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Editor’s note “Typical,” said a morose colleague, “you get a brilliant start to the season just as the cost of skiing goes through the roof.” He was referring, of course, to the collapse of the pound after the referendum. But was he right to be so gloomy? Well, in one respect, sterling’s slide has yet to hit the ski world. Marmite may have been off the shelves in Tesco’s online store, and Toblerone’s mountains have turned to valleys, but ski shops have actually reduced prices on their Continental and US-made goods. If you don’t believe me, go to skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard, where we have just put past issues online for all readers, not just Ski Club members. There you will find that the prices of skis, which are easy to compare, were typically ten per cent higher last year. And what goes for skis applies to boots, boards, goggles, helmets and snow wear, to a greater or lesser degree. This is because the prices were all set before the referendum — next season will be a different story. And, if you need a further push, on pages 84 and 85 we list the discounts available to members on full-price items. Many new members find they have paid off their annual subscription after just one trip to the shops. Of course, there’s no denying that our holidays will be more expensive. But even here a little reconsideration of where and how we book our ski trips goes a long way, as we explore in our feature on page 25. For my part, I went on my first self-catering trip in over a decade in March. It was with a fair amount of trepidation. Frankly, I like to be cooked for much more than I like to cook. But once we’d decided on a ‘Come dine with me’ format where each of the three couples formed a team and took it in turns to impress the others, with a transfer window over a restaurant dinner, it proved fun. Best of all we had all the ingredients for lunch the next day. We would pick our spots carefully — ideally sitting on rocks, surrounded by pine trees, with views of the valley — and unpack our sandwiches, made with the fresh baguette the baker delivered to our chalet each day. Admittedly, we were lucky with the weather, but even so it beat worrying about the people on the next table lighting up cigarettes and trying to reserve seats by arranging helmets on the table. Looking back, those picnics on the rocks were some of the most memorable ski lunches I have ever had. And — bliss! — there was not one agonisingly long wait for the bill while we could have been skiing.
DEPUTY EDITOR Harriet Johnston email@example.com ART DIRECTOR Nicole Wiedemann MEDIA SALES Madison Bell madisonbell.com 020 7389 0859 OVERSEAS MEDIA SALES Martina Diez-Routh firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 7508 382 781 PUBLISHER Ski Club of Great Britain London SW19 5SB skiclub.co.uk | 020 8410 2000
Those picnics on the rocks were some of the most memorable ski lunches I have ever had
December 2016/January 2017
Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Independently audited circulation of 19,722 (January to December 2015) Issue 195 © Ski Club of Great Britain 2016 ISSN 1369-8826 Ski+board is printed by Precision Colour Printing, Stirchley, Telford TF7 4QQ Cover photo: Tourisme Hautes Pyrénées/Laurent Bouvet/Rapsodia
Colin Nicholson Ski+board Editor
The cover photo shows speed skier Cathy Breyton leading a group down from the Pic du Midi in the French Pyrenees — Page 25
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December 2016/January 2017
9 EXPOSURE Gully gosh! Eye-catching images of skiing the trickiest terrain, and the tales that lie behind them
14 YOU SAY Robotic knees let a skier venture off-piste again, helmet safety, insurance queries and feedback
17 SKI CLUB NEWS Instructor-led guiding is a hit, a new app is launched and Frank Gardner is re-elected president
18 NEWS Surprise court ruling clears British instructors to teach in France, and is this the cheapest year to buy kit?
FEATURES 25 SWAP SHOP Rethinking how and where you book your ski trip could spare you an avalanche of costs
32 AN A-TO-Z OF PET HATES Our social commentary on life in resorts continues as we tackle our least favourite aspects of skiing
36 SPREAD YOUR WINGS Could you take your skiing to the next level? Three writers try different ways to ski in the sky
43 CURL UP IN A CHALET We review the books and DVDs that will keep you whizzing across the pistes in your dreams
THE INSI DE EDGE
Tackle new valleys in the search for a better deal
48 SNOW WEAR How to create the classic ski wear look and why it may be more affordable than ever
56 SKI TESTS The finest all-mountain skis with the widest breadth of ability — on or off-piste
An alphabetical guide to our pet peeves in resorts
Pump them up and turn the heat on… how all-mountain boots are being reformed
74 TECHNIQUE No-one likes a white-out, bar instructor Mark Jones, who says it’s a great learning tool
77 OFF-PISTE Travel through the trees with ease led by expert mountain guide Nigel Shepherd
Ready for take-off …but will our three writers fly or flop?
78 FITNESS Strengthen your core and emerge a stronger skier with our winter-specific exercises
80 GEAR We review the latest ideas to protect you and your belongings in the mountains
Photo: Hautes Pyrénées/Cauteret
We review new books and learn to read the weather
Things are shaping up a little differently this season for all-mountain boards
90 RESORTS The best resorts you’ve never heard of — our experts stray far from the madding crowd Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
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Austria | France | Italy
LOCATION Pitztal, Austria PHOTOGRAPHER Mario Webhofer
Pitztal offers great, year-round skiing on its glacier, as Mario Webhofer shows here, yet the resort is scarcely known to British skiers. That may change as three lifts are planned to link it to SĂślden to form a giant glacier ski area. News â€” Page 18
December 2016/January 2017
LOCATION Hardangervidda, Norway PHOTOGRAPHER Daniel Tengs
The Ragnarok competition, held on southern Norway’s Hardangervidda plateau and sponsored by Red Bull, is the world’s biggest snowkiting event, as Daniel Tengs’ image shows. But just how difficult can snowkiting be? Let’s go fly a kite — Page 38
LOCATION Tirol, Austria PHOTOGRAPHER Fritz Fankhauser
Now these are three characters you wouldn't expect to meet coming up the piste — but they strike terror in the heart of Austrians at this time of year. The Krampus is a horned creature that, unlike St Nicholas who rewards good children, punishes those who have been bad, in an ancient Alpine tradition.
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December 2016/January 2017
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SKIER Niall McPherson LOCATION No.5 Gully, Ben Nevis PHOTOGRAPHER Hamish Frost
In April 2016 the two Scots left their mountain hut early, climbing through the ridges, buttresses and gullies that form the north face of Ben Nevis. At the summit plateau they were conscious of the huge cornices guarding the entries to No.3 and No.4 Gullies. Hard snow on the 50-degree entry to No.5 Gully left no room for mistakes, but they took it â€” and were soon enjoying soft snow in the bowl below, all in all skiing 600m vertical.
December 2016/January 2017
Club staff went beyond the call of duty to sort out an insurance query What superb help and advice I’ve had from Guy and Fraser in the London office. Amazing, going above and beyond what was necessary to make sure I got the best solution for both membership and insurance. Thank you so much. The club should be very proud of you!
Alison Ambrose Ski+board writes: We’re delighted to hear that, and remind other members that they can call Member Services on 020 8410 2015 to learn more about insurance and other ski-related queries.
Thanks for making sure readers aren‘t frozen out I feel there’s much more of relevance for me in Ski+board now. In particular, I really enjoyed Mark Jones’s piece on skiing on ice on page 76 of Issue 2.
Mary Gordon Ski+board writes: All readers can now see back issues at skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard.
My bionic knees have given me a fresh start At Christmas, I’ll be using the Ski Club’s instructor-led guiding service to go offpiste in Val d’Isère. Then in January I’m on one of the club’s Freshtracks trips — the Engelberg Extreme adventure. “That’s lovely,” I hear you say, “but what’s so remarkable about that, aside from the enviable amount of trips you can go on?” Well, after my second knee arthroscopy, I was told by a top surgeon I should try nothing harder than a blue piste. I felt I was staring into an abyss. Skiing has been my sporting life. I’m now in my fifties having been an addict from childhood. But by 2015 I’d had four knee operations and had almost given up skiing exciting runs. I’d tried every brace and knee support, but these are designed for skiers with better knees than mine. Then in St Anton last season I discovered a new type of knee support developed to rehabilitate injured ski racers — the Againer (againer-ski.com). Just to clarify, I’m a Ski Club member with no commercial link to the company. But when I’m stopped on the slopes or
The Againer is one of a few knee braces on sale
in lift queues, I’m always happy to talk about them as they have given me a new lease of skiing life — I’m back to skiing black runs and off-piste. In February 2016 I skied Courchevel’s Grand Couloir in two feet of fresh powder and was back in March to ski it on hardened moguls, my ego bolstered by compliments from a ski instructor who saw me. Now that’s the sort of abyss I like to stare down.
Rick Abel See Freshtracks holidays — Page 54
Helmets need to be up to the job
I enjoy Ski+board and can’t fault the content — photos, tips on technique, fitness, what’s new, resorts… What I feel is missing is a Ski Club yearbook, given the demise of Where to Ski & Snowboard.
Nic Oatridge Ski+board writes: We too love print but the cost would be high and you can find much of the WTSS data at skiclub.co.uk.
Ski helmets sold in Europe must meet norms
Alf Alderson replies: All ski helmets sold in Europe must meet the European
Standard EN 1077:2007 as stated on the label or sticker. I can’t say I’ve ever come across fakes. But you make a valid point. Re dual certification, you again make a fair point, though there are too many sports — mountain biking, kayaking, cycling, climbing, coasteering — to list. We are, after all, a ski magazine! However, we do hope that you will enjoy our skiing-cum-flying feature ‘Spread your wings’ on page 36.
Got something to say? Share it with us at: @TheSkiClub
Ski Club of Great Britain, The White House, 57-63 Church Road, Wimbledon Village, London SW19 5SB Or email: email@example.com
Photo: Melody Sky
Is it a year for a yearbook?
The article on helmets by Alf Alderson in Issue 2 of Ski+board didn’t say that only helmets meeting the requirements of CE EN 1077 should be worn. It is also wise to buy from a reputable supplier, as I’m sure there are fakes out there. As a paraglider pilot, I was sorry there was no mention of helmets with dual certification (CE EN 966 for air sports). The Charly Ace is one, and comes with a choice of visor and chin guard, with one designed for slalom. It costs just £80.
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SKI C LU B NEW S
Instructor-led guiding service receives positive feedback
Club hails court verdict, but says ban on Leaders in France is unaffected
Photo: Melody Sky
Ski Club chief executive Frank McCusker has welcomed the French court verdict on British instructors (see overleaf). But he said hopes that this meant the club’s Leader service in France could be reinstated were misplaced. He said: “Leaders do not claim they are instructing or have sufficient qualifications to do so. They are volunteers helping the enjoyment of others. We believe a teaching qualification for this would be an unjustifiable and disproportionate restriction.”
Frank Gardner to continue as president
Photo: Steven Haywood
Due to the ban on Ski Club Leaders in France, guiding is offered by qualified ski instructors
Following a successful first season, the Ski Club’s instructor-led guiding service is running again in 11 French resorts. The cost of sessions is £30 for a full day and £15 for a half-day, a small rise on last season’s costs of £20 and £10 respectively. Last winter, 2,143 sessions were booked by 1,166 members. One member reported: “Great service from the Club. All-round great value and a good way to meet other skiers.” The most popular resorts were Tignes and Val d’Isère, which ran at 89 and 85 per cent capacity respectively. The club
has added sessions in these resorts. In general, availability was good, with 389 bookings made within six days of the session. The average booking was made 28 days before the session. Another member said: “Fantastic. A great way to meet others. Great guiding at the right standard for the group.” Full-day off-piste sessions proved the most popular, with 895 sessions booked. One member said: “It is fantastic value. I was led by Hervé Pichoux, an expert guide who was brilliant. Well done club!” Book at skiclub.co.uk/instructors.
Who’s that in the White House…? The Ski Club of Great Britain held its 109th Annual General Meeting on November 17 at the White House, its Wimbledon base. Rob Crowder and Malcolm Bentley were re-elected chairman and treasurer respectively for another year, after 249 members voted. Andrew Poodle, a Leader since 2012, joined the Council, replacing Patrick Usborne after four years of service. Many of the questions raised centred on the sale of the White House. John Stephens gave an impassioned plea for remaining at the White House, while also suggesting that if the club were to move, then central London might make it more accessible to members. The club was based in Belgravia until 1997. Peter Heap felt the club should have consulted members before making a decision. The chairman replied that the Council is elected by members to make
Frank Gardner has been re-elected Ski Club president, after coming to the end of his five-year term. The BBC’s security correspondent came late to downhill skiing, as he was discouraged from it when he was in the Army. Officers feared it would distract recruits from cross-country training. Gardner, 55, has been making up for the late start ever since, taking to a sitski after he was shot by al-Qaeda sympathisers in Saudi Arabia in 2004.
Forecast looks good for Ski Club app’s makeover The Ski Club has put its headquarters — the White House in Wimbledon — up for sale
decisions in the interest of the club and its members, and investigated all options before putting its Wimbledon HQ up for sale. He reiterated the need to diversify the club’s assets, and pointed to the high cost of renovating the building. There were also questions on the legal case involving Leaders in France, and the cost of redeveloping the club’s website. Ski+board
The Ski Club’s app is getting a redesign, allowing users to receive updates from Leaders in resort. They will also be able to access the club’s industry-leading snow reports and forecasts in a more attractive and usable form. The new app will be launched early this season for iPhones. An Android version will follow. Current users will only need to visit the app store if their phone is not set to update apps automatically. Future plans for the app include features to allow members to chat to others.
December 2016/January 2017
British instructors are cleared by court to teach again in France
There are fears that tough Swiss laws and penalties for those skiing in prohibited areas of forest could get harsher. A consultation on whether to change the status of ‘tranquillity zones’ to ‘protected areas of wildlife’ to safeguard red deer, chamois and ptarmigan (below) is due to have concluded by late November. The Club Alpin Suisse believe this may be a precursor to even greater restrictions.
Simon Butler, the British instructor given a suspended jail term on a charge of teaching without full qualifications, has been cleared by a court in Lyon. And, in a verdict with huge implications, the instructors he employed, who have lesser Basi Level 2 and 3 qualifications, also appear to be clear to work again. Butler, 54, has run instructional ski holidays in Megève since the 1980s, but in February 2014 he was arrested. After a trial in April, which Ski+board attended, he was found guilty and sentenced. In April 2015, an appeal court in Chambéry overturned his conviction, and said it would wait for the verdict of a civil court over whether Butler and his instructors were qualified to teach. On November 23, 2016, that court found the authorities had not proved there was a substantial difference between the Britons’ qualifications and those required of French instructors. Under a European Union directive this must be shown if the authorities are to refuse to issue the Carte Professionnelle that lets instructors practise in France. Butler, who will be teaching again in December, told Ski+board: “I’m ecstatic. I’ve been locked up, spent nights in police cells, now it’s back to work.” For a decade, the assumption in France has been that the onus of proof is on British instructors. So only those who have reached Basi (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) Level 4 and
Off-piste — Page 77
‘Keep La Grave wild’ fund meets its first target… Freeride fans have reached their target of raising €45,000 in the first round of a campaign to take over the lease of La Grave’s 40-year-old cable car, which expires in 2017. Signal de La Grave, a not-for-profit community project, was set up to keep the world-famous off-piste mecca at the foot of La Meije wild. However, it is estimated that €5 million is needed to keep the lift running. The closest resort, Les Deux Alpes, said it had also made its case and was waiting to hear back, while nearby Alpe d’Huez is thought to be interested too.
Photo: Colin Nicholson
Fears grow that Swiss will impose bigger fines for skiing in protected forests
Simon Butler in court in 2014. After that hearing he received a suspended jail term
have passed the Eurotest speed test are allowed to teach, because that is the requirement of French instructors. But this last assumption is in question because a huge number of French instructors have not met the criterion of this exacting race, which is that they complete a giant slalom no more than 18 per cent slower than the reigning world champion. Many are allowed to teach children nonetheless, as they are stagières or long-term trainees. Butler said: “It was absurd. I had an instructor in her late-50s who was great with children, but she was no racer, so was unlikely to get beyond Basi Level 2. She couldn’t take four-year-olds on the slopes, so I had to hire an ex-racer.” The French authorities have 30 days to appeal against the decision.
Early snowfall boost for the Alps
Funding has been secured to keep the Mountain Weather Information Service running. The popular website is run on a not-for-profit basis and has been providing forecasts for Scotland’s skiers and climbers for the past 13 years. In July, MWIS lost its funding from SportScotland, prompting a petition that received more than 15,000 signatures. Since then a deal has been reached to secure funding for the site. Stewart Harris, head of SportScotland, said: “We are all working for provision of reliable, authoritative forecasts that inform good decision-making on the mountains.”
After two slow starts to the season in the Alps, November’s snowfall was the best in decades. Several resorts opened a week earlier than expected. But America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that snow cover in the US was the lowest ever recorded for mid-November. Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Winter Park, all in Colorado, opened later than in the previous six years. And December’s World Cup Men’s Downhill, Giant Slalom and Super-G moved from Beaver Creek to Val d’Isère, in France. For more see skiclub.co.uk/snowreports.
Photo: Andy Parant / Val d’Isère
…and petition helps save Scottish weather service
Val d’Isère is staging races cancelled in the US
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An environmental body is calling for an end to the expansion of ski areas. At a conference in Innsbruck in September, the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps, called for a moratorium on developments. It cited a plan to build three lifts to connect the Ötztal and Pitztal glaciers in Austria, pointing to the static number of skiers in Europe and the economic challenges facing resorts. It is an unusual move for the trans-Alpine body, which to date has been largely supportive of mountain communities, with much of its focus on cutting traffic pollution in the Alps.
British skiers can save up to 25 per cent on hardware if they buy in the UK, rather than abroad, according to Snowsport Industries of Great Britain (SIGB). The trade body studied recommended retail prices in the UK, which were set before the collapse of sterling, and compared them to prices on the Continent. It found that buyers of an imported pair of Atomic Vantage 90 CTI skis, complete with bindings, would pay £550 compared with £738 in the eurozone, based on the going exchange rate of €1.12 to the pound — a saving of 25 per cent. On the same basis they would pay £445 for a Burton Custom snowboard compared to £534 abroad. Head’s Hammer 130 ski boots are on sale for £230 — 22 per cent less than the price on the Continent, which is £294. Meanwhile a buyer of Salomon’s Icon 2 Custom Air helmet would pay £100 compared with £124 on the Continent. The price difference is good news for British retailers, who saw a six per cent fall in ski sales and a one per cent drop in boot sales in the last financial year. The number of ski boots sold by suppliers to UK retail and rental operations for the year ending March 31, 2016, fell slightly to 58,659 pairs, compared with 59,223 the year before. Sales of skis also fell marginally to 24,279 pairs from 25,713. Due to big variations in the figures for snowboarders buying kit, the trend there is less clear. However,
Full steam ahead for Swiss rail transfers The Swiss have just opened the world’s longest, deepest rail link, the Gotthard Base Tunnel. But for a more scenic transfer, skiers can take the line between St Moritz, host of the 2017 World Championships, and Tirano and see a steam snowplough en route. Meanwhile Colorado’s Winter Park Express resumes weekend service on January 7 from Denver to Winter Park, having been suspended since 2009.
It’s agreed — you’re never too old to start skiing Ski Club research showing that more of us are discovering skiing later in life has been confirmed in a report by Club Med. The club’s annual consumer research revealed that 76 per cent of non-skiers who wanted to go skiing were in their forties or older. For its part, the tour operator found that 48 per cent of those considering a ski holiday were aged 45 or over. It said more disposable income for that generation had dispelled the image of skiing as an “elite and exclusive pastime that was strictly the domain of upper middle class families who all learnt to ski as children”.
British shops had their prices set before the Brexit vote and the collapse of sterling
14,802 boards and 15,877 pairs of snowboard boots were sold that year. Jason Summerfield at Amer Sports, which owns the Salomon and Atomic brands, said: “In future, the currency situation will put upward pressure on prices for the 2017-18 season. Though brands will try to minimise the impact, some price rises should be expected.” The study also noted continuing growth in sales of female-specific skis (up eight per cent) while unisex ski sales were down 11 per cent. Female-specific ski boots were up five per cent and unisex boot sales down three per cent. The SIGB added: “Having your boots professionally fitted in the UK by an expert who speaks your language, who can analyse your feet and properly tune the fit of the boots is a vital part of being ready for a snowsports trip.”
Photo: Peter Donatsch/swiss-image.ch
‘Stop linking resorts’ says trans-Alpine body on plan to join Sölden and Pitztal
Photo: Ross Woodhall
Did someone forget their skis? We are familiar with racers hurtling down slopes, but this January Val Gardena is hosting an uphill race. It follows the course of the Saslong World Cup Downhill in the Italian Dolomites, but competitors leave their skis behind. One course is 3.5km with a 830m vertical rise, the other 2km, climbing 590m. The Vertical Up tour also returns to Kitzbühel, Austria, and visits three more resorts.
Photos: Michael Werlberger/ Kitzbühel
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Dave Ryding goes into World Cup race with historic British result
Photo: Getty Images
Filming of promotional shots for video game Steep, above, saw Matilda Rapaport, inset, killed
Chemmy Alcott adds to calls for safer freeriding after video death
Dave Ryding is going into the second event of the Slalom World Cup series in sixth place. In November in Levi, Finland, he achieved the best World Cup result from a British Alpine skier since Alain Baxter came fourth in Slalom in 2001. “I’m delighted. I’m sure no-one expected a Brit in the top six,” said Ryding, pictured. He will look for another top ten finish in Val d’Isère, France, on December 11 and Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, on December 22, before heading to Croatia in the New Year.
Photo: Tom Ewbank
Photo: Mattias Fredriksson/Red Bull Content Pool
Harriet Johnston It should be the safest way to go off-piste. But the making of video game Steep, released in early December, saw freeskier Matilda Rapaport killed while filming promotional shots for the game in Chile. The Swedish extreme skier, 30, who has appeared on Ski+board’s ‘Exposure’ pages, was caught in an avalanche on July 14 and died four days later. Now Chemmy Alcott is backing those who say freeskiers push themselves too hard. Britain’s former top ski racer said: “It’s
like they’re trying to top trump each other all the time, tackling all these new faces, pushing harder than ever before and the reason no one has done them is because they’re too dangerous.” Alcott pointed to initiatives such as the Go Bigger Coalition, saying: “One of the world’s most extreme communities has realised this needs to be stopped.” The charity, set up in 2015, promotes adventure within the bounds of safety. It teaches parents how to talk to children about risk-taking, social pressure and how to be safe without missing the fun. Robb Gaffney, who founded the coalition with other members of the ski community in Tahoe, says it’s about speaking to people from a new angle.
New website gives skiers a direct link to instructors A website has been launched by three former British Ski Team racers to connect skiers with instructors direct. Brothers Nick and Olly Robinson, along with Aaron Tipping, have founded maisonsport.com, which has 230 instructors listed in 45 resorts in France. Other sites include ropedup.com, for skiers looking to share a guide, and Ridewithlocal, on Facebook. The Ski Club’s app and new Facebook pages also link members wanting to ski together. Meanwhile, Verbier has launched a ‘Coaching Zone’ where skiers can buy a pass to get tips from 1pm to 4pm daily.
A celebrity up for chairlift chats…
Crystal raises £68,000 for snowsports charity
He cuts a slightly forlorn figure, sitting alone on a chairlift. But Eddie the Eagle has shown himself to be on the ball. In October the Olympian, who had years of practice before the 1988 Calgary Games, told producers of The Jump: “I hope they make the necessary changes to make it safer, because it’s very dangerous for celebrities.” Channel 4 says it has engaged in a “thorough review of safety standards” for the new show, which will be screened in mid-January featuring former model Caprice Bourret among others. In the last series Rebecca Adlington, Heather
Crystal Ski raised £68,000 for the charity Disability Snowsports UK last season. The tour operator sponsored events in the Alps and in Britain, including the ParaSnowBall, with guest speaker Pippa Middleton. Customers also made donations. The money allows the charity to provide specialist lessons at snow centres across the UK. Fiona Young, head of DSUK, said: “I can truly say that without Crystal’s support over the last seven years, we would not be here now.” Over the past seven years Crystal has raised over £320,000 for DSUK.
