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Interview: Chemmy Alcott + Lech and St Anton are joined at last + Is sledging really safer than skiing? + Snow wear + Technique + Off-piste + Fitness + Gear + Discounts + Resorts + Best of the web
A LESSON IN FAIR PLAY FOR INSTRUCTORS IN FRANCE SKIS, BOOTS, BOARDS
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EDITOR Colin Nicholson firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note Few things really rile me, but snow snobs are an exception. These are the skiers who come back from trips reporting that there was “no snow”. In 99 per cent of cases this is untrue. So let me translate for you what they are saying. It is: “Yes, most of the pistes were covered in snow and, yes, I skied happily every day, but… Don’t you realise that for a skier as staggeringly accomplished as me the lack of powder off-piste was an affront to my skills?” As a result of their “no snow” message, I’m forever explaining to disbelieving non-skiers and would-be skiers that I did ski before Christmas and, as always, most of slopes were open, albeit prepared with the help of snow machines. Other misunderstandings on the part of beginners have a more comical element. I was once with a first-timer who was making superb progress in lessons, so I suggested she join me on a T-bar. “Absolutely not,” she replied. It transpired that she had spied the T-bars on their return journey down the mountain, dangling some five metres above the snow, and had imagined herself perched on one, clinging to it for dear life. It was an interesting lesson in how having a good first experience on snow is less about technique, and more about the understanding, reassurance and patience of the instructor. In France, such ‘people skills’ have often been in short supply at the dominant ski school, the Ecole du Ski Français. Its model is more akin to a sports academy, weeding out the best skiers from the chaff, to put them on the path to a racing career. No wonder that to become a fully qualified French instructor you have to be a racer. Until November 22, 2016, it was assumed the same was required of British instructors. Now, thanks to the tireless campaigning of one man, Simon Butler, a court has ruled that instructors who have the lower Basi (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) Levels 2 and 3 qualifications can also practise in France, just like their trainee French counterparts. One effect of the ruling should be to make lessons cheaper, as more Britons fulfil their dream of teaching in the Alps. And anything that makes skiing cheaper is welcome. Already we benefit from very competitive tour operators. They make about £20 profit on the headline price of the average £750 holiday. One study, admittedly a decade old, found that only Greece had a more competitive package holiday market. I do feel for those skiers who face a £30 to £50 ‘Brexit surcharge’ on their trip (see page 16), but if it’s any consolation, they probably got a far better deal than their Continental counterparts in the first place.
DEPUTY EDITOR Harriet Johnston email@example.com DESIGNER Amanda Barks MEDIA SALES Madison Bell madisonbell.com firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7389 0859 OVERSEAS MEDIA SALES Martina Diez-Routh email@example.com +44 (0) 7508 382 781 PUBLISHER Ski Club of Great Britain London SW19 5SB skiclub.co.uk | 020 8410 2000
In France, ‘people skills’ have often been in short supply at the dominant ski school, the Ecole du Ski Français
The cover photo shows an ESF instructor leading a group off-piste in Megève — Page 20
Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Independently audited circulation of 19,722 (January to December 2015) Issue 196 © Ski Club of Great Britain 2017 ISSN 1369-8826 Ski+board is printed by Precision Colour Printing, Telford TF7 4QQ
Cover photo: Jean-Pierre Noisillier/Megève Tourisme
Colin Nicholson Ski+board Editor
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9 EXPOSURE Escape to the mountains with our photographers as they offer a unique take on resort life
14 YOU SAY The fate of Ski Club memorabilia, white weddings and a request for feedback on the magazine
15 SKI CLUB NEWS The club buys Mountain Tracks, sells the White House and Facebook groups take off
16 NEWS Brexit surcharges, all change for British instructors in France, drought warnings and much more
FEATURES 20 SCHOOL’S IN After a surprise court ruling to let Britons teach again, we give our verdict on instructors in France
28 CHEMMY ALCOTT The Olympian reveals how joining the Ski Club’s test team made her pregnant
32 THE MISSING LINK We try out the new lift between Lech and St Anton in what is now Austria’s largest linked area
36 SISTER SLEDGE If expectant mothers are meant to do it, should we all be sledging instead of skiing for safety?
THE INSI DE EDGE
Back on the up: British instructors free to teach again
40 SNOW WEAR New materials make outfits smarter and more comfy with the aid of technology
48 SKI TESTS Touring skis open up a world of possibilities — and these are the best of the best
The touring boot’s on the other foot, as climbing for your turns is the in thing
Photo: Jonny Cass
Chemmy Alcott on how testing skis gave her a baby
60 TECHNIQUE Don’t lean back! Instructor Mark Jones shows you how to have fun playing in powder
Photo: Josef Mallaun/St Anton
Nigel Shepherd answers the question of how low you can go without getting stranded
Bus stop bust-up as St Anton and Lech are linked
64 FITNESS Get to grips with the best exercises to strengthen your hands, wrists and forearms
67 GEAR As freetouring increases in popularity, off-piste gear lightens up too
Is it really true that sledging is safer than skiing? Photo: Megève Tourisme
The splitboards and big mountain models that allow you to scale new heights
76 RESORTS We reveal some of the best places to visit if you’re travelling with a beginner Ski+board
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Austria | France | Italy
SKIER Graeme Gibson LOCATION Verbier, Switzerland PHOTOGRAPHER Melody Sky
Action photographer Melody Sky and ski instructor Graeme Gibson had to go high to find good snow in Verbier, and were rewarded for their efforts when they found this stash, where the wind had moved the snow into pockets.
LOCATION Megève, France PHOTOGRAPHER Jean-Pierre Noisillier
Megève has been at the centre of the storm around British ski instructors teaching in France. But here Jean-Pierre Noisillier caught the more magical side of its tree-lined terrain. Cover story — Page 20
LOCATION Lech, Austria PHOTOGRAPHER Christoph Schöch
Riders no longer need to mind the gap between LechZürs and St Anton as the two have been linked by a new gondola bridging the Austrian resorts. We’ve seen the back of the bus — Page 32
LOCATION St Moritz, Switzerland PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Mettler
St Moritz is staging the biennial World Championships. But the Swiss resort is known for another event, the Engadin Ski Marathon, with crosscountry racers skiing through the chic town every March.
SKIER Thibaud Duchosal LOCATION Sochi, Russia PHOTOGRAPHER Stef Godin
Far from becoming a white elephant after staging the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi is hummingâ€Ś if only due to the law of unintended consequences. With the collapse of the rouble, Russians are deserting the Alps for the resort, which also offers heli-skiing, as French team Stef Godin and Thibaud Duchosal discovered on an undercover mission with a difference. What appears to be a snorkel is in fact a trick of the light in deep powder.
I’m so grateful to you for providing my parents with a club they loved
Who is going to say thanks for the memories in the office move?
My father, Peter Oura, has sadly passed away at the age of 88, but his legacy lives on. He had been a member of the Ski Club for many years, as my mother was a club rep in the 1950s and skiing was how they met. They had their wedding reception in the Ski Club’s headquarters in Belgravia in January 1959 and went skiing for their honeymoon (pictured). Thank you for providing them with a club they loved. Happily they have passed their love of skiing to their children and grandchildren.
The subject of a new permanent home for the Ski Club’s library and ski memorabilia came up at the Annual General Meeting in November. This was on the assumption that when the club moves to new offices there will not be room to house our unique and valuable collection, which apparently attracts virtually no visitors per annum. I think it would be a good idea if we were to ask the members for some of their suggestions. The British Museum occurred to me for starters.
of volunteers, has elected to lead the search for a new home for this valuable collection and they would very much welcome any suggestions. Please email me with your ideas in the first instance at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall pass them on.
Olivia Gordon The Alpine Club’s library may be interested. You can find out more at alpine-club.org.uk by clicking on the Library tab under AC Resources.
Kate Wood Readers may struggle to identify the resort below. It is in fact Hampstead Heath, North-West London. The latest cold snap reminded me that in 1963 the snow lay for 61 days running. And I recently unearthed these pictures of my parents skiing there on New Year’s Day.
If we can’t find our own space for our own memorabilia it’s a poor do, and why should anyone else find space?
