The Imperial Express chairlift in Breckenridge, Colorado has opened this week for the first time this season. With over 40cm of fresh powder in just 2 days the ski season in Colorado has finally started to get some good snow conditions. The Imperial Express takes skiers and snowboarder to a height of 3914m and accesses some of the best slopes and off-piste back country areas in Breckenridge. The lift which is the highest chairlift in the world, wizzes to the highest point of the resort in just 3 minutes and from here you can access Peak 7 and 8 including Whale’s Tail and with a little hiking you can reach the Snow White and Lake Chutes areas.
Stepping of the top of the Express Superchair at Breckenridge is like being at the top of the world. At almost 13,000 ft (3962m) altitude the air is thin and the views breathtaking. For backcountry specialists it is a haven of open wild off piste bowls and chutes. Choose from Arte’s Bowl, the North Bowl, Peak 7 or the Imperial bowl and enjoy the magnificent fluffy powder runs.
This year has been a poor one snow wise for the Colorado ski resorts but finally a decent dump has arrived this week. With temperatures still low conditions should be excellent for February visitors.
I guess us skiers and snowboarders are never really happy. Heavy snow fall across most of Europe means excellent skiing conditions up in the Alps but unfortunately down at lower levels the transport network is struggling leaving many travelers with problems getting away for their ski holidays.
Heavy (at least for the UK) snow has caused havoc in Heathrow with over 20% of flight delayed or cancelled on Monday and Tuesday. Despite a 10million investment in snow cleaning equipment following a very snowy winter in 2010 the main London airport still struggles largely due to over capacity. Other London airports have also being impacted but not to the same extent.
On Saturday Geneva airport was briefly closed while over 30cm of snow was cleared from the runway. As one of the main access airport for the Alps it is usually very well organised to deal with winter conditions but the continuous snow fall for over 10hrs meant some delays and diversions for incoming ski flights. Elsewhere in Europe there were difficulties in Paris and some of the northern Italy airports but over in Austria all seemed under control for anyone heading off on an Austrian ski break.
This weeks heavy snow in the UK of course makes for excellent skiing conditions in Scotland although strong winds and avalanche risk mean that skiers and snowboards should heed any mountain weather warnings. Tragically 4 people died earlier in the week while hiking at Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands. The experienced climbers plunged 1000 ft when an ice shelf gave way beneath them.
Over the last few years Austria has become one of the most popular skiing destinations for European skiers. According to a survey recently conducted by the Ski Club of Great Britain and Snowsport England, Austria has significantly increased in terms of popularity on account of great skiing conditions marked by record-breaking snowfall last winter as well as consistently good value for money ski holidays.
Last year, Austria added another 2% to its market share, thus increasing market share for the sixth consecutive winter season. Currently, one out every four UK skiers chooses Austria over other ski holiday destinations.
Nevertheless, French resorts still capture the majority of skiing holidays purchased in the United Kingdom with about 41% of all UK skiers visiting the French ski slopes every year.
One of the main reasons that France dominates as the most favorite skiing destination is because it offers a great number of high altitude resorts that almost guarantee snow all the year round. Combined with plentiful snow cannons and artificial snow making facilities skiers and boarders know that a ski holiday in France will not be short of snow. Other factors that attract a huge number of visitors to France include plenty of lower budget skiing packages, cheaper accommodations and good self-catering options.
The average cost of a winter ski holiday package has increased to 729 per person. While explaining the hike in the ski holiday packages, the Ski Club said: “Many tour operators have now added various ski pack elements in their packages including ski accommodation, food and drink. Overall this year’s survey shows that ski holidays are not growing more expensive, but holiday makers are demanding more in each ski package and thus increasing the overall prices of all inclusive packages.”
This year saw a noticeable change in booking patterns with a 2% increase in hotel and catered chalet bookings. In previous years all the growth had been in the self-catering accommodation sector with private chalets and ski apartment rentals being most popular.
The report found that the most popular destinations in Austria were St Anton, Mayrhofen, Ischgl, Kitzbuhel and Saalbach. In France the most popular ski resorts were Chamonix, Morzine, Meribel and Val d’Isere.
Are you a group of skiers, maybe friends, maybe colleagues all looking for that perfect ski resort that can cater for everyone’s individual expertise level? Lots of people organizing group ski holidays scratch their head when posed with the question “where is the best place to bring a big group skiing?” Well you should stop worrying about the selection of resort as there are a number of places in Europe where you can find plenty of terrain for all levels be they off-piste gurus, intermediate riders or never-even-seen-a-mountain-before sort of novices – and the best thing is that in most cases you can all ski together or at the very least organise meeting spots that are accessible by all the group.
