Bansko and Cervinia come tops for budget ski holidays

November 17, 2012

The 2012/13 European Ski Resorts survey from the European Consumer Centres' Network (ECC-Net) has just been released. ECC-Net is a European network of 29 consumer centers setup to provide useful pricing and consumer rights information to European citizens. The ski resorts survey is just one of several reports that the organization issues each year.

The aim of the survey is to assess standards and costs of a ski holiday in Europe. Various criteria are used to access the price and these include the cost of ski accommodation, the price of the lift pass, local transport costs and costs for local bars and restaurants. The results are reviewed based on price but also divided into categories of resorts. Overall the report gives skiers an idea where to find the cheapest and most expensive ski holidays in Europe.

The most popular categories for most skiers and snowboarders will be the 51-100km sized ski resorts and the 100km+ sized ski resorts. For the 2012/13 season the following are some of the highlights of the report;

The winner of the cheapest resort in the 51-100km category was Bansko ski resort in Bulgaria with the French resort of Combloux and Nauders in Austria also in the top 5 budget ski destinations. In this category the most expensive resort was Flumserberg in Switzerland. Generally the 51-100km ski resorts are very popular with beginners and intermediate skiers so if you are looking for a budget ski holiday it is worth checking out some ski chalets or apartments in Bansko Bulgaria.

In the 100km+ category Breuil Cervinia in Italy was in the top spot for a cost effective ski holiday with the Austrian ski resorts of Nassfeld and Ischgl also featuring in the top 4 destinations for a budget ski holiday.

At the expensive end of the scale the Matterhorn ski paradise in Switzerland was voted the most expensive ski resort in the 100km+ category. Other resorts at the top end of the expensive scale were Kitzbuhel in Austria and the very popular French ski resort of Val d’Isere. For full details of the report please refer the ECC-Net website.

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The Alps enjoy more fresh snowfall

November 13, 2012

Over the weekend another wave of snow has hit the high altitude French resorts. A good base is getting laid down and lots of resorts are gearing up to open shortly. Over 50cm of fresh snow has fallen across a lot of the Alps. Tignes is the first French ski resort to open this season with the Double M run from the Grand Motte to Val Claret opened since Saturday 10th Oct. more snowfall over the weekend has improved conditions although visibility is poor in the resort at the moment. There has been plenty of snow in Val d’Isere and Chamonix also but these resorts are not expected to open until early December.

Top of Bellevarde, Val d'Isere

There has been fresh snow in the Austrian Alps too and in Tirol the ski resort of Obergurgl has already opened ahead of schedule. Solden ski resort is also open and Ischgl expects to welcome skiers and snowboarders in the next week.

The Swiss resort of Verbier has been open for over a week now and has more than a meter of snow. Cervinia in Italy also has a couple of pistes ready. The nearby resort of Laax is also partially open. In Saas Fee and Zermatt they have had over a meter of fresh powder this weekend so there are several runs open to keep early season skiers happy.

Plan Maison piste in Cervinia

Before we all get too excited it is worth noting that it is still very early in the season and temperatures can easily rise again. That said this early snow will definitely lay down a good base on the high altitude runs.

Across the water in North America several resorts opened over the weekend. Lake Louise, Banff and Sunshine are operating in Canada and in the US the Colorado resort of Breckenridge opened for early skiers. Lots more resorts in North America are expected to open in the next couple of weeks.

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Wondering where to ski this season – take a look at Courchevel

November 10, 2012

A name that shines brightly on the steep skyline of the French Alps – one of the best known ski resorts in the Savoie area of France and known for a mix of flamboyance, elegance and glamour. Courchevel is the third biggest resort of the large ski domain commonly known as Les Trois Vallées – a gigantic ski-area that also consists of Val Thorens and Meribel and the smaller villages of La Tania, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville. Collectively, Les Trois Vallées can be considered one of the biggest ski areas in the globe, offering almost 200 lifts and more than 600km of snowy slopes.