Eddie the Eagle at a pre-Ski Show event
Mills and Beth Tweddle were among those to be hospitalised. Eddie’s story can be seen on the recently released DVD Eddie the Eagle.
Fireside treats — Page 43 Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
For stockists information call: 01572 770900
Are we too snobbish to consider a better deal or destination when we go skiing? Ski+board finds out
hen talking of people who go on cheaper trips, travel professionals like to use euphemisms such as ‘budget-conscious’. But which of us isn’t conscious of budget, even if we go on mid-priced holidays? And the rise in the euro will hit us all. So perhaps now is the time to reconsider how and where we travel, and look at options we may have turned up our noses at before. Some independent travellers may eschew tour operators. But paying in euros for transfers and meals will be more expensive, so it makes sense to benefit from their economies of scale. A study commissioned by Abta, the Association of British Travel Agents, from research firm GfK found that sales of package holidays were up over the year. When times are good we are more likely to travel independently. When times are tough we band together. And some ski specialists told Ski+board they had seen a marked rise in sales of allinclusive packages that take in every last glass of wine guests have at the chalet. By keeping prices remarkably low, the big tour operators have transformed skiing from an elitist sport into one that can be enjoyed by most of us. One large tour operator told Ski+board it makes just three or four per cent profit on the basic cost of a ski trip. That’s about £20 on a £600 holiday, though they do make more on extras, such as lift passes and equipment hire, which they sell to customers at the regular price, but buy at a discount from the
resort. It is only by dealing with a high volume of skiers that this is viable. Indeed, such are the discounts that the big tour operators can negotiate, that one representative of a French area told Ski+board two seasons ago that she was amazed to find it would be cheaper for French skiers to book their accommodation through a British tour operator and throw away the flight and transfer tickets, rather than book direct. However, small tour operators also have their advantages. Many — including the Ski Club’s Freshtracks holiday programme — set prices at the start of the season and do not discount them. By doing so they have effectively frozen their prices at pre-Brexit vote levels. They can do this because, like ski retailers, they ‘hedge’ currency levels in advance. Big tour operators, by contrast, use what is called ‘dynamic pricing’, with prices changing according to demand. The other major question, apart from whether we travel independently or go with a tour operator, is where we travel. It’s easy to be swayed on this by the consensus on which are the ‘best’ resorts and ‘top’ destinations for skiers. But the three articles that follow attempt to challenge some preconceptions. For instance, if you like skiing in France does it have to be the Alps? If you like off-piste do you have to go to one of the freeride meccas that also tend to rank among the most expensive in the Alps? And if you want to heli-ski does it have to be on the other side of the Atlantic? Ski+board asked three writers to tell of their experience of alternative destinations, and you may just be surprised by what they found.
December 2016/January 2017
the Alps for
It’s France… but not as we know it A road trip to the French Pyrenees is cheaper and more cheerful than the Alps, says Alf Alderson
he beer was cool, the evening warm as I sat at a typically French pavement café. It was late March and the snow had been fantastic as I followed the sun around the resort’s wide, well groomed pistes, even making a few freeride forays off the side. But this was terra incognita for me. Not just a new resort, but a whole new mountain range. As an introduction to the French Pyrenees, Cauterets, with its grand 19th Century hotels, boulevards and thermal spas, is hard to beat. But what had brought me there? A few weeks before, I’d been in the pub with a friend, complaining I was skint from too much skiing and not enough working. Could I justify a final jaunt? “Why not try the Pyrenees?” he suggested, waxing lyrical about their authentic French feel and lower lift pass prices. So I took his advice, dropped off my longsuffering border collie with friends, much to his chagrin,
and flew to Pau. There I picked up a hatchback and headed south towards the sun and the vast, white wall that is the Pyrenees. I didn’t need to worry about snow tyres as the roads, though high, are good. And after I’d notched up Cauterets’ 36km of runs I drove to its neighbour, Luz Ardiden. There are plans to link the two, tripling the size of the ski area of each, but for now they capture the big attraction of the Pyrenees’ little resorts. On a gloriously sunny day, I was shown around by 20-something resort rep Sophie, whose smile and disposition matched the weather. Everywhere we went we met skiers she knew, who were eager to know what I thought of ‘their’ mountain. There’s a real local vibe, and a welcoming one at that. I was given a free muffin with my morning coffee at the resort’s base station by garrulous café owner Dédé. Later, Sophie and I enjoyed a lunch with a distinct Spanish influence at the resort’s other mountain pit stop, the restaurant Bederet. The closeness of Spain means menus have a strong Iberian influence — with chorizo, jamón and tortilla española on offer, as well as traditional French Pyrenean dishes such as Bigorre black pig, Barèges-Gavarnie lamb and superb local Madiran wines — all at reasonable prices. Grand Tourmalet, which boasts 100km of terrain, was my next stop. In summer you can reach it over the mountain pass, but that was still closed due to snow. So I headed back north on a loop through many small, traditional villages. Their dark grey stone and slate gave the houses a solid, hunkered down, timeless appearance. The same cannot be said of one of the two resorts that make up the Grand Tourmalet area, with its 1970s vibe. I half expected to see Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot sashaying up to smoke-filled bars in
The resorts of La Mongie and Barèges are linked by the Grand Tourmalet ski area
Photo: Cauterets/Hautes Pyrénées
Photo: Jean-Noël Herranz/Hautes Pyrénées
Photo: Noah Clayton/Hautes Pyrénées
oversized sunglasses and moon boots. I liked it, but if you prefer a traditional feel, rather head to Barèges. Here I enjoyed a superb mix of sunny piste and off-piste skiing, the latter in the beautiful Néouvielle Parc National. It’s a 15-minute hike from the top of the lift, but you don’t need touring equipment and once in the park I met only four other skiers all morning. The open terrain has easy angles, and lunch was easy on the wallet too. Back on Barèges’s slopes at La Baguette the plat du jour cost just €9.80 and a small beer €2.50. Barèges also has a thermal spa with pools, saunas, even a mud bath. After several days on and off-piste, I enjoyed a late-afternoon soak (in budgie-smugglers, of course, as this being France shorts are forbidden). Even if La Mongie isn’t your thing, do take the The French Pyrenees are still relatively cable car from there to the Pic du Midi observatory, unknown to most British skiers with its museum and new planetarium. At €36 a pop, the ride isn’t cheap, but the views at nearly 3,000m tapas bar at the base, where within minutes I seemed are sensational. To the south, ridge upon ridge of to be on first-name terms with everyone. It would have mountains disappear into Spain, while to the north lie been easy to stay late into the night as there was a real the green, fertile plains and vineyards of France. But the party atmosphere, but the manager of the local ski biggest attraction is the off-piste terrain only accessible shop, Jean-Luc, had offered to take me ski touring at from there. It’s steep at the top, but after that there are 6am the next day. We planned to climb to the Pic du several routes down to the pistes. Soulit on the edge of the resort, where Leaving Grand Tourmalet behind, we’d watch the sunrise then hoon The manager of the I drove to Peyragudes via the thermal back down to Peyragudes before local ski shop offered spa town of Bagnères de Bigorre. Like anyone else hit the pistes. We missed Cauterets, it has a distinct fin-de-siècle the sunrise — my fault for being slow to take me touring at feel, and is well worth a visit if you on the ascent — though we were back 6am to see the sunrise have a down day. After the Pic du Midi in the resort for a hearty breakfast off-piste I was tempted by its Aquensis before the lifts opened. spa and its open-air hot-tubs with mountain views. But My final stop was St Lary Soulan, another spa town, Peyragudes had 60km of pistes for me to explore, and I and with 100km of runs, similar in size to Grand had a date with another local guide, Justine. Tourmalet. It was here the sunny weather finally broke, We spent a superb Sunday blasting down nearso I only got to see the extensive freeride terrain that St deserted slopes, after which we went to the El Feston Lary is renowned for through breaks in the clouds. My guide, Manu, delighted in taking me on a series of long, Despite having just 36km of marked pistes steep drag lifts — not a problem for me as a skier, but Cauterets has good freeriding possibilities not such fun for him as a boarder, I thought, until he joked: “I like the drags — it keeps other boarders away!” We stopped for a final lunch at the Refuge de l’Oule at the far end of the pistes, where I enjoyed traditional garbure soup (duck confit and vegetables) and local blueberry tart. There I vowed to return to the French Pyrenees. They’re so different from the Alps you sometimes forget you’re in France — particularly when you get the bill.
Alf travelled as a guest of the Hautes Pyrénées (pyreneesholiday.com) and Erna Low (ernalow.co.uk, 020 7584 2841), which offers self-catering accommodation over half-term for a family of four in Cauterets for £633 a week or £223 per person at St Lary, both including return Eurotunnel crossing. If you plan to ski three or more resorts, buy a No’Souci Pass online for €31 to get a 15 per cent discount on your lift pass at weekends and 30 per cent discount on weekdays, though this does not cover St Lary. See n-py.com/en. Regular lift passes are: Cauterets: €36 a day, €175 six days; Luz Ardiden: €33.50 a day, €167.50 six days; Grand Tourmalet: €41 a day, €218 six days; Peyragudes: €38.50 a day, €192.50 six days; St Lary: €40.40 a day, €189.90 six days. Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
St Lah-di-dah for
Freeride without a guide? They even give you a map The best off-piste resorts tend to be expensive, but that’s not true of Jasná, says Tom Ewbank
The resorts of the Tatras mountains have seen major investment in new gondolas, restaurants and cafés
s we waited in Luton airport for our Wizz Air flight to Poprad, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting too much — budget airport, budget airline minute ride to the observatory. Nearing the summit, we and budget resorts, presumably? Well, I nervously asked Pato if the lift had seen any accidents. was right about the price, but wrong to be so pessimistic Smiling, he replied: “This is Slovakia, of course it’s been about the resorts. Lomnica and Jasná were to turn my in a few accidents. We just pay the media to keep quiet.” ideas about skiing in Eastern Europe upside down. “Seriously?” grimaced my friend and Pato burst into Slovakia is closer than you think — two and a half laughter, his sense of humour dispelling our fears. The hours away — and best of all its three major resorts are scary ride and extra fee were worth it, as the views of all within an hour of Poprad airport, which opened to the High Tatras mountains and Poland were awesome. direct flights from the UK two years ago. With the pound Our next destination lay in what are misleadingly plunging, it offers a cheap alternative to the upmarket called the Low Tatras mountains. They are in fact freeride havens of the Alps, such as St Anton and Verbier. home to Slovakia’s biggest ski resort, Jasná, with 46km So explained Pato, a bubbly 20-something graduate, of pistes up to 2,024m high. Since we were behind who met us at small, pristine Poprad airport. He was schedule, Pato put his foot down. Navigating a windy to be our guide and host for the next few days. His road en route to the dual carriageway, we turned a enthusiasm and pride in the history, culture and corner to see a policeman holding a radar gun. Pato beauty of his country dispelled any misconceived instantly took his foot off the accelerator, but it was too ideas we’d had of a dour former late, and we were waved over to the Communist state. Slovaks are warm side of the road. After muttering a few The shimmering new and generous people, and Slovakia is a Slovak expletives, Pato turned and resorts have benefited stunningly beautiful country that has said: “Don’t worry guys, I’ve got this. I from multi-million left its Communist past far behind. can normally bargain with the police.” euro investment Its shimmering new ski resorts are Was this another joke about paytestament to this, having benefited offs? After ten minutes of animated from multi-million euro investment, building shiny conversation, which involved Pato gesticulating wildly new gondolas, and pristine restaurants and cafés. and pointing to the two of us in the back of his car, he Small, but well-equipped Lomnica is a mere 15 hopped back into the hatchback and drove off. The minutes from Poprad airport and is on the slopes of policeman waved and Pato explained that he’d told him Slovakia’s second tallest mountain. Its 18km of runs can we were famous TV presenters from the UK in a rush feel rather bleak as half the trees were blown down in for a shoot. This was true — to a point — though our a giant storm 12 years ago, but they will keep you busy fame extends only as far as Ski Club TV, the Ski Club’s for a day. Any longer and you’ll want more challenging YouTube channel, for which we were doing the filming. skiing. If weather and snow conditions allow, it’s the At Jasná, our ski guide was Stanislav, a young freeride routes on either side of the pistes that will instructor who’d been working in the resort since he add zest to your slope time. Unfortunately, we’d hit a was a teenager, so he knew the slopes bad patch weather-wise, so we squeezed, packed like well. Despite the poor snow — Eastern sardines, into the one lift that hadn’t been modernised Europe struggled with unseasonally — the cable car that takes you on a daunting tenwarm weather last winter — Stanislav was
confident of being able to show us his favourite parts. Such was his commitment and enthusiasm for the resort that he risked life and limb skiing off-piste all day on a pair of Giant Slalom skis. But he was unfazed, simply happy to be on the snow, and proud to give us a grand tour of the resort he calls home. And when conditions are good, Jasná is a decent freeride destination, especially for high-level skiers with low-level bank accounts. The resort even hands out a 44-page guide with all the off-piste routes marked, so you can try them without a guide. Though Resort maps point out the freeride areas we had our share of heavy, chopped up snow, you often get beautiful powder between the trees, as Stanislav the price. Here you can sample the friendly bars and eat explained. And, as in North American resorts, many in a traditional koliba — a Slovak-Hungarian restaurant. glades are bounded by pistes, so if you do lose altitude We were back with Pato and he knew where to take us. too quickly at worst you’ll find yourself Two years ago, a couple of his friends on a long flat piste back to base. started the Liptovär brewery here and Jasná is decent for Hotels and self-catering apartments its craft beers are now popular with make up the bulk of accommodation tourists and locals alike, even gaining high-level freeride at Jasná and some hotels were built in a reputation throughout Slovakia. skiers with low-level socialist style, though they still have Four hours later, having sampled bank accounts spas and pools. But if there’s one thing every beer several times and, slurring about Slovakia that harks back to the our goodbyes, we fell into a taxi to Communist days it’s the prices. Lunch and drinks were take us home. The warmth of last season may have on us, as even at the Rotunda restaurant on the peak limited our freeride possibilities, but the warmth of the cappuccinos cost €3.20, a bowl of soup €3.40 and the people we met more than made up for that. excellent Slovak wines €3 a glass. Compared with many European resorts, Jasná’s Tom travelled as a guest of Jasná (jasna.sk) and the High accommodation is great value, but if you travel in from Tatras (vt.sk). Wizz Air (wizzair.com) runs three flights a week Liptovský Mikuláš, the largest town in the area, a few from Luton to Poprad. Singles start at £19. To see Tom’s miles down from the mountain, you can stay for half footage visit youtube.com/thesnowcast
Photos: Marek Hajkovsky/vt.sk
Photo: Tom Ewbank
December 2016/January 2017
Italy offers first-time heli-skiers a chance to try it from a European resort without committing to a whole week in North America
North America for
Heli-skiing… without all that flying You get more vertical for less collateral if you don’t cross the pond, says Arnie Wilson
he rotor blades are whirring, our adrenalin is surging and we’re flying to a landing spot at 4,250m. But this isn’t Canada. We land high on a shoulder of Monte Rosa, the second tallest mountain in the Alps. The Eurocopter clatters off, and we gaze across an indescribably beautiful and breathtaking snowscape in silence. We’d started in Alagna with Ski Weekend’s Gavin Foster, and guide Seppi Enzio leads us into endless, deep powder fields. That is, until we find ourselves traversing the edge of the spectacular and crevasse-ridden Grenz glacier between the peaks of Monte Rosa and Lyskamm. From there we reach the splendid Gorner glacier that I’d looked down on so many times
from Zermatt’s Gornergrat. But to be alongside it, skiing what Foster We had skied an calls one of the best circuits in the amazing, thighski world is awe-inspiring. burning 120km As we skirt the Gorner glacier, — all in one day en route to Furi, above Zermatt and the Theodul Pass, which links Zermatt with Cervinia, it’s reassuring to have a little The drop-offs are generally help from the “Tarzan death slide cable” — Foster has at higher a way with words. It’s a rope to hang on to along the points than in tricky bits at the edge of the glacier. You need it, but the Rockies you need a guide even more. From here we continue — hardly setting skis on a single piste all day — back to Alagna via Cima Bianca, St Jacques, Val d’Ayas, Champoluc and Gressoney. We had skied an amazing, thigh-burning 120km — all in one day. And it was for a fraction of the price it would have cost on the other side of the Atlantic. But you don’t need to heli-ski in Italy all day. Momentum Ski offers a heli-ski baptism in Courmayeur on easier terrain, one where you’re back at lunch time to join your friends. And there are few glaciers, so there are few crevasses to worry about. Another advantage of Italy is that when bad weather stops you flying you can still enjoy lots of off-piste, whereas in a remote lodge there’s little else to do. Of course in Canada you may get a whole day of dropoffs. But there the average vertical drop is 700m-900m, compared with 1,200m-2,500m in Italy, says Claire Jeffery, of Val Heli Ski, which ferries heliskiers from France — where heli-skiing is banned — to Italy. And it’s costly in Canada. You could be looking at anything from £4,375
Photo: Filou Armand/Pure Ski Company Heliskiing, Sestriere Photo: Gavin Foster/Ski Weekend, Val Grisenche
for a week, without plane tickets. Other factors affecting price are the type of helicopter, group size and number of groups using one helicopter, says James Orr, who runs James Orr Heliski in Alagna. In Canada you can range from three groups of 11 sharing a Bell 205 or 212 with 4,000m costing from C$1,000 (£625) per day to a private group of four in an A-Star helicopter with 5,000m from C$2,000 (£1,250) per day. In Italy, Orr uses A-Star helicopters, and the pricing is less formulaic with the number of people partly determined by demand. Pat Zimmer, who runs Pure Ski Company Heliskiing’s Sestriere operation, adds: “On a good day, a good group of skiers can easily do five or six or more runs, all with 900m to 1,200m vertical. Last season one customer travelling on his own did a record 22!” He says visitors to Val d’Isère usually get fast, easy access to the Italian Alps. But because of the French state of emergency last season after the terror attacks, Italian helicopters couldn’t even land in France to pick up customers (let alone drop them off) without going through customs, raising prices and reducing activity. He hopes the state of emergency will be lifted soon. For my part, having had the extreme good fortune to have heli-skied in 40 locations in 15 countries, I can honestly say that my heli adventures in Italy rank among my all-time favourites.
Arnie travelled as a guest of Ski Weekend (skiweekend. com), which operates in Alagna, Valle Stura, Valgrisenche, Courmayeur and (from late March) the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The Monte Rosa tour costs from €350 a person. Momentum Ski (momentumski.com) runs tours in Courmayeur and Gressoney/Monte Rosa. One drop costs from €240 a person, two drops from €375. Val Heli Ski (valheliski. com) charges €300 per drop (with one or two being the norm). James Orr Heliski (heliski.co.uk) charges €350 for two drops and up to €750 euros for five. Other operators include Pure Ski Company Heliskiing (pureski-company.com) and GMH Helicopter Services (gm-helicopters.com)
An A-to-Z of what we
Continuing our social commentary on skiing today, the Ski Club's staff reveal what they least enjoy on the slopes. Ski resorts please take note!
Attitude... though show-offs can be fun to laugh at
Bus drivers — why are they always so grumpy?
Concierges — the women whose sole job is to charge you 50 cents for a pee
Dull edges on rental skis, however they do give us an excuse if our skiing’s not up to scratch
Empty seats on chairlifts, filled only by the ego of the one person who did get on
Faffing... when it’s done by our companions, not us, of course Ghastly nightmares. It may be the altitude or raclette, but what do such dreams say about us?
Heated seats on lifts. Who needs their bottom warmed if it’s their face that’s frozen?
Ice, but not if it’s in our gin and tonic Kissing — when it’s your instructor spending most of the lesson greeting his friends Jelly legs… and we tried so hard to get into shape before the holiday
Lifts closed for no apparent reason
HATE about ski resorts
Map mutineers — when everyone agrees to go right and one person just has to go left…
Non-detachable chairlifts, which whack you in the calves, then take forever
Out-of-control skiers — take it slow, take it fast, just don’t take us out
Pyjamas, when worn by Americans in hotels at breakfast
Roaming charges, which catch you out, especially in Switzerland and Andorra
Queue jumpers — we tend to stand with arms casually outstretched to beat them
Scraping noises — the intimidating warning that someone is riding your tail
Velcro, which serves no purpose other than to shred our clothes
Unmarked uphills — how hard can it be to put arrows showing the direction of pistes on maps?
T-bars (but only because our snowboarding friends refuse to ride them)
White-out days... and why is there a dearth of poles to indicate where the piste is?
Yellow snow (we blame the lack of free loos)
Xenophobia, as in the stereotypical petty rivalries — the Swiss can’t stand the Austrians, etc...