Charles Pritchard Ski Club chief executive Frank McCusker writes: A sub-group of the Council, the club’s governing body
The collection stored in the Ski Club’s library includes trophies, volumes and ancient skis
Frank Gardner, Ski Club president
Your chance to make a difference
Ski+board is asking 2,000 randomly selected readers to rate the articles in the magazine
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
In February, Ski+board will once again be asking a randomly selected sample of Ski Club members to tell us what they think of the features and regular sections in this season’s magazines. We appreciate that it is now scarcely possible to buy a cup of coffee or open a web page without a request for feedback on the ‘experience’. But if you are among the one in eight Ski Club members to receive an email asking you to take part in the survey, we can promise that your input will be used to help us keep on improving the magazine. The survey will include links to the relevant features to jog your memory and should take no longer than ten minutes to complete. All comments will be carefully considered. You can, of course, tell us what you think at any time using the email and postal addresses to the left. You can use the same addresses to request any hard copies of Ski+board you have missed in the past four years.
SKI C LU B NEW S
Photo: Ben Tibbetts
Ski Club takes over Mountain Tracks
Tour operator Mountain Tracks offers trips that complement the Ski Club’s Freshtracks holidays
The Ski Club of Great Britain has bought Mountain Tracks, an adventure travel firm offering off-piste skiing trips, as well as mountain-based summer holidays. Mountain Tracks will retain its name, and its trips will continue to be offered alongside the Ski Club’s Freshtracks holidays. It will offer Ski Club members further opportunities for ski touring and other off-piste experiences, such as hut-to-hut tours, as well as a number of summer trips. These cater to a broad range of abilities, and include glacier trekking, via ferrata tours in the Dolomites and mountaineering. As part of the terms of the purchase, the Ski Club will provide membership to Mountain Tracks customers.
Ski Club chief executive Frank McCusker said: “Our members now have even more opportunity to experience truly unique adventures on snow. Members on a Mountain Tracks or Ski Club Freshtracks holiday have access to the most highly respected IFMGA mountain guides and instructors.” He added that the focus would remain on “great experiences for our members with small group sizes and low memberto-guide ratios”. Nick Parks, who set up Mountain Tracks in 2000, said: “I believe our winter programme ideally complements Ski Club Freshtracks and gives us the opportunity to offer our customers new adventures in summer and winter.”
Photo: Melody Sky
Facebook groups prove popular The Ski Club’s new Facebook resort groups have proved popular since they were launched in early December. The groups are designed to help members connect with each other, arrange to ski and socialise together, and see updates from skiers and snowboarders in resort. They have so far been joined by hundreds of skiers, and members have posted some excellent content from the mountains, with great photos and video clips that give an excellent flavour of what conditions are like in each resort. The busiest group is Val d’Isère, in France, with nearly 300 members. The resort has always been popular with Ski Club members, and British skiers more generally. However, other resort groups, such as Zermatt, in Switzerland, which has more than 150 members, and Tignes, in France, with about 70 members, have also got off to a busy start.
Sale of the White House is finalised and search starts for new headquarters On December 22, the club sold its base in Wimbledon to Caligula, a property investment firm, for £3,875,000. The club has negotiated a two-year leaseback deal to stay at the White House as it seeks new premises in the area. It can end the lease at any time after nine months. As reported before, the building needs major investment due to its age. It was last redeveloped in the 1980s, and the Ski Club’s Council wanted to focus resources on member services and benefits, rather than property. The Council was also concerned that the White House represented over 80 per cent of the club’s assets, and will invest the surplus in more diverse assets.
Redesigned app offers resort-specific messages The Ski Club’s redesigned app is now live for all iPhone and iPad users. It gives snow and weather reports in more than 250 resorts, updated daily. Features include snow depths on upper and lower runs, the weather and expected snow in the next six days, piste conditions, webcams, information on member benefits in resort, including discounts, and events. To find the app search for Ski Club snow reports at the Apple Store. Existing users should find it updates automatically. An Android version will be launched later in the season.
It’s official! Ski+board is reaching more readers The groups are available in all resorts that offer Instructor-led Guiding or have a Leader
The groups are currently running for all resorts in which the club has a Leader or offers Instructor-led Guiding, as well additional resorts that are popular with members, such as St Anton, in Austria. You can find the groups by searching on Facebook for Ski Club of Great Britain followed by the name of the resort. Ski+board
The circulation of Ski+board is set to top 20,000, after a deal to increase its distribution in the Eurostar’s Ski Train Ski+board is the only UK ski magazine to submit its circulation to auditors. The Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard Magazine, now owned by the Telegraph Media Group, ceased registration with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) from 2011 after its circulation fell to 10,779. Registration with the non-for-profit ABC costs publications £1,500 a year.
Drought warning in Haute-Savoie is followed by a perfect storm
Skiers have seen tail end of Brexit surcharges on package holidays
The drought that hit the Haute-Savoie area of France has sparked a political storm. In January, the new prefect Pierre Lambert threatened a stoppage that would prohibit resorts from using mains water to make artificial snow. Although snow could still be produced from reservoirs, the news sparked a wave of headlines in the British media including “skiing holidays under threat” and “holidays in the Alps ruined”. Resorts were appalled, and the mayor of St Gervais called the comments “a stab by the state against tourism and the economy… causing a wave of panic”. See updates at skiclub.co.uk/snowreports.
The number of ski tour operators levying a ‘Brexit surcharge’ has fallen dramatically since the autumn, with no new cases since November 22. The vast majority of tour operators ‘hedged’ enough of their exchange rate exposure not to need to levy an extra charge. However, under the European Union’s Package Travel Directive, tour operators can impose an extra charge on bookings if they can show that costs have risen above two per cent of the holiday price since the time of booking. And in this case they must absorb the first two per cent themselves. For members of Abta (formerly the Association of British Travel Agents) the surcharge that the passenger pays can be no more than ten per cent. Following the collapse of the pound after the EU referendum, four skiorientated Abta members were among the seven that imposed a surcharge. They were Wasteland Ski, Ski and Sport, Team 4 Travel and Gower Tours. Readers can keep track of which Abta members have imposed a surcharge at bit.ly/advicefortravel. Tour operators must notify customers of the surcharge at least 30 days before their departure date, so most readers who have already booked a ski holiday but have yet to travel are unlikely to be liable for any extra charges. Sean Tipton, a spokesman for Abta, said: “The right to impose a charge must
Woman dies in fall from chairlift in Colorado A woman was killed and her two children injured when they fell from a chairlift in Colorado in January. It is not yet known how Kelly Huber, 40, and her daughters, aged 12 and 9, came to fall from the lift in Granby Ranch, but Europeans are often alarmed by the reluctance of some Americans to use safety bars on chairlifts, and in many cases the lack of safety bars in the US, despite the highly litigious culture. A woman who was stuck in a gondola in Killington, Vermont, for more than six hours in October 2011 was awarded $750,000 in damages in December.
Some tour operators have levied a surcharge on holidays booked before sterling’s slide
also be in the company’s terms and conditions, and they must justify that the charge is necessary.” Not included on Abta’s list is the only major tour operator to have imposed a surcharge, Mark Warner, which is not a member of Abta. The firm declined to speak to Ski+board. Frank McCusker, chief executive of the Ski Club of Great Britain, assured members who had booked any of the club’s Freshtracks holidays which use Mark Warner accommodation that they would not face any surcharge. He said: “We set our prices when the Freshtracks brochure went out in July and we promised members that they would not change.”
Car hire costs can double once you add in extras
Helmet hair takes on new meaning
Hiring a car to get to the Alps could land you with a mountain of extra charges. Broker ICarhireinsurance found Geneva to be among the most costly airports for rental. A week over New Year cost an average £418. Extras at the rental desk such as a ski rack (£53), winter tyres or chains (£25), additional driver fee (£90), satnav (£142), child seat (£61) and excess waiver (£230) could add £601. However, Geneva airport was one of the cheapest for ‘winterisation’ fees with Avis charging £24. The broker found that Europcar charged £49 in Grenoble and Avis charged £95 in Barcelona.