One of the best French ski resorts, Alpe d’Huez, located in the Central French Alps and spanning altitudes from 1,250m to 3,330m, is ideal for intermediates who can ski miles of high altitude snowy terrain, mixed up with a few black and gentle off-pistes. The resort is perfect for those who want to chew up the miles with carving turns on perfectly pisted runs.
For beginners they can get the grips with their first snow experience on the many wide nursery slopes in the center of the resort and for the crazies of the group Alpe d’Huez offers the longest black run in Europe so don’t say the resort doesn’t offer a challenge. La Sarenne as the run is called starts with a pretty challenging mogul field so be sure to get those knees moving.
As part of the Three Valleys, the biggest domain of linked pistes in the world, there is almost limitless on piste and off piste options. Due to its 2300m altitude, the resort has one of the longest ski seasons and is still enjoyable even in the spring sunshine.
For those who love to free ride, Val Thorens is a paradise of virgin powder and offers one of the best terrain parks in the Alps. Both beginners and powder hounds will find plenty to entertain them here with lots of snow, powder, parks and après ski.
One of the greatest off-piste ski resorts, Tignes is perfect for first-timers who can be lured by its free nursery run coupled with plenty of easy gentle greens. Offering links into Val d’Isere, the Espace killy ski area offers almost limitless skiing from valley to valley. Both Tignes and Val d’Isere were recently offering free instruction for beginner skiers which is a nice attraction is you are on your first ski holiday. Of course Val d’Isere village also offers lots of ski accommodation with just as easy access to the Espace Killy. Accommodation wise you will find more chalets in Val d’Isere and apartments in Tignes but both villages have plenty of larger properties to cater for group ski holidays.
Les Arcs boasts a lot of woodland trails, forest runs and plenty of challenging couloirs. Such is the level of extreme skiing available here that it might appear to be a resort for experts only. But don’t be fooled, in reality Les Arcs also offers lots of well groomed cruising runs, several specific zones for novice skiers and of course by linking into La Plagne you benefit from the blue and easy red runs that are just perfect for intermediates.
For skiers of mixed abilities, Soldeu in Andorra is an ideal resort. Recently linked with Pas de la Casa, these days the resort offers a very substantial amount of skiing. Probably not the best of resorts for those looking for the ultimate adrenalin rush it still has plenty of tricky blacks and some very gnarly off piste areas. It caters perfectly for beginners and intermediates with a good mix of novice areas and lots of mixed blue, red and black runs.
Best of all, Soldeu is a tax-free ski resort so you will find that prices are considerably cheaper than the Alpine ski resorts. Just what you need to keep all the group happy.
On a budget? Borovets in Bulgaria is worth a look. Ideal as a beginner and intermediate type ski resort it offers very reasonable ski accommodation and the ski passes and local food and drink are also good value. I would recommend February or March as the best months to ski in Borovets as they have the most reliable snow then. For family groups the resort is also a good choice with cost effective ski tuition a big plus for the kids. Intermediates will find the Yastrebets ski area the most interesting while beginners can enjoy learning on the Rila slopes which are right in the center of the resort and close to the bars and restaurants. The highest runs in the Markujik ski area offer lots of open bowl skiing and plenty of zig-zagging in between the pines trees. Everyone should try the marvelous Musala pathway which is a cruisy blue that runs for 8km from the top of the mountain right back to the village.
Breck, as it is known by its many admirers, is one of the most famous North America ski resorts. Located high in the Rockies and not far from Vail, the town is known as a destination for all types of powder seeking fun lovers. Having everything from chutes and double diamonds to plain old reds and easy nursery slopes the whole group will be happy here. The terrain park is one of the most impressive we have seen with 25 acres of kickers, tricky rails and bruising tabletops to test even the most seasoned free stylers.
So where to choose??? Well that’s a tricky question and definitely one that depends on budget and the type of accommodation and flying time that your group is open to.
In Europe it is hard to fault Les Arcs or Alp d’Huez but which ever resort you choose you are sure to have a great time. It might be just me but group ski holidays are definitely amongst the best holidays I have ever enjoyed. In between the laughing, falling, aching and hopefully finally skiing you can make some great friends that you will end up skiing with long into the future.
Visitors to Morzine ski resort this season are enjoying the benefits from 2 new ski lifts that were installed over the summer to improve the links between Morzine and the other parts of the Portes du Soleil ski domain. The new lifts are on important runs linking Morzine with Les Gets and Avoriaz and are part of a 200 million investment in the Avoriaz region. The investment programme also included new ski accommodation in Avoriaz and an aqua park.