Zigzagging back down the mountain road when our skiing holiday is over
December 2016/January 2017
SPREAD YOUR S G N I W
Ski+board sent three fledglings to try new ways to combine skiing and flying, starting with aspiring speed rider Ben Clatworthy
Something amazing is 20 years on skis, including a stint of racing — it would happening. I’m flying! offer a new way to get an adrenalin rush. So did the On skis. Above me, my two other Brits in the group: James, a trainee Army paraglider flutters in the helicopter pilot, and Ollie, a student. Our final comrade breeze, below me, my legs is Zac, a Pole who’d bought his own glider with the aim dangle, my skis redundant. of teaching himself, but soon came to his senses. I’m only five metres off the ground, but wow, this Outside, it’s time to master flying. But before we can has my heart racing and is consuming every ounce of even think of putting on skis, it’s a case of flying the concentration I have. I know this because I can feel glider standing still. This is easier said than done. And myself biting my tongue. My ‘glider’ is attached to my for what would prove to be the first of countless times back with a harness, and I’m controlling it using two in the coming days, my kite is lying on the snow, brake handles connected to the ‘brake lines’. As I let lines tangled, and I’m feeling hot and bothered. my left hand drop and my right rise slightly, the Arnaud’s teaching style is, to put it bluntly, rather glider tilts above me and I shoot off to the left. My French. If you don’t do it right the first time, he’ll excitement, however, is about to be punctuated. say it again, just louder. Names are done away with “Guy, guy, lift your hands up, you need to land, guy, (everyone is simply “guy”). I am transported back to my land…” my instructor, Arnaud, shouts at me though my early days learning to ski under the draconian ESF. earpiece. We’re connected at all times by walkie-talkie. Finally, my glider is in the air and under control. I panic. And — just like Icarus — fall out of the sky. After a little lesson in how to pack and unpack my Behind me, my glider hits the bulky luggage, Arnaud (probably snow with a thud, and my skis, against his better judgment) says MY GLIDER IS LYING released by the force of the I can ride the chairlift to the top of OUT IN FRONT OF ME landing, scatter. Talk about the training slope, a wide off-piste LIK E A GIANT OCTOPUS, bursting my bubble. area, no steeper than a blue run. Rewind a day. My preparation “It’s about the preparation,” he THE TANGLED BRAKE for take-off had started in a announces as we arrive at the takeLINES ITS TENTACLES classroom at Les Arcs Speed off area, before demonstrating how Riding School, housed in to prepare the glider on the snow. the control tower used for speed skiing at the 1992 “You take the mushroom, holding it with the lines, and Olympics. Here Arnaud had introduced me, and my twist your body as you throw it away from you up the fellow novices, to the complexities of the glider and its hill… so the glider opens out.” He makes it look easy. jargon. There are risers and brake lines to contend with, When I try throwing the ‘mushroom’ out to unfurl it, as well as the leading and trailing edges on the wing. the damn thing remains in a ball and slides down the I was giving speed riding a try having watched some slope. After several more attempts, my glider is lying French pros a few years ago, and thinking that — after out in front of me, looking like a giant octopus, the
The paraglider is controlled by subtle arm movements
tangled brake lines its tentacles. Pilot James’s glider, meanwhile, is immaculately prepared, brake lines lying on the snow as straight as rulers. I try to follow his lead. “Okay, guy,” Arnaud’s voice crackles in my ear. “Move forward, slowly, skiing across the mountain.” I feel a sudden tug at my back, and behind me the glider springs into life, unfurling fully as my speed increases. Firmly on the ground, I’m skiing with my bright paraglider open — like a peacock showing off its The first feathers. I’m making huge, arcing turns, steering the morning is spent glider partly with my body, and partly by pulling gently practising on the handles that connect to the brake lines. without skis on “Lift up your arms guy!” Arnaud shouts as I near the bottom. It’s this motion that causes the glider to collapse — and is vital for stopping. Remarkably, I’ve bound hops. Speed riding is a young person’s game. A completed a descent, albeit firmly on the ground. high level of fitness is necessary, so too is good stamina What follows is several laps, with varying degrees — the packing and unpacking of the canopy (with skis of success. On my second attempt, the glider twists and boots on) is relentless. And, for courses of two or mid-run and I’m flat on my face, on the fourth I crash more days, a letter from your doctor ensuring you are fit again. Arnaud, meanwhile, sits perched on a rock to practise paragliding and speed riding is mandatory. by the side of the run, shouting instructions at I tick all the boxes, but my biggest problem, Arnaud us. After one particularly disastrous attempt, my tells me, is that I’m too tense. “Relax your arms, guy,” guilt makes me ask if am stressing him. He snaps: he bellows down the radio. “Relax your body. Less “Yes, guy. Because this is basic, we are not even flying.” tense. Lower your shoulders, bend your knees.” That night I sleep badly. Tossing, turning, worrying, I start to appreciate the patience required, and and begrudging how good the others are. I pray that I’ll the need to relax my upper body… and after a few wake up and it’ll be chucking it down with snow and more laps I’m finally showing signs of progress. I’m lessons will be cancelled. beginning to make small hops in It isn’t and the next day the air — just a couple of airborne THE TAILS OF MY begins where we left off… with seconds here and there, but my SKIS LIFT OFF THE me battling to untangle my skis are off the snow, and I’m IS TH . UP I’M brake lines. I’d quickly learnt feeling the sensation of flying. D AN W O SN P. that patience and a meticulous And that’s when it clicks. “Ski HO L AL IS NO SM personality are necessities straight, guy,” Arnaud hollers. I’M FLYING when it comes to speed riding. “Okay, pull down hard…” And Neither quality do I possess in that’s it. The tails of my skis lift off abundance, which is a problem when a single lap can the snow and I’m up. This is no small hop. I’m flying, take just shy of an hour: from unpacking the glider and gliding through the air, even making small turns as I go. setting it out on the snow, to stowing it at the bottom. And that’s when my radio crackles back into life; My classmates are progressing well. James is already Arnaud demanding a quick landing. To be fair, I was in the air on every run. Ollie too is starting to make air nearing the end of the run and the school building was approaching at a rate of knots. And quick my landing certainly was. I was in a heap back on terra firma. But I’d flown, and achieved what I’d come to do. Naively, I’d had aspirations at the start of flying higher, and further, like pilot James, who’d progressed seemingly halfway up the mountain in the two days. But my final few laps are great fun — half skiing, half gliding down the mountain, and without calamity. If I were to progress I’d need plenty more lessons, but on balance I would speed ride again — and I didn’t see that coming 12 hours ago.
Ben was a guest of Les Arcs Speed Riding School (speedriding-school.com, +33 6 19 51 39 34), where a two-day Discovery course costs €230. Skiers must be over 16 and comfortable on un-pisted black runs. Ben travelled as a guest of Erna Low (ernalow.co.uk, 020 7584 2841), which offers seven nights accommodation-only stay at La Source des Arcs from £1,576 for up to six people, including return Eurotunnel crossing. See lesarcs.com for more info. Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
LET’S GO FLY A KITE They say snowkiting is addictive and Harriet Johnston got so hooked she struggled to untangle herself... Standing on the frozen lake, a few snowflakes twinkling in the morning sun, I looked up at the brightly coloured kites above me — specks of orange, green and yellow swooping and soaring through the blue sky. Beneath them, like puppets swung by an impatient puppetmaster, skiers glided over the snow-covered lake, frictionless, weightless. Suddenly I felt an urgent tug at my waist. My own kite was reminding me of its purpose. Pulling at the strings, I felt the kite hoist itself into the air and I jolted forwards to join the rest of the group. Snowkiting is one of the newest winter sports, and owes much to three British explorers who in 2007 used kites to travel 1,100 miles to the south pole. I had come to St Moritz to try it in more forgiving conditions. Visitors to the upmarket resort, with its historic hotels and spas, can try this high-intensity sport as part of a package. Early the first morning we trekked to Lake Neir, wearing rucksacks holding the kites and dressed in our regular downhill ski kit. We would spend the first day learning to control the kites. These can be as wide as 20m across, but ours were smaller and easier to control. Nic and Simon, our instructors, explained the technique is similar to kite surfing or wakeboarding, but much easier on a solid security blanket of soft snow. But snowkiting is still dangerous, they warned. On hearing this, our group, a mix of I TRIED TO ages and genders took a gulp. Only one DISPEL IMAGES O of us, Mike, fit and in his 30s, had flown F MY S E L F F L a kite before. Some had spent little time OATING on skis. I tried to dispel images of myself ACROSS T HE SKY floating across the sky like a balloon. LIKE A BAL LO O N In impeccable English, Simon taught us the three simple rules that would save us. First, avoid obstacles, including other people and their kites, just steer yourself into a clear area. Second, remember the three-step safety system (more on this later) lest you get dragged along by the kite. Third, learn to feel and read the wind. Stepping into the harness on the frozen lake felt intimidating. Strapping on an eight- to ten-metre kite, even more so. I paired up with a young, fit guy called Nick, who had been taking notes, but had also made a
couple of quips, raising a few nervous chuckles. If all else failed, at least we could laugh about it. We were unsure why we were in pairs, but I opted to fly first. The physics is fairly simply. Imagine yourself at the centre of a ball. You can fly the kite in a quarter of that sphere. But its location determines how much it pulls, as I found out when the kite lifted into the air — with me attached — before Nick grabbed me. Ah, that’s what he was there for. I had unwittingly found the ‘power zone’, where the full surface of the kite caught the wind. Where I needed the kite to be was in the ‘soft zone’ directly overhead. From there, I could steer it like a bike, with gentle movements on the steering bar. With the naivety of beginners, Nick and I agreed he could release his clutch on my safety belt so I could fly the kite alone. But to get the kite into the soft zone, you have to go through the power zone, and the next time the wind pulled me, I ran to keep up with it — immediately forgetting two of the safety steps. I should have released the steering bar, which would make the kite lift into the soft zone, or pulled firmly on the brake line. In my panic, I felt my feet slip from under me and my body hit the ground to be dragged along the ice. At least my intuition remembered the final safety step — detach the kite from your body and pull the brake, grounding the whole thing. Gasping for breath, I clambered up and was glad I was wearing a helmet. I watched the others lifted into the air, fall and get dragged along, then like me stand up, rather shaken and unsure what the fun was in all this. Simon assured us: “It becomes easier with skis on.” When one of our group shouted it was time for lunch I can’t say I complained. A cheese fondue and a couple of glasses of local Engadin valley wine later, I was itching to get back on the snow, albeit minus the kite. So we headed to the Corvatsch area, the slightly further of St Moritz’s two ski areas, and skiing through the trees
Snowkiters can travel huge distances over frozen lakes
and on the high, steep pistes I was able to rediscover the joy of being in control all over again. A further delight for my bruised body lay in the hotel spa, with its view over the mountains. There was something ironic in enjoying the luxury of dinner under gilt chandeliers and resting in a wood panelled bedroom, before subjecting yourself to the brutality of the sport the hotel offers. Yet that was what I was in for the next day. For this we went to the bigger Silvaplana lake. With flurries all around us, and the sun just peeking through the clouds, we strapped on our skis and skated to the centre of the lake. Simon assured us that the weight of the skis would keep our feet on the ground and said to start with a snowplough. My fear evaporated. Skiing was something I’ve felt comfortable with since a child. We again paired up. As I tugged at the lines, the kite was thrown into the air and I felt myself pulled gently along. It would, of course, slam back into the lake, but even those few seconds were worth it. After a while I got the knack of resisting the tension in the line by edging my skis so they glided through the snow. It wasn’t long before many of us were scattered across the lake, only identifiable by our coloured sails high in the blue sky. Being 24 and fairly fit, I managed a gentle pace, though some older members of the group seemed happier to assist others. When lines get tangled the kite is nearly impossible to relaunch, which is wildly frustrating. Only Mike whizzed over the ice, making the whole thing look easy. Watching him, I understood how people get hooked. The adrenalin rush is fantastic and Ski+board
you can travel great distances, or treat it as a freestyle sport, with the wind powering jumps and twists. I’m not there yet, but I’d be keen to try it again one afternoon, when the wind was more steady, and particularly if the snow or visibility up top was poor. And with Simon and Nic assuring me that a few more lessons might make me a bit of a pro, maybe I’ll see where the wind takes me…
Some snowkiters treat it as a freestyle sport
The three-night kite skiing package at Grand Hotel Kronenhof (kronenhof.com), costs from CHF1,665 per person staying in a double room, and is held on December 8-11 and 15-18, January 12–15 and March 16–19. It includes fullboard, two one-on-one lessons each lasting four hours and a massage. Harriet travelled as a guest of Switzerland Tourism (see MySwitzerland.com) and flew to Zurich with Swiss (swiss.com). Fares currently start at £67 one-way.
St Moritz’s grand hotels offer snowkiting packages
December 2016/January 2017
IF IN DOUBT, FLAP There’s a less taxing way to fly while you ski, says Colin Nicholson, but if you try this invention be prepared for the jokes
The WingJump makes landings softer
My first attempts at skiing on a wing and a prayer left me crest-fallen. When I joined some speed riders in Jackson Hole and asked if I could have a go, the Americans just gave me that look. And when I booked into a proper snowkiting lesson in Finland, I spent two hours learning to control the kite without being allowed to put my skis on, coordination not being my strong suit. My salvation came thanks to a pioneer in Praz de Lys-Sommand. This tiny French resort is one I was genuinely surprised I’d never heard of when I got there. Just 40km from Geneva, from it you can see the slopes of Morzine and Les Gets, Samoëns and Flaine, and Chamonix and Les
Houches, all in one panorama. And above them all, rising through the clouds like the Tower of Babel, Mont Blanc seemed to call me to higher things. Simon Serpollet, who runs a paraglider repair studio in Annecy, has like Icarus or a young Leonardo da Vinci come up with the WingJump. It is an invention that requires no training, no qualifications — in fact the resort is so taken with it that it lets visitors try out the smallest version for free every Tuesday afternoon. WingJumps come in three sizes. The smallest is the Activ, which my partner Anthony tried, in the middle is Activ’Air, and the biggest is the Activ’Carve, which I tried. Putting on this giant cape, I felt like Superman, until a passing ESF instructor muttered: “Why would anyone want to wear a bin liner?” As if he could talk, wearing one of those long plastic capes against the wet snow. In fact, these are expensive bits of kit costing from €135 to €555. I was at first underwhelmed by my superpowers. We started cautiously enough on the gentle green slopes around the village, which criss-cross winter walking trails and an excellent cross-country network. At such slow speeds the WingJump made little difference. So we headed to steeper stuff… and, despite having just 23 lifts and 60km of runs, Praz de Lys does have steep slopes. The day before we had skidded down the frozen red run from the resort’s high point of Haut Fleury, at 1,965m, from where we could see Lake Geneva in the green landscape. Although the resort was covered in snow, this season it is not trusting to fate and is adding a reservoir for snowmaking. But on the day we tried the WingJump, we were making our way up the mountain in heavy snow. I expected to have to undo it for the chairlifts, but the lifties didn’t seem to mind us boarding in superhero guise, joking: “So you’re flying back to London then?” When we arrived at the top in a white-out I initially
Do You Own Your Own Skis?
No training is needed to try out the new product
thought that these were far from ideal testing conditions. I am naturally cautious in low visibility, but I found the WingJump caught me over unexpected bumps and jumps on the piste, and afforded me a soft landing. It also made me less fearful of going over an edge, if I were to lose the piste markers. The snow kept falling, and further down, in the really heavy drifts between the trees, I realised I would have to adapt my technique even further. Normally I would use my poles to get the elevation to let my skis clear the snow, but a wrist strain meant I was struggling with this. And in any case, the Activ’Carve requires you to hold the poles halfway down. So to get the required elevation I had to, well... flap. Beating my wings down every time I lifted my talons on the turns, it felt quite a beautiful sensation. Curiously the person who seemed most taken with his wings was Anthony. I had turned up my nose at the smaller Activ’Air, but as an intermediate skier he found that on the steep slopes it slowed him down and stabilised him. And with the smaller versions you can use your poles normally. Where I think the WingJump would be most helpful for me is in the snowpark. I usually avoid parks now that I’m in my late-forties, as those landings are a bit too risky. But with the WingJump I would happily give some of the smaller jumps a go. Unfortunately, we reckoned we couldn’t make it to the Sommand side of the resort before the lifts closed and weren’t sure if the park there was open anyway due to the heavy snow. So will the WingJump take off? I can’t say, but it certainly made the two of us confident enough to spread our wings.
Colin travelled courtesy of lakeannecy-skiresorts.com and savoie-mont-blanc.co.uk, staying at the Chambre d’hôte Le Sérac, where a double room costs €70 a night b&b, plus €22 per person for half board. For more information, visit ripair.com/wingjump and prazdelys-sommand.com
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ACTIVE RECREATION IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES Holiday Region Kronplatz
The Kronplatz Holiday Region, located in South Tyrol in the Italian Dolomites, offers everything a winter sports enthusiast could dream of: three ski resorts with perfectly groomed slopes, plus other winter sports, diverse Alpine-Mediterranean culture and cuisine, an outstanding Dolomites landscape, lovely villages and Brunico, a small city known as the happiest in Italy. KRONPLATZ-PLAN DE CORONES The ski resort Kronplatz-Plan de Corones provides 119 kilometres of ski runs with various difficulty levels and 32 highly modern cable cars and chair lifts. If your idea of ski heaven involves seriously challenging runs, you’ll want to try out the famous “Black Five”. When the World Cup comes to Kronplatz for the first time in January 2017, the Erta slope will be the women’s giant-slalom course. The area offers a unique 360° view of the
peaks of the Dolomites, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site. This can be enjoyed from the large windows or platform of the MMM Corones museum, on top of Kronplatz. Thanks to the design created by the architect Zaha Hadid, the museum works in harmony with nature, with most of the building below ground level. SPEIKBODEN AND KLAUSBERG The other ski resorts are true paradises for families with breath-taking views of the 3,000 metre high peaks. Speikboden, with its 37 kilometres of varied ski slopes, has an 8 kilometre long descent with an elevation change of 1,500 metres. The Klausberg, the highest ski resort in the region with the mountain terminal located at 2,510 metres, offers 30 kilometres of ski runs. Skiers can also try out guided ski touring, with other activities including cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating and snowshoe-hiking. A CULTURAL PARADISE The Kronplatz Holiday Region is a melting pot of three cultures, cuisines and languages – German, Italian and Ladin. It has an ambience of lived Alpine traditions, paired with a Mediterranean lifestyle and cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are multiple pubs and après-ski bars along the slopes as well as at the top
and bottom. The Christmas Market in Brunico-Bruneck is a real highlight. MOVING AROUND STRESS-FREE The whole holiday region is easily accessible. Resorts can be reached via ski buses, and there is a train service to Kronplatz. This “Pustertal Ski Express” train connects the ski resorts Kronplatz and Three Peaks-Dolomites and from the foot of Kronplatz, a shuttle bus also brings guests to the famous Sella Ronda ski circuit. All guests (staying in accommodation that is a member of the local tourist board) receive a travel pass, allowing the use of public transport in South Tyrol for free. So if you are looking for active recreation, the Kronplatz Holiday Region is the right destination for you. Find out more or book your accommodation: www.kronplatz.com
Fireside treats Those cosy evenings in the chalet are every bit as fun as time on the slopes so Ski+board’s bookworms got reading…
Instant Weather Forecasting By Alan Watts
Bloomsbury | £9.99 eBook | £8.99
“Does that approaching cloud bank mean it’s going to snow?” We have all wondered that at some time on a ski holiday and, if you’re not sure, Instant Weather Forecasting may answer your question. Written by meteorologist Alan Watts, this handy little book has been in print for almost 50 years, but a new paperback edition was published only this autumn. It is brilliant in its simplicity, with 24 colour photographs of cloud formations along with clear, easy-to-understand accompanying text that enables you to read the sky, pick up the clues therein, and predict what the weather will do.
The Ultimate Ski Book By Gabriella Le Breton
teNeues | £45
The fifth edition reveals new ways of getting hold of professional weather forecasts and explains how to factor them into your own cloud observations and develop a better understanding of how the weather will change. The book has an understandable bias towards weather conditions in the UK, and the photos were taken in Britain. However, the basics of understanding the weather are largely the same whether you’re in the Cairngorms or the Alps. And there’s something undeniably cool about being able to predict the weather quicker than you can find a forecast on Google. Alf Alderson
Anyone taking this book’s grandiose title literally, perhaps in search of an alternative to Where to Ski & Snowboard, will be sorely disappointed. But it may have you itching to get back on snow. Following Le Breton’s The Stylish Life: Skiing, out last year, the author has again worked with teNeues to produce another of the German publisher’s coffee table books. But its format is a bit odd — a mix of piste maps, bucket list adventures and huge photos, many of which take readers on a nostalgic journey through the history of skiing, as in the last book. The vintage photos are the most fun, and those looking for ‘name checks’ will find mentions of skiing legends from James Bond and Lindsey Vonn to royals. For the ‘ultimate’ ski buff, the book lacks depth. But, if you’re stuck for Christmas present ideas, this stylish guide to the lighter elements of the sport might do the trick. Harriet Johnston Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
Where to Ski & Snowboard Norton Wood | £11 Book reviews usually focus on all that is new. But last year’s copy of Where to Ski & Snowboard is of special interest. This is your final chance to get a printed guide to resorts, with frank, unbiased appraisals, and a ‘resort price index’ assessing the cost of food, drink, lift passes and equipment hire. The guide has fallen victim to the digital age, but the 2016 edition is still available, now at just £11 at wtss.co.uk.
Eddie the Eagle DVD | £6.99 This film about the world’s most famous ski jumper was released on DVD this autumn. The tale is funny, moving, but avoids sentimentality. It’s a fictionalised version (though the true story is every bit as colourful) and Hugh Jackman is perfect as the recalcitrant coach, whose unfulfilled ambition gets the better of him. Taron Egerton also captures Eddie’s naivety and pain to a tee. Colin Nicholson
ESCAPE TO THE TIROL Who hasn’t heard of Austria’s most celebrated ski region: the Tirol? After all, it provides some of the best skiing in the Alps along with entertaining après ski and immaculate yet cosy accommodation 1 THE WILDER KAISER “SKIWELT” REGION Wild? Yes, in the pastoral sense — but fierce? Never. The Wilder Kaiser mountains which give their name to the delightful “SkiWelt” network of linked ski resorts provide a truly extensive variety of slopes for all levels. It’s one of Austria's largest interconnected ski areas, with 90 lifts, 284 kilometres of groomed runs, and no fewer than 77 mountain restaurants and huts. Traditionally Söll, at 700 metres, provides the gateway to a circuit that connects Brixen im Thale, Ellmau, Going, Scheffau, Itter, Hopfgarten, Kelchsau and Westendorf, which in turn has links with Kitzbühel. Skiing from one resort to another, in either direction, gives you a truly satisfying sense of exploring many locations instead of sticking to one mountain. You can very quickly find yourself way up at the Hohe Salve area, at 1,830 metres with options of heading for Scheffau, Ellmau and Going or turning right towards Hopfgarten, Brixen and Westendorf. The Gipfelalm Hohe Salve has a revolving panoramic terrace with 360° panoramic views across 70 3,000 metre peaks. The red run that goes all the way down to Hopfgarten gives you a chance to admire the town’s beautiful
double-spired church. In Söll, don’t miss the Whisky Mühle, a vibrant discothèque housed in a building shaped like a barrel.
2 THE PILLERSEETAL VALLEY IN THE KITZBÜHELER ALPS While the Kitzbüheler Alps need no introduction, the Pillerseetal, a valley famous for its freeriding potential, has much to offer. Fieberbrunn was recently linked by a 10 seat gondola with SaalbachHinterglemm Leogang to form a vast linked area, known as the Skicircus, with 270 kilometres of slopes and 90 lifts. The two other ski areas — based around Hochfilzen, St Jakob in Haus, St Ulrich am Pillersee and Waidring — are Buchensteinwand, where the celebrated Austrian skier Romed Baumann trained (22 kilometres of runs, with six lifts) and Waidring-Steinplatte (40 kilometres of slopes, served by 13 lifts). Between them, they have five ski schools and ski kindergartens, plus the “Bobo” children's park, complete with Bobo’s Snow Train. Waidring and Fieberbrunn both have fun parks. Apart from downhill skiing, there’s cross-country skiing, winter hiking and snowshoeing. From the WaidringSteinplatte area you can even make a
detour into neighbouring Germany: the resort is connected with the Reit im Winkl ski area in Bavaria. The Bergbahn Pillersee/Buchensteinwand has everything from the Hochleiten slopes (ideal for beginners) to the Hochfilzen training run: the lower half of the descent is open to the public — but only suitable for experienced skiers. The village of Hochfilzen is best known for the annual Biathlon World Cup.
3 THE TIROLER ZUGSPITZ ARENA The Zugspitz Arena is a network of seven Tirolean ski areas: MarienbergbahnenBiberwier, Ehrwalder Alm, Grubigstein Lermoos, Berwang Sonnalmbahnen and Bichlbach, Wettersteinbahnen-Ehrwald plus the Tiroler Zugspitzplatt ski area — complete with the Zugspitz Terrain Park — on the Zugspitz itself…the mountain with the most northerly glacier in the Alps. At 2,962 metres, the Zugspitz is Germany’s highest peak and the Fascination Zugspitze museum at the peak is the perfect way to understand the history of the mountain area. The arena has almost 145 kilometres of pretty, mostly tree-lined runs served by some 50 or so lifts. Terrain
“Fieberbrunn has been linked by a 10 seat gondola with Saalbach-Hinterglemm Leogang to form a vast area”
Schlick 2000/Andre Schönherr
Zipping over the Zugspitz Arena’s corduroy
A snowy morning in the Skiwelt
is mostly easy-going for all standards. The scenery is stunning, and on clear days, you can see the mountains of four countries with breathtaking views. There are free buses every half hour between the ski areas and the guest card entitles visitors to travel on the “Snow Express” railway between GarmischPartenkirchen on the German side of the mountain to the Zugspitz Arena. Lermoos has a new hotel this winter — the Aparthotel Pure Lermoos, where guests can choose between stylish apartments or individual chalet-style accommodation.