Taken individually, Courchevel can hardly be called small. Size wise, it spreads over 2500 hectares of mountain and is divided into four distinct villages. Courchevel 1300 is the lowest and has the most famous village, Le Praz. Then, Courchevel 1550 is a bit higher and hosts a number of restaurants, hotels and private ski accommodation. Courchevel 1650 repeats the same trick and then comes the Courchevel 1850, the highest and largest of the entire quartet – hosting a great line of ski accommodation with luxury ski apartments, catered chalets, restaurants and bars that distinguish the resort as a perfect destination after a hard days skiing on the never ending perfecty groomed pistes.

It is pretty self-evident that each village name reflects its altitude, with the only exception being the slightly cheeky Courchevel 1850 which infact lies at just 1747 although to be fair it does offer the highest accommodation in Courchevel.

Set amidst the scenic alpine landscape, the protected boundaries of the Vanoise National Park lie just at hand, and Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc– also known as the roof of the continent with a height of 15,781ft (4810m) height – dominates the skyline.

Why visit Courchevel? Mainly because it offers such a huge range of mountain and a great wealth of pistes and slopes that offer something for all levels of skier and snowboarder. 146 red runs along with 28 black are ideal for those skiers looking for a challenge and adrenaline free riding. The 101 green and blue runs are perfect for beginners and those skiers who prefer a calmer ski holiday. Besides, lots of the pistes are exceptionally wide, providing the perfect location for practices your carving and parallel turns.

For sleighing, Courchevel offers an enjoyable toboggan run with over 300 metres altitude over a one and a half mile twisted route, starting from the edge of the Tourets piste in 1850, and running all the way down to Courchevel 1550. Families can hire sleighs in 1850 and enjoy tobogganing for a terrifyingly quick couple of minutes, with hairpin bends every few seconds and snowcapped trees blinking past on both sides. You will really be amazed by the fantastic scenery flashing by so quickly.

From a skiing perspective, the highest peak in Courchevel lies at 2738m and can be access from the Sauliere lift. After that there red and black runs all the way down past 1850 right to Le Praz 1350 at the bottom of the valley. That’s almost 1500m of vertical descent so get ready for those burning thighs.

Lately Courchevel has gained quite a reputation amoungst wealthy Russian skiers and as a result the pistes can be crowded and price pretty exorbitant. Don’t worry you can still enjoy the magic of the Three Valleys and not break the bank. Generally, the lower the resort the lower the price. So try options like Courchevel Le Praz at 1350 or La Tania ski chalets at 1400m, both offer a good selection of ski apartments and chalets to rent with both catered ski chalets and self catering options available. You will offer find that you receive better service and quality in the lower areas of the Three Valleys. As regards lift passes of course it is the same price throughout the whole Three Valleys ski domain. The lift pass price varies depending on the time of the season with early and late season ski passes being slightly cheaper. The price of a 6 day pass during the the main season is 260 per adult or 208 per child. You can also avail of the family ski pass which cost 208 per person or the new Tribu Pass which is available to groups of 3 or more skier’s and costs 245 per person for the 6 days. One way to save some cash is the take just the local Courchevel ski pass which still offer more than enough pistes for most skiers. The Courchevel only ski pass for 6 days is 218 per adult and 174 per children. These prices are valid for the 2012/13 season.

How to get there?

If your budget permits and you are also brave enough to spend more, Courchevel has its own airport, something that is rarely found in high altitude areas. Cesnas and helicopters, operating from the airport, take off from one of the world’s shortest runways - a small tarmac strip covering 525m and having an ascending gradient of 18.5 degrees, which rapidly decreases the speed of the incoming aircraft on touchdown.

For less bold travelers, there are international airports at Chambery, Lyon and Geneva which are about two hours’ drive from Courchevel. Lots of the accommodation in Courchevel will come with easily arranged ski transfers so getting to the resort is not difficult.

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Skiing in France - top tips for the perfect ski holiday

November 05, 2012

France is one of the all time favorite skiing destinations in the world. The country is home to a host of mountains ranges, most notably the French Alps. As a result France offers a wide selection of ski resorts that are perfect for winter holiday fun. The French have been skiing as long as any other nation although it is a matter for some debate as to whether alpine ski racing started in America, Europe or Australia.

