Ski and Snowboard

If you have an online travel resource or service that relates to winter sports like skiing or snowboarding (or any of the other sports you can do in the Mountains on snow) then please contact me (calvin) as I have a particular interest in devloping this section for myself.
There is nothing better than the air up there and the rush of coming down the mountain any way that you like :) For Ski and Snowboarders alike we hope that you will join in the fun discussion on twitter @landed and on the facebook page is usually easiest - and send us some cool things we can post here for you if they are not simply copied for pasting.

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So what are you planning for your retirement leisure time in your mid to late 70s ? (Assuming the concept of retirement and/or pensions still exists by then, obviously.) Possibly a little light gardening perhaps, or some gentle dog-walking followed by a few cups of tea and a nap.

But wait – how about a bit of alpine skiing instead? Or snowboarding if you're feeling more adventurous. Few things cooler than surprising the grandchildren with a casual backflip off that wind lip they've all been going on about.

You'd think free passes for septuagenarians wasn't really that much of a give-away, but you'd be surprised. We don't see many of them in January (bit chilly) and none at all in February since they have more sense than to ski at the busiest possible time of year when they no longer have ankle-biters and don't need to, but now that March is here they're swarming out of the woodwork.

'I'm here for my free pass' they say smugly, half of them looking no more than about 50 as far as I'm concerned. Then they bounce around in front of the ticket window comparing prices and taking the mickey out of younger friends who have had to make do with a reduced price for being mere whipper-snappers of 65+.

So peak holiday season is over for another year and we can all collapse from exhaustion before embarking on low season hours and a more civilised life. It’s just as well the French let their kids out of school region by region – if they all descended on us at once we’d have to operate the kind of coloured armband system like they used to have when you went swimming on a Saturday afternoon.

It has to be said that only the greenest of noobs would book a skiing holiday in France in February. It’s not just the French – UK, Dutch and Belgian school holidays all combine to make the place anklebiter central, reduce all the roads to linear car parks and fill the mountains with terminally rude Parisians.

Why would you do it? Yes, I know people have children and all that, but be realistic – how much is your seven-year-old really going to miss if you haul him out of school for an extra week to go skiing? I know the teaching staff are going to wag their fingers at you, but that’s because they’re looking at a whole lifetime of nightmare half term ski holidays and don’t see why anyone else should have any fun.

Apart from anything else, peak season skiing represents possibly the worst value for money available. You’re paying top whack for transport and accommodation and there’s no way you’re going to get any kind of a deal on lift passes. And what do you get for paying this sort of top dollar? Traffic jams, queues at airports and ticket offices, crowded pistes, and a scrum to get served in the bars and restaurants. You ought to be getting a discount, if you ask me.

Possibly the most barefaced rip-off is at the ski schools. How many people would you like to see in your group ski lesson? Half a dozen or so, maybe? You do want to see what the instructor is doing, after all, and it might be nice to have a spot of individual feedback now and then. You are paying for tuition after all.

So presumably you wouldn’t be enormously chuffed to see your little dears in classes of 14 (no, that’s not a typo – 14) being led around the hill by someone hauled out of retirement for three weeks. You’d do better to pay for babysitting because that’s pretty much all you’re getting, particularly if yours is the kid at the tail end of the snake. Poor little sod is lucky if he can see the instructor at all at that distance.

Now, there are always going to be people tied to school holidays – teachers, parents with exam-age kids, whatever. But if anyone who doesn’t actually have to be there made strenuous efforts to get away on some other week, there would be a lot more space and better service over the holidays, and those shifting to low season would discover a whole new world of quiet runs, affordable accommodation and stress-free travel. Go on, try it. You might like it.

© Christa GIMBLETT

SNOWSHOEING from inn to inn in the snowy woods and fields of New Hampshire sounded romantic and adventuresome all at once, and the town of Franconia, nestled up under the wing of the Kinsman Range of the White Mountains and thick with inviting inns and public trails, seemed the perfect place to give it a try. But it’s often the nature of romantic adventures to be complicated by reality.

A few phone calls revealed that some Franconia inns were so thinly occupied this winter that dinner was not always being served — an alarming prospect if you’re arriving ravenous and on foot. And then a trial tramp nearer to home with a heavy winter pack suggested that one night’s supplies would be enough to carry at a time. So evolved a compromise plan: a couple of days of short training trips while based at a single inn, the Franconia, followed by a grand and ambitious traverse of the Kinsman Range with an overnight at a cool-sounding trail stop called the Lonesome Lake Hut.

High season is upon us once again here in the Alps and the slopes teem with overconfident incompetents, snowplough beginners and wet girlies allowing their boyfriends to teach them. Which would be fine (if a bit twee) except that most of the boyfriends fit into category ‘A’ above. There are plenty of good reasons why qualifying as a ski instructor takes ages and costs a small fortune, even in countries where they don’t insist on Olympic level slalom skills and an ego the size of a small planet.