4 INNSBRUCK’S SKI AREAS There are few cities in the world where you can step into a cable car and be skiing within the hour. Innsbruck offers visitors access to nine resorts on one lift pass, including Nordkette, the Nordpark resort famous for its steep skiing, as well as Igls, Kühtai, Axamer Lizum and the Stubai Valley, many of which have magnificent views across the Inn Valley. At Nordkette’s Hafelekar ridge, at 2,260 metres, the celebrated plunge down the famous “Karrinne” couloir awaits experts and freeriders bold enough to try it! In the lower part of the hill however,
there are plenty of intermediate runs. At Seegrube, there’s a children’s area and the Skylinepark, the world’s only “In City” snowpark. During both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, the Igls slopes of Patscherkofel were the venue for the men’s downhill. The other alpine events were held at Axamer Lizum. Kühtai, one of the highest ski areas in Austria, is perched high on a mountain pass at 2,020 metres between Ötztal and the Stubai, 35 kilometres from Innsbruck. With its wide-open and snow-sure slopes, the ski-in, ski-out resort is ideal for families and intermediates, though there are some challenges too, along with a fun park. Other local resorts are accessible as part of the established ‘Glacier Lift Pass’, including Stubai, the largest ski area in the Innsbruck area. With skiable terrain from 1000 to 3200 metres, Stubai is one of the most popular high-altitude and snow-sure ski destinations in Europe, with skiing from October through to July. There are more than 150 kilometres of groomed runs, mainly for beginners and intermediates, but some expert runs and off-piste opportunities too. You can also take to the slopes at night. For more information, visit: visittirol.co.uk
Ski lifts take you everywhere in Scheffau
Tirol Advertising/Michael Rathmayr
Looking out at the Stuckkogel
The sun sets over the Wilder Kaiser range
The inside edge With the season upon us, now is the time to stock up on some new kit and get fit
Off-piste Let Nigel Shepherd show you the snow between the trees and the best way to ski it
Gear From mouldable glue to air bag vests, protect yourself and your kit
Snowboards Things are shaping up a little differently for all-mountain boards this season
Resort Insider Travel far from the madding crowd by taking to the slopes of lesser-known resorts
Snow wear The classic, elegant ski look is more affordable, as midmarket brands enter the fray
Fitness Our exercises help you build a solid core and back, and keep your skiing strong
Boots Technological advances are revolutionising all-mountain boots â€” and you can benefit
Struggling in white-out conditions? Instructor Mark Jones will see you rightâ€Ś
56 Our pick of the best all-mountain skis to tackle both powder and piste
December 2016/January 2017
Classy and classic looks make a timeless comeback Brands have cottoned on to the fact that more of us want to look chic on the slopes for less, say Harriet Johnston and Alf Alderson Aspiring to the classic ski look has become more affordable this season, with brands such as Helly Hansen, Trespass and Dare2b offering timeless elegance to mid-market skiers. As the autumnal rush for Aldi’s snow wear range shows, the average customer wants inspiring outfits at a reasonable price. But how should you go about achieving that look? Red is always a good place to start, and you don’t need to be a ski instructor to carry it off — it will match rosy cheeks and bright lips. And bold blues often look dynamic against the brightest sky or through a haze of white fog. Combining the two creates a timeless look. Other options include pairing a monochrome piece with brighter items, which is easier now colour palettes have become richer this season. Dave Whitlow, buyer for Ellis Brigham, says: “Colours are more likely to be solid, with water resistant zips providing colour pops.” Of course, the thing that we admire most about
people who look elegant on the slopes is often their svelte shape in flattering, figure-hugging outfits. These too are becoming easier to achieve. Whitlow explains: “Cuts are becoming more engineered, while classic skiwear silhouettes are getting a little longer.” Even if you splash out a little, you may end up saving money in the long term as certain pieces will not only remain on trend, but are built to last longer. If you want to get many years of usage, you’ll need to clean and re-proof your gear. You may fear that washing a new jacket will decrease its water-resistance and fade the colours. But in fact the water-repellent coating will wear off anyway. So if you don’t wash it, dirt will penetrate the surface. Therefore, washing and re-proofing with a suitable product will maximise its lifespan. Products such as Nikwax Tech Wash and Atsko Sports Wash typically involve a two-stage process of washing then proofing. Less well known is Storm, which promises a way to wash and proof your gear in the same cycle, as you put the cleaner (£2.50) in the detergent drawer and the waterproofer (£3.50/£5) into the fabric conditioner compartment. Whichever product you try, clean your washing machine’s detergent drawer before you start and always wash the products on a 30°C synthetic cycle on a slow spin setting.
From left, Ashley wears Salomon Icetown jacket (£300) and Iceglory pants (£170) with Poc Fornix helmet (£125) and Sontimer H Bomb goggles (£40). Ole wears Dare2b Argent jacket (£200) and Stand For pants (£100) with Sontimer H Bomb goggles (£60). Will wears Trespass Icon jacket (£250) with Provision pants (£160) and Dragon NFX2 goggles (£185)
To watch a video of a Ski Club expert explaining how to pick the best jacket for you, visit bit.ly/skijacketguide
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Ole wears Schöffel Montpellier jacket (£440) and Barts Sandy beanie (£25)
December 2016/January 2017
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Ashley wears Dare2b Argent jacket (£200) and Stand For pants (£100) with Poc Fornix helmet (£125) and Anon WM1 goggles (£160)
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Ashley, left, wears Ortovox Guardian jacket (£530) with Anon Aera helmet (£75) and WM1 goggles (£160). Ole wears O’Neill Jeremy Jones jacket (£220) with Picture Arron helmet (£85) and Von Zipper Skylab goggles (£105)
ON TRIAL –
DARE2B ARGENT JACKET Dare2b has managed to squeeze about every available feature into the Argent jacket — yet it costs just £200. The jacket comes in several colour schemes, including a vivid orange and turquoise, and a more muted green and black. Both have white side and arm panels (but the red and white version used in the photoshoot is no longer available). It uses a seam-sealed, waterproof, breathable fabricwith low-bulk, high-warmth insulation, along with body mapping and four-way stretch to give a good range of movement and comfort. The snow skirt and adjustable hood are removable. It offers so many features that there’s little room to do more than list them here — armpit zips, articulated sleeves with extra articulation in the sleeve lining so that they don’t get rucked up, wrist gaiters, stacks of pockets, including a
chest pocket, handwarmer pockets, ski pass pocket and internal pocket with a headphone port. All of these can be zipped shut. There is also a mesh stow pocket with lens wipe cloth. The inner jacket has well placed internal mesh to regulate body temperature. The Argent is a good option if you like a bells and whistles approach to your ski gear. For the majority of skiers, it will work well — for freeriders, it’s probably a little too bulky and warm. The only minor gripes I had with it was that the goggle pocket could be a bit larger and the armpit zips a little longer, but that’s not enough to detract from the fact that this is a great value ski jacket, especially for piste skiers. Alf Alderson Stacks of practical features Goggle pocket and pit zips could be bigger
December 2016/January 2017
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Tony wears Arc’Teryx Cassiar jacket (£600) and pants (£400) with Ortovox Freerider gloves (£100), Planks Eye Force One goggles (£100) and Osprey Kamber 22 backpack (£100)
ON TRIAL –
ARC’TERYX CASSIAR JACKET £600
The Cassiar is aimed at hard-riding piste skiers, though I’d be happy to wear it while skiing offpiste too. It has a minimalist design, featuring waterproof, windproof, breathable 3L Gore-Tex fabric which has four-way stretch and articulated cut allowing for comfort despite the trim fit. The fabric also has a nice brushed flannel backing which adds warmth to what is essentially a shell, as well as having a very durable feel about it, which should ensure good, long-term wear. I’ve always been a fan of Arc’teryx jackets. That’s why I was so disappointed that the pull-cord adjuster on the removable, helmetcompatible hood snapped on first use. It was still usable, but this is poor in such an expensive jacket. The entire helmet adjustment system is a bit of a faff, although I did like the way the hood integrates with the Cassiar’s high, insulated collar for extra warmth in cold conditions. You get three zipped external pockets — two decently-sized pockets at waist-height and one small chest pocket with a lift pass sleeve — as well as a zipped internal security pocket and an internal mesh pocket with goggle wipe. The snow skirt is removable, and relatively short armpit zips allow for temperature regulation. I also liked the glove-friendly Velcro cuff adjusters and dropped-back, adjustable hem. There’s a Recco reflector too. All in all, you get the features you need in a jacket that will work well on or offpiste. I can only hope that the broken cord was a one-off. Alf Alderson Great colour, very practical Expensive and helmet adjustment is a faff
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MAJOR BRITISH RETAILERS Snow+Rock: snowandrock.com Cotswold Outdoor: cotswoldoutdoor.com Ellis Brigham: ellis-brigham.com Surfdome: surfdome.com TSA: snowboard-asylum.com The retailers above offer Ski Club members ten per cent off full-priced products, apart from Snow+Rock and Cotswold Outdoor, which offer 15 per cent CONTACTS Anon: anonoptics.com Arc’teryx: arcteryx.com Barts: barts.eu Dare 2b: dare2b.com Dragon: dragonalliance.com O’Neill: oneill.com Ortovox: ortovox.com Salomon: ellis-brigham.com Scott: ellis-brigham.com Schöffel: 01572 770900 Sontimer: absolute-snow.co.uk Picture: ellis-brigham.com Poc: pocsports.com Trespass: trespass.com Von Zipper: absolute-snow.co.uk
Fashion editor Rachel Rosser Production manager Ben Clatworthy Photography Melody Sky Hair and make-up Jemma Barwick Models Ashley Crook Anthony Wilson Will Siggers Oline Antonsson
Ashley wears Schöffel Grenoble jacket (£270) and Pinzgau pants (£180) with Sontimer H Bomb goggles (£60). Tony wears Scott Explorair jacket (£210) and pants (£185) with Poc Fornix helmet (£125) and Dragon goggles (£185)
Stunning modern architecture and mountain scenery combine to create quite the impact on Sölden’s high slopes. The resort shone on the big screen last autumn as one of the locations in the James Bond film Spectre, and its popularity continues to grow. With three peaks above 3,000m, two glacier ski areas at Rettenbach and Tiefenbach, a state-of-the-art lift system and 146km of pistes to explore, the skiing is varied and snow-sure. The village has a stylish restaurant scene and lively nightlife to keep everyone entertained. Daily scheduled and charter flights are available to Innsbruck from many airports across the UK. Alternative airports include Zurich, Munich and Friedrichshafen. For more information on Sölden visit: soelden.com/en, to find out about the Austrian Tirol region see visittirol.co.uk Ski+board
December 2016/January 2017
Volvo Car UK has been in partnership with the Ski Club of Great Britain for just over one year. Its vehicles support the team on their overseas trips, thanks to the innovative four-wheel drive technology and large luggage capacity in Volvo’s range.
Ski Club Freshtracks 2016-17 Meet Rachel Kerr – the latest addition to our on-snow team in Chamonix! Chamonix has long been a favourite resort for Ski Club Freshtracks – but this season there are even more reasons to choose a trip to the world’s most famous off piste destination. Firstly there’s our new chalet in Les Houches – Chalet Shiraz. The chalet is a great base from which to explore the entire Chamonix ski area. There will be a Freshtracks minibus and of course a Ski Club Leader to drive it – and all of this combined with delicious food, and a sauna and hot-tub! The other exciting addition to our Chamonix programme is Rachel Kerr – who will be running our All Mountain Development Weeks. Rachel is a fully certified BASI Level 4 ISTD Ski Instructor who has years of experience in the Chamonix area – and we’re delighted to be working with her and her team. Rachel Kerr Ski Instructor
We asked Rachel to tell us a little bit about herself, and what Freshtracks skiers can expect this season.
Tell us about your background – how did you get into ski coaching and how did you get to where you are now? I grew up in Scotland and stepped onto a pair of skis on my home mountains when I was 8 years old. I gained a Sport Science degree before my mountain life - I knew my calling was to work in the outdoors, so I put all of this to the test and moved to the French Alps 13 years ago. The Alps for me is a gateway to new adventures, opportunities and goals to achieve. I am constantly indulging in mountain endurance events – ultra-marathons, ski touring, racing, ironman triathlons and road bike racing. This fitness has all
contributed to me working hard to achieve my BASI Level 4 ISTD Ski Instructor, the highest qualification in the world. Over this time I’ve spent 6 years in Val D’Isère and have been based in Chamonix for the last 7 years. My teaching takes me to many other resorts such as Verbier, Morzine, Les Gets, and Megève. Living in a place like Chamonix with its famous terrain dominated by male professionals, I decided to start up my business as an independent instructor, and I found there was a niche for a female British instructor. I now run about 10 weeks of technical performance courses, on and off piste, as well as Women’s Ski Camps, private/group lessons and local seasonnaire weekly sessions. I have a team of the best ski instructors and mountain guides who I carefully pick to work alongside me.
What’s your approach and what can Freshtracks skiers expect from a week on the mountain with you? With my local knowledge I will ensure that Freshtracks skiers will get a week of inspiring skiing, exploring all of Chamonix’s hidden gems. We’ll spend the first couple of days dissecting your technique on piste so we can get a good foundation set, using video analysis to help each individual develop goals for the week. We will build on this by challenging you through different terrain such as bumps, carving, steep
SKI CLUB PROMOTION
WIN A PAIR OF SKIS Book a Freshtracks holiday before Christmas and you could win a pair of Atomic Vantage skis! You’ll be entered into a prize draw to win the skis, courtesy of our friends at Snow+Rock and Atomic. The Vantage comes in men’s and women’s versions, so the winner will be able to pick the skis in the version and length that suits them. If you want to read more about the Atomic Vantage, details are in the all-mountain ski tests at skiclub.co.uk So get booking and you could find yourself taking a brand-new pair of skis to the mountains this season!
skiing and variable snow. We can then translate this onto our off piste skiing, working on technique and tactics when conditions get tougher. Confidence-building will be the key to our week. I’ll adapt all my approaches depending on the ability of the group, and will ensure each skier gets the most out of the week.
different areas to ski and each resort has something very special. One of my favourite spots is heading through the tunnel to tree ski in Courmayeur and giving my clients a taste of the Italian experience! Depending on conditions I know which area is best for bumps, powder, trees, gullies, piste etc. This is why using local professionals is so vital to help clients make the most from their week.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to about working with Ski Club Freshtracks this season?
Photo: Melody Sky
I’m really excited to be working alongside the Ski Club this winter. Ski Club Freshtracks has set up some amazing courses and I feel privileged to be part of them. Having Chalet Freshtracks in Les Houches will give our Freshtracks clients a relaxed sociable feel for the week. I’ll run my video analysis at the chalet after skiing with tea/beer and cakes, which will help clients to consolidate everything.
What do you think makes Chamonix such a great area for all-mountain skiing? Chamonix’s ski terrain is the best in the world in my opinion. It’s the mecca for all-mountain skiing. Everyone goes on about its extreme skiing, which of course it has, but I believe it has a huge and diverse range. Chamonix has 5
Details of all our Chamonix holidays can be found at skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks or on page 33 of your Freshtracks brochure.
These are the skis that can do it all
SIDECUT This is the width of the tip, waist and tail of the ski, given in that order. A wider ski floats better off-piste, while a narrower ski will grip better on piste
This winter’s all-mountain kit offers a great mix of on and off-piste ability… but it helps to know what you want, says Mark Jones For most recreational skiers, allmountain skis are the ‘go to’ category. If you’re looking for pair of skis that can do it all, this is where to turn. Of course, finding a ski that can tear up the piste, then quickly switch into floating effortlessly through powder is a tall order. That’s why those spending whole days off-piste will probably own a second pair of freeride skis, which we covered in Issue 1 of Ski+board, while those who stick to groomed runs are likely to opt for piste performance skis, which we covered in Issue 2. For a ski to deliver on both fronts, the reality is that there often has to be a compromise. Generally, the allmountain skis that proved very strong on piste struggled to be playful in the deep stuff. And, vice versa, the most
fun and floaty skis in deep snow tended to lack the grip required for a hardcharging run on the groomers. There are a few exceptions — skis that seem to have an amazing breadth of ability, as the test team’s comments reveal. However, in general, you need to be clear about what type of turns you make and what sort of terrain you ski before making a choice. Of all the categories we test, this is the one where there are the clearest differences between what the skis do best, so a close reading of the reviews is essential. The next issue of Ski+board will look at one of the fastest growing categories of ski — those used for freetouring.
See star ratings and the testers’ video reports at skiclub.co.uk/skitests CAMBER
Traditional camber effective edge
If a cambered ski is laid on a flat surface its centre will be raised. Camber is now often combined with some level of rocker. Reverse camber (full rocker) is where a ski curves up from the centre to tip and tail
Camber with front rocker effective edge
Camber with front and tail rocker effective edge
TAPER This is when the widest point of the ski is brought back from the tip or tail, reducing weight and making the skis easier to handle off-piste. On a tapered ski you may feel like you are using a shorter length
Reverse camber (full rocker) effective edge
ROCKER E A I B
We rate each ski by the type of skier it would suit. So in the example on the left, the ski would suit upper intermediate to advanced skiers, but it’s not so well suited to beginners or experts. Generally, the skis tested are aimed at those who have skied before.
Rocker, or early rise, is where the ski has a slight rise before it gets to the tip or tail. Off-piste, this helps lift and floatation. On piste, it aids turn initiation and release
Meet the jury
SKI CORES RADIUS This is the radius of the theoretical circle that a ski will naturally make in the snow when tilted on its edge. A small radius produces tight turns. The radius varies with ski length: the length tested is given in bold
A ski’s performance is affected by the materials used and how they are arranged in the core. Cores are normally wood or synthetic, combined with other layers, such as resin (usually epoxy), fibreglass, basalt, carbon, aramid and metal
SYNTHETIC CORES Synthetic or foam cores are traditionally used in lower end skis, being cheaper, lighter and more forgiving than wood. We are now seeing more hightech synthetics in upper end skis to keep weight low and enhance performance
WOOD CORES Wood cores tend to be made from strips of wood, glued side by side in a laminate construction. Their characteristics vary greatly: paulownia is light; beech can deliver power; poplar offers a smooth flex, and there are many others
A wall of plastic, typically ABS (the stuff Lego is made of), running from the metal base edge of the ski to the topsheet. It drives power to the metal edges, protects the core and can also help absorb vibrations
AL MORGAN Ski Club head of Member Services and former ski service manager skiclub.co.uk CHEMMY ALCOTT Four-time Olympian who runs CDC camps with husband Dougie Crawford cdcperform.com DEREK CHANDLER Director of Marmalade ski school in Méribel and trainer for Basi skimarmalade.com DOUGIE CRAWFORD Manager and owner of CDC Performance, which runs coaching camps cdcperform.com PETE DAVISON Ex-action model who now owns retailer LD Mountain Centre ldmountaincentre.com
ROWENA PHILLIPS Highly qualified ski school director at Matterhorn Diamonds in Zermatt matterhorn-diamonds.com AMANDA PIRIE Basi trainer in Val d’Isère, running training programmes and race camps targetski.com BELLA SEEL Fully certified in the French, Swiss and UK systems, she runs concierge service ALS alsprivate.com
MARK JONES Director of ICE training centre in Val d’Isère and trainer for Basi icesi.org
LYNN MILL Ex-British champion who now owns Target ski training and race coaching targetski.com
Cap and sidewall can be combined in several ways, by having sidewall underfoot with cap at tip and tail, say, or cap rolling down to meet sidewall for the length of the ski. Each affects the ski’s performance
The Ski Club’s test team is made up of top skiers who can offer unparalleled insights into a ski’s performance.
STEPH EDE Instructor in Val d’Isère, France, nearing highest level of qualification email@example.com
This is where the topsheet and other layers roll down over the side of the ski to the metal edge. The benefit of caps over sidewalls is they often make skis lighter, more forgiving and more resistant to damage
Core Topsheet Reinforcement Edges Sidewall Base
December 2016/January 2017
AARON TIPPING Owner and director of Supreme ski school in Courchevel supremeski.com
MEN’S A LL- MOUN TA IN SKIS: I N TERM EDIATE TO A DVAN CED
What’s new in men’s all-mountain skis?
Sidewall/lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 123-84-106 RADIUS 16m (176cm) LENGTHS (cm) 162, 169, 176, 183 WEIGHT (per ski) 2,110g (176cm)
verdicts are KI revealed CLU C O.U B. in the four print issues of Ski+board, along with the announcement of which models have won our awards for top performance and top value. Those awards mean a lot in the industry. We typically get three testers to try each ski, while those in line for an award can have six or more people ski them. And as the club is an independent, not-forprofit organisation, we can vouch for the impartiality of our reviews and choice of awards. So when you see all those skis glistening in the shops, begging you to buy them, we believe you cannot beat our guide to choosing the right pair for you. And even if we can’t offer you a place on the testing team, we can guarantee you a lot of fun on the slopes. S
Every winter, the Ski Club’s test team travels to the Austrian resort of Kühtai. Their task is to try next winter’s hundred best skis to give you, the reader, an indispensable guide when you go shopping. If that sounds like a dream job, then think again before sending in your CV. Our testers don’t go for a casual cruise, followed by a chinwag over coffee. Each tester is given a list of turn shapes and tasks they must perform for each category of ski we cover — freeride, piste performance, all-mountain and freetour. And even if you’re up for those tasks, your CV, ahem, is unlikely to make the grade. Our team of six men and six women are all ski professionals — former racers, elite instructors and freeride experts — so they are uniquely able to relate what they feel under their feet to the performance of the ski. Their
Dynastar Powertrack 84 Fluid X £440 with bindings
EST AWA IT
These are testing times for the Ski Club team
Photo: Ross Woodhall
In our tests, we saw a consolidation in performance in this season’s men’s all-mountain skis. New materials meant some models’ weight has been reduced while tweaks to design has further improved their capability. Some of the performance these skis can now deliver on piste is astonishing. To match that up to ease of use in powder is an amazing achievement. Perhaps the most notable change lies in the price. Those buying in the UK will pay less than last year, despite the skis being made on the Continent or in the US by manufacturers whose costs are in euros and dollars. On average the men’s skis on these pages cost £42 less than last year’s selection.
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
THEY SAY A breakthrough ski, its huge sweet spot keeps you firmly balanced in the driver’s seat in all terrain and conditions. WE SAY An exceptionally light ski, this is very easy to use. It’s best at lower speeds, where the light swingweight makes changing direction effortless, while the narrow waist makes it quick edge-to-edge. At speed on hard snow the light build works against it and it lacks grip and power. But overall a good ski for non-experts who want an easy all-mountain ski.
E A I B
Very light, manoeuvrable, easy to move from turn to turn (Derek Chandler) Good for long turns, juddery on hard snow (Dougie Crawford) Light, easy to use, agile in short turns Little float in deep stuff or grip at speed
M EN’S A LL- MOUNTA IN SKI S : I N TERM EDIATE TO EXPERT
Line Sick Day 95 £385 without bindings
Nordica NRGy 90 £390 without bindings
Movement Gambler £439 without bindings
Cap & sidewall combo/ lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 130-95-115 RADIUS 18.2m (179cm) LENGTHS (cm) 172, 179, 186 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,852g (179cm)
THEY SAY The 95 is an allmountain ski poised for speed and bred for steepness both on piste and all over the resort. WE SAY The super-smooth ride, is a real highlight, but the 95 also holds a strong edge and feels grippy in big arcs on piste. The performance holds up well in deeper, off-piste snow, where the nose floats up easily, and it also feels fun mixing up turn shapes and playing with terrain. In shorter turns on piste it felt less powerful, and the tip can flap at speed, but still a great ski.
THEY SAY The most complete all-mountain ski, its 90mm waist gives confidence. Its tapered tail lets you carve or smear anywhere. WE SAY This is a super-light ski that’s easy to use, especially at low speeds. It’s no effort to steer, while its width makes it float fast in deep snow. Even in short turns the weight overcomes the width and it feels quick, lively and fun. At speed in long turns it starts to lack grip, and heavy expert skiers will want a beefier ski. But great as a fun, easy introduction to allmountain skiing for lighter skiers.
