla Hill States merged to form the state in 1948. It was only in 1966, following the partition of Punjab, that the Kullu, Lahaul, and Spiti regions were added to Himachal Pradesh, which achieved full statehood in 1971.
European history in the Kullu Valley began around 1631 when two Jesuit missionaries, Francisco de Azevedo and John de Oliviera, ventured from Tsaparang to Leh to assist a newly baptized king. From Leh, they became the first Europeans to cross the Rohtang Pass and explore the Kullu Valley on their way back to Agra.
The first British travelers to visit Kullu were W. Moorcroft and G. Trebeck in 1820, en route to Ladakh. They provided descriptions of Kullu, including the source of the Beas River. As British administration expanded in India during the early 1800s, officers and their families gradually made their way to the Kullu Valley, crossing the Jalori Pass from Shimla. The British established the 'Kulu' subdivision in Naggar in 1846, replacing the Sikhs.
The word spread quickly about Kullu's attractions, including its breathtaking scenery, abundant hunting grounds, and pleasant climate. From 1875 to 1925, the British settlers transformed the valley, cultivating apple, plum, and apricot orchards and stocking the rivers with trout. However, the tranquility of Kullu was disrupted in 1927 when the Mandi to Larji Gorge Road was opened to motorized traffic, bringing an influx of tourists. Many British families eventually sold their properties and returned to England.
The final significant change for European settlement in the Kullu Valley occurred with India's independence in 1947. Even today, more than 50 years later, traces of English influence remain, including hotels, estates, extensive apple orchards, and the widespread use of the English language.
Skiing made its way to India in 1912 when a British army surveyor named Kenneth Mason brought the first pair of skis. While only a few British individuals skied, mostly on short slopes in Kashmir, skiing in India was initially seen as more of a novelty than a serious sport. It was during World War II that a skiing center was established with help from the Ski Club of India in Gulmarg, Kashmir, for physical training. However, skiing primarily remained a niche activity, overshadowed by mountaineering, which gained attention with the formation of the Himalayan Club in 1928 in Delhi. These early climbers, many of whom were connected to ski towns in their home countries, introduced ski touring to the Indian Himalayas, including the Kullu Valley.
So, the roots of ski touring in Kullu come from two different sources - army personnel who used skis to navigate the Rohtang Pass in winter and adventurous climbers who used skis for exploration while staying in snowy base camps. These pioneers from Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand brought stories and photos depicting vast ski terrains and a land blessed with abundant snowfalls in the Kullu Valley.