What is more sure however is that France offers the widest range of ski accommodation in the Alps. Everything from small ski studios, to self catering ski apartments to top end luxury catered chalets is available. Whatever you ski holiday budget you will find something suitable in France. Let us have a quick look at some of the most famous French ski resorts so that you have an idea about where to search for the best ski chalets in France.

The Alps

On the south eastern border, where France is joined by Monaco and Italy, is located the French section of the Alps. Stretching across Europe, this world-renowned mountain range has the largest share of French ski resorts and high quality skiing destinations.

In the extreme north of this range is located Morzine, a top-class skiing resort which is equally liked by both seasoned and beginner skiers as it boasts a diverse range of easy and challenging slopes and oof piste. Located about 1000 metres above the sea level, Morzine has a wide selection of ski hotels, restaurants and private accommodations to entertain you when you are not on the slopes. Morzine ski chalets are a popular choice but the town also offer plenty of ski apartments to rent. You and choose between catered and self catering accommodations.

If you go further south along the Alps, you will come across the Three Valleys, locally known as the Les Trois Vallées. This area consists of some great resorts including Courchevel, Meribel , La Tania and Val Thorens, with each resort having a wide variety of slopes to suit skiers of all abilities. It is hard to choose the best resort in the Three Valleys as they all have unique characteristic. If you are looking for glitz and glam and can afford the cost then Courchevel or Meribel offer some truly amazing ski chalets. For a more relaxed and family friendly ski holiday if a worth trying La Tania or even Les Menuires which offer slightly cheaper accommodation yet all the benefits of skiing in the Three Valleys.

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to discuss the Alps without mentioning Mont Blanc. Known in English as ‘White Mountain’, the peak is the highest in Europe. The area around Mont Blanc offers the highest alpine skiing and some great, eye-catching landscapes amongst its various ski resorts. Here skiing destinations range from family friendly chalets in Les Houches, to the more expensive and challenging Chamonix. Chamonix is often know as the home of alpine sports and is very popular with extreme sports enthusiasts both in winter and summer. The town offer a mix of ski accommodation including chalet rentals and ski apartments.

The Pyrenees

Located on the border joining France with Spain, the Pyrenees Mountains, while often considered the second cousin to the Alps, still offer a large number of ski resorts. Skiing in the Pyrenees is often a good option of a budget ski holiday without compromising on a quality of the skiing or accommodation.

Very close to the Spanish Border is located one of the oldest ski resorts in the Pyrennes. The Domain du Tourmalet links the villages of Bareges and La Mongie and offer skiing up to 2500m. Likewise, in the eastern section of the Pyrenees lie Les Angles and Font-Romeu. Though closer to the Mediterranean coast, these resorts are still high up at about 2000m, and offer a wide selection of snowy slopes to everyone, regardless of their skiing level. While speaking about the Pyrenees we should mention Andorra the charming tax free principality set high in the mountain. It is a popular choice for beginners and intermediates looking for a budget ski break.

On the whole, the Pyrenees region, offer a super variety of slopes and ski resort and has the major advantage of offering calm slopes when compared to the often over crowded pistes in the Alps. If you are looking for a more tranquil ski holiday the Pyrenees is a good choice.

When to visit?

Keep in mind France does not have snow-capped mountains throughout the year. Therefore, the best skiing season is between December and April. There is still no denying the fact that some higher resorts retain snow longer, while a few of the highest in Mont Blanc sustain snow almost the whole year round and offer summer skiing on their glaciers.

In a nutshell, France is one of the most popular Europe destinations for skiing, and its ski resorts boast a huge variety of ski accommodation options for both experienced and novice skiers. With the diversity of on and off piste snow conditions, as well as the unique fun experience of a French ski holiday, there are many reasons why you should spend your next ski trip in the French mountains.

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First snow arrives in Bulgaria for 2012/13 ski season

October 30, 2012

Monday night saw the arrival of the first snow fall across the Rila and Pirin mountain ranges in Bulgaria. In Borovets ski resort the snow fall was down to about 1600m and covered the Yastrebets and Markujik pistes with a dusting of 2-3cm. In Bansko the top runs near Todorka and Platoto were also covered in the fluffy stuff. The 2012/13 ski season in Bulgaria opens in the middle of December so it is good to see snow this early. If you haven’t booked a ski holiday yet, then you might fancy an apartment in Borovets or a chalet in Bansko. Bulgaria has a reputation for offer excellent value ski holidays and catering for families.