Sidewall/Titanal lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 126-90-110 RADIUS 19.5m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 161, 169, 177, 185 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
E A I B
Held a strong edge in all conditions, good underfoot — a perfect seasonaire ski (Aaron Tipping) Surprisingly smooth, easy in deep snow (Mark Jones) Smooth ride, grippy in long turns Less powerful in short turns, tip can flap
THEY SAY A reworked build takes an ultra-light wood core and tri-axial fibres to make the Gambler fun and dynamic to ski. WE SAY For such a wide ski, the Gambler works remarkably well on groomers, giving high levels of grip. In short turns it’s lively and best on steep terrain. In long, fast arcs the shovel flaps, reducing the grip at the start of turns. Offpiste it works well, with instant float, and the reactive sidecut gives it lots of character. A hard ski to fault, delivering strong performance despite its weight.
Light and easy to throw about. Fun in short turns, but lacks grip at higher speeds (Pete Davison) Great for intermediates venturing off-piste (Al Morgan)
Light, easy, great fun Lacks grip at high speeds in long turns
Feels cumbersome, but responds well in soft off-piste snow (Derek Chandler) Good shovel for off-piste, the rocker picks up nicely (Aaron Tipping)
Easy in off-piste, floats well Less predictable on piste
Blizzard Brahma £450 without bindings
Salomon X-Drive 8.0 FS £560 with bindings
Kästle MX84 £689 without bindings
Sidewall/carbon & Titanal wood core/carbon reinforced tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 125-88-110 RADIUS 19m (180cm) LENGTHS (cm) 166, 173, 180, 187 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,920g (173cm)
THEY SAY The go-to ski when cold and dry spells make for firm snow. It has last year’s shape but gets an upgraded carbon flipcore. WE SAY Every tester noted how smooth it was. It has many traits of Scott’s ‘The Ski’, matching a sensitive touch to a silky ride. The narrow waist makes it faster edge-to-edge, giving it far more agility than the award-winning all-mountain model. The smooth ride comes from its soft flex, which has huge benefits at low speeds, but makes it less secure at a fast pace on hard snow.
THEY SAY The most versatile all-mountain ski, its on piste performance and manoeuvrability takes the category to a new level. WE SAY The X-Drive is light and easy to use — initiating turns is effortless. This makes it userfriendly in tricky off-piste, helped by its light build. It felt well suited to short turns, being quick edge-to-edge and maintaining its ease of use. In long, fast turns it works well enough for most skiers. However on hard snow at high speeds it does start to lose composure and grip.
Sidewall/titanium, basalt & carbon lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 125-80-110 RADIUS 15.9m (175cm) LENGTHS (cm) 161, 168, 175, 182 WEIGHT (per ski) 2,087g (175cm)
Sidewall/Titanal wood core/ standard camber tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-84-112 RADIUS 16.3m (176cm) LENGTHS (cm) 152, 160, 168, 176, 180 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,943g (176cm)
Light, smooth, easy in all turn shapes Could be grippier through the front
Cap & sidewall combo/ lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 140-91-121 RADIUS 16m (178cm) LENGTHS (cm) 172, 178, 184 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
Stable, with smooth flex and good shovel for deep snow (Mark Jones) Likes short turns on steep, hard snow. Slow to engage in long turns (Derek Chandler)
THEY SAY A versatile pisteorientated ski that performs with the utmost precision in more demanding terrain. WE SAY Like many Kästle skis we tested, the MX84 is a solid, well-built, serious piece of kit. It blasts through chopped up snow and crud with ease. And it’s at its strongest when tilted on to big edge angles and skied at speed, being one of the strongest performers for high speed work. At lower speeds, it feels a little more cumbersome and relatively slow to get on to the edge.
Simple on easy slopes, but elsewhere struggles at speed (Derek Chandler) Light, easy to rotate, but shovel slow to engage on edge at speed (Mark Jones)
Light, easy to use, quick in short turns Less stable or grippy at speed
December 2016/January 2017
Suits softer, deeper snow in long turns (Derek Chandler) Strong in chopped-up crud, once angle is created it’s strong enough through the turn (Aaron Tipping) Powerful, fast, high levels of grip Unforgiving at lower speeds
MEN’S A LL- MOUNTA IN SKIS: I N TERM EDIATE TO EX PERT
Scott The Ski £400 without bindings BUILD
Floats in powder, grips on long turns Slower edge-to-edge in short turns
THEY SAY Grips TOP like a top piste ski, SKI 2015 but still nice and VA E LU floaty in the powder. WE SAY For an all-mountain ski, the Vantage is a real performer. It has a reactive sidecut that engages quickly then tears out impressive mid-size arcs. It has great edge hold, and grips from the middle of the turn. For a ski that looks backcountry orientated, it is energetic on piste. In deeper snow it still works well, with its wide shovel giving instant float and easy pivoting.
THEY SAY Put the hammer down and attack hard snow conditions, bumps and crud with confidence on the new 89Ti. WE SAY The Invictus pairs its light weight with a well balanced shape, which makes it easy to pivot and steer, and generally user-friendly. On piste it feels pretty solid in all turn shapes and has good edge grip, with most of the power coming from the middle to the tail. It also works well in deeper off-piste snow where — with its light weight and wide shovel — it floats up fast.
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Solid and stable at speed in all terrain. Tackles crud with ease (Pete Davison) Nice on long turns, easy off-piste. Felt wide on hard snow (Dougie Crawford)
Dougie is a former British ski team member and was British champion no fewer than 25 times in various disciplines. He has won FIS (International Ski Federation) races, representing Britain at World Championship and World Cup events. He also coached the British Adaptive Ski Team to two World Championship medals. With his wife Chemmy Alcott, he now owns and manages CDC Performance, which runs camps for juniors and adults. cdcperform.com
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Great all-rounder, strong at carving Flex could be smoother
With thanks to Scott, Eider, Planks and Salomon, who provided gear for our test team.
Good all-round shape. Strong grip, well judged sidecut (Mark Jones) Good in long turns, lots of punch and rebound (Derek Chandler)
Ski test sponsors
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon, Kevlar & Titanal woodcore/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 130-88-121 RADIUS 17.5m (179cm) LENGTHS (cm) 163, 171, 179, 187 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & titanium wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 132-90-116 RADIUS 16.8m (176cm) LENGTHS (cm) 161, 169, 176, 184 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,820g (184cm)
THEY SAY Built for TOP all types of terrain, it SKI 2015 offers great torsional RF OR M stiffness and flex. WE SAY This is now a benchmark for all-mountain skis, still feeling strong against new rivals. It offers a super-smooth ride and is sensitive underfoot, letting skiers read conditions through the turn. In mixed up snow off-piste its wide platform and progressive flex really helps, though it takes time to move up on to the edge in short turns, but it’s still brilliant for skiers with an off-piste bias. IC
Cap & sidewall combo/elliptic wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 131-92-121 RADIUS 18m (180cm) LENGTHS (cm) 175, 180, 185 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,950g (180cm)
Armada Invictus 89Ti £400 without bindings
Atomic Vantage 90 CTi £550 with bindings
Light, well balanced, always easy to pivot (Pete Davison) Has energy in the tail and is stable at speed. Once on the edge it locks into a turn shape (Al Morgan) Easy to use, nice wide shovel Loses grip through the shovel on piste
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MEN’S A LL- MOUNTA IN SKIS: I N TER M ED I ATE TO EX PERT
Black Crows Orb £500 without bindings BUILD
Cap & sidewall combo/Titanal lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 122-91-109 RADIUS 18m (178cm) LENGTHS (cm) 172, 178, 183 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,875g (178cm)
Easy and floaty off-piste Not grippy enough on piste
BUILD C ap & sidewall combo/carbon & basalt
LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
163, 170, 177, 184 Not available
THEY SAY New last season, the Monster 88 is a tough, agile and versatile on piste ski that rides like a wide race ski. WE SAY This is a hard-charging ski that feels comfortable at high speed. Particularly in long turns, it feels very stable with huge grip for an all-mountain ski. On hard snow it feels rock solid and seems to have no upper limit on speed. In deeper, off-piste snow it feels super solid in chopped up crud, but less easy to use for shorter turns in powder. Overall, a great ski for fast, technical skiers.
E A I
Easy to initiate turns, light, nimble with smooth radius changes (Pete Davison) Superb for those looking to up their game on piste. Great snow feel (Al Morgan) Fast, hard charging on piste Less versatile at lower speeds
Fischer Pro MTN 86Ti £580 with bindings
THEY SAY Amplified with a carbon alloy matrix, this all-new ski is the all-mountain benchmark for expert skiers. WE SAY The Experience is strong on the edge and has great grip for all types of carving turn on piste. Particularly in long, fast turns it feels comfortable, and once on the edge accelerates through the arc. It’s one of those skis that really works best while riding the edge. With less edge angle and for more pivoty adjustments it feels less sensitive to the skier’s input and a bit more clunky.
Strong on the edge. Powerful in long turns (Mark Jones) Solid at speed, able to charge if on an edge. Hard to turn fast without speed (Aaron Tipping)
Powerful, fast on edge in long turns Less easy to use at lower speeds
Sidewall/carbon & Titanal wood core/carbon tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-86-116 RADIUS 16.5m (175cm) LENGTHS (cm) 161, 168, 175, 182 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,750g (175cm)
Cap & sidewall combo/steel & wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 131-84-112 RADIUS 17.9m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 162, 167, 172, 177, 182 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
THEY SAY The lightest allmountain model, it impresses competitors with its carbon tip and well milled Air Tec Ti core. WE SAY The Pro is torsionally stiff, making it strong on the edge with high levels of grip. It has a lot of strength in its character. Tilt it over and you’ll find it very reactive, carving an arc instantly. The sidecut feels best suited to long turns. In deeper conditions, away from the piste, the rocker tip helps the Pro to float up. However in these type of conditions it feels easier to use at higher speeds.
THEY SAY From TOP hard snow to off-piste SKI 2015 foray, this lets you feel R FOR M and enjoy every turn. WE SAY This is a supremely well balanced ski that feels perfectly weighted underfoot, making it easy to turn, while adjusting turns is always effortless too. Easy to use at low speeds, it’s also highly capable at speed on big edge angles. It grips pistes superbly, with great energy in turns and delivering a smooth ride. Off-piste it pulls off the trick of still feeling easy to use and coping well. PE
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Strong and sturdy, felt stiff, especially at the tip, lots of reaction (Dougie Crawford) Strong grip on the piste, while rocker helps the ski (Al Morgan)
Well balanced, great edge grip with a smooth flex (Mark Jones) Grippy, stable and easy in every turn shape. Versatile in all conditions (Aaron Tipping)
Strong in long, fast turns on piste Hard in short, low speed turns off-piste
Easy on or off-piste, smooth, good grip Hard to fault
wood core/honeycomb tip & tail rocker
Völkl RTM 84 UVO £625 with bindings
SIDECUT (mm) 135-88-124 RADIUS 17m (180cm) LENGTHS (cm) 156, 164, 172, 180, 188 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & Titanal wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 133-88-114 RADIUS 17.4m (177cm)
THEY SAY The Orb has got a new rockered shape that gives it a reactive character, which makes it perfect for all-mountain action. WE SAY Like all the Black Crows we tested, the Orb feels high quality in build and finish. On piste its width and soft flex don’t suit high speed carving. Despite a good level of grip and ease of use, big edge angles on hard snow are not its forte. But in powder and crud it’s great, with a lovely ability to drift and adjust through the turn, while the wide platform gives huge float. A great new ski. Soft rocker tip loves soft snow but doesn't adapt and engage on piste as well (Pete Davison) Has the drifty nature of a freeride ski in narrower format (Al Morgan)
Rossignol Experience 88HD £525 with bindings
Head Monster 88 £520 with bindings
Pete Davison Pete is a very powerful skier who loves his backcountry riding. He started his skiing career in the French Alps, where he worked for many years as an action model on photoshoots for the biggest snowsports brands. As well as being an inspirational freeskier, Pete is also very knowledgeable about ski hardware. He is now based in the UK, where he is the owner of LD Mountain Centre, one of the North-East’s leading ski and mountaineering retailers. ldmountaincentre.com
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WOMEN’S A LL- MOU NTA IN SKIS: I N TER M ED I ATE TO A DVA N C ED
What’s new in women’s all-mountain skis?
Photo: Ross Woodhall
Within the range of women’s all-mountain skis there is a huge breadth of performance to choose from. It varies from full on-piste performance through to light, playful, easy-to-use skis for those first forays in powder. So readers need to make sure they match their skiing ability to the right ski for them. In this respect, our infographic under the image of each ski is invaluable, revealing what level of skier they suit. We also give the weight of the ski (without bindings) where available — an important consideration on snow, not just when you’re working out your baggage allowance. And on the subject of not paying over the odds, on average the women’s skis featured on these pages cost £44 less than last year’s all-mountain models.
Line Soulmate 86 £240 without bindings
Where can I buy a pair of those?
SIDECUT (mm) RADIUS LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
Several retailers attend the ski tests and many offer Ski Club members savings on full-price items. They include:
Lynn Mill Lynn was a British ski team member for five years. She won 17 British titles, including overall women’s champion. She is also a respected trainer and examiner for Basi, the British Association for Snowsport Instructors. Born Lynn Sharp, she recently married fellow instructor Dougie Mill, and is based in Val d’Isère, France, where she works with clients of all ages and levels. She also runs race coaching camps for aspiring instructors and racers. targetski.com
Absolute Snow: 15 per cent off absolute-snow.co.uk Craigdon Mountain Sports: 15 per cent off craigdonmountainsports.com Ellis Brigham: 10 per cent off ellis-brigham.com Freeze Pro Shop: 10 per cent off freezeproshop.com Glisshop: 10 per cent off glisshop.co.uk Lockwoods: various discounts lockwoods.com Ski Bartlett: 10 per cent off skibartlett.com Snow+Rock: 15 per cent off snowandrock.com Snow Lab: 10 per cent off, 15 per cent off for servicing snowlab.co.uk Surfdome: 10 per cent off surfdome.com Finches Emporium: 10 per cent off finchesemporium.com
Cap/wood core/ standard camber 125-86-111 13.2m (158cm) 151, 158, 165 1,420g (158cm)
THEY SAY The streamlined profile and symmetric flex deliver flawless edge-to-edge connection all over the mountain. WE SAY The friendly, easy-touse Soulmate is accessible to non-experts. On piste its light weight makes it easy to steer and it works in any turn shape. The edge grip is good but not up to the level of more pricey skis. In varied off-piste, it feels at home, with its width and easy rocker making it fun, particularly at low speeds. But at high speeds — on or off-piste — it felt less stable.
A cruisy ski best at medium speeds, easy to use in long and short turns (Rowena Phillips) Happy in cut-up snow, smooth at lower speeds (Bella Seel)
Light, easy, especially at low velocities Loses composure at high speeds
WOMEN’S A LL- MOU NTA IN SKIS: I N TER M ED I ATE TO EXPERT
Dynastar Glory 79 £330 with bindings
Movement Pop £399 without bindings
Sidewall/lightweight wood core/ tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 122-79-103 RADIUS 12m (159cm) LENGTHS (cm) 144, 152, 159, 167 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,650g (159cm)
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/lightweight
THEY SAY A new TOP SKI blend of playfulness 2015 and versatility for VA E LU intermediates. WE SAY This is a very well priced ski given its performance. At low speeds it’s light, easy to use and little effort to steer into a turn. As the pace ramps up it’s surprising how well it copes with big edge angles. It carves long and short turns with ease, feeling grippy and full of energy. It does have its limits with grip, but will work well for most skiers. Off-piste it skied well, though it can feel stiff.
THEY SAY Made for dynamic female skiers, the Pop is solid, yet forgiving with a sidecut and rocker tip that are great off-piste. WE SAY As befits the name, this is playful and poppy off-piste. The wide shovel gives huge float, while its shape and flex works well in all turn shapes — good for a whole day in powder. On piste the width makes it slower from edge to edge, but when on edge it has good grip. This grip is strong from the tail, which helps with edge hold, but makes it trickier to release into a new turn.
E A I B
SIDECUT (mm) RADIUS LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Happy at all speeds, smooth in long or short turns (Bella Seel) Powerful ski that grips well on piste but is relatively easy to turn off-piste (Rowena Phillips) Easy to use, works in all conditions Stiff underfoot, has limits on hardpack
Sidewall/carbon lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 124-79-109 RADIUS 14m (159cm) LENGTHS (cm) 152, 159, 166 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,500g (159cm)
wood core/tip rocker 136-85-117 14m (163cm) 155, 163, 172 1,500g (163cm)
THEY SAY Forgiving and smooth, this is ideal for women who enjoy off-piste forays, without sacrificing style on piste. WE SAY If you love short turns on piste then the Koa is for you. It’s easy to use, with a low swingweight, and feels light underfoot. In such turns, it’s also grippy giving lots of reaction. It is fast on to an edge, too, and whips skiers through a tight arc. In long turns, grip is harder to come by, especially on hard snow. Off-piste it works well, with its width and rocker helping initiate turns.
I loved carving short turns, and the Koa is fun and stable in all off-piste (Amanda Pirie) Great hold on ice in short turns, good over bumps (Chemmy Alcott)
Fun, playful, floaty shovel in powder Lacks grip in the front on hardpack
Great in short turns on hard snow Lacks stability and grip in long turns
Salomon Gemma 85 £500 with bindings
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/lightweight honeycomb, carbon and wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 133-85-113 RADIUS 13.6m (163cm) LENGTHS (cm) 148, 153, 158, 163, 168 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
Cap & sidewall combo/basalt lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 131-85-112 RADIUS 14.4m (163cm) LENGTHS (cm) 157, 163, 169 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,849g (169cm)
THEY SAY The featherweight Total Joy is a hardpack and powder shredder for confident female skiers who like to let rip. WE SAY The Total Joy feels feather-light and this translates into effortless steering and ease of use at low speeds. In short turns it felt lively and playful, yet switched into long carving arcs with ease. The surprise is that as speeds and edge angles are cranked up it holds its own, carving well. Off-piste it felt a little more grabby and less willing to float, but it coped well enough.
THEY SAY A performance ski that frees female skiers to push the boundaries with confidence in all snow conditions. WE SAY The Gemma feels easy to use and comfortable from the outset. In soft off-piste, it was light, playful and easy to adjust through the turn. On piste, despite the width, it felt more suited to short turns, with high ease of use and grip underfoot. In long turns it handled a degree of speed with ease, but grip and stability started to fade at really high speeds with big edge angles.
Great short turn ski while wide shovel gives lift off-piste (Amanda Pirie) Solid and strong, but equally lively and playful (Chemmy Alcott)
Light, strong, fun in all shapes on piste Grabby in the powder
Fischer Koa 80 £415 with bindings
Playful and poppy off-piste, but the stiff tail makes pistes challenging (Amanda Pirie) Stiff tail, hard to get off the edge at the end of the turn (Chemmy Alcott)
Head Total Joy £500 with bindings
Wood core makes it stiff in the tip. Livelier on piste, than off (Bella Seel) Easy to use, good off-piste, with rocker tip helping turn initiation (Rowena Phillips) Easy to use, good in shorter turns Less stable in longer turns
December 2016/January 2017
Rowena Phillips Rowena has been one of the Ski Club’s testers for many years and is co-leader of the women’s team. She is based in Zermatt, Switzerland, where she is a ski school director and instructor at Matterhorn Diamonds, an exclusive private school that focuses on the individual needs of clients. Rowena has the highest Basi Level 4 qualification and is one of the few British instructors to successfully complete the Swiss teaching system too. matterhorn-diamonds.com skiclub.co.uk
WOMEN’S A LL- MO U NTA IN SKIS: I N TER M ED I ATE TO EXPERT
Scott The Ski Women £400 without bindings
Nordica Belle 88 £390 without bindings
BUILD Visco-elastic, Titanal & ABS sidewall/
THEY SAY All-new TOP ski with smooth on SKI 2015 piste power, precision R FOR M and comfort. WE SAY The Ski is great for long, fast turns with fantastic stability, high levels of grip and a smooth ride on the edge. It has an easyto-predict, smooth entry into the turn and is easy to read. Strong skiers will love its ability to feel stable, grippy and confident at speed. In shorter turns, it copes well and maintains grip, though it feels less lively coming out of the turn. Great for technical skiers.
THEY SAY At 88mm underfoot the Belle has enough float in soft stuff, and plenty of sidecut for the hardpack. For skiers who do it all. WE SAY The Belle is set up for all-mountain action, working well in all turn shapes, though best in big, fast arcs, where it feels stable, smooth and comfortable on edge. In short turns, it’s well balanced and has good grip, but that wide platform underfoot makes it clunkier edge-to-edge. Off-piste, the wide shape and rockered tip and tail make it easy to use, with good float and ease of steering.
THEY SAY With TOP huge tip rocker and a SKI 2015 strong core it crushes RF OR M all terrain in its path. WE SAY This is a really solid all mountain ski that is happy to go fast. It holds an edge well in both short and long turns and would suit a wide range of skier abilities. At slower speeds it’s easy to turn. In deeper off-piste conditions it held itself well with that rocker giving float and easy turn initiation. The tail gripped well enough, but still allowed for easy adjustment.
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Solid, good at speed in long turns, easy to control (Chemmy Alcott) Great in long turns, likes going fast. A smooth, progressive ride (Amanda Pirie)
Smooth, fast and stable in longer arcs Less lively in shorter turns
Strong off-piste in long or short turns, easy to steer (Bella Seel) Bouncy off-piste. Easy to ski, but hard to whip round in short turns (Chemmy Alcott)
Good all-rounder. Strong in long turns Slow from edge to edge in short turns
Amanda Pirie Amanda raced with the British ski team to achieve a onetime world ranking of 56th in Super-G. She is a Basi trainer, assessing instructors to the highest level, and represented Basi as a member of the Interski demonstration team in 2015. Amanda is based in Val d’Isère, France, where she runs private training programmes for skiers of all levels. She also runs race training camps in partnership with Lynn Mill for aspiring racers and instructors. targetski.com
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon, Kevlar & Titanal wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 126-86-119 RADIUS 16.5m (163cm) LENGTHS (cm) 155, 163, 171 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Fantastic on piste, off-piste and in crud. Great stability and hold through a turn (Chemmy Alcott) Easy to ski and easy to initiate turns (Rowena Phillips) Strong all-rounder, easy to use Hard to fault
Kästle MX74 £789 with bindings
Cap & sidewall combo/lightweight wood core, honeycomb tip/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 133-84-120 RADIUS 13m (162cm) LENGTHS (cm) 146, 154, 162, 170 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,900g (162cm)
THEY SAY With the heart of a carver and effortless freeride feel, the new 84 is the benchmark for expert to advanced skiers. WE SAY We had only the 154cm of the new Temptation to test, but this pocket rocket amazed us with its power and all-round ability. It’s playful, easy to use at low speed, yet the edges engage easily, then connect through the length of the ski. It felt superstable and rock solid even at high speeds. Off-piste, it struggled to float, but was playful and a longer length would probably work well.
THEY SAY A piste orientated ski that doesn’t baulk at light off-piste runs while delivering a smooth and precise ride. WE SAY This felt like a classic piste ski. It’s quick edge-to-edge and is great in short turns, being well suited to steering short arcs and supremely balanced over the middle of the ski. In long turns it grips well, offering a smooth ride, but its shape feels more inclined to shorter arcs, even allowing for the lack of longer lengths to test. Off-piste it struggled, lacking the float and ease of use of other skis.