Avoriaz itself is a car free ski resort and the new Prodains cable car links the Prodains valley just outside Morzine with Avoriaz resort at 2000m. The old Prodains cable car was installed in 1962 and had a capacity of just 450 skiers per hour.
The new 3S Poma-Leitner cable way has 12-14 large cabins each holding up to 35 people and travelling at a speed of 7 meters/sec. This gives a much increased uplift of some 2000 people per hour and will resolve the issue of the long queues that sometimes developed at the Prodains lift in previous seasons. The total lift line is over 1500m long with almost 600 m of vertical rise. The new cable car operates from 7am to 11pm and is used not only by boarders/skiers but also by walkers, resort workers and general tourists who want to travel from Morzine to Avoriaz.
The old Des Troncs 3-man chairlift has also been replaced for the 2012-13 season and receives a brand new high speed six person lift. This new lift will improve access for skiers and snow boarders travelling between Morzine and Les Gets or trying to access the red and blue runs in the Chamossiere and Nyon areas.
As well as the new lifts for this ski season several new accommodation options are available in Avoriaz. Originally built in the 1960’s as one of the first purpose built French ski resorts Avoriaz has most of its accommodation in apartment buildings. For the 2012-13 ski season two of the older blocks have been fully renovated to modern 4star accommodation standards offering self catering apartments with luxury leisure facilities such as heated swimming pools, hottubs, saunas and 24hr concierge. On top of this two new Pierre et Vacances apartment complexes have opened offering 147 new 4 star apartments in the Crozats area and 100 5-star chalet style apartments in the new Amara area. On the restaurant front the new Amara district sees the opening of 2 new restaurants for the season with a new brasserie offering mountain style cuisine and a new fine dining restaurant. Both offer super views of the Aravis mountains and are ideal spots for sunset cocktails.
Portes du Soleil is one of the largest linked ski areas in the world and is a super location for a ski holiday. You can choose from high altitude apartments in Avoriaz, catered chalets in Morzine or plenty of quality ski apartments and chalets in the linked resorts of Les Gets and Chatel. The ski domain links both France and Switzerland and offers 650km of pisted runs and acres of off-piste areas.
This winter weather reports are forecasting record-breaking snowfall, which means there is more than enough snow this year to satisfy the urges of all skiing enthusiasts. With the onset of the ski season, a number of ski holiday operators have focused specifically on the most famous and glamorous ski resorts. We take a look at the top 3 exclusive resorts.
Courchevel 1850 ranks high among the most exclusive French resorts and has been the European flagship resort for the last few years. Europes elite and famous love to visit Courchevel, mainly because it is the home to some very high class ski accommodation, perfect slopes and of course it has two Michelin starred restaurants which is mandatory for any self-respecting glamour resort. The legendary Le Cap Horn restaurant, should not be missed and is a great place for enjoying the stunning alpine landscape or indeed spotting a celebrity or two.
To visit Courchevel ski resort, March is probably the best time as the weather is warmer and snow conditions perfect. At this time of the ski season you can enjoy the day on the sunny pistes or lounge on the many outdoor restaurant decks spread all around the resort. However, if you are celeb hunting then Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to visit and the resort is thronged with high profile vistors.
Another prestigious ski resort often referred to as ‘the King of Bling’ is St. Moritz, a resort that is visited by lots of the rich and famous. Fun seeking celebrities come here every year from all around the world to enjoy its exclusive see-and-be-seen spots including the glamorous Cresta Toboggan Run. It is interesting to note that the quantity of champagne consumed per visitors in St. Moritz is higher than any other ski resort.
It is not just the Alps that do glamour. Whistler in Canada is certainly an exclusive ski resort, and it regularly wins the prestigious award for the best ski resort in the World. Having two gigantic mountains packed with some of the best skiing bowls in the world, and unrivalled powder skiing, Whistler catches the attention of some big names every winter season.
So there you go, the top 3 exclusive resorts claim to be Courchevel in France, St Moritz in Swizterland and Whistler in Canada. But who can really say as there are so many top quality ski resorts. Another of the best, and a personal favourite of mine, has got to be St Anton in Austria which regularly wins awards for the quality of its accommodation and skiing.
A new restaurant has opened in the in the Swiss resort of Verbier hoping to offer quality cuisine at reasonable prices. The venture is backed by Lawrence Dallaglio, James Blunt and Carl Fogarty. The three celebrities are frequent visitors to Verbier and have linked up with Heston Blumenthal to open La Vache. As regular skiers in Verbier they were appalled by the cost versus quality that is offered by some of the on piste eateries so they decided to open their own restaurant where the focus will be on quality food at a reasonable price.
