IT'S NO SECRET THAT THE YOUTHFUL TIGERS OF SOUTH ASIA'S tech boom-their pockets plump with cash earned from outsourced American jobs-could emerge as the largest crop of alpine aficionados the world has known. So it was merely a matter of time before the massive Himalaya mountains of northern India, with their crystal powder and epic vertical, became the site of a proposed ski resort-in this case the $300 million Himalayan Ski Village. So what's the surprising part? The principal investor, Alfred Ford-great-grandson of automotive pioneer Henry Ford-is also an adherent and promoter of Krishna Consciousness, the Hindu sect that gave rise to the bald, chanting Hare Krishnas formerly found in airports and George Harrison fan clubs.
Ford's interest in snow sports is nothing new. In the mid 1970s, he did a stint as a ski bum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "You can't find a more romantic place," he says of the proposed resort, noting that his involvement in the project reflects a strictly commercial-not religious-interest. The development site is a 14,000-foot peak on the outskirts of Manali, a picturesque town in the Himachal Pradesh region popular with Western adventure seekers and Indian honeymooners. It'll have 6,000 feet of lift-served vertical spread out over 5,000 acres and will be the only full-service ski area on the subcontinent outside of Gulmarg, in war-torn Kashmir.
Although construction is scheduled for spring 2006, developers still face some hurdles, in particular those concerning the possible displacement of villagers. But Ford's right-hand man in India, John Robert Sims-also a devotee of Krishna Consciousness-points to the corporation's "sustainable-practices" department as a sign of its karmic intent. "The company mantra is 'We are not the host,'" insists Sims. "The local people and the local environment are the hosts. We're not important. We're just background music." With a sitar and finger cymbals, we can only hope. Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.