Sidewall/Titanal wood core/ standard camber SIDECUT (mm) 124-74-103 RADIUS 11.6m (156cm) LENGTHS (cm) 148, 156, 164, 172, 180 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,563g (156cm)
Super-stable, with power and grip Longer models remain untested
Rossignol Temptation 84 £465 with bindings
Easy to control but playful too, be it on piste, in crud, or over bumps (Chemmy Alcott) Piste-orientated, but playful, yet stable in varied snow (Lynn Mill)
synthetic and wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 120-73-104 RADIUS 14m (160cm) LENGTHS (cm) 146, 153, 160, 167 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
Sidewall/carbon lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 126-90-110 RADIUS 17.5m (169cm) LENGTHS (cm) 145, 153, 161, 169, 177 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
Armada Victa 87Ti £400 without bindings
Good for old school off-piste short turns, but better on piste (Rowena Phillips) Short turns on piste are its forte, where it felt happy and racy (Bella Seel) Well built, well balanced piste ski Not wide or floaty enough in deep stuff
WOMEN’S A LL- M O U NTA IN SKI S : I N TER M ED I ATE TO EXPERT
Black Crows Birdie £470 without bindings BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/lightweight
E A I B
Blizzard Black Pearl £400 without bindings
Atomic Vantage X 80 CTI W £440 with bindings
wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 118-90-108 RADIUS 17m (164cm) LENGTHS (cm) 157, 164, 171 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,450g (164cm)
Sidewall/carbon lightweight wood core /tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 123-88-108 RADIUS 16m (159cm) LENGTHS (cm) 152, 159, 166, 173 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,350g (166cm)
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & titanium lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 134-80-105 RADIUS 16.5m (167cm) LENGTHS (cm) 151, 159, 167 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,570g (159cm)
THEY SAY A modern ski with accessible performance in its blood — the heart of the Black Crows identity. WE SAY Looking every bit the off-piste ski, the Birdie has a generous rocker, wide platform and soft flex. This makes it very forgiving in deep powder and soft crud, where it floats up fast and is very easy to steer. For first-timers in powder right up to pow junkies it’s a great choice. On piste the sidecut is reactive, but that profile and soft flex struggle to hold on to hard snow at speed.
THEY SAY Intermediate to expert female skiers rave about the fun this ski dishes out on a daily basis. WE SAY The Black Pearl is a hard-charging ski that loves to be driven by the skier. Once on an edge it holds well and handles speed and hard, icy conditions with ease. At this pace, it’s very stable while delivering a smooth ride, feeling especially in its element in long turns. It works well in changeable off-piste too, as long as it is up to speed and the skier takes charge.
THEY SAY The successor to the Affinity Storm, this is our widest and most progressive Vantage X, with a titanium backbone. WE SAY A powerful choice, ripping on piste and feeling more like a Giant Slalom ski in long turns. It has huge grip and no speed limit on hardpack. A lot of power comes from the middle of the ski, and it feels better in big fast arcs, than short turns. However, that powerful construction is matched to a relatively narrow shovel, so it feels quite hard work off-piste.
Wide and best for off-piste. Feels like only the foot is in contact with the snow (Lynn Mill) Easy to steer round turns due to the rocker (Amanda Pirie) Easy and floaty in powder Less grippy and sure on hardpack
E A I
You get what you put into this ski, go for it and you’ll be whooping (Lynn Mill) You always know what you are going to get, no nasty surprises (Amanda Pirie) Stable at speed, high levels of grip Doesn’t suit more passive riders
Powerful on piste, giving you confidence to go for big edge angles and real speed (Chemmy Alcott) Loved long turns on piste. Stable, no vibrations (Lynn Mill)
Powerful, fast and sure in long turns Not very adaptable, best on piste
K2 Ooolaluv £540 with bindings
Völkl Flair 81 £575 with bindings
Cap & sidewall combo/Titanal lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 126-85-114 RADIUS 14m (163cm) LENGTHS (cm) 156, 163, 170 WEIGHT (per ski) Not available
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon wood
THEY SAY Our all-mountain flagship, its metal laminate sends it charging harder and with greater accuracy in any terrain. WE SAY This feels like a serious bit of kit. It has superb damping ability so always gives a smooth ride. The grip is great — you can charge hard, knowing it won’t break away at speed. It’s at home in short or long turns, and is hard to beat for a blast on piste. Offpiste that power works against it. It feels less easy and playful at low speeds, but cuts up crud. In all, a quality ski with a piste bias.
THEY SAY Designed for the expert and near-expert seeking excellent grip, stability, liveliness and agility all over the mountain. WE SAY The Flair loves being on the edge at speed. On piste it’s a blast, with huge edge grip. In long turns, it has limitless grip and felt rock solid through the turn. In short turns it works well, with continuing grip, though it felt less agile at the start of a turn. Off-piste it felt out of place, like a piste ski trying to cope with deeper snow. The width helps, but it needs to be skied at speed.
Bella Seel Bella has spent more than ten years living and working as a ski instructor in the Alps. She is one of the few instructors to be fully certified in the French, Swiss and British systems, and has a huge amount of experience having coached skiers worldwide. After a successful career teaching skiing and running her own clothing company, Bella now runs ALS, a travel management and concierge service that is based between London and Geneva. alsprivate.com
E A I B
Grippy on piste, can handle speed and charge. Solid and stable on piste (Steph Ede) Quite a stiff ski that works better on piste (Rowena Phillips) Smooth, great edge hold, likes speed Less forgiving at low speeds off-piste
SIDECUT (mm) RADIUS LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
core/tip & tail rocker 128-81-109 14.7m (163cm) 149, 156, 163 Not available
Loves speed and being on an edge, but is unforgiving offpiste (Bella Seel) Strong in long turns, feeling stable and secure (Rowena Phillips)
Powerful, fast and grippy on the piste Less suited to powder
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B O OTS
Designed to keep your feet warm and comfortable, some are standard, while others can be custom-fitted to adopt the shape of your calves and feet
Look at the top of your foot and you will see a maze of blood vessels and tendons. A badly shaped tongue compresses these… and that’s painful
FLEX Boots come in a range of flexes. The flex is the theoretical force in Newtons needed to decrease the angle between cuff and clog by ten degrees, and is given after the name of the boot. High performance boots are stiffer, but often less comfortable. The flex reviewed is given in bold
PRICE Generally, the stiffer the flex, the more expensive the boot, which is why the prices are given as ranges
POWER STRAP The power strap acts as a vital extra buckle around your leg, and is usually closed with Velcro, but some high performance boots use a metal closure. Don’t forget to do it up!
SHELL Most shells are two-piece and combine a cuff, on top, attached by a hinge to a lower part, often called a clog, below. Three-piece models also have an external tongue
WALK MODE This is also known as climb mode and cuff release. The stiff back of ski boots, vital for performance, makes them no fun to walk in. So a walk switch releases the cuff to allow it to move backwards
BUCKLES These are used to fasten the boot. Buckles should wrap the shell evenly around the foot, keeping it snug without creating pressure points
CANT ADJUSTMENT With many boots you can tilt the cuff slightly towards the big toe or little toe side of the clog, making you feel more balanced in the boot
FOOTBED SIZE All sizes are given in Mondopoint. Men’s boots usually come in sizes 24.5 to 30.5, which corresponds roughly to UK sizes 5.5 to 11.5. Women’s boots usually come in sizes 22 to 27.5 or roughly UK sizes 5 to 10.5
This is a trainer-type insole that comes with the boot and sits inside the liner. A customised footbed is recommended to improve stability and give better foot-to-boot contact
Hidden in the shell, it sits under the liner and acts as a shock absorber. Harder bootboards gives more control, but a harsher ride. The bootboard also determines how much the heel is raised in the shell
This is the template around which the plastic shell of boots is shaped. It is measured in millimetres across the widest part of the foot, with 100mm being about medium. Generally the narrower the last, the higher the performance
Chris Exall (skipress.co.uk) describes himself as being 40 years into an 80-year apprenticeship in skiing. He is a member of the governing body of the International Federation of Ski Instructors and has written widely on snowsports safety.
Janine Winter is the buyer at specialist fitter Profeet (020 7736 0046; profeet.co.uk), having spent 11 seasons fitting boots with the Boot Doctors in Telluride, Colorado, four seasons in New Zealand, and one in Australia.
All-mountain models are getting a facelift Plastic, pumps and cute dimples make these old favourites look like new, says Chris Exall All-mountain boots are one of the most popular categories. They work on any slope, though their home is often groomed pistes. Until recently, they were fairly low-tech in design. But this winter, you’ll find lots of developments hidden within traditional two-piece, four-buckle frames to improve fit or performance. Materials have been refined, with shells becoming easier to stretch in problem areas. Nordica has introduced an air pump process to pull on a shell softened by infrared lamps, while some Tecnica shells have dimples to allow a precise stretch and a closer fit. Some shells feature special plastics, such as the polyamide used by Salomon,
which has a light, springy feel, while the Hawx Ultra is the lightest all-mountain boot Atomic has ever produced. A boot can give you 80 per cent of performance, but the final 20 per cent comes from in-store adjustments. A boot fitter will balance the shell and help you get the most out of a boot. Some boots are unisex, while others have a women’s version, often with another name. For tourers, Ski+board will cover freetour boots in the next issue, along with further boot innovations, having covered the freeride and piste categories in Issues 1 and 2 respectively.
Keep toes toasty. See bit.ly/warmboots
Scott G1 Powerfit £365-£380
Dalbello Panterra/Kyra £225-£425
Rossignol Allspeed Pro/Pure Pro £250-£315
110, 130 24-30
FLEX 90, 100, 120, 130 SIZES 25-30.5 75, 85, 95 FLEX SIZES 22–27.5
FLEX 100, 110, 120 SIZES 24-31.5 80, 90, 100 FLEX SIZES 22–27.5
Scott’s G1 boots are based on designs inherited by the company when it purchased Garmont. It’s almost zenlike in its simplicity, with four buckles and a walk mode, but it remains precise on and off the groomed runs. Both versions are quick edge-to-edge with a snug rearfoot. By slightly enlarging the shell in common fit hotspots, fit becomes vacuum-pack snug. The cuff is tall and narrower than some others so those with powerful calf muscles may feel crushed. With a 97mm last, your forefoot could feel squeezed, but an open toebox and pre-stretched shell gives an all-day fit. The walk mode allows you to climb in relative comfort. Very precise Not great for those with sizeable calves
The Panterra is based on the Dalbello’s Krypton design. As with all three-piece shells, it’s easy to enter and exit and has a soft, progressive forward flex. Barring the 90 model, it can be heat moulded. With an easy, out-of-thebox fit, the boot board can be adjusted to fine tune ramp angle. Fitting a medium to wide forefoot, the Kyra maintains good heel hold with its 45 degree Dynalink buckle. It’s three-piece cabrio design provides a consistent flex. The expandable cuff can be adjusted for a hike mode.
The Allspeed is more than a rehashed low volume four-buckle race machine. It’s light, with material cut back where it’s not essential. Despite having a cushy 100mm forefoot, it feels like a narrower boot. The deeply punched ankle pockets mean it is skiable out of the box, but its liner is also heat-mouldable. The Pure Pro 90 comes in a 100mm and 102mm last and with Sensor Blade shell technology that removes extra material and weight. Walk-to-ride rubber soles are available to buy for extra grip when hiking.
Easy out-of-the-box fit Flex can feel softer than stated
December 2016/January 2017
Sensor Blade shell technology Race heritage is very dominant
B O OTS
FLEX 100, 110, 120, 130 SIZES 24-31 80, 90, 110 FLEX SIZES 22.5–27.5
With the look of Lange’s race-bred RS shell, plus ramp and cuff angles that are identical to the race boot, the difference comes in the fit of this boot. It has a precise, anatomically accurate last and manages to give a feel for the snow that’s second to none. An improved tongue design provides space on top of the foot. Coming in two last widths, the RX fits a large number of feet. The 110 offers high performance. The liner comes with a custom tongue that has a hollow over the instep to avoid undue pressure. Great snow feel and accurate last May have to use a bootfitter to ensure fit
Nordica Speedmachine £210-£430 FLEX 100,110, 120, 130 SIZES 24-31 FLEX 85, 95, 105, 115 SIZES 22.5 – 27.5
Taking its inspiration from World Cup boots, the Speedmachine has been newly improved for 2016-17. Fitting is helped by a one-of-a-kind mechanical stretch process, as a small infrared lamp heats offending areas and a vacuum pump sucks the shell outwards. It can also be unbolted if further work is needed. The liner combines PrimaLoft insulation with a cork bead gel which works well, but takes a while to form. The shell can be customised to provide space where needed and fits a mediumwidth foot. One-of-a-kind fitting process Some report pain in shins after wearing
K2 Spyne/Spyre £290-£360 FLEX SIZES FLEX SIZES
110, 130 24.5-30.5 80, 100, 110 22.5 – 27.5
The Spyne uses K2’s unique interlock system, which combines a cuff release with a connection to the clog that uses a mortise and tenon type joint. The boot has an upright, centred and balanced feel. It fits a little more snugly than the width suggests, but the heat mouldable liner takes care of hotspots. The Spyre comes with an Intuition liner providing warmth and a precision fit around the foot, giving great heel hold. It comes with replaceable rubber soles and padded mid-grip under foot for extra traction. Made for skiing steeps, rather than racing Quite a snug fit
Salomon X Pro £230-£360
Atomic Hawx Ultra £270-£400
FLEX 80, 100, 110, 120, 130 SIZES 24.5-33.5 70, 80, 90 FLEX SIZES 22–27.5
FLEX 1 00, 110, 120, 130 SIZES 24-30.5 FLEX 80, 90, 110 SIZES 22–27.5
FLEX 1 00, 110, 120, 130 SIZES 25-30.5 90, 110 FLEX SIZES 23–27.5
For many skiers the X Pro has an out-ofthe-box fit, but its shell is also easy to modify. Starting with a 100mm last, the shell can be cooked to stretch 6mm in any direction. It’s made from polyamide, a light material with a springy feel. The X Pro Custom Heat has an internal warmer. There’s no mechanical cuff alignment adjustment but with a strong, light frame, the X Pro transmits energy quicker from edge to edge. The 3D pre-shaped liner provides a great instant fit. It comes with a calf adjustment.
This is one of the lightest all-mountain boots Atomic has produced at 1.7kg per boot and offers a low volume, narrow fit. Its ultra light weight was made possible by removing materials and through the use of a grilamid plastic in its shell. Both shell and liner can be heat moulded. The 110 model is a pleasure to spend the day in. It fits a narrow foot but the shell can be heated to customise it where necessary. The Hawx Ultra can be canted underfoot if required by placing a ‘shim’ under the toes and heels.
Easy to modify No mechanical cuff alignment
Ultra lightweight On the expensive side
Head Vector Evo
The Evo may appear to be a regular, four-buckle all-mountain boot, but its Spineflex fit system is unique to the Head Vector, with cables wrapping the foot evenly in the shape of the shell and avoiding pressure points. It’s lasted with a generous 100mm forefoot. The shell can be customised, and with a four degree bootboard and 14 degree cuff angle, your stance is over the middle of the ski, giving good snow feel. Narrow in the heel but accommodating a wider forefoot, the Vector offers great comfort out of the box. Unique fastening system Smallest size they have is 23
B O OTS
Photo: Andrew J Wilz
Behind the making of an all-mountain boot with a world-class extreme skier A lot of thought goes into boot design, and a manufacturer such as K2 works with US extreme skier Kim Reichhelm to develop its range. She tells Ski+board about the process of creating its Spyre boot, which unlike those of other brands isn’t based on an old race design. She says: “I work in a test group that consists of athletes, engineers and ski experts, which is usually six to eight people. We start by first skiing on other brands and deciding which features we like and which we don’t. “When testing a boot, we take one or two runs on each boot and make comments on cards regarding the performance and fit of each. “Comfort, fit, flex, lateral stiffness, quickness, warmth, ease of entry and exit, stance and performance are all characteristics we test for as we strive to design the perfect boot.
Live the Dolomites
The Hotel Col Alto is one of the most traditional hotels in Corvara, one of the most prestigious ski destinations in the Dolomites. Our family run Hotel has been recently renovated merging local materials and Alpine-style warmth with a new linear design.
“A morning of boot testing will be 15 to 20 runs, then we meet and discuss results. We do this for three days before we make decisions about the next round of prototypes.” A two-time world champion in extreme skiing, Kim started working for K2 in 1986. Three years later K2 started making women-specific skis. She says: “I love the fact that K2 embraced the women’s movement in sports way before most companies.” K2, which was founded in 1962, runs its tests throughout the year. In spring and summer the team meet at Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood in Oregon; in September they go to South America, and in the autumn they meet in Europe. In order to have a product ready for the start of the season, designs are finalised a year in advance. Manufacturing starts in October, to
Kim Reichhelm tests K2 boots throughout the year to help the brand develop its models
have products available in January for ski shows and buyers to order for delivery in September and October. “I am very proud to have been part of the team behind the Spyre,” says Kim. “In three years we went from nothing to the finished product that was launched in 2013.” Louise Hall
Will it be flat light or another flat white? Hold off ordering a coffee if the mist comes in… skiing in a white-out can be a great learning opportunity, says Mark Jones A natural response to flat light or a total white-out is to order another grand café crème and wait by the window until it lifts. That is forgivable because such conditions can be frustrating. It’s easy to get so disorientated that you aren’t even
sure how fast you’re moving, let alone know where you are. For me as an instructor, it can take negotiations worthy of the United Nations to get everyone out on to the slopes in such conditions. However, without exception, I always find these to be the days when I can make long lasting improvements to a skier’s technique. Essentially it is a great opportunity for you to slow everything down, reconnect
Mark Jones is director of ICE (icesi.org), a training centre for aspiring skiers and instructors in Val d’Isère, France. He is also a trainer and assessor for Basi and has been in the British demo team at the industry-leading annual Interski Congress four times.
with the snow and develop accuracy in your balance and steering skills. However, before moving on to such questions of technique, do ensure that you are skiing safely. In extreme cases, a white-out can induce nausea. So try to use anything in the environment around you to help situate yourself. Anything that will give you contrast can really aid a sense of perspective. Trees, lift lines and even other skiers are objects that it makes sense to get a little closer to. If you can, establish the direction in which the piste markers are leading,
Coming out of the old turn, make sure the end is a smooth, round arc
As you finish the turn, use a pole plant to help stabilise your body
Be confident in projecting your body forward into a new turn
Try to keep your balance through the middle of your feet
Maintain a constant speed as you move into the next turn
TEC HNIQU E
so you know where to look for the next one. Otherwise you may think two consecutive markers indicate the left and right side of a narrow run — and head off-piste! In many resorts righthand piste markers have orange tops. Moreover, without a visual fix, you may lose the ability to judge the angle of the slope and your speed. Bear in mind you might be travelling much faster or slower than you think. In some cases you may believe you’ve stopped when you’re actually travelling at speed. Strangely enough, the steepness of the slope may not be such a worry, and many a black piste has been conquered unknowingly in flat light. However, inconsistent snow conditions and bumps can trip you up, so try to stick to smoother, groomed runs, if possible. Once you have become familiar with the conditions you can develop your technique. Balance is one of the biggest challenges you will have in flat light, so make this your main area to work on. MAKE SHAPELY TURNS One area that will make it significantly easier to balance is by looking at your turn shape. Get your turn shape right and the whole experience of skiing in flat light will be a whole lot easier. If your turns are too sharp, there will be quick changes of direction and sharp acceleration and deceleration, which makes staying balanced a huge challenge. So use the white-out to
imagine a marker pen under your skis. What sort of shape would you be drawing with it as you turn? Make sure it shows that you are making the effort to move from one smooth round arc to another. If the arc is smooth, there will be no sharp changes in direction, and it will be easier to stay in balance. Once you are producing lovely round arcs, focus on your speed around the arc. Are you still accelerating and braking, or is your speed constant? If you maintain a constant speed, and match it to a round turn shape, you will instantly be in a better place. The beauty of this change is that it’s easy to achieve, whatever your skiing level, from nervous intermediate right up to the most advanced level. FOCUS ON YOUR FEET Another way to help balance is to focus on what’s happening at ground level, rather than trying to adopt a certain posture. Great balance can only start from the feet up, and in these conditions it’s essential that you zero in down to ground level and say hello to your feet. First, you need to make sure your feet are relaxed enough so that they can feel what’s going on. If your feet are tense — and you may notice yourself trying to grip the insole of the boot with your toes — you will lose the chance to gain accurate feedback back from them. This sounds easy on paper, but in reality it’s a hard barrier to get through, particularly in flat light where you will invariably be feeling tense about what lies ahead. Dealing with such mental blocks is a big area and there are many ways of getting over them, but essentially it’s about trying to get into a relaxed, yet alert state, staying focused while making those turns. Once your feet are relaxed enough to tell you what’s going on, you need to tune into what you are feeling from them. Make sure your weight is
distributed along the length of the foot so you can feel pressure through both the ball and heel of the foot. Most skiers labour under the illusion that they must get really far forward and feel pressure through the front of the boot. They are often taught this to compensate for a natural inclination to lean back. However, if you really do lean forward, the front of the ski will grip, but the back will wash out through the turn and it’s really hard to get good support from the ski. If pressure is directed through the whole foot and there is no levering against the front or back of the boot, the ski can work well and it’s easy to make those smooth, round arcs. Now that you are making round arcs, at a constant speed, with your balance through the middle of the foot, it should feel like a different ball game to the start of the day and life will feel a lot easier. Finally you need to top the whole thing off by maintaining an athletic stance that allows you to be reactive and alert to the conditions you are skiing in. Experiment with using a wider stance than usual, keeping your feet hip-width apart as a minimum. From the feet up stay athletic in terms of a ready-foraction stance but don’t try to remain in a fixed position. You need to be prepared to react and move, rather than focus on holding a ‘balanced’ position. So, here’s your checklist for being the master of flat light: • Make smooth, round arcs • Relax your feet • Maintain balance through the centre of your feet • Be athletic in your stance and ready to react. If you follow these simple tips you will quickly improve. However, the reality of flat light is that you can’t ski as hard and fast as you normally would. So don’t be hard on yourself. Take the time to enjoy these new, accurate turns with the added benefit of being on quiet slopes while everyone else is in the café.
Read more of Mark Jones’s tips at skiclub.co.uk/asktheexpert
December 2016/January 2017
SKI CLUB BENEFITS
The Ski Club – it’s your community New Resort Facebook Groups The Ski Club’s social media pages are growing massively in popularity – we’ve got more people liking, commenting, sharing and retweeting than ever before. But it’s not just about looking at the things we post – it’s about your own contributions. So we’re launching new Facebook groups for each of the major resorts, where you can chat with other members, arrange to ski together and post your photos, videos and updates from your trip. The idea is that each resort will have an online ‘hub’ that will help us create a community, and get members socialising and talking to each other.
We need your help If you’re going to be in a particular resort for a while this season, and are interested in helping us to run the groups,
we’d love to hear from you. The aim is for these groups to be largely managed by people out in resort, whether it’s Ski Club Leaders or members who want to get more involved in the community aspect of the Ski Club, and help other skiers to have the best possible time on snow. Search for your resort’s group on Facebook by typing Ski Club of Great Britain, followed by the resort name – and if your resort’s not there, let us know and we’ll create a group especially! The first groups are going live in early December, with more to follow during the first few weeks of the season. So if you know where you’re going this season, look up and join the relevant resort Facebook group, find people to ski with and get posting your photos, videos, news and messages to help us create a buzzing resort community!
The New Ski Club App The Ski Club’s app is getting a brand new look and redesign from the ground up. You’ll be able to access our industry-leading snow reports and weather forecasts, all wrapped up in a much more attractive and usable app. You’ll also be able to get up-to-the-minute updates from our Ski Club Leader, letting you know what conditions are like, where the best snow is, and what’s going on in resort. Plus, find people to ski with and discover where the best deals are in resort. The app is due to be launched during the early part of this season for iPhones, with the Android version following a little later – so watch this space! Further down the line we plan to introduce new features to the app that will allow you to post your own messages and chat with other members.