The restaurant has just opened for the 2012-13 season and some of the prices are almost half that of the other restaurants on the mountain. The restaurant, called La Vache, is located in an old converted ski lift station at the top of the Blunt chair lift (Attelas ski run) and the menu offers simple food such as pizza, pasta, gourmet burgers and homemade soup. Don’t let the simple menu put you off however as the food is of excellent quality and just what you need for a hard day on the slopes.
Previously known as the Powder Spirit Bar the restaurant is already becoming one of the most popular watering holes on the Verbier pistes with the reasonable prices being a major attraction. The restaurant is decorated in old mountain style and has a welcoming open log fire. Outide there is a large deck area with sun loungers and amazing panoramic views towards Val de Bagnes and Mont Gel. It is definitely worth a visit on your next ski holiday in Verbier.
With the economy dwindling everywhere, most people are now in search of reasonably priced ski holiday packages for this season. If you are also among these, consider Italy as your destination for it has a lot to be explored and also makes the most of your money.
According to a report prepared by the UK Post Office’s Travel-Money section, Italy hosts a bunch of the most cost-effective resorts, with prices slashing by about 10% in just one year.
The Post Office report also revealed that Livigno delivered the cheapest ski schools that charge just 75 for six half day training sessions. On the other hand, the rest of the ski resorts commonly charge as much as 150 for just a one half day lesson.
The UK Post Office has also prepared a list of most cost-effective European and North American resorts, after setting comprehensive criteria that take into account several aspects including the cost of a 6-day ski pass, ski and boot hire charges as well as the expenses of one day’s meals, drinks and other stuff. It evaluated more than two dozen ski resorts to find the best value destinations for ski holidays.
The most cost effective resort is Bansko, Bulgaria, which not only tops the list but also offers skiers multiple skiing opportunities including a six-day ski pass, ski school lessons and ski and boot hire for only 264.52.
The Top Ten List also includes two Austrian resorts: Ellmau and Mayrhofen that are ranked third and ninth respectively. Kranjska Gora in Slovenia is at the third number in the list and the only French resort to appear in the top 10 is Morzine.
With Christmas just around the corner and skiers and snowboarders planning their first ski holiday of the 2012-13 season we thought it was an apt time to do a photo review of some of the most popular ski resorts this year.
From France, Austria and Switzerland to Canada and the USA, skiers across the world are gearing up to enjoy a Christmas ski holiday in their favourite resort. With excellent snow conditions in most resorts check out some photos from the best of European and North American ski reorts below.
On Wednesday the first ever round of the FIS Ski X World Cup arrived in Val Thorens. Following a week of pretty heavy snow storms the sun finally appeared and provided excellent conditions for all the competitors. Due to the heavy snowfall in previous day the finals and qualifiers were actually held on the same day rather than over a 2 day period.
For those not familiar with Ski Cross is has been an official FIS discipline since 2003 and was recently included in the Vancouver Olympics. It is a form of free style skiing similar to boarder cross and is one of the fastest growing snow sports. Ski Cross involves a group of skiers (normally 4) that start at the top of a steep slope with several natural terrain features such as jumps, rollers and ramps and the goal is the get to the finish line first. The completion starts with individual time trials to pick the top 32 skiers. After than the completion is on a knock out basis.
Last Wednesday in Val Thorens the British competitors were expected to do well but factors conspired to result in a disappointing day for the British team. Unfortunately for Emily Sarsfield (the British No. 1) her skis were delayed by her airline. She had to compete on an old set of skis and finished a disappointing 30th.
In the ladies competition the Swiss rider Fanny Smith took first position with Marte Hoeie Gjefsen (Norway) and Andrea Limbacher (Austria) following in second and third.
In the mens race it was again a rider from Switzerland, Armin Neiderer, with Brady Leman from Canada in second and the USA rider Joe Swensson in third.
The next Ski X rounds take place in San Candido Italy next weekend the 22nd and 23rd of December.
While visiting Val Thorens we noticed several improvement in the ski resort for this season. Over 4 million euro has been spent during the summer upgrading the cabins on the Peclet Funitel. Each cabin can now take up to 22 passengers and the cabins have been renovated with new leather seats and additional windows. 9 extra cabins have been added to increase the hourly ski uplift by 25%.
Closer to the resort we noticed some new snow cannons on the beginner runs and the Plein Sud piste has been widened to make it easier for beginners and intermediates. Overall the resort is looking good for the coming season will excellent snow cover for this stage of the year.