In related news Easyjet have just announced new twice weekly flights from London Stansted to Sofia airport. The first flights on the new route are due to start in mid February 2013 just in time for the second half of the ski season. This adds to the existing Easyjet flights between Sofia and both London Gatwick and Manchester. Wizz air also offer cheap ski flights from London Luton to Sofia. If you are considering a ski holiday in Bulgaria, you should check out our Bulgaria page for more details about ski accommodation in Bulgaria.

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More UK Winter Ski Flights Opening Up

October 27, 2012

Monarch airlines are well known for offering cheap flights to ski holiday destinations all over Europe, and has now started another line of flights to several new ski resort destinations. According to the firms’ latest press release, the new ski flights will allow tourists to visit the Alps during the 2012-13 ski season. The company is going to particularly target skiing lovers who are in search of good deal and want cheap ski flights to their favourite ski resorts. This year from December the company will be launching new flights to three different ski destinations, including Friedrichsafen and Munich in Germany, Innsbruck in Austria and Grenoble in France. Tourists can book their seats right away for the coming season’s mountain vacations.

The company stated that the flights to Grenoble will help skiers reach some of the world famous skiing resorts within just 90 minutes of the airport. Just take an example of well known ski resorts like Courchevel, Alpe d’Huez and Deux Alpes – they are easily accessible by road from Grenoble. Also, those who would like to have a trip to smaller skiing resorts like Megeve can also reach there by road from Grenoble. Access to some of the best chalets and ski apartments in the Alps is easy when flying from Grenoble airport.

The flights to Innsbruck and Munich also bring ski lovers close to the perfect resorts of the Austrian Tyrol, which is famous for combining both modern and traditional ski facilities together. Highly famous skiing locations like Obergurgl and Mayrhofen are easily reachable from Munich. If you are staying in a St Anton chalet the cheap flights to Munich are also very convenient. Monarch will also help ski tourists who are looking to visit the Italian Alps via its current routes to Venice, Verona and Milan. It may be mentioned here that these skiing resorts are also perfect retreats for summer and spring holidaymakers to enjoy such activities as and rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking and the airline intends to run several services throughout the year catered for summer holidaymakers.

The airline further stated that for skiers visiting chalets in Austria, the flights to Innsbruck will take off from Manchester, and those bound to Grenoble and Munich will depart from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds/Bradford and London Luton. And flights to Friedrichsafen will leave from London Gatwick and Manchester. The charges for flight tickets start from 32 including taxes per passenger.

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La Tania - one of the the best resorts in the 3 Valleys

October 23, 2012

A winter holiday means something different for everyone. For some, the best way to enjoying this period of time is to cuddle up and sip hot chocolate in front of the fireplace on cozy evenings; whereas others may think of snow shoeing or hiking in the beautiful French Alps or skiing down a snowy hill in Les Trois Vallees. Whether you want to enjoy snowfall in the comfort of a warm ski chalet or prefer seeking outdoor adventures, you have to consider La Tania ski resort as one of the most ideal ski holiday destinations.

Originally built as a dormitory for athletes who took part in the Winter Olympics in 1992, La Tania is located between Courchevel and Meribel, and makes for a popular destination for vacationers who prefer small, non-crowded ski resorts for enjoying relaxing holidays on the snowy slopes. With over 600 miles of runs and many stunning ski chalets in La Tania, this small hamlet has earned massive repute across Europe as being attractive, quiet and family-friendly. Among all of the 3 Valleys resort towns, La Tania is the most laid-back town yet offers first-rate facilities and accommodations for all skiers and snowboarders but especially family holidaymakers. La Tania accommodation always offers a superb alternative to more expensive Courchevel chalets or luxury Meribel apartments.