If you go down to the woods today…
Photo: Nigel Shepherd
You’re in for a big surprise, unless you follow these steps, says Nigel Shepherd If you’re unlucky enough to hit a spate of bad weather, a forest of well-spaced trees can save your holiday. Of course, you don’t have to wait for bad weather to dive into a forest. For some people trees provide the most exciting terrain for skiing. But for those not familiar with going into the woods, here are a few tips. Ideally, start in an area that’s not steep and has widely spaced trees. The larch forests in some European resorts are good. And many North American resorts have ‘glades’ offering easier lines. Watch for fallen branches or logs lurking below the surface. If roots are showing then there’s not enough snow to ski. And remember that your bindings may not release if your ski passes under a root or buried branch. Wear goggles to protect against low branches and don’t use the wrist loops in case you catch a pole. Also consider wearing a helmet if you don’t usually. Always look for the gaps between trees — not at the trees themselves. It’ll help if you plan two or three turns ahead. And if you’re heading for a tree, fall sideways into the snow with your feet out in front if your can. The skier in the photos, right, did just that and was unhurt. Such intuitive reactions mean the number of skiers who die in collisions is low.
Nigel Shepherd is safety adviser to the Ski Club. He qualified as a full guide in 1979 and was president of British Mountain Guides from 1993 to 1996. He has climbed, skied, taken photographs and guided all over the world and has contributed to several books.
A bigger issue is tree wells. These form around trees with large, low canopies that stop snow filling the void. If you fall into a well it’ll be probably be headfirst. You’ll need a companion to come in from the side and dig a trench and air hole with the utmost priority. It’s virtually impossible to extricate yourself from a tree well, so don’t struggle as you’ll only sink deeper. On average four riders die in such incidents in the US each winter. Happily tree wells are easy to spot and avoid. You are most at risk when the snowpack is deep and during or after heavy snowfall. Problems in Europe are rare as the trees’ branches tend to be higher up the trunk. Even so, buddy up and look out for each other. You can find more tips at deepsnowsafety.org. A further hazard in Europe is… getting arrested. There is an initiative to protect animal habitats that takes in some major Swiss resorts, and some argue that it has been overzealously implemented. Deer, chamois and ptarmigan shelter in the forest in winter and scientists fear that as temperatures fall and food becomes scarce, their metabolic rate reduces to the point that if they are spooked by skiers they may overexert themselves and die of exhaustion. So some areas have been designated ‘tranquillity zones’. Unless a ski touring route, piste or snowshoeing trail passes through them, they are out of bounds, with the threat of a fine of up to 500CHF (£400) and the loss of your ski pass. Resorts are gradually putting up warning signs and roping off such areas, but the best way to stay informed is to check the website zones-de-tranquillite.ch. For the time being only Switzerland has such fierce rules, though most Ski+board
This skier was unhurt because he followed his intuition and simply sat down in the snow
countries will rope off sensitive areas, or where trees have been recently planted. Finally, don’t assume forests are devoid of avalanche hazard. Yes, the risk might be lower, but even here there may be a build-up of windslab in exposed pockets after high winds or storms. And if an avalanche above the forest sweeps through it there are few escape options. In the next issue, I will look at the question of how low you can go into the valley when venturing off-piste.
Read snow reports that are updated daily at skiclub.co.uk/snowreports
December 2016/January 2017
Turn your back on poor skiing Strengthen your core and spine to make your technique more dynamic, says Craig McLean Skiing is often associated with knee injuries. That’s why these were covered in the last issue of Ski+board, along with shoulders in Issue 1. But there’s a risk of back and torso injuries as well. The trunk and lower torso form the power centre of the body, playing an essential role in activities such as skiing. Skiing on tough terrain such as frozen snow and moguls can be jarring to the spine, and muscles can become strained
in the lower back, not only when skiing but also when carrying skis, boots and heavy luggage. Kit such as the Slytech Backpro One Naked Back Protector (reviewed on page 82) can help on the slopes, but these exercises should prepare your core. In the final print issue we will focus on hands and wrists.
Craig McLean is a chiropractor and fitness expert. He has worked in the ski industry for over 15 years, helping Olympians such as Chemmy Alcott and Graham Bell recover from injury without surgery. He also consults for the Warren Smith Ski Academy.
Read Craig’s stretching tips in back issues at skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard
1 SIDE LIFT A This will strengthen your back and core. Start in an upright position with a dumbbell or heavy object in each hand.
B Lean from one side to another ten times and do three sets for each side of the body. You’re doing it wrong if… You’re leaning forward. Keep movements along the plane of your body.
2 RUSSIAN TWIST A Start in a half sit-up with knees bent and lift your feet off the ground, twisting your torso from side to side.
B To make it harder hold a dumbbell. If you are struggling, keep your feet on the ground. Do ten twists either side. You’re doing it wrong if… You’re in full ‘finishing sit-up’ position — this will place too much strain on the lower back.
How skiing can improve your mental as well as physical health
Researchers increasingly believe that skiing and other action sports could help those who suffer from anxiety and conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Eric Brymer, a psychologist at Leeds Beckett University who specialises in the health benefits of outdoor sports, says facing one’s fears in this
way can be transformative. American therapists are already using extreme sports in therapy, and the military use skiing to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The thinking behind the approach is that facing up to a fear of heights or being less in control can develop resilience when done in a safe
F ITN ESS
3 SPINAL TWIST A Lie on your back and spread your arms, lowering your bended legs to one side. Tilt your head to the opposite side.
B Feel the stretch by holding for up to 60 seconds before moving your knees quickly from side to side three times.
You’re doing it wrong if… Your head and shoulders move in the same way as your knees.
4 PLANK A Hold a press-up position for 60 seconds if you can. Rest on your knees and elbows if you find it easier. A
B Move into the side plank position, resting on one hand or forearm. Try to hold for 60 seconds. Repeat both sides. You’re doing it wrong if… You lift your hips too high in the push-up position or let them sag in either position.
5 CORE TWIST A Start on all fours. Place one hand behind your head and twist so your elbow is lifted as high as possible.
B Drop your elbow and curl it under the arm supporting your weight. Repeat ten times on each side. Aim for three sets. You’re doing it wrong if… You allow your body to collapse. This exercise should loosen your upper spine.
environment, allowing sufferers to face fears that affect their daily lives. That was certainly my experience. Before my first ski trip two years ago, I had been suffering from OCD and PTSD for many years. The thought of flying, chairlifts and skiing induced an overwhelming sense of panic in me. And yet, with the support of
friends, I found it exhilarating. Yes it was scary, but as I started to enjoy the views my fear of heights receded. My pride in reaching the bottom of a run unscathed outweighed the fear I’d felt at the top. The joy I found in skiing diminished the fear I’d lived with for so long. Not long after I got back, I booked Ski+board
another holiday… and another. As my skills on the slope improved, so my confidence grew. Not only was I able to control my fear on the mountain, but I found I could use those skills in the rest of my life. These days I’m more relaxed and adventurous, and have my anxiety in control. Claire Robertson-Bennett
December 2016/January 2017
How to protect your kit… and yourself Ah, the irony! We buy all these lovely pieces of kit, from smartphones to skis, boots and boards that are built using the most sophisticated technology… only to expose them to everything the mountains can throw at them, from sub-zero temperatures to the knocks and shocks of everyday skiing. That assumes they have survived the loving touch of baggage handlers at the airport. In this issue, we look at the gear that will protect your skis, boards and boots — and if any item is guaranteed not to appear on the airport carousel, it is your boot bag — to waterproof phone cases and watches that are built for action. Other bits of kit that enable you to fix problems in resort and on the slopes
include glue for mending skis on the go, and a compact tuning kit. Of course, the most vital bit of kit to protect is yourself. If you are heading off-piste you will need the holy trinity of avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, which we will cover in the next issue. However, body armour is also becoming more popular and in years to come may even be considered as vital as a helmet. Even if you eschew gadgets, these reviews may be the perfect place to start if you are looking for Christmas present ideas for someone else.
Read more gear reviews as they are posted online throughout the season at skiclub.co.uk/news
Alf Alderson is an award-winning adventure travel writer who divides his time between the Alps and Pembrokeshire. He is co-author of the Rough Guide to the Rocky Mountains and other ski guides. He is an experienced gear tester for the ski press.
Thule RoundTrip Double Ski/ Snowboard Roller Bag
Ellis Brigham Extendable One Pair Padded Ski Bag
Thule RoundTrip Boot Backpack
This is a great way of carrying a lot of kit. One can hold two pairs of skis plus poles, the other two boards, plus a few bits and bobs in both. If you’re carrying just one pair of skis or one board, you’ll be able to get everything you need in the bags too. Their alloy wheels will whiz through airports, and the contents are protected by integrated tip and tail reinforcements along with durable, waterproof tarpaulin material and extra thick padding. There’s a large zipped internal pocket, while straps secure everything in place. For the times you need to carry them, there is a padded removable shoulder strap and three grab handles, while built-in loops let you connect them to Thule’s Boot Backpack. The big, lockable zip provides easy access to your kit.
Ellis Brigham’s excellent value bag is just the job if you want to shift only one pair of skis. And it’s well-padded so they will be safe from luggage handlers. The padding runs the length of the bag, which can be extended from 170cm to 190cm, and the padded carry strap easily slips over your shoulder, though it’s not adjustable, so you have to make do with the length you get. There are external compression straps to keep everything tied up tight, and enough room for a few bits of clothing (which can double as extra padding), as long as you don’t have the compression straps fastened too tight. The bag weighs just 1.3kg and can be packed away pretty small when you want to shove it in the attic or garage for summer.
A classic tip when flying is to take your boots as carry-on luggage, so there’s no risk of them being lost in transit, and the Thule RoundTrip Boot Backpack is as good a way as any to do that. The main boot compartment is accessed through a zip in the padded back panel, which also drops down to be used as a mat when changing your boots. The compartment is waterproof and has two grommets to let water drain out. There’s loads of extra space in the form of a zipped goggle pocket on the top, two large side pockets and a zipped outer pocket which can fit a helmet. Shoulder and chest straps plus two grab handles make the bag easy to shift around. It’s also easily attached to the bigger ski and snowboard roller bags.
Efficient, stylish means of transporting skis On the bulky side for those who travel light
Good value, basic but effective Carry strap not adjustable
One of the best boot bags we’ve seen No waist belt
Photo: Melody Sky
As well keeping you safe, new products will look after your gear too, says Alf Alderson
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Aquapac Waterproof Armband Case
Biolite PowerLight Mini torch
Linearflux Lithium Card Pro Portable Micro USB Powerbank
If you’re out in a blizzard and need access to your phone or GPS, this case is very handy. The tear-resistant TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) casing is easy to see through and remains soft and flexible in temperatures as low as –40°C. The clamps are simple and easy to use, and if you don’t fancy having your device strapped to your shoulder (with the wide elastic straps) you can always carry it in your pocket inside the case. The casing won’t interfere with sound, so you’ll be able to hear phone calls. And since organisations such as the London Fire Brigade and Los Angeles County Lifeguards use them (they are 100 per cent waterproof to a depth of five metres) you can be pretty confident that they work in the harshest of conditions.
A small, lightweight torch is always worth taking on a ski trip, even if only to ensure you get home from après-ski shenanigans safely. Biolite’s PowerLight Mini torch can be clipped on to clothing, emitting a white light that will let you see where you’re going but won’t blind others. The red night mode allows you to see in the dark while preserving night vision. It comes in several colours. It has a flash mode, and the rechargeable battery uses a USB cable so it can be charged from your portable device. The burn time is an impressive 70 hours on low energy mode but just 2.5 hours on high, although this should be enough for most occasions. It can also be used for camping and cycling, as it comes with a bike mount.
Great protection for your phone or GPS Just a tad bulky
Versatile, small and light Relatively limited burn time
Linearflux claims that this is the world’s fastest phone charger, and that it is up to twice as fast as an Apple iPhone wall charger. It is sleek, minimalist and is a stylish and effective way to ensure that your phone, tablet and other electronic device is always powered up, no matter where you are. It comes with most of the cables you need to charge pretty much any device, except an Apple Lightning cable, which is sold separately. The Pro itself is charged by a full-size USB cable. The biggest feature, however, is the rate at which it will charge. Able to deliver three amps of current, it is effectively future-proofed against the increasing power demands of modern smartphones. Small, sleek, stylish and powerful Doesn’t come with Apple Lightning cable
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£7 (pack of three)
Slytech Backpro One Naked Back Protector
Demon Complete Tune Kit
Sugru Mouldable Glue
This compact tuning kit contains all you’ll ever need to maintain your kit in great condition at home or on holiday. The pack contains a mini iron with temperature control, an edge tuner that will tune edges from 88 to 90 degrees, a tuning stone, flat file for taking burrs off edges, two P-Tex candles, wax scraper, polishing pad and file brush. The whole lot fits into a carry case that is small enough to be stowed in your travel bag, saving costs on repairs and tuning, as well as giving you the satisfaction of maintaining your gear. Purists would argue that you need a ski vice to do ‘proper’ ski maintenance, but for on-the-go repairs this does a good job; and you can always buy a vice for use when you get back home.
Sugru is a mouldable and easy-to-use glue that was ranked above the iPad as one of the best inventions of 2010 by Time magazine. After all you never know when something might snap as you head down a tricky run. It forms a strong bond to aluminium, steel, ceramics, glass, wood and other materials, including some plastics and rubbers. Since it can be moulded, even difficult shapes and items can be fixed — I’ve used it in the past to repair some broken snowshoe bindings. Once a pack is opened it can’t be resealed, but it’s cheap to buy. And if it makes the difference between giving up or carrying on skiing after a piece of kit gives up the ghost, it’s worth popping some Sugru in your pack.
This Slytech back protector is designed to provide a light, strong and comfortable way of protecting your spine. It uses specially developed polymer compounds that are compliant with EN 1621-2 safety standards — in effect, offering a multi-impact solution that is adequate for motorcycling, let alone skiing and boarding which rarely takes place at such speeds. I quickly forgot I was wearing this. In fact, the only time I noticed was when I sat back against a chair or wall. Even then I liked the feeling of protection. It takes seconds to put on — you slip the elastic braces over your shoulder and adjust and fasten the wide waistbelt. It’s a low profile, minimalist design which won’t intrude on your riding. Lightweight and comfortable Warm when spring skiing
Keeps your skis or board in great shape For serious tuning you need a vice
Versatile, easy to use and not expensive Once opened the pack can’t be resealed
Poc Spine VPD 2.0 Airbag Vest
Suunto Spartan GPS sports watch
Garmin Fénix 3 sports watch
The Spine VPD 2.0 analyses a skier’s position a thousand times a second. When a loss of balance occurs, airbags inflate before the skier hits the ground, protecting the upper body. It’s controlled via an electronic box at the back, which also analyses data from a fall and can transmit this to the user via an app. Deflating quickly after impact, the system can be reused by replacing the inflator cartridge. Its light design means it won’t interfere with your skiing. It was approved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and introduced into competitive skiing last season, offering four times more protection than a regular back protector. It’s not unlike Dainese’s D-Air Ski range, which also detects lack of control with sensors.
This watch will do more than just tell the time — though it has five different face settings if this is what you’re after. It has so many features that it’s doubtful anyone could ever use them all. It can provide activity data on over 80 sports. For snowsports, the watch knows how far you’ve skied and the vertical drop, calories burnt, heartrate (if you have a heartrate monitor) and more. You can upload the data with the Movescount app and compare it to others. It also allows you to see the most popular routes skied through its ‘Heatmap’ feature. The GPS system can be used to navigate. I bought one in September and am still finding my way around all its features, which is fun if that’s your thing.
The Fénix 3 is a direct competitor to the Suunto Spartan, and offers similar features, such as a fast-fix GPS system, altimeter, barometer and three-axis compass with auto calibration. It supports a variety of sports including downhill and cross-country skiing. Measuring performance on the go, it tracks activities and can take the user home at the end of an adventure. The ‘Connect IQ’ app means your watch will develop features over time. With some models there are advanced fitness training aids including VO2 Max and Recovery Advisor. It offers more features than most users will ever need, but if you like to keep track of your days on the mountain it can be a lot of fun to play with. It will also tell you the time…
Reduces the chance of being injured in a fall The price will deter many
Good range of features for over 80 sports As with most sports watches, it’s pretty bulky
Heaps of features and could develop more Some features you’ll never use
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Looking for tips on what to pack? Head back a century Inspired by the ‘make do and mend’ approach of Sugru’s glue, Ski+board turned to back issues in search of timeless tips on what to pack for the mountains. Back in April 1912, when the Ski Club’s publication was called Ski Notes and Queries, it ran a piece on ‘Comforts on tour’ — handy if you were planning a trip to the Austro-Hungarian empire, say. The author warned: “When preparing for two or three days’ tour, one is apt to forget essentials, and later to bewail their absence bitterly. We submit the following list for reference, items marked * being optional.” If the weather turned nasty, you would need a wind jacket*, sweater or knitted, sleeved waistcoat, and a wool (or silk, if you were feeling flush) muffler*. Obviously quickrelease bindings came in a different form in those days, as he recommends spare toe and heel straps. The need for spare gloves is little changed, but in those days — before lifts — “on tour” meant just that and skins meant real skins, as he recommends “ropes or sealskin or crampons to taste”. Tips on avoiding blisters are unchanged, even if the products are: “Soap your socks inside, above the toes and behind the heel. Some use boracic powder; others tallow.” Lest you think skiing a hundred years ago was all about roughing it, our author also recommends a sponge, soap, toothbrush, “combined brush and comb”, toilet paper, and highlights the virtue of “aertex pyjamas — warm and light”
and felt slippers, along with spare socks (stockings for ladies), a razor and shaving brush. The equivalent of today’s Demon’s repair kit comes in the recommendation to carry a spare ski-tip and repairing tools*, along with hard ski-wax, chocolate (presumably best kept separate from the wax), raisins or dried apricots, dark glasses, compass and map. Outdated information? Well five-time Olympian Graham Bell recently said he now wears a monocle to read menus and piste maps, so perhaps we can expect more retro ski kit to come on the market. Arnie Wilson
Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria • • •
Picturesque ski & spa resort Two state-of-the-art thermal spas in resort Ski the challenging Franz-Klammer run
Plus... • Save £££s with our Inghams Plus deals • Groups - up to 1 in 5 go FREE • FREE Equipment offer for children • FREE Lift Pass 4-24 March
Visit: inghams.co.uk/bkk Call: 01483 345 083 /Inghams
Terms and Conditions apply. Price and offers correct at time of print.
7 Nights FROM
£7 79 PER PERSON
SKI CLUB BENEFITS
MEMBER DISCOUNTS The Ski Club offers its members a host of discounts at a variety of organisations to help save money both before and on your holiday. To claim your discount visit skiclub.co.uk/discounts where you will also find full terms and conditions.
TOUR OPERATORS Alpine Action 5%
Ski Rossendale 10%
Stanford Skiing 10%
Hotel Wengener Hof Wengen 10%
The Snow Centre Hemel Hempstead 10%
Sunweb 10% The Oxford Ski Company 5% Travel Club Elite 6% VIP Ski 10%
La Grange au Merle Portes du Soleil 5% Silvretta Parkhotel Arosa 10% Sunstar Hotels Group Arosa, , Flims, Lenzerheide, Grindelwald, Wengen, Zermatt, Klosters, Saas-Fee 10% to 15%
GYM, FITNESS AND LEISURE JK Physiotherapy 15% Ski Fit Free sign-up then 20% Serena Stubbs Orthotist 10% SkiA Ski Trainer 15%
Balkan Holidays 5%
Alps Accommodation Samoëns and Morillon 5%
Swiss Quality Hotels Resorts in Switzerland and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany 10%
Club Med 10%
Alpe d’Huez Chalets Alpe d’Huez 5%
Verbier Rentals Verbier 10%
Auberge & Chalets sur la Montagne Sainte Foy 10%
Fun & Spa Hotel Strass Mayrhofen, Austria 5%
Holiday Whistler Whistler 10%
Banana Moon Clothing 10%
Alpine Elements 11%
Crystal Ski Holidays/ Crystal Finest £50 discount Different Snow 5% Elegant Resorts 5% Erna Low 6%
Chalet Blanc La Chapelle d’Abondance 5% Madame Vacances 25%
Frontier Ski 5%
Méribel Ski Chalets 11% Méribel
Leavetown Alberta, British Columbia and Québec in Canada 6%
Nomadic Ski Holidays 5%
Summit Vacations 20%
Ski Cuisine Méribel 5%
Esprit Ski 5%
Skifitness 20% Ski-Mojo 10%
Aquapac International 20% Blacks 20% Burnt Custard 20% Cotswold Outdoor 15% Craigdon Mountain Sports 15% Cycle Surgery 10%
Drift Innovation Action Cameras 20%
Lagrange Holidays 5%
Ski Hiver Les Arcs and La Plagne 15%
Mark Warner 10%
Ski Talini 5%
Caxton Fx £10 balance on registration
Mountain Heaven 10%
Snow Retreat 5%
WeSwap £10 discount
Mountain Paradise 5%
Finches Emporium 10%
Neilson Up to 12%
The Tasty Ski Company 10%
Freetime Mountain Sports 15%
Premiere Neige 10%
Valloire Reservations 12%
Ski Amis 10%
Chalet Apartment Rentals Four Valleys 15%
Ski Independence 5% Ski Peak 5% Ski Solutions 5% Ski Total 5% Ski-Val 5% SkiIceland 5% SkiLapland 5% SkiNorway 5% SkiSweden 5% Skiworld 10% Sno Holidays 5%
Chalet Blanc Portes du Soleil 5% Clarian Chalets Portes du Soleil 10% Ferienart Resort & Spa Saas-Fee 10% GriwaRent Grindelwald 5% Hotel Belvedere Wengen 10% Hotel Bristol Saas-Fee 5%
AIRPORT PARKING, HOTELS AND LOUNGES APH Airport Parking & Hotels 10% to 27% FHR Airport Parking and hotels 10% to 25%
Ellis Brigham 10% Ember 15%
Freeze Pro Shop 10% Glisshop 10% Go Outdoors 10% Hardnutz 20% Little Skiers 10% to 15%
Holiday Extras 10% to 15%
Lockwoods 10% to 25%
Looking4parking Up to 20%
Mountain Warehouse 15%
Skyparksecure Up to 30%
Nature Shop 5% Planks 15% PlayBrave Sports Apparel 20%
Profeet Ski Boot Lab 20%
Runners Need 15%
Hotel Schweizerhof Pontresina 12%
Glenshee Mountain 10% to 20%
Ryft Goggles 15%
snow-wise 10% Snowcoach 5%
Ski Bartlett 10%
Altitude Futures Various discounts
Snow Lab 10% to 15% Snow+Rock 15% Snowfit 10%
Basecamp £250 off 11-week courses
Adrenaline Ski and Snowboard School Verbier £10 discount
Basi (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) 10% off Level 1 courses
Element Ski School 10%
EA Ski and Snowboard Training 25%
Surfdome 10% Techniblock Sunscreen 10% Thirsty Various discounts
ESI First Tracks Ski Coaching 5% to 10%
Ultimate Outdoors 20%
European Snowsport 10% Evolution 2 10%
FOR CARS Volvo Various discounts
Magic In Motion Courchevel, Méribel 10% Marmalade Ski School 10%
Polar snowchains 15%
Momentum Snowsports 10%
Sanef Tolling — France Free registration
New Generation Ski and Snowboard School 10%
The Roof Box Company 10%
Oxygène Ski School La Plagne, Val d’Isère 5% to 10%
Schweizer Schneesportschule Davos 10% group lessons
Scuola di Sci del Cervino Various Discounts
Piste of Mind 10%
TRANSPORT Jet2.com 10% Snow Express 10% Swiss £25 to £35 off flights to Switzerland
CAR HIRE Rhino Car Hire 15% Zest Car Rental 5%
TRANSFERS Ben’s Bus 5% off return transfers from Grenoble airport to ski destinations
Scuola Sci Sauze Sportinia 10% Skispeziali.com 10% Ski Progression 10% to 15% Ski School Cristallo-Cortina 10%
Dorset Snowsport Centre 50% European Outdoors Film Tour 11%
TECHNIQUE COURSES AND CAMPS Core Ski & Snowboard Camps Various discounts Inside Out Skiing 50% off first ski clinic at Hemel Snow Centre Nonstop Ski & Snowboard Various discounts Powder Extreme Various discounts Pro Ride Snowboard Camps Various discounts
Exeter & District Ski Club 20% Firpark Ski Centre 20% Focus Study Tours £100 all language plus courses Gosling Ski & Board Centre 10% Off Courses.net 10% Llandudno Ski and Snowboard Centre 10% Mendip Snowsport Centre 10% Newmilns Dry Ski Slope 10% Norfolk Snowsports Club 25% Plymouth Ski Centre 10%
Andrist Sport 15%
Profeet Ski Boot Lab 20%
Arc 1950 Up to 55%
Sandown Ski Centre 10%
Glacier Sport 10% to 15%
Shredder Experiences 20%
Le Vallon Blanc 30%
Snow d’Light 10%
Polaire Star 25%
Ski and Snowboard Centre Cardiff 20%
Stoked Snowsports 10%
Skiset 15% to 60%
Skyspii Ski Tracker 10%
Summit Ski & Snowboard School 10%
Skimium 10% to 25%
Snowline Sport Shop 25%
Snowtrax — Outdoor Activity Centre 10%
Supreme Ski & Snowboard School 10% Swiss Ski and Snowboard School Villars 10% TDC Val d’Isère 10% The Snow School 15% Ultimate Snowsports Tignes 10%
Cham Van 10% Holiday Taxi Innsbruck Airport 5%
Looking4Transfers Up to 15%
iSki Val d’Isère 15% Echo Travel 10%
Mountain Rescue 10% off Saturday transfers PowderCab Airport Transfers 10%
E3 Ski Academy 10%
Chill Factore 10% to 30%
Stager Sport 15% White Storm 55%
SNOWSPORTS INSTRUCTOR COURSES
Whiterides Airport Transfers 10%
ALLTRACKS Academy Various discounts
Southampton 10% Suffolk Ski Centre 15%
Sunderland Snowsports Centre 20%
Ackers Outdoor Activity Centre 10%
Swadlincote Ski & Snowboard Centre 10%
Alpine French School £25 Free enrolment fee
Tamworth Snowdome £15 discount
Alpine Snowsports Aldershot 10%
Telford Ski Centre 5% Yoodo Movie Maker 20%
Bassingbourn Snowsports Centre Up to 25% Bearsden Ski & Board 10% Bowles Snowsports Centre 10% Bracknell Ski Centre 20%
Ski Lifts 10%
Snozone Castleford and Milton Keynes 10%
Brentwood Ski & Snowboard Centre Various discounts Bromley Ski Centre 10% Carlisle Snowsports 10% Chel-Ski 20%
All discounts are based on information available at the time of going to press. All are subject to partners’ terms and conditions and are subject to change without prior warning. See skiclub.co.uk/discounts for further information or call Member Services on 020 8410 2015
SNO W B OA R D S
Topsheet Core Edges Sidewall
Board lengths are measured in centimetres from tip to tail. Longer boards suit powder; shorter ones are best for freestyle
The distance between the two contact points on either side of the snowboard
BASE Extruded bases are cheap, easy to repair, and ideal for beginners. Sintered bases need more care and cost more, but are faster when waxed
CAMBER A board with a camber profile rises up between the rider’s feet and has contact points at each end — at the nose and tail ends of the effective edge
WIDTH A ’W‘ following a length means the board comes in wide, and so is suitable for riders with larger feet — UK size 11 and over
ROCKER A board with a rocker profile has its main contact point between the rider’s feet, while the ends of the effective edge are lifted
FLEX This is graded from one to five, with one being soft — making a board easy to turn — and five being stiff, for high-speed piste performance
FLAT PROFILE A board with a flat profile is flat under the feet, with the board rising only at the tip and tail
Camber effective edge
Rocker effective edge
COMBO A board with a combo profile combines elements of both rocker and camber boards
Flat profile effective edge
Camber and rocker combo* *Camber and rocker combo profiles vary
Don’t be square, find a fit to express yourself
SHAPE Directional boards have a setback stance, twin boards have a centred stance and an identical nose and tail, while directional twin boards combine elements of both
Once conservative in shape, all-mountain boards are being reformed to suit different riders’ styles, says Tristan Kennedy
Tristan Kennedy is editor of action sports and adventure website mpora.com and former deputy editor of Whitelines snowboarding magazine. He tested these boards exclusively for Ski+board at the Snowboard Spring Break event in Kaunertal, Austria.