An Austrian clinic that deals with ski injuries has taken an innovative approach to encouraging skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets. Rather than banging on about safety, it has sponsored posters on the ski lifts in Lech that show some rather gormless men with the ‘mullet’ hairstyles once favoured by footballers and an equally vacant woman with an 1980s-style perm. The billboards, carrying the logo of Dr Rhomberg’s clinic, are accompanied by a simple caption: “Better with a helmet.” Katrin Preuß, of Vorarlberg Tourism, said: “Although just ten per cent of ski
The posters in Lech say: ‘Better with a helmet’
accidents involve head injuries, 85 per cent of them could have been avoided by wearing a helmet.”
Lech and St Anton united — Page 32
Photo: Margo Brodowicz
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Esprit Ski hails another court victory in battle to take term-time holidays
Simon Butler pledges to employ Basi Level 2 instructors this year
Esprit Ski, which runs family holidays, has welcomed another court victory for families who go on holiday in term time. In December Salisbury Magistrates Court overturned fines issued by Swindon Council to three families. Due to demand, prices often double at half-term, and Ian Hope, programme director of Esprit Ski, said: “For many families there is no choice except to take holidays during term time.” Meanwhile Jon Platt’s long-running legal battle over a £120 fine from Isle of Wight Council for taking his daughter to the US is set to be decided by the Supreme Court on January 31.
British instructor Simon Butler has said he will apply for licences for Basi Level 2 and 3 instructors in France this spring. On November 22, 2016, a court in Lyon ruled that not only was the authorities’ decision to refuse him a carte professionnelle illegal, but also the decision to refuse it to his instructors who have the lower British Association of Snowsport Instructors qualifications. Butler, 54, who has run instructional ski holidays in Megève for 34 years, said that for this season he would continue to employ the three Basi Level 4-equivalent instructors he had taken on before the surprise judgement. Until the ruling it was assumed that only they could teach. Using such highly skilled racers, who have passed the Eurotest speed test, to teach young children is a big cost to his firm, SB Ski. So this spring he will start the bureaucratic process of applying for licences for less qualified instructors. He said he would seek damages from the French Ministry of Sport for loss of work and reputational damage. The authorities had till January 23 to appeal. Butler was arrested in February 2014, and has been unable to work until now. Following the ruling, he gave his first lesson in December. He said: “It was the
Red Mountain in Canada is halfway to raising the funds it needs to keep going in a crowd-funding campaign. The ski area, in British Columbia, is fighting to keep its independence, and launched its campaign in August last year, a fortnight after Vail Resorts’ takeover of Whistler Blackcomb. ‘Red’, which covers 4,200 acres and offers cat skiing, has raised C$5.5 million. If it hits its C$10 million target it will start issuing shares and offering perks to its new owners. Ski+board covered its expansion into Grey Mountain in its November 2014 edition.
Lessons in fair play — Page 20
Wolfshaegen 180 B-3040 Huldenberg België
Simon Butler, above, and a press release from the European Confederation of Outdoor Employers confirming the ruling
Contact e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org Huldenberg, 28th November 2016
PRESS RELEASE LA VERSION FRANCAISE EST EN SUITE DE LA VERSION ANGLAISE et des FAQs FRENCH VERSION IS BELOW THE ENGLISH VERSION and the FAQs LES JUGEMENTS CONCERNES SONT EN FIN DE DOCUMENT CONCERNED JUDGEMENTS ARE AT THE END OF THE DOCUMENT
European Directive 2005/36/EC – 2013/55/EU – Free Movement of Professionals – Mutual recognition of qualifications - Protectionism – Alpine Skiing – Refusal of enforcement of EU and national legislation – French Administration Summary : On November 22nd 2016, the French administrative judge of the Tribunal of Lyon, has declared 7 (seven) times illegal, the position of the French sport administration and of the Region Rhône-Alpes Préfet who had refused to deliver a Professional Card for the exercise of the profession of alpine ski instructor to Mrs Amy PIERCY and Ms Simon BUTLER, Mark GIBBS, Alex CASEY, James WILKINS, Adam ALDER-COX and Philippe MAY, all British citizens, qualified at various levels to teach alpine skiing for remuneration in their home Member State and who had regularly proceeded to their declaration in accordance with French law. It is a decision of principle which rules according to the substance of the legislation.
International confederation registered in Belgium under N° BE-0806.394.850-RP 1/11
Hopes are raised for new snow centre in Sheffield
Indoor slope planned for Tignes
Sheffield City Council has approached developers to transform its derelict ski village into an outdoor adventure centre. Once one of the largest artificial slopes in Europe, the 30-acre site has lain in ruins since it was destroyed by fire in 2012. It has since suffered several arson attacks, vandalism and fly-tipping. The council wants a developer to turn the site into a “nationally significant attraction”, with skiers hoping this means rebuilding it as a snowsports centre. British athletes such as James Woods and Katie Summerhayes credit the slope with starting their careers.
Tignes is the unlikely site for a planned snowdome with an indoor chairlift to serve the 400m run. When asked why a resort that offers summer skiing on its 3,455m Grande Motte glacier needed a snowdome, Jean-Christophe Vitale, mayor of the French town, said: “The glacier has lost 30 per cent of its ski area and will lose another 30 per cent.” The €62 million Ski Line project — with surfing pool, 1,000-bed hotel and shopping centre — has had initial approval and now goes to the prefecture for final planning permission. It could open as early as 2018, on the
site of a red run in Val Claret reserved for ESF races. In winter it would use real snow and the air-conditioning would run on energy from the nearby dam, solar panels on the roof and a biomass boiler.
Red Mountain pulls in the crowds to secure funding
best Christmas present. It was with two tiny tots and was brilliant. I’m not good at much, but ski teaching I am good at. “When you have what you’re good at taken away, to get it back is wonderful. You love and appreciate it all the more.”
Historic win sets Katie on track for Olympics Harriet Johnston
Photo: GB Park and Pipe
THE NEW POWER IN TOURING
PROTECTION FIRST PINTECH BINDING WITH DIN ISO CERTIFICATION (DIN ISO 13992:2007) Katie Ormerod has become the first British rider to win a Snowboard Big Air World Cup, pipping Austria’s Anna Gasser to gold in Moscow in January. The win puts the 19-year-old, from Brighouse, West Yorkshire, in great standing for PyeongChang in South Korea in February 2018, where the Big Air event will make its Olympic debut. Ormerod scored 153.75 points in temperatures of -29°C, with Gasser, the World Cup leader, notching up 153.50. Her talent was spotted early by the Ski Club of Great Britain, which gave her the first Evie Pinching Award in 2014, aged just 17. In that year, she also became the first female athlete to land a Double Cork 1080. She told Ski+board: “I just want to go into the Olympics focusing on myself. “The top ten girls are pushing the sport all the time, and the standards are just getting higher. We have to adapt to that and keep progressing.”
Katie Ormerod with the trophy in the Russian capital in January
PERFORMANCE UNBEATEN POWER TRANSMISSION
COMFORT/HANDLING UNIQUE COMFORT & EASY HANDLING
Ski carriage made easy An issue that often weighs heavy on the minds of travellers is uncertainty over the rules for taking skis and boards on flights. Most airlines levy excess baggage and winter sports equipment fees, which can be more than the basic cost of the flight. But navigating the terms and conditions on their websites is a journey in itself. So flight-finding website Skyscanner has created a web page leading travellers to the T&Cs for no fewer than 327 airlines at skyscanner.net/airlinefees.