For ski lovers this small town is literally a paradise consisting of a mix of slopes for both begineers and well experienced skiers. Don’t worry if you are new to skiing as the town has many ski schools and instructors that can help you master the snow plough and tackle slopes of all shapes and sizes. Even your youngest children can be guided by professional and expert trainers to whizz along the snowy slopes.

Are you experienced and need more than La Tania? You can link to other resorts of your choice quite easily because over 200 lifts are operating here, covering the entire Trois Vallees area and providing linked skiing between all the ski villages in this world famous ski area.

If you are a fan of other winter sports, you have many other options including backpacking, snowboarding, snow biking and ice climbing. Besides, walking and cross-country hiking tracks are also charming for those who enjoy less extreme activities. The town is full of awe-inspiring, natural landscapes so you don’t need to go far from your cosy La Tania chalets to experience the real beauty of the Alps. Natural lovers will really appreciate romantic walks around the town’s beautiful pine forest.

Sightseeing and shopping is another must in La Tania, where the town center has been designed specifically for pedestrians. Simply get to the centre of town and all entertainment and shopping convenience are at your feet. The central street is crowded with restaurants, movie theatres, coffee shops and other general shopping stores including plenty of ski equipment stores. After spending a long day skiing, shopping or sightseeing, what else you will be looking forward to other than relaxing in the warmth of you luxury chalet or ski apartment in La Tania. Why not pop in the hot tub or enjoy some of the top quality chalet catering on offer in the resort. No doubt, La Tania offers a wealth of ski accommodation for all budgets making it a really great winter holiday destination.

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Eco friendly skiing in Paradiski

October 13, 2012

Not everyone will know that Paradiski is infact the world’s third largest ski area and one of the largest ski resorts in France. It is interesting too that according to the latest reports this incredibly large ski area now depends on 100 per cent renewable energy resources to meet its energy demands for ski lifts and other electrical usage such as snow cannons.

Linked with three fantastic ski resorts, Les Arcs, Peisey Vallandry and La Plagne, Paradiski is extremely popular with skiers mainly on account of its impressive landscape that provides about 425 km of pistes to skiers and boarder from around the world. In addition to exceptional skiing opportunities here, this resort is also renowned for performing its level best in connection with environmental matters, and from 2008 all ski lifts operating in all three areas have been Safety, Quality, and Environmental (SQE) certified according to the best international standards.

Now that the Paradiski lift network is completely powered by 100 per cent green energy, it will not be without interest to note if other ski resorts are also ready to roll out other ecofriendly projects. It is worth mentioning that very recently a Swiss ski resort which has installed solar panels right on the top of its ski lifts to help improve energy efficiency. Currently as many as sixty resorts, across the globe, are reportedly using, and in some instances generating, renewable energy.

While commenting on the shift from non-renewable energy to 100 per cent renewable energy, the Paradiski local authority is reported to have said: “We are more than committed to play a key role in making the environment green by depending upon natural resources rather than combustible, non-renewable ones.”

It is a sign of the times that such a large French ski resort is taking their responsibilities seriously in relation to eco-friendly technology. These measures not only promote the ski areas but also provide skiers with the best of skiing experience in eco-friendly lifts that significantly trim down emissions and overall costs at large. So as you leave your chalet in La Plagne or your ski apartment in Les Arcs you can be happy in the knowledge that you are skiing in one of the most eco-friendly resorts in the world.

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Touchscreen gloves to keep your hands warm while skiing

October 11, 2012

With the number of smartphone users rapidly growing all over the world, it is not unreasonable to claim that a great number of skiers also use smartphones. However, it is also a matter of fact that as soon as the winter season approaches in its full swing our regular gloves simply can’t be used to operate our technically-superior friends.

Luckily, many companies have taken it as their responsibility to find a solution to this problem, and surprisingly we are now equipped with a wide variety of ‘eGloves’ that we can put on to play ball with our touchscreen gadgets.

The distinct quality of these gloves is that they use conductive technology to let your fingers and thumbs operate the touchscreen of your smartphone. Many manufacturers are out there to produce a handsome variety of these gloves, all using somewhat different technologies.

eGloves beautifully explains on its website the science working behind such gloves, rejecting a common myth that considers capacitive touchscreen to be heat sensitive. According to the website a capacitive touchscreen reacts to the users’ natural bioelectricity, with the tiny amount of salt and oil present in the users’ skin stimulating electrons to flow in between the phone and the user, thus keeping the touchscreen active and working.