Ride Timeless FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
One look at the boards on these pages is enough to tell you that the shape revolution which has swept through snowboarding in recent years shows no sign of stopping. All-mountain boards, which are aimed at the mass market, tend to be traditional in their designs. Yet, even in this most conservative of categories, things are being shaken up. Some classics are unchanged. The Burton Custom, the best-selling snowboard ever, is back with just a few tweaks. But the fact that the Ride Timeless — a popular, conventionally shaped model — is back with an unusual new shape tells you everything. The idea
£510 Camber Directional 153, 158, 162, 167
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
The Ride Timeless is a classic — a huge hit back in the 90s that was long overdue a return. The punk attitude of its youth might be gone, but the cleverness of its new material makes up for that. The aluminium which is used in the topsheet for its vibration damping properties is something no other brand has tried before. It combines this with a fairly stiff flex and a sidecut built for carving to create a board that’s great for riding fast all over the mountain. So while it might look different, the essence of the Ride Timeless is very much there. Great for carving, incredible at high speed Not one for learners
behind this is that different shaped boards bring out different aspects of your riding. Wide boards with deep sidecuts let you do quick turns, which is great for tree runs. Asymmetric boards, with a different sidecut on each edge, are great for flat-out carves. Previously, the flex, construction and profile of a board were the most important factors when it came to how it rode. These days, shape matters just as much, if not more. There’s plenty of choice out there and the best way to understand how these shapes ride is to go out and try one yourself.
To find out how to pick the best board for you, visit bit.ly/choosingaboard
Bataleon Goliath £425
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Directional twin LENGTHS (cm) 151, 154, 156,
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Directional twin LENGTHS (cm) 148,151,154,156,158,
157, 158, 161, 158W, 160W, 163W
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
The Goliath has been around since Bataleon’s earliest days in business. Like other classics, it’s been tweaked rather than overhauled, but it feels better than ever. Its flex and directional twin shape make it perfect for blasting around — there’s no risk of any skittishness at high speeds. The brand’s triple base technology makes catching an edge less likely, yet ensures that you get the pop you’d expect from a conventional camber board. It’s not one for beginners, but if you’re looking for an all-rounder, they don’t come much better.
Burton’s designers have opted for evolution over revolution with the Custom. But then, it is the best-selling snowboard of all time, so they’d be foolish to change it too much. This board’s popularity is proof that newer doesn’t always mean better. The classic directional twin shape, with a longer nose and a setback stance, is just as good for blasting round the mountain as it always was, and the mid-stiff flex plus fairly aggressive sidecut makes this one of the best carvers on piste, in powder and for halfpipes. Just ask Burton pro Mikkel Bang, who rides one everywhere.
Great all over the hill Too stiff for beginners
December 2016/January 2017
Performs well all over the mountain This board isn’t bucking any trends
SNO W B OA R D S
Salomon Ultimate Ride £450
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Twin LENGTHS (cm) 150, 153, 155, 158, 161
FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
Salomon certainly wasn’t feeling bashful when it named this board but then it’s not built for shy riders. It is made to go anywhere and destroy anything. The Ultimate Ride has a multi-angle sidecut that helps it grip on hard-packed snow, and carbon inserts in the sidewalls to help absorb speed chatter. Despite its odd shape, this is technically a twin (the effective edge is the same in front and behind the bindings) but it’s not just for freestyle. The Ultimate Ride is more than comfortable on piste, in powder or anywhere else. Hence the name. Twin shape makes it good on jumps The aggressive flex is not for beginners
£435 Combo Twin
152, 154, 156, 158
The graphics of the Greats series normally celebrate great figures from history. This year, Yes Snowboards has decided to celebrate its own history. It pays tribute to the UnInc team, a sub-brand of Burton, which first brought the three founders of Yes together. But if the graphic is a throwback, the board itself is anything but. Its asymmetric sidecut is reflected by a non-symmetric flex that makes it a dream to carve. And, although this is a twin, it’s a pretty aggressive one which is certainly more than happy on piste or in powder too. A great all-rounder Not one for novices
SNO W B OA R D S
FLEX PROFILE Combo SHAPE Directional twin LENGTHS (cm) 143, 147,
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Directional twin LENGTHS (cm) 140, 144,
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
Photo: Melody Sky
The cut-off tail and tapered nose are the most distinctive features of this year’s Ride Hellcat. The tip helps it float better in powder while the tail saves a bit of weight. But what’s interesting is how little they hinder the way the board rides in other conditions. The stance is centred and the effective edge is the same length in front and behind the bindings. This means that while this board is great for carving on, it’s also excellent for freestyle — helped further by the fact that it has a softer flex than many all-mountain boards. Versatile, more forgiving than some Softer flex is less good at super high speeds
FLEX PROFILE Combo SHAPE Directional LENGTHS (cm) 149
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
The Burton Feelgood is back for another year and is better than ever. In terms of its shape and spec, this snowboard isn’t wildly different to last year’s model. But like the Custom this board is a bestseller, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that the Feelgood ain’t broke. Its combination of mid-stiff flex and aggressive sidecut make it one of the best women-specific boards for carving not just in Burton’s range but anywhere. It’s more than capable of handling powder too and great in the park — halfpipe hero Kelly Clark rides one. A true all-rounder Not soft enough to learn on
With its pointed nose, cutaway tail and markedly asymmetric sidecut, the Gnu Zoid is one of the oddest-looking snowboards ever released to the masses. The great thing about the Zoid is that it does everything well. The asymmetric sidecut and shape make it great for carving, so it’s loads of fun on piste. It’s amazing for kicking up rooster tails in powder too. It’s also fun in the park, thanks to a responsive flex that gives it good pop off jumps. It’s not the best for rails, but if you’re looking for something different, then the Zoid is a great board. Fun, unique-feeling and versatile Won’t stand up against a rail
SKI CLUB BENEFITS
Choosing Ski Club Travel Insurance has always meant that you’re getting the specialist cover you need, with policies designed by experts for skiers and snowboarders. And our policies aren’t just for skiing – they’re the perfect accompaniment to all of your travel adventures, on and off the snow.
HIGHLIGHTS: • Off piste skiing and boarding, with or without a guide • All policies include Fogg Medi-card as standard, to get you off the mountain with no up-front costs • Single trip cover up to the age of 85 (75 for multi-trip)
15% OFF for Ski Club Members
• Children FREE up to the age of 18 on all family policies (or under 24 if you have Ski Club Platinum membership) • Up to 45 days’ winter sports cover each year with Ski Club Platinum Membership • Winter sports equipment cover including goggles, helmets, boots & gloves as well as the usual cover for skis, poles and snowboards • Cover for lack of snow, and avalanches
For a quote, visit skiclubinsurance.co.uk or call 0300 303 2610 Ski+board
• Heli skiing, glacier skiing, backcountry skiing and ski touring all covered as standard
December 2016/January 2017
Photo: David Machet/Le Grand Bornand
Head off for a bit of piste and quiet WRITERS Neil English, Chris Exall, Andreas Hofer, Colin Nicholson
HOW OUR GUIDE WORKS CHALLENGE Our infographic shows how resorts grade pistes according to difficulty, showing what percentage are black, red, blue or green (however, note that Austrian, Swiss and some Italian areas don’t have green runs). PISTES We list the combined length of
all the resort’s pistes, as claimed by the tourist office. We include linked areas that are also covered by the lift pass. LIFT PASS Lift pass prices are for a six-
day adult pass during high season.
Arriving at the base of a lift to find a long queue has almost become a thing of the past in the Alps these days. Investment in detachable chairs and fast new gondolas means even big queues now move rapidly. However, many of us still prefer quieter resorts. They give beginners a better chance to hone their skills, and they give all of us the feeling of owning the mountain. It’s a unique joy to ski for ages without spotting another soul and make tracks down an untouched slope. As the Alps prepare for what many hope will be the best start to the season in years — and hotels get booked up accordingly — perhaps now is the time to forsake your usual resort and head for a lesser-known area. So if you’re looking for some ‘piste and quiet’, then let Ski+board help you escape the crowds.
To read guides to more than a thousand resorts see skiclub.co.uk/skiresorts
Bettmeralp-Riederalp Little for experts
Authentic, traffic-free ski-in, ski-out villages Why there? You probably haven’t heard of the Aletsch Arena, but you may have heard of the resorts of Bettmeralp and Riederalp, if not Fiescheralp, which make up this ski area. When boarding one of the cable cars to these traffic-free villages, with extraordinary views of 4,000m-plus
peaks across the Rhône Valley, you leave day-to-day stresses down in the valley. The resorts, which lie on a charming, snowy plateau, are linked by a network of pistes, with about 90 per cent of the groomed runs gentle to intermediate. In terms of drama, the crowning glory is the Aletsch Glacier. It is the longest stretch of ice in the Alps and is 900m thick in parts, so has Unesco World Heritage Site status. The best views are from the Eggishorn, Moosfluh or Bettmerhorn. Can’t ski, won’t ski Explore 70km of walking and snowshoeing paths, both in the valley and between the villages, and enjoy the natural ice rink at Bettmeralp. You can toboggan from Fiescheralp all the way down to Lax. And take in the glacier views from the newly renovated Bergrestaurant and sundeck at Bettmerhorn. NE
Snow Lifts Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass
Piste height: 1,040m-2,870m
Photo: Christian Perret
Car-free for carefree holidays
R ESORT I N SI DER
Big Sky Now one of the largest ski areas in the US
Base village has a rather corporate feel
Why there? Big Sky is one of the US’s top spenders, this season building a heated bubble chairlift. So why have we heard so little of it? Well, the Montana resort is a day’s drive from just about anywhere. On the plus side you’re unlikely to be troubled by crowds. Skiing here means wide pistes spread over four mountains. Add 10m a year of snowfall to an area that feels empty and it’s hard not to make first tracks somewhere. Most skiers stay in the ski-in, ski-out village, although it has a rather corporate feel.
Photo: Michel Tallichet
Big, empty mountains with lots of terrain
Can’t ski, won’t ski There’s snowshoeing, dog sledding and sleigh rides. A snowcoach takes you on a guided tour of Yellowstone National Park. CE
Low budget Off-piste
Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools
Piste height: 2,070m-3,400m
Arcalís Good freeride possibilities
Nearest lodging is at Ordino, 20 minutes away
Remote, unknown freeride haven
Why there? Andorra may not seem like the natural place to beat the crowds, but the exception to the rule is 22% Arcalís, which is included in the lift pass for 38% Pal-Arinsal (£180). It’s higher, without the evergreen trees, and offers excellent 7% off-piste. Non-beginners probably wouldn’t want to spend a week there, but some tour operators lay on coaches to offer day trips from Pal-Arinsal.
Heavenly Skiing At Down To Earth Prices
Can’t ski, won’t ski Non-skiers are better off staying in Andorra la Vella, rather than Ordino, as the principality’s capital has a spa and lots of duty-free shopping. CN
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High Quality Catered + Self Catered Accommodation
French and Swiss Alps, Snow Sure Resorts, On or Near Piste locations, No Hidden Extras, Financially Bonded
Piste height: 1,940m-2,625m
0151 625 1921 | mountainheaven.co.uk
R ESORT I N SI DER
Grand Bornand Lifts are old and slow
Charming French resort with plenty of runs Why there? Stand in the town square of Le Grand Bornand and you could be forgiven for not realising you are in a ski resort. The lifts of this traditional Savoyard town, with its market square and church, are tucked around a corner, but they lead to an extensive area. Admittedly, most of the chairlifts are slow and the mix of tree-lined and more exposed runs is challenging for beginners. Many of the greens would be classified blue in other resorts. For more advanced skiers there are offpiste possibilities and new this year is the chance to go night skiing on 26% skis illuminated with LEDs. A big plus is that it shares a lift pass
Photo: G Lansard
Quiet and undiscovered
with La Clusaz, which is just ten minutes away by bus, and has a similar number of pistes (and great off-piste) giving advanced skiers new options every day. Can’t ski, won’t ski Many of the shops allow visitors to sample goods and there’s a market every other 32% Wednesday. There are nearly 20km of walking trails along the river and some hotels have spas. CN
Snow Lifts Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass
Piste height: 1,000-2,100m
R ESORT I NSI DER
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Heiligenblut Access to Incredible freeride Limited number of pistes
Hidden winter paradise Why there? Few places have preserved ancient customs better than Heiligenblut. No mean feat, considering its history of almost a century of tourism. Located on one of the most beautiful roads in the Alps, it is passed by thousands in summer over the Hochtor Pass (2,504m) crossing along the old Roman salt road into Salzburg. Its winter sport offerings are a well-kept secret though. Few people come to make use of its 11 slow-ish lifts, and its 55km of well-groomed slopes are never crowded even during peak season. But best is its vast wilderness. It’s in Austria’s largest national park, the Hohe Tauern, with its terrain of nearly 2,000 square kilometres roamed by eagles, chamois, ibex, vultures and marmots. 7% In this writer’s experience you can ski tour here for 30 years, yet not manage to scale even half of the peaks and mountain tops in the surrounding valleys.
Can’t ski, won’t ski The dainty, Gothic church of Heiligenblut at the foot of Austria’s highest mountain, the Großglockner, is well worth a visit. AH
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Piste height: 1,300m-2,900m
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Photo: Pally Learmond
The XX-chromosome games — British female freestyle skier Naomi Edmondson, above and inset, competing at the Brits in Laax ten years ago
...and a hundred of the best ‘resorts’ in the UK Ski Club research revealed that a fifth of skiers — especially the under-30s — prepare for the season at a snowdome or dry slope. But did you know that there are 95 UK venues listed on club’s site? To join those canny skiers click on our interactive map to find your nearest slope, see opening times and check for discounts at skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice.
The Ski Club’s web team kick off an exclusive series of interviews with Britain’s female pioneers of freeskiing at skiclub.co.uk/news Back in the late nineties and early noughties, British women led the way in the freestyle and freeride revolution. Some have remained in the sport, while others have developed their careers in diverse ways, as writer Hannah Engelkamp discovered. First, she speaks to Beanie De Le Rue. Beanie was sponsored by Oakley, competing around the world and successfully recovering from snapping her femur at the Brits in Laax. Wife of legendary snowboarder Xavier, the Scot was a phenomenal athlete in her own right. Head online to find out more about her time on the pro-skier circuit and where life has taken her more recently. On Beanie’s recommendation, for the second part of our series we head to… Hackney. Yes, East London may not be
Go on, gorge yourself on heaps of the white stuff The snow this season is looking good, very good. But if you want to know just how good, we have started putting online full winter snow reports for 267 resorts. Ski Club members can also access nine-day weather forecasts (if they’re logged in). This long-range data is provided by experts who successfully predicted the huge snowfall in early November, more than a week in advance. So to stay ahead of the game check the online forecasts at skiclub.co.uk/weather
Photo: Pally Learmond
The Ski Club has picked the brains of its 30 snow-mad staff to get their take on which are the world’s best resorts for different types of skier. Throughout the winter we’ll be covering varied categories — from top five family favourites to gnarly off-piste areas. So if you’re looking for last-minute holiday inspiration keep an eye on skiclub.co.uk/news and make sure to leave a comment to tell us whether or not you agree with our choices.
The women warriors
the obvious place to look for mountain folk, but it’s where you will find the graphic design studio of many-time British champion, Naomi Edmondson. So what designs does Naomi have on life now, and can it really be true that she hasn’t clipped on a pair of skis in five years? To find the answers and more visit skiclub.co.uk/news. and be sure to read your resort’s latest snow report before you travel out to the mountains at skiclub.co.uk/snowreports — even if it’s only to savour how much snow there will be! And if that’s not enough, another great source is the Ski Club’s Twitter feed, updated several times a day with the best pictures and news from around the world. See twitter.com/TheSkiClub.
To find out more visit
High five! Our pick of the ski areas perfect for you…
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Seeing is believing — skiing in Spain Top Spanish resorts can rival the Alps. If you don’t believe us, go to the Ski Club’s YouTube channel to find out for yourself
Photo: Dougie Crawford
When you picture holidays in Spain, you probably don’t conjure up images of snow-capped mountains and sub-zero temperatures. But there are more than 30 ski resorts in the country, spread across its five biggest mountain ranges. Baqueira-Beret is the largest of these and is gaining a reputation as a worldclass ski destination. So Ski Club TV paid a visit as part of its ‘resorts under the radar’ series, exploring lesser-known winter sports destinations. Baqueira-Beret sits at one end of the stunning Val d’Aran in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees. The valley’s history and rich cultural tapestry make it a fascinating place even for native Spanish visitors. Over the past 60 years it has grown from a small rural community into Spain’s foremost resort,
The Spanish Pyrenees offer British skiers easily accessible off-piste and lower prices
with 150km of pistes, over 35 lifts and a wide range of accommodation. At the start of 2016 the Ski Club TV production team travelled to BaqueiraBeret to see if it could challenge betterknown resorts. What they found was a
charming and affordable alternative to the Alps, with easily accessible off-piste on offer at every corner. If you struggle to believe that, watch the full episode on the Ski Club’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/thesnowcast.
Follow our five-minute masterclass in shooting your own action videos
You’ll feel animated to join the club after watching this short clip
With the start of the season upon us and Santa readying himself for the rush of Christmas present requests, GoPro has once again announced the launch of a new pocket-sized camera. For many, the release of the GoPro
Current members of the Ski Club who take full advantage of the huge list of member benefits know all about why they joined up. But if you have friends who love skiing as much as you do, and who would benefit from joining, we’d love you to share our short ‘Why join the Ski Club of Great Britain’ animation with them. Disclaimer: By subtly intertwining hypnotic messaging and imagery into this two-minute cartoon clip we’ve made it practically impossible for the average skier not to instantly purchase membership.
Our expert gives a lesson in taking videos
Hero 5 only highlights a long list of functions they never used on the Hero 4. So if, like us, you’re still working out the full potential of your Hero 4 — or if you now intend to pick up the old model in the January sales — you’ll be pleased to hear that Ski Club TV has produced a ‘tips’ video to help you master the basics of this awesome little camera. Tom Ewbank, the Ski Club’s video producer, spends five minutes talking viewers through all the essential features and settings of this tiny camera, breaking down his explanation into easy-to-understand bite-sized chunks. After just five minutes of watching this video we’re confident that you’ll be able to produce a video of the annual family ski trip that will leave friends and family in awe. To watch the full episode visit the Ski Club’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/thesnowcast. Ski+board
Get the bigger picture at…
December 2016/January 2017
youtube.com/ thesnowcast skiclub.co.uk
In your next issue… Oh baby! THE NEW POWER IN TOURING
Chemmy Alcott reveals what it was like to join the Ski Club’s test team and how it got her pregnant (and, no, it’s not what you’re thinking)
PROTECTION FIRST PINTECH BINDING WITH DIN ISO CERTIFICATION (DIN ISO 13992:2007)
The garments that will save you sweating up a storm as soon as the sun comes out
Off-piste How low can you go? Nigel Shepherd gives tips to avoid being stranded
PERFORMANCE UNBEATEN POWER TRANSMISSION
Mark Jones solves a problem that most of us want to face — how to ski powder
COMFORT/HANDLING UNIQUE COMFORT & EASY HANDLING
Resort insider Tips for travelling with a first-time skier or snowboarder
The freetour issue MOR E IN FO S O N M ARK ER.NET
TOURING RANGE OF USE
High Alpine Touring
KINGPIN RANGE OF USE
Freetour skis for both men and women, feather-light boots, avalanche gear and splitboards
You can read back issues of Ski+board online at skiclub.co. uk/skiandboard
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