I do wonder occasionally whether people treat other sports in the same casual way they do skiing. Do they decide one morning that they’re going to have a scuba diving holiday, buy a load of gear they don’t know how to use and then just hop into the briny? Or attach themselves to the back of a mate’s speedboat and expect to be able to waterski despite the fact they they’re significantly overweight and haven’t done anything more physically taxing than open the fridge door since they left school and were no longer forced to play hockey in sub-zero temperatures once a week?

Skiers tend to be marginally more sensible about all this than snowboarders – there’s an ingrained attitude amongst boarders that you are somehow less of a man if you stoop to being taught anything. Not being a man myself I wouldn’t know about that, but it only takes five minutes observation off the first chairlift to see that it certainly makes you less of a boarder.

Wanna bet ? Tell that to the Polish nine-year-old mown down and left bleeding on an Austrian ski slope the other week. Or the five-year-old sent flying in another Austrian resort during his ski school lesson and taken off the hill with a suspected broken jaw.

Accidents happen, you may say, and indeed they do – I was wiped out myself only yesterday by some chap who misjudged his line and clipped the backs of my skis. Technically his fault, but no more than an error of judgement and no harm done.

But the key difference between my little mishap and the other two incidents was that the chap in question stopped to see that I was all right, gave me back my poles and apologised before taking off again. Those two kids were taken out by adult skiers who just carried on hooning down the slope as though nothing had happened. In each case the child was injured enough to need hospital treatment. In each case they could have been much more seriously hurt, in need of immediate first aid, even dead. And the people in question just skied off and left them lying there.

These are children we’re talking about here. Children. You know? Small vulnerable critters. Supposed to be able to look to adults for shelter and protection. And said adults have just used them as ninepins and hooned off laughing. If I hadn’t had it from several different sources – if I hadn’t experienced it myself on various occasions – I would have writte it off as urban myth.

You wouldn’t knock someone over in the street and run off without helping them up, would you? And you certainly wouldn’t mow them down in your car and leg it down the road without stopping to face the music either. So why do people think it’s OK to do it on skis?

Oh no, we couldn’t possibly go to a resort with less than 5000km of skiing, it’s so boring having to ski a piste more than once, there was only just enough in Val d’Isere for a week, really it’s not much if you’re a really good skier ……. etc. Really, how many times have we heard this nonsense. You skied everything in the Espace Killy in a week? All the off piste as well? In all possible conditions? Not sounding very likely, I suggest.

There’s an attitude amongst certain sections of the British skiing public which says that if it’s not a humungous mega-resort it’s not worth bothering with, and if you’ve skied a run once then you’ve done it and there’s nothing new to see. And let me tell you, they’re missing out big time.

Let’s take just one run here in 2Alpes as an example. Last January I went out with my snowboard two days after a big dump, expecting to find nice soft snow on groomed pistes (missed the freshies, dammit), maybe some soft bumps later on after the skiers ripped it up a bit and a few fresh tracks between the pistes if I was lucky. What I found was that they had not yet pisted Lac Noir, there was no-one on it and it was covered in powder, chopped down the middle and virgin at the sides. I did laps of that one run all day.

Off piste ? Off your rocker, more likely, in these conditions and with your experience. Now push off and stop being silly. Which was not the answer one of our lifties gave to a couple of complete greenhorns asking about off piste skiing the other day, but probably should have been.

Off piste (or freeriding, backcountry, out of bounds etc) is the super-cool activity of the moment, what masses of holiday skiers aspire to, brought almost within their grasp by the fat (or possibly phat) skis with which every manufacturer out there is busily flooding the market. And they make the powder skiing experience easier, without a doubt, but you do still need to be able to ski in the first place. (They also make you look very silly when you’re standing in a lift queue clutching them on a day when we haven’t had fresh snow for weeks and the pistes are rock solid, but never mind.)

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Part 1: A guide to skiing and snowboarding in Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the best destinations to go on a snowboarding European holiday. Switzerland is majorly covered by the world famous Swiss Alps that offer great snowboarding slopes for the enthusiasts. The amazing white scenery and the fantastic resorts make Switzerland a great snowboarding holiday. The main resorts are well connected by rail routes so getting there will not be a problem. The resorts for snowboarding are mostly located in the south of Switzerland, and on an average, accessible from Zurich within 2-3 hours by public transport.