MORE INF OS ON MARKER.NET
TOURING RANGE OF USE
High Alpine Touring
KINGPIN RANGE OF USE
British instructors in MegĂ¨ve have been at the centre of the fight for a level playing field when it comes to the right of foreigners to teach in France
Photo: Megève Tourisme/Simon Garnier
After a landmark court ruling in France…
LESSONS IN FAIR PLAY …British ski instructors have finally been cleared to work again in French resorts. Louise Hall travelled to Megève to find out more
tepping into Chalet d’Antoine, we find it bustling with British families playing games, and sharing jokes and skiing tips. It’s Boxing Day and the 50-odd guests are gathered in the warm, open-plan sitting room for prize-giving at the end of one of SB Ski’s week-long instructional holidays. We’ve just arrived but within minutes my eight-year-old son, Hamish, is joining in the games and tucking into homemade cake and hot chocolate as if we’ve been there all week. It’s cosy and lively. However, as the awards ceremony begins, the room falls silent. Skiing is clearly a serious business here. The rapport between instructors and guests is apparent in the easy, respectful banter as the five instructors distribute blue log books to the under18s, offering them a record of key points they need to work on. If they complete the book, they get a free lift pass. All of which explains why the company has an incredible 92 per cent return rate. On TripAdvisor Chalet d’Antoine’s 4.5-star rating is matched only by the somewhat more luxurious £560-a-night Fermes de Marie spa hotel. One family Ski+board
we sit with at dinner has even flown in from Hong Kong. However, the surprise winner tonight isn’t one of SB Ski’s clients. It’s Simon Butler himself, who founded the company 34 years ago. For, on November 22, a court in Lyon ruled that he and six of his instructors, who have Basi Level 2 and 3 qualifications issued by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors, should always have been allowed to teach in France. Until now the authorities had only been issuing the vital carte professionnelle to Basi Level 4 instructors who had also passed the gruelling Eurotest race. Which is why we’ve come to Megève: to compare a Basi Level 2, Basi Level 4-equivalent and Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) instructor, and give our assessment of which should be qualified to teach. We’d hoped to ski with Alex Casey, 44, a Basi Level 2 instructor, who is staying this week and who was one of the seven charged. Sadly that’s not about to happen, despite the fact that Alex is hugely respected here at the chalet. Grace Neasham, a bubbly 18-year-old, was one of his protégés and says: “He’s February/March 2017
Alex Casey, pictured above, was not allowed to teach in France, having missed a speed test by a tenth of a second
full of banter, full of life. He never stops laughing and encouraging you.” Chris Southey, 26, who like Grace was inspired by Alex and SB Ski to go into instructing, says: “He’s a great natural leader.” So at first I’m surprised to learn that Alex has stopped teaching, but as he starts talking I understand why. He explains: “I was first arrested in April 2013. I was sitting on a bench and was jumped on from behind, bundled to the floor and handcuffed. “Simon brought all the guests down to protest, because the French were saying my qualifications were not conducive to working in France. The authorities didn’t ban me at this point. They charged me pending the court case.” He returned the next season, knowing he was skating on thin ice. He says: “I came back because Simon said to, and I wanted to. I was 100 per cent loyal to Simon because he looks after his employees so well.” In February 2014, he was teaching a teenagers’ group when he was again arrested, this time in front of a hundred SB Ski guests. It was during half-term — the busiest week of the year. The SB Ski instructors were made to ski one-by-one down to the road, escorted on all sides by gendarmes on skis. Below, police vans were waiting, their blue lights flashing. The instructors were bundled in, and the vans raced them off, sirens wailing, to cells in the police station, where they spent the night. After more than a decade of teaching, Alex was told to stop. He recalls: “It was devastating. I’d put so much pride and effort into teaching my guests here.” Overnight, his client base was lost. Facing bankruptcy and in fear of losing his house, he returned to Britain. He now works as an operations director for a food company, Anchor Catering, in Kent, making sandwiches. It’s full circle for Alex — back to what he was doing before he left Kent to
Photo: Megève Tourisme
I was first arrested in April 2013. I was sitting on a bench and was jumped on from behind, bundled to the floor and handcuffed
pursue his dream in the Alps, following in his mother’s footsteps, to become a ski instructor. He says: “It feels strange to be back, as a guest for the first time, not as an instructor. I have mixed feelings. I’ve been out skiing with my girlfriend, showing her my old life.” Alex didn’t fail to become a Basi Level 4 through want of trying. He says: “I am
blue skies with Italian Riccardo ‘Rikki’ Miglia, 33, one of the three Basi Level 4 equivalent instructors that Simon Butler and operations manager Jay Blatherwick (also an instructor) are employing. It’s our first day on the slopes and Rikki deals calmly and efficiently with our faffing with kit and lift closures due to lack of snow. His friendly, relaxed
Testing the teachers Age: 44 Nationality: British Qualifications: Basi Level 2 Employer: Anchor Catering, Kent (sandwich maker)
What they say about him: “He’s full of banter, full of life. He never stops laughing and encouraging you,” Grace Neasham, 18 (pictured with Alex) “He’s a great natural leader and inspired me to follow my path. I love teaching. It’s the good life. I’m living the dream,” Chris Southey, 26
one of those instructors who was 0.12 seconds out on the speed test. I tried five times to pass and invested £20,000-plus in training.” To progress in the Basi system, he needed to get this, and, after a minor heart attack in 2007, couldn’t continue with his training. I ask him what he would change about the French system. “So much,” he replies. “I am told the speed test is in place for safety reasons, but that is ridiculous.” The authorities argued in court that an instructor might be able to get help faster if they could speed off down the slope when someone was injured. Alex continues: “The fact that a teacher is ‘safe’ to teach because they pass within a tenth of a second, versus ‘unsafe’ for not passing within that one tenth of a second, is just illogical. And there’s also age discrimination.” But the worst part of it was the abuse that Alex received, being threatened by both fellow Basi and ESF instructors, who are likely to have to reduce their fees if colleagues with lower qualifications are allowed to teach. The threats in particular took their toll on Alex. He says: “I was told that if I continued to work I’d have my legs broken. It was shocking. I can’t tell you how bad the verbal abuse has been.” So, instead of skiing with Alex, the following day we go out under brilliant
demeanour is infectious. Passionate about skiing, with a strong ski-racing background, he’s a delight to be around and obviously loves to teach. On the slopes, he is adept at teaching beginner, advanced and expert levels, immediately spotting our mistakes and giving each of us one main thing to work on. For Hamish, a semi-parallel skier, that’s turning his knees towards the mountain to edge more. For me, 39, that’s finishing my racing-carving turns better, rather than sliding out of them. For my partner, Mark Crowther, 41, who is an advanced, on-piste skier, having done 20 weeks on the slopes, it’s skiing with his hands out in front of him, keeping his core strong, to face down the mountain and prevent his body from swinging as he turns. We’re impressed with Rikki’s astuteness, and enjoy having a relaxed, guided tour of the slopes, rather than feeling as if we’re explicitly being taught. His English is also excellent — a key reason why Simon employed him, along with his easy manner with the guests. Hamish is a determined little skier, having skied since he was three — Rikki says that shows in his natural instinctive ability. My son is certainly a quick learner, but that may be more thanks to Rikki’s patience than to anything else. Watching him patiently teach Hamish on the blue and red runs, I understand
Photos: Megève Tourisme
Name: Alex Casey
Much of Megève’s charm comes from the fact that it is a traditional French town
Name: Riccardo ‘Rikki’ Miglia
Age: 33 Nationality: Italian Qualifications: Italian equivalent to Basi Level 4/Moniteur Diplômé Employer: SB Ski
The Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) stages events in the resort of Megève organised in conjunction with the town hall, such as demonstrations of night skiing
What they say about him: “His English is excellent and he has an easy manner with the guests,” Louise Hall, 39 (pictured with son Hamish and Rikki) “You can get to know your SB Ski instructors at the hotel and build a much deeper relationship with them,” Mark Crowther, 41
a point made to me by both Simon and Alex — it is ridiculous to have an expensive, ex-national competition Basi Level 4 racer teach a small child how to ski. Hamish simply doesn’t need that standard of instruction. I note that Rikki is wearing a branded SB Ski suit and ask him about this. He explains: “Last year we wore anonymous ski suits, but this year we have the SB Ski team kit sorted again, which feels good.” I ask if there have been any issues from other ski schools. He replies diplomatically: “It’s still early in the season but everyone has been very polite and friendly. We’ve had no problems.” It’s lunchtime, but alas the Michelinstarred restaurants of upmarket Megève will have to wait for another day. The hundreds of kilometres of piste are spread over several mountains, and we only have time for a quick pit-stop on a sun terrace, before we take the smart new Rocharbois cable car to head towards the Rochebrune sector. We are going to meet ESF instructor Nicolas Antoine at the top of the Chamois télécabine. I am expecting one of the stereotypical ESF instructors of old, who speaks pigeon-English, makes skiing feel about as much fun as a school PE lesson and is able to reduce beginners — adults and children alike — to tears. But Nicolas, 26, couldn’t be more different. In seconds he has Hamish completely engaged, and
Photo: Megève Tourisme
Testing the teachers
keeps him so for the entire lesson. Hamish follows right behind him, snaking down the piste, copying and learning, working on carving an edge, and parallel turns, and succeeding beautifully. He’s so gripped that, at the end of the lesson, he says: “Wow, you were great at giving me tips!” Mark was given a number of exercises
Jean-Philippe Sanson, who had recently won his own legal battle against the ESF over his right to teach. A court ruled that the requirement on instructors over the age of 60 to reduce their hours outside of school holidays was discriminatory. The altercation ended badly for JeanPhilippe, who spent seven days in hospital in Briançon, with several
The one key difference is you get to know your SB Ski instructor at the hotel, which can only be beneficial
Photo: Megève Tourisme/Simon Garnier (top photo)
Louise Hall, her partner Mark Crowther and son Hamish
to improve his technique. He says: “It felt more a structured lesson, less guided skiing with instructional tips. But the one key difference between the SB Ski and ESF experience is that you can get to know your SB Ski instructors at the hotel and build a much deeper relationship with them over the week, which can only be beneficial to your holiday.” For my part, Nicolas was incredibly engaging, giving me clear edging instructions. He was great to ski behind, carving fast, confident, Giant Slalom-like racing turns on the piste. He couldn’t have been more energetic and friendly, and his grasp of the English language is clear and fluent (he took a career break to surf in Australia and hone his language skills). Being strong skiers, Mark and I responded well to Nicolas’ technical way of teaching. We bid farewell, and I make my way to the Maison de la Montagne. As I walk through this picturesque town, with its cobbled streets, designer shops and Parisian-style cafés frequented by Megève’s fur-draped residents, I feel a certain sense of trepidation. I am on my way to meet Cyprien Durand, the director of the Megève ESF. Now it’s fair to say that Cyprien has strong views on the right to instruct. At the ESF’s annual jamboree in Serre Chevalier in April 2015, he had an argument with 64-year-old instructor
fractures and requiring an operation to his eye. Cyprien later told regional newspaper Le Dauphiné that he was sorry for losing his temper, but said he had been assaulted by Jean-Philippe. When I meet Cyprien, he is incredibly polite, and I am struck by his charm, calm approach and the care he takes when talking me through the French system. He is emphatic in his desire to protect the status of the profession, using a level of competence that is recognised across the European Union. “Of course we mainly employ French instructors, but we are not exclusive,” he tells me. “We have historically employed all nationalities of instructors, from British to Romanian, Spanish to Italian. We have 481 ski and snowboard instructors, 302 are English-speaking instructors and one is English.” When I mention the latest ruling on Basi Level 2 and 3 instructors, Cyprien seems surprised and unfamiliar with the details of November’s court case. Instead, he replies: “I’ve no problem with Simon. I’ve said to him in the past — and I stand by my word on this — ‘Just become legal, and we’ll work with you.’ That’s all I ask.” Agreement between the two may still be some way off. Simon told me: “The court ruling came too late for this season because I already had my staff lined up. But I will definitely be looking to Ski+board
Simon Butler has been running instructional ski holidays in Megève for 34 years
expand, and employ some Basi Level 2 or 3 instructors next year — 100 per cent.” This is despite the fact that honouring existing contracts is costing his business dear. He gives the example of the three children under the age of six that SB Ski booked in for the week after my visit. Having them taught by a race-trained instructor means he will make a loss
says: “I’ve been fighting for my livelihood and career, but this case has far reaching implications beyond just me. I’ve been fighting this for the next generation. “This clarification of the law has got to happen, not just for me, or SB Ski, but for all the youngsters who are paying a small fortune to get to be a Basi Level 4 ski instructor. Now they can pay their way
Testing the teachers Name: Nicolas Antoine
Age: 26 Nationality: French Qualifications: Diplôme d’Etat de Ski, Moniteur National de Ski Alpin Employer: ESF Megève
even before he allows for lodging costs. It would cost him half the amount or less if he could employ a Basi Level 2 instructor to teach them. And his business has already paid heavily for the fight. Simon says: “We used to have two chalet-hotels in Megève, averaging 130 guests a week in high season, and 1,700 clients a season. Now we have 1,000 a season. Our reputation has taken a pounding too.” Simon has put much of his own money into fighting the case, and has made several court appearances in recent years. He is still expecting an appeal to the ruling in Lyon, but because the court’s decision was a technical one, he is relatively confident. And the criminal case against him is due to be heard in Chambéry on March 15, though again, he is confident, as the judge said he was waiting for the Lyon court’s decision. “If we get through this, we’ll be lodging a damages claim against the French Ministry of Sport for significant sums,” he says. “The stress it has caused has been a total nightmare, I haven’t worked for three years.” SB Ski is also calling for legal clarification from the ESF and Basi, but both Simon and Alex are at pains to say they have never had a personal vendetta against either organisation. Simon dropped a legal action against Basi just days after the Lyon court verdict. He
on the slopes while they train.” In other words, they can do exactly what their French counterparts do. For my part, everything I have seen and heard of Alex, Rikki and Nicolas suggests they are all excellent instructors, who should all be able to instruct in France. But though Alex has now been told by a court that he should never have been denied that right, it’s clear he sees the future, not as a ski instructor himself, but in his legacy in youngsters like Chris and Grace, who are now both Basi Level 2 instructors. Chris is an instructor in Courmayeur, in Italy, and he tells me: “Alex inspired me to follow my path. I love teaching. I’m living the dream.” Grace says: “Alex is like family to me. I’ve known him since I was eight. I have so much to thank him for. He taught me to believe in myself and go for it — to follow my dreams. He’s inspired me to get into ski teaching, which I love.” She teaches in Milton Keynes, working in particular with blind skiers, and is moving quickly through her exams. She is tipped as having a bright career in the sport. Alex says: “Grace is one of the most phenomenal skiers you’ll ever see. She’s now a Basi Level 2 as well as a Basi Adaptive instructor, which means she’s qualified to teach disabled skiers.” He goes on: “I’m so proud of Grace...” but his voice tails off with emotion.