So how does this type of gloves work? eGloves utilizes silver, which is the best conductive element on the Periodic Table. Using a specially designed glove is a great idea that helps millions of skiers to keep calling, texting and capturing right away when they are the snowy slopes.

Both eGlove and aGloves have recently expanded their ranges and introduced a wide selection of gloves for different uses. eGlove has recently launched eSki gloves, that are already popular with professional British skiers and snowboarders. AGloves also offers dedicated sports gloves all available on their website.

You can get these gloves directly from the manufactures’ websites to make sure you won’t have to miss a single moment of snapping or an important phone call in the snow this winter. With wifi increasing available on the slopes of many ski resorts investing in an pair of eGloves might just be the thing you need.

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Changes in Meribel for the coming ski holidays

October 06, 2012

This summer, both Meribel Mottaret and Meribel ski resort have introduced lift upgrades, following on from the first phase of improvements in the Saulire gondola that took place in the last summer. With Meribel challenged by only Val d'Isere in terms of the number of Brits arriving in the resort each winter, the installation of new and faster lifts is always great news and improves the resort attractiveness as a top location for a chalet holiday.

In Meribel, the second phase of replacing the Saulire gondola lift will come to conclusion by December of this year, whereas the first phase had completed in the last summer and has been operating throughout the last winter season. The upgraded ski lift will transfer skiers and snowboarders from the comfort of their chalet or ski apartment accommodation in Meribel to the top of the Saulire within 12 minutes only, comparing with the 22 minutes required by the older lifts.

While improving the lift system the lift company also completed the first phase of the gondola, namely, Saulire Express 1 in the last summer. It has been providing quick services to skiers who want to go back to the mountain top direct from the mid-station. As soon as the Saulire Express 2, which is based in le Chaudanne gets completed, it will link the skiers to the Courchevel Valley at lightning fast speeds. The new lift will consume about 20 million, but will have a capacity for 2,400 skiers per hour, increasing the number to 2,800 during the peak season.

Apart from the newly launched speed gondola, the Plattières lifts heading from Meribel Mottaret to Val Thorens and Les Menuires are also all set for massive upgrades in this season. The contemporary 28 years old Plattières 1 and 2 are to be substituted by a speedy gondola – the first of its kinds in the three valleys. The new lift will whisk the passengers to the destination within 9 minutes, compared with the previous duration of 22 minutes. Having 10 seat cabins, the lift has the impressive carrying capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour.

A new lift hub is also going to be built for the new Plattieres lift in Meribel Mottaret, just across the existing lift station, and will cost a 17.2 million. Though Plattières 1 and 2 are being replaced this summer, the present Plattières 3 along with some new gondola cabins will remain unchanged.

For beginners and children enjoying a ski holiday in Meribel has just got much better. The Ourson rope tow installed at the foot of Mottaret's slopes will also be replaced by a more up-to-date magic-carpet lift, which is going to cost around 70,000. The beginners will also enjoy another development in Mottaret in terms of reshaping the Matre piste - one of the main tracks leading direct back to the resort and the main ski accommodation areas. The works will replace the steepest section with a gentler gradient. This project covers a 60m long section of slopes and is expected to cost about 2 million.

With the introduction of three new lifts along with other changes to the piste, Meribel will have spent more than 40 million on the development of slope infrastructure by the end of December 2012 — and that doesn't include the cost which is expected on Plattières 3 lift. This leaves no doubt as to how this resort is spending money to retain its status as one of the best ski areas in the world. With a hefty amount being spent on the adjoining resort of Val Thorens for new lifts, ski apartments, hotels and Wi-Fi on the slopes, the Three Valleys is still an amazing destination for your ski holiday in the Alps. Before booking your accommodation in Meribel it is worth checking out a selection of Meribel chalets. Both catered and non catered options are available. Alternatively we have self catered apartments in Meribel which are perfect for group or family ski holidays.

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