Earlier, no skier went to Croatia to ski unless they were in the Army. But as more snow had fallen on the Croatian slopes, times have changed, and Croatia is a part of the European Union now. The country is gradually opening up her skiing slopes to enthusiasts all around the world, as Croatia has turned more hospitable to tourists. Croatia is a warmer country than northern France, Scandinavia and Switzerland and tourists can plan their vacation time between skiing on the Croatian slopes and spending a peaceful week at the Croatian seaside.

One of the most renowned skiing regions in Croatia is the Zagreb region, particularly Bjelolasica, which is where the Croatian Olympic skiing team trains. Bjelolasica can be reached by car, train or bus from Zagreb. It is the largest ski resort of Croatia and also offers snow boarding and cross country skiing for ski enthusiasts.

Mount Sljeme, in the outskirts of Zagreb is the most conveniently located ski resort for the skiers to try their expertise. The mount holds snow for three months a year and can be conveniently reached by train from Zagreb. This northern slope of the Medvednica mountain is one of Croatia’s nature parks and is a great experience for skiers with all levels of expertise. The resort holds snow for three months a year and it is classified into different runs for skiers with different levels of expertise. The ski resort is classified into the White Run, the Red Run, the Green Run, the Blue Run and the Tree Run offering varied experience to ski travelers. Mount Sljeme also has two ski lifts and a triple chair lift besides the five runs that it offers.

Another great skiing destination in Croatia is the Platak, 26 km northeast of Rijeka which has several ski runs and 10 km of cross country trails. The Platak holds snow until May and what makes this ski destination an amazing one is the breathtaking view of the Adriatic sea that you get from the top.

Here is a map showing the various ski resorts in Croatia

The Croatian ski scenario is still a new one as compared to the French and Swiss Alps and the Croatian government is devoting sufficient efforts to make Croatia a top all round ski destination around the world, especially following after the participation of Croatia in the European Union. The language barrier is not much of a problem thanks to the efforts of the Croatian skiing community who are putting up considerable efforts to make Croatia a favorable ski destination around the world. The staffs at the chalets and the lodges are trained in all the foremost European language to accommodate skiers from all over the continent. Croatia, bordering with Hungary offers good cuisine in food and wine and skiers can enjoy great dining experience while at Croatia. All these facilities in Croatia are available at a knock down cost, much less than the counterparts in France and Switzerland so Croatia is fast becoming a favourable Ski destination.

The roles and responsibilities of a ski rep are several and the rep must be able to multi task on different jobs taking full care of the guests. However, the most important job responsibility of the rep is to be the smiling host to the guests so that they feel comfortable at the chalet. Reps have to take that extra effort to ensure that the skiers are happy skiing and staying at the chalet. The rep is also required to be efficient at paperwork to take care of the legal formalities of staying at the chalet. Each day as a rep may require you to betake the role of a translator, a ski host and a sales person. A rep should be a confident and outgoing person who can take care of every aspect related to skiing with a smiling face. Excellent organizational and communication skills are also required along with the ability to work in a team.

"It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport."

Fridtjof Nansen

Skiing is not only about swishing down the fabulous icy slopes, it is also as much staying in the chalet. Maintaining a ski chalet requires a lot of effort from the owners to offer the guests the best experience in dining and lodging. A ski chalet is also the most reliable place for skiers to gather information about the best slopes in the vicinity and how to get there and similar such information. Here is how a typical week in the chalet goes by, with all its mundane efforts of running the chalet and serving the guests, offering them the warmth of home amid the cold of the snow.

I will be blogging about Val D'Isere this week out and about so watch this space :)

1 : val-disere-ski-holiday-review

2 : naked in the jacuzzi ?

3 : the end :(

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I am 36 ! and things are pushing me to take a break from my normal life here in London, so in my preparation for looking into this I thought I would share my thoughts. I will focus this article on Banff as it is a serious contender for my precious 5 months next year. Why ?
I was first in Banff one Summer and it's beauty is not lost on me , but then resorts are like Swedish women they are mostly beautiful rarely you get an occasional very occasional Tigne !

See the Whistler Blackcomb Questions Here

Frisbee golf was a highlight of my stay back then don't ask me why I obviously didn't do the better things available. Still the main issue is what is it like as a winter destination ? My issue that keeps coming up for spending 5 precious months is that of distance. Banff is a proper town not a resort as I'm used to in Europe , it is 30 minutes away from the lifts and there are the three areas Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Valley. Also the various companies who offer the 11 week instructor course that I'm interested in seem to have either a 15 minute walk from Banff centre and an average looking hotel. And after the 11 weeks and £7500 poorer I will need to find something else. I'm not keen on youth hostels for 5 months. So lets take a look at Whistler perhaps. I'm not saying no to Banff, and would love no doubt do a week or two here one day. But for a season ? I love Banff herself however the vibrancy of the night-life and the town (not resort) feel have their advantages. I would love your comments and reviews indeed links on Banff as a Resort or Seasonal place to work. Thanks

For many people, the winter months are about feeling miserable, complaining about the weather, gaining weight and grinding out long hard days at work, which begin in darkness and end in darkness. True misery. However, many others look forward to the winter because they consider it to be the season for ultimate fun and adventure.