What they said about him: “I liked the different exercises to improve my technique. The lesson felt well structured,” Mark Crowther, 41 “He gave me clear edging instructions and was incredibly engaging, and great to ski behind, carving fast, confident GS turns,” Louise Hall, 39
Alex Casey, left, pictured with two of his younger clients when he was still working as an instructor
Louise and her family flew out independently. One night’s board and an hour’s ski instruction was provided by SB Ski (sbski.com), which offers a week’s half board at Chalet Hotel d’Antoine in Megève from £495 per person based on two sharing, including two hours of instruction a day over five days, but not flights or transfers. Extra lessons start at €80 an hour. Ski hire was provided by Champfort Sports (skimium.co.uk). Lift passes were provided by the Megève Tourist Office (megeve.com), as was the lesson from the ESF (esf-uk.co.uk/skischool/megeve), which offers group lessons in English for €159 for five mornings, and private lessons from €44 an hour (one to two people) or €56 an hour (three to five people)
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How testing skis finally gave me the baby I was trying for On January 13, Chemmy Alcott gave birth to her first child, Lochlan. Racing fans may already be wondering whether the son of Britain’s top female Alpine racer will be a future star of the World Cup circuit. But the story of how Chemmy finally got the baby she had long been trying for, is already tied up with skiing… albeit in a peculiar way. Talking to Ski+board weeks before she gave birth, the 34-year-old sips a cup of herbal tea, before grinning broadly and saying, with a quick glance down at her rounded belly: “I’m sure taking part in the ski tests is why I got pregnant.” A regular visitor to the Ski Club of Great Britain, with its unique collection of historic memorabilia, skis and poles, Chemmy formed part of the club’s ski test team — trying out rather newer kit — for the first time in March 2016. After days of testing this season’s skis in Kühtai, Austria, the four-time Olympian had one morning been trying out freeride skis. As Being competitive photographer Ross I got pulled into Woodhall snapped her jumping off the tug-of-war. I small cliffs in the was egged on. Ten backcountry of the seconds later I tore Tirolean resort, little my knee for the first did either of them time ever know the greatest hazard was awaiting her back at the base. With the rest of the team, including her husband Dougie Crawford, 29, also a former racer, she was told the annual tug of war was about to take place. The weeklong ski tests are attended by several brands, retailers and other publications,
and groups were taking to the rope. The Ski Club’s team were quick to sign up. “It’s a tough story for me, because I didn’t want to do the tug of war. But everyone knows how competitive I am, and I was egged on,” says Chemmy, grimacing at the memory. Others report it slightly differently. Al Morgan, head of member services for the club, says she leapt at the chance to take part. Chemmy continues: “I picked up the rope and ten seconds later tore my knee for the first time ever. I heard it pop, and my first feeling was sheer embarrassment.” She struggled to stand up and crawled off behind one of the tents, as a hundred people cheered her on. She says: “I was sitting behind one of the test tents, telling everyone, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ Then I grabbed my husband, and that was the only time I could say I wasn’t fine.” Chemmy is no stranger to accidents. In 2010, after she crashed at about 70mph, surgeons inserted nine screws and a large metal plate into her leg. On this occasion, Chemmy struggled back to the hotel, then went to see a doctor friend working in Kühtai, who said she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament. It was her first accident since retiring after the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, but this was different. When she was competing, Chemmy explains, her fearless determination to regain her strength meant she had little time to relax as she recuperated. In 2013 she wrote on Facebook: “Had a little whoopsie. Re-broken my leg. Clean, easy break. Already weight bearing.” Even in good health, her dedication
Photo: Jonny Cass
Britain’s best-known ski racer faced a more private struggle than the one we saw at every Winter Olympics, she tells Harriet Johnston
Chemmy Alcott in the Ski Clubâ€™s library at its headquarters in Wimbledon
until we finally got a skirt. But we didn’t care back then. We knew it was healthy and fun to do with friends outdoors.” The charity Women in Sport found that just 16 per cent of six- to 16-yearolds were doing the right amount of sport for their personal development and health. But it was when the X-Elle scheme moved into co-ed schools that Chemmy found the most resistance to sport from young women. “The girls thought the boys were watching them, that they would laugh if they were sweating or trying too hard, or if they were competing and were too good,” she explains. “If a young boy is good at sport and is confident it’s seen, at worst, as arrogant. But if a young girl says she wants to win, like I did, or is over-confident, she may well be unpopular. “I don’t think I even knew I was a girl this whole distraction that was my knee. until I was ten, I was such a tomboy all I “And that’s when it finally happened. wanted to do was beat the other boys.” Falling pregnant was definitely due to Ironically, it was at the ski tests that taking time out after my injury.” the question of gender popped up again Often resting her hands on her bump, for Chemmy. Brands make women’s Chemmy speaks about the pregnancy skis ostensibly to cater for their lighter with an honesty and passion that physiques. But she says: “I buy and ski permeates everything we talk about. On on men’s skis. Many brands still presume retirement from racing, she started the most girls want a ski with diamanté and X-Elle scheme to encourage girls to take flowers. But, I’m sorry, part in sport. if you’re a mountain Born to a rugby-playing Girls today don’t person you don’t care father and a mother who want to do sport, as about that girly stuff. hoped to be an Olympic they don’t like how “I found that none swimmer (they named they look in PE kit. In of them wanted to give her Chimene after Sophia the 1980s we didn’t me their women’s skis Loren’s character in the care. We knew it was because they weren’t 1961 film El Cid) she confident enough in started skiing aged 18 healthy and fun the skis’ ability.” months and first raced Chemmy nonetheless insisted on aged three. As one of Britain’s most testing women’s skis for the team, and successful Alpine athletes, she hopes hopes to do the same next year. Certainly her story will inspire others, saying: “I many of the club’s regular testers say had the confidence to follow my dreams, women’s skis have come on in leaps and though I knew I wouldn’t win that gold bounds, and Chemmy confidently says: medal I so wanted.” “It will be different next year.” But visiting schools, she found She says that she hopes the birth of that many girls had little desire to get her son will allow her to take her foot involved in sport. They thought it was off the pedal, too, adding: “I really hope unfeminine to get hot, sweaty or smelly. being a mum changes me.” Chemmy says: “What I get all the time is Then Chemmy grins widely: “I hope it girls saying they don’t want to do sport tightens some of the screws in my head!” because they don’t like how they look in to good causes means she rarely relaxes totally. But at this point she could let her body recover in its own time. “Normally I get so obsessive about everything, but with this injury I just chilled out. My recovery was amazing,” she says. “We’d been trying for a baby for quite a long time. But I stopped caring about getting pregnant, because I had
PE kit. Being a pupil in the 1980s, I say I wore brown pants, then green pants,
Ski tests — Page 48
Photo: Ross Woodhall
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Photo: Lech-Zürs/Josef Mallaun
WE’VE SEEN THE
New lifts mean that this season you can ski from Lech to St Anton, and the link hasn’t come a moment too soon for Colin Nicholson
Before the new lifts were built, skiers had to take the bus, or travel with a guide via an off-piste route between St Anton and Lech
I got up from the heated seat, took my skis out of the neat holder in front of me and stepped out of the gondola. So what, you ask? Well, not only had the new Flexenbahn carried me on a Narnia-like trip from Lech and Zürs to St Anton, but the last time I made this journey it was a nightmare. Three years before, we had arrived at the bus stop 20 minutes early, only to wait another 40 minutes, as the buses had just switched to winter timetables. And when the bus came, there was the usual mad rush, with everyone trying to cram their skis into a tiny rack on the back. As I had brand new skis — my first pair ever — I pleaded with the driver, in German, to let us take them on the bus, but no. When we’d stuck all the skis into the rack, some pointing out at crazy angles, the driver finally got out and with a huge sigh opened the luggage compartments in the side of the bus. Oh, thanks. That time I was there to cover the new lift linking Lech to Warth and Schröcken. This season’s link has also dismayed some environmentalists (and
bus drivers no doubt) though they make odd bedfellows — our driver kept his engine running throughout the fiasco. However, the project completes the dream of uniting the Arlberg area. And what a dream it was to step out of the lift, just a few minutes after I got in, with skis unscathed. This time we could spend the day exploring all the new runs on offer, rather than working out tactics for getting the best bus back. Despite the limited snow in early December, more than half the 305km of linked runs were open. Indeed, we had only skied as far as the run down into St Christoph when a wonderful aroma wafted towards us. Having worked up an appetite, we entered the Thaja, where we tucked into a delicious lunch of half a grilled chicken and chips for just €13.50. Aside from the extra runs, the link to St Anton provides a way to find cheaper lunches than in upmarket Lech, though both are still far cheaper than France. We continued exploring the maze of runs at the bottom of the Valluga lift. Before this season, that cable car was the
BACK OF THE BUS
Photo: Ski Arlberg
The new Flexenbahn and Trittenkopf lifts that serve it mean you can ride up and ski down to Zürs from St Anton
only way to ski to Lech-Zürs… with the regulars by being unable to do perfect proviso that you were admitted to the Arlberg turns and having skis that top stage only if you were travelling with weren’t even that season’s model. a guide qualified to take you over Though crowds were something the top and on the off-piste descent. we didn’t see, it was hard to miss the This time, we were heading back attraction of Lech’s pistes, which have to Lech-Zürs on the No.100 ‘blue’ an excellent snow record. Nature was run to the bottom of the Flexenbahn. given a helping hand on the lower “Is this really a runs, and we ducked Our guide, a keen under a huge array of blue?” we asked each ski tourer, said the other, as we stopped snowmaking cannons new lifts and runs had working overtime. It was for yet another breather half-way down. It was here too that the scent probably scared off here that our guide the mountain goats… of pines mingled with… Caroline, a keen ski eucalyptus? The clue was until we pointed out tourer, mournfully said in our aching legs. The 20 of them you could often see hotel spas were calling us. mountain goats. However, with the We were back in St Anton the next increased number of skiers she thought day, careering like racing drivers around that would soon be a thing of the past. pistes that hug the mountainside and My brother-in-law had been studying pass sandstone cliffs and pine forests. the mountainside intently. He pointed We tried to make it to the Mooserwirt out no fewer than 20 mountain goats, to lead an invasion of middle-aged seemingly unbothered by our presence. stuffiness to St Anton’s après scene, but “They were put there by the tourist the Flexenbahn closes at 4pm, so the board,” we said to spare her blushes. villages are likely to keep their character. Caroline also feared the new lift If we’d had more time and snow, we’d would bring St Anton’s rowdy après have done the Rendl area on the far side crowds. Now I’m of an age where of St Anton, taken the new Albonabahn nightlife mostly means sleeping, so II lift above Stuben, and followed the I did enjoy how demure this town Warth-Schröcken area to the German is, with its elegant boutiques and border. But that must wait another day. five-storey, wood-fronted hotels. I still can’t get over the CS LewisBut I can’t see why hard-partying like experience of pushing through students would want to abandon fir trees and finding myself in what lively ‘Stanton’ for sleepier Lech. was an unconnected resort. But I had The next morning we were on better get used to it. On one point the our own, so we whizzed around environmentalists are right. Each the runs above town, stopping time a project is completed, the next is for hot chocolates laced with just around the corner. And Austrian Stroh rum to take away the ambition shows no sign of abating. St bite of the first frosts, before Anton could yet be extended via the swishing down to the car-free Malfon valley and Kappl to Ischgl. village of Oberlech, where we And would that be such a bad thing? enjoyed a lunch basking in sunshine. That afternoon we tried to keep our Colin was a guest of Lech-Zürs (lechzuers.com) and Vorarlberg turns graceful to satisfy the locals. When (vorarlberg.travel). He stayed at the link to Warth opened, Caroline told the Aurora (aurora-lech.com). us, hordes of skiers came over. These See also austria.info. country cousins embarrassed Lech’s
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SLIP, SLIDING AWAY Is sledging safer than skiing? Ski+board investigates… Royal-watchers will be keeping an eye on the Duchess of Cambridge this winter to see if she skis. In 2013, four months before she gave birth to Prince George, she stuck to sledging in Switzerland. In so doing, she was following the advice of some pundits, who say this is less risky than skiing. But at Ski+board we beg to differ. We asked three writers who tried different forms of sledging to give some tips to any readers who are reckless enough to abandon their skis.
Sledges can be hard to steer, as Frank Baldwin (pictured safely back on skis) discovered after he was left for dead in an accident
The traditional sled
ur sledge was hurtling like a missile towards the first slalom gate. It was one of those big, old-fashioned toboggans with curved runners that you often see hanging on the walls of Alpine bars and restaurants. What I didn’t know was that those runners are also what you use to steer. We were in Champoussin, taking part in the Portes du Soleil Raid, a four-day event to promote what the huge FrancoSwiss ski area offers. Each day there was a new race, and this morning the British contingent — two female seasonaires, a guy called Nick, who ran a chalet firm in Avoriaz, and I — had to ride a big sledge through slalom gates before skiing on to the next stage. If steering instructions were given, they were in French, but would-be sledders take note: pull the left runner to turn left and vice versa. As the sledge flew off the piste I saw a tree fast approaching and would have bailed out, but my three team mates had jumped on behind, each with their legs wrapped around the person in front. There was a crash and I blacked out. I’m told the pisteurs were soon on the scene and tried to revive me, but I was
presumed dead. In fact, my brother-inlaw was within minutes of phoning my wife to tell her. The competition was cancelled because of my ‘demise’. Then fate took a hand. Some skiers stopped to see what the commotion was and a British man asked if he could look. In the confusion people thought he was involved in the race, especially when he started examining my body with what looked like medical knowledge. Suddenly, he said: “Get a helicopter fast. It’s very weak, but I’ve found a pulse. Be careful, he may have broken his back.” I was flown to hospital, but my head was starting to swell and it was feared I had a brain injury. It was only when they were loading me into a second helicopter for a head scan in Cluses, that I started to regain consciousness. In the event, although I looked like an extra from a horror film, I discovered I had only cracked several vertebrae, while a branch had pierced my cheek and my eyes were totally bloodshot. My vertebrae healed within months, but I had no feeling on one side of my face for two years and there are parts of my leg I still can’t feel. Despite my best
efforts, to this day I have never found out who my guardian angel was. I’m now 59 and still ski regularly, 18 years on. You’d think I’d never want to see another sledge. Yet just a year later I was on a one-man plastic sledge. Now that I know how to steer.
The Swiss ski bock
love skiing, but sledges upset the control freak in me. So I went to Adelboden, which is now offering skiers a chance to try ski bock-ing: a type of sledging said to be close to skiing. Looking at the contraption, I thought this must be a form of aversion therapy. “Place your hands either side of the seat, and use your feet to steer and brake,” said Etter, our eager, fresh-faced instructor, his tousled hair creeping out from under his helmet. We were taking a break from skiing in this traditional
Swiss resort, with its widely spread, often steep slopes, and had hired ski bocks for CHF8 for two hours at the top of the TschentenAlp lift. It was strange to be sitting on a stool on the snow: balance is tricky. As the single ski sped up, I jammed my feet down to slow myself. Happily there were no skiers on the 2.2km run, and our group of 20- to 50-somethings only needed to avoid each other. Etter pointed out hidden dips, and straightlining was great fun. He then explained how to corner, leaning like a cyclist, still using our feet to steer. I edged round and completed my run unscathed, grinning ear-to-ear. On the lift up, Etter said that he and his friends had carried on a century-old tradition of building bocks to race each other to school, and handed me his to try. It was lighter and more responsive, and I let my feet glide over the snow, even lifting them up for a second. But pride comes before a fall. I leant too far, ran out of piste and careered into a snow bank. Well, it looked like it needed a hug. My only injury was a bruised ego, so I
Ski bocks have been constructed from old skis in Adelboden for a century, and are as fast as skis
finished the run, feet firmly on the snow. I was ready to return to the control of being on two skis. But as I watched Etter speed off, I’d admit it does beat taking the bus to school. Beth Begg
Beth travelled as a guest of Skywork (flyskywork.com), which flies to Bern from £215 return, and The Cambrian (thecambrianadelboden.com), which offers doubles b&b from CHF235. For more visit adelboden.ch or myswitzerland.com
The French paret
Photo: David Machet/manigod.com
ike the ski bock, the ‘paret’ was made to allow children to sledge down to school and sling it over a shoulder as they walked back home. Though it looks like a hobby horse, it’s
The paret is a more child-friendly sledge than others, but can still throw unwary first-timers
no toy, as I learnt watching skiers try it in Manigod, the most beginner-friendly of the five linked areas of La Clusaz. You can do it for free every Wednesday evening at the Blanchot piste. The tourist office staff usually bring about 50 sledges, which is plenty, though they like it if you tell them you’re coming. The charm of the event is that it feels like a village gathering, embracing holidaymakers every bit as much as locals. They also offer free mulled wine, which might explain why several riders were tumbling over at the bottom. So it was somewhat reluctantly that I downed my vin chaud and carried a
paret up the short slope. The problem, I soon found, is that if your feet are flat you pick up speed, but if you dig in your heels, this hobby horse will throw you. My solution was similar to skiing. On skis, you wouldn’t think of flat-lining straight down runs (and La Clusaz has steep slopes). It’s best to slalom down, and you get more ride for your hike up. You steer it by directing a central column between your legs. And if you fancy you can add panache by leaning back in the saddle, even raising one arm bucking bronco-style. And, yes, that’s when I came off. Colin Nicholson
Colin travelled as a guest of manigod.com, laclusaz.com and savoie-mont-blanc.co.uk
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The inside edge As touring slopes open up across Europe, we have the knowledge to help you reach new heights
Off-piste Expert guide Nigel Shepherd gives advice on how best to avoid taking the low road
Gear From shovels to ABS packs, touring kit is becoming easier, lighter and cheaper
Snowboards Splitboards open up options for snowboarders who want to get into touring
Resort Insider Do you want to introduce a first-timer to winter sports? We rate the resorts to visit
Snow wear Smart, high performance outfits make use of natural fibres and scientific advances
Fitness Pole-plant with power and precision by developing stronger hands and wrists
Boots Ainâ€™t no mountain higher than those these touring boots can climb
Drowning in the white stuff? Instructor Mark Jones reveals the best way to ski powder
Our industry-leading testers trek far and wide to find the best freetour skis
Don’t break a sweat — let the brands do the work for you Ski wear manufacturers are using an innovative mix of natural and man-made fibres to create garments that are comfy whatever the weather, says Harriet Johnston Brands are bringing new technology to high performance garments by interweaving man-made materials with natural fabrics. As we highlighted in Issue 1 of Ski+board, the way in which clothing is made is becoming more important to customers, with brands such as Picture and North Face looking to incorporate more sustainability into their manufacturing. More than that, brands are looking to use new knit-based technology to improve materials and create smart snow wear. This comes alongside developments which mean that kit is designed to work
with the natural movement of the skier, to create a sophisticated, comfortable fit, without the excess fabric and bulk that we have seen in previous seasons. Dave Whitlow, clothing buyer at Ellis Brigham, says: “Construction is moving to variable weave and knit technology. This means that rather than adding reinforced overlays or inserting panels, these features can be woven into a single fabric, resulting in fewer seams, lighter weights and increased breathability.” There’s more emphasis on varying fabrics between man-made and natural materials, such as the
S NOW W EAR
Tony wears Peak Performance Heli Vertj Active Sk jacket (£630)
From left, Will wears Picture Nova jacket (£280) and pants (£190) with Dragon goggles (£185). Ashley wears Scott Vertic Insulated jacket (£280) and pants (£190)
introduction of spider silk into ski jackets. This has been done by start-up company Bolt Threads, which is working with the brand Patagonia to use man-made silk from the protein fibres in the webs spun by spiders. The silk is five times stronger by weight than steel, and tougher than Kevlar, the man-made fibre used in ships’ mooring lines. The fabric produced has similar qualities to conventional silk, with a warm, soft feel. Whitlow says: “Knit technology is the next step in this fabric revolution. Next winter we will have knitted fabric jackets that have the comfort and stretch of your Ski+board
favourite cashmere sweater while still delivering high levels of waterproofing and breathability.” Some brands are using technology within the fabrics to enhance the body’s own system, as is the case with 37.5 technology, which Salomon uses in its ski wear. This responds to natural body heat to actively accelerate the conversion of liquid to vapour, and drive the moisture away to keep you comfortable.
For advice on how to pick the best ski jacket and trousers for you, visit bit.ly/howtobuyskiwear February/March 2017
S NOW W EAR
S NOW W EAR
Ashley wears Scott Vertic 2L Insulated jacket (£280) and pants (£190) with Ortovox Melange fleece (£120). Tony wears Salomon Drifter Air Hoody (£180) and Chill Out pants (£200)
Ashley wears North Face W Fuse BRG 3L jacket (£390)
ON TRIAL —
SCOTT VERTIC 3L WOMEN’S PANTS Scott has managed to get all the essential features of a pair of ski pants into the Vertic along with a hard wearing, waterproof, breathable and fully-taped outer fabric that should give you several seasons of hard use. They’re aimed more at freeriders than piste skiers, with features such as exterior thigh venting zips, articulated knees, detachable braces and quite a loose cut. I particularly liked the large Cordura cuff panels and adjustable cuffs and gaiters. The waist can be adjusted with Velcro tabs and has
decent-sized belt loops. The pocket distribution is bang on: two zipped front and rear pockets and a cargo pocket on the right leg, which is neither too many, nor too few. The Vertic’s loose cut and attractive range of understated colours — in keeping with this season’s trend, which we covered in Issue 2 of Ski+board — makes for a stylish combination that’s well worth checking out if you’re serious about your skiing. Alf Alderson Offers all the essential features you need in a pair of ski pants A little on the heavy side
S NOW W EAR
Will wears Picture Nova jacket (£280) and pants (£190) with Dragon goggles (£185)
ON TRIAL —
PICTURE NOVA PANTS At first glance these pants are pretty bright, but most of the colour disappears under your jacket once you’re wearing them. They have quite a loose fit and feature an insulated ‘Coremax’ lining which keeps you warm as well as feeling nice and soft against your skin. The outer shell features a waterproof and breathable membrane, so you’re well protected whatever the weather throws at you. These pants come with a powder skirt. With most ski pants these are removable, but not so with the Nova. I never ski with a powder skirt attached to my pants and found it took a while to get used to, although it’s by no means uncomfortable. Below this are two zipped hand pockets, but there are no rear or cargo pockets. Two
relatively short, zipped thigh vents have a mesh backing, and the cuffs are adjustable as well as having gaiters. The big selling point with Picture is its eco-friendly approach to ski wear manufacturing, so all of the materials used in the Nova pants are Bluesign approved, which means they leave as small an impact on the environment as possible. In addition 64 per cent of the polyester used in these pants is recycled. Add to that a reasonable price and there’s plenty to like about the Picture Nova, as long as you don’t mind your ski pants being a little loud. Alf Alderson Eco-friendly, decent price Powder skirt not detachable
S NOW W EAR
From left, Tony wears Peak Performance Heli Vertj Active Sk jacket (£630) and pants (£415) with Ortovox Freerider gloves (£100). Ole wears Peak Performance W He Alp J Active Sk jacket (£545) and pants (£420) with Picture Arron helmet (£85). Will wears CLWR Base Jacket (£140) and Flight Pants (£130) with Burton Pyro gloves (£45). Ashley wears Picture Seen jacket (£250) and pants (£170) with Anon Aera helmet (£75) and Von Zipper Skylab goggles (£100)
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 Burton: burton.com CLWR: snowtraxstore.co.uk Dragon: dragonalliance.com North Face: thenorthface.com Ortovox: ortovox.com Picture: ellis-brigham.com Peak Performance: peakperformance.com/gb Salomon: ellis-brigham.com Scott: ellis-brigham.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
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
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 Improve your skiing with Freshtracks Let’s face it – many of us get to a point with our skiing where we can get down most runs in a resort, and then decide to leave lessons and instruction behind. What’s more, lessons in small groups can be expensive and really bump up the cost of your trip, which means most of us might only book one or two half-day lessons at most. But with Ski Club Freshtracks it’s different – many of our holidays include a full week of instruction, and we work with some of the best instructors you’ll find anywhere. And our unique profiling system ensures that no one is left behind or held back. Whether you’re looking to improve your off-piste skiing, develop your on-piste technique or just iron out bad habits, we’ve got holidays that will help you achieve your goals.
Here are just a few of the resorts where you can ski on an instruction-based Freshtracks holiday… Courmayeur Our Technique Top Up trips to Courmayeur are designed to help you improve your skiing whilst having plenty of fun, in a charming Italian village with stunning views of Mont Blanc. We work with Rab Bickerdike, who is a BASI ISTD and has worked with us in Courmayeur and Tignes for years. You’ll get three days’ skiing with Rab and his team, and three days with Ski Club Leaders, so members can get in plenty of
Flaine Flaine is one of our most popular destinations, where the popular and knowledgeable team - headed up by Yann Westercamp - have been providing fantastic off-piste instruction for all levels for many years. All of our Flaine holidays are based on five full days with the instructors, following a free ski warm up day to get your ski legs going before the course starts. Our Learn to Ski Off-Piste trips are ideal for those new to skiing off-piste, whilst our Advanced Powder Skills and Adventurous Powder trips are perfect for more experienced off-piste skiers. Staying at our very own Freshtracks chalets, members are well taken care of by our Ski Club team of Sue, Rachel and Peter. Ski Profile: Various, from Aspirer to Advanced off-piste
miles and put into practice all they have learned from the professionals. The groups also often ski in the nearby resorts of La Thuile or Pila. Accommodation is in a Mark Warner hotel, and includes single rooms with no supplement. Ski Profile: Intermediate to Advanced on-piste
Photo: Melody Sky
Photo: Melody Sky
SKI CLUB PROMOTION
COURSE ONLY Freshtracks also runs a number of courses that can be booked independently of transport and accommodation, so you can make your own arrangements but still benefit from skiing with our world-class instructors. Visit the website for more details or give us a call.
For full details of the Ski Club Freshtracks programme, visit skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks or call 020 8410 2022
If you’re unfamiliar with our ski profiles, or need a reminder, here’s a quick summary… ON PISTE PROFILES Photo: Ross Woodhall
Early Intermediate – Blue Competent to ski all blues whatever the conditions & easy reds.
Intermediate – Red Competent to ski all reds whatever the conditions & easy blacks.
Advanced Intermediate – Silver Competent to ski most blacks.
Advanced – Purple
Les Deux Alpes On our popular trips to Les Deux Alpes, you’ll ski with Alexandra Chapman and her team. Alexandra is a BASI ISTD instructor with loads of experience and provides excellent instruction for all levels. We offer two