Indeed, winter sports have grown rapidly in popularity during the past couple of decades, with snowboarding and skiing among the most favourite. Other winter sports include ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling and, of course, having a snowball fight. Okay, perhaps the latter is not a sport per se but it is nonetheless good winter fun! In any case, winter sports appeal to a large number of people and that popularity is set to grow during the forthcoming years.

Among five of the very best skiing and snowboarding destinations in Europe is the Nevis Range in Scotland. Boasting the highest skiing in the country, the Nevis Range also includes a mountain gondola, which ascends to a dizzy 2150 feet and is worth a mention simply because of its accessibility to British winter sports enthusiasts.

However, for more serious and stylish skiing and snowboarding, look no further than the Cortina d`Ampezzo in Italy. Renowned as the leading resort in the country, it is also among the most expensive in Europe. Nevertheless, the price tag represents good value for money because this range has it all: amazing slopes, over 500 lifts, chic Italian women and Ferraris and Maseratis all over the place. Cortina d`Ampezzo offers good snow coverage, mild temperatures, superb shopping and can be easily accessed from Venice Airport. Accommodation in the area includes the four star Park Hotel Faloria, which is just minutes away from the Faloria ski resort.

The Chamonix resort in France is also about as good as it gets in Europe, featuring an unrivalled lift network and the Grands Montets, which comprises slopes of more than 10,000 feet! The Aiguille Verte is especially steep and certainly one for the brave. This is an excellent destination for advanced skiiers and snowboarders and is easily accessed by road and railway. Chamonix Lodges features a range of good quality chalets, lodges and hotels run by various operators.

Zermatt in Switzerland is also a superb winter sports destination, featuring a ridiculously steep 4,700 feet slope that actually ends in Cervinia, Italy! This awesome destination boasts superb scenery and a relaxed way of life – in fact, there are no cars allowed here, which means that railway is the only mode of transport in and out of the area!

Finally, The Arlberg in Austria represents everything that is great about winter sports. From the challenging Valluga summit slope to its wild nightlife, the area is also punctuated by picturesque towns and villages with a wide variety of places to stay. If you are thinking of making your way to one of the resorts highlighted above, ensure that you purchase the appropriate equipment and clothing in advance.

St Anton Vs Courchevel

On few fronts are these two resorts similar indeed they both have lifts and snow :0 (this week has been exceptionally warm for February and we have had no snow in the Arlberg region and next week it will be getting desperate) but I digress.The types of runs are also very different. Not being much of an off piste skier, I won't comment on this except to say in this regard there is enough of this in both resorts to keep anyone happy.

The Height of Fashionable
St Anton sits at 1300 m and Courchevel sits vertically between 3 resorts with a free bus linking them or they can be linked with ski or lift. If we look at Courchevel 1850 it sits, well surprisingly at 1850m and is the highest of the three Courchevels the others being 1550 and 1300.[val thorens sits the highest at 2300m and is the ugliest resort but stunning runs!]. Even being much lower at 1300 St Anton has a good snow record.

I recently had the pleasure of skiing with Alan in the three valleys France or le trois vallés.
Three main resorts make up the area Courchevel 1850, Val Thorens and Meribel.

There are other places to stay but the key is just to be close inside the area consisting of these 3 valleys as it has an extensive network of lifts and a good variety of runs. You can do all three in a day easily. The lift pass for a week is more for all the valleys but is worth it, if you were a beginner you might not get the value from it however I would still recommend you get it if money isnt tight. It also looks ideal if you are wanting to learn to ski having some really forgiving easy runs.
We stayed in chalet Ecrasé in the largest of the resorts Courcheval 1850 which sits west of the central Merribal valley and then east of Meribel is val Torens and les Menuires.

I recently had the pleasure of skiing with Alan in the three valleys France or le trois vallés.
Three main resorts make up the area  Courchevel 1850, Val Thorens and Meribel.

There are other places to stay but the key is just to be close inside the area consisting of these 3 valleys as it has an extensive network of lifts and a good variety of runs. You can do all three in a day easily. The lift pass for a week is more for all the valleys but is worth it, if you were a beginner you might not get the value from it however I would still recommend you get it if money isnt tight. It also looks ideal if you are wanting to learn to ski having some really forgiving easy runs.
We stayed in chalet Ecrasé in the largest of the resorts Courcheval 1850 which sits west of the central Merribal valley and then east of Meribel is val Torens and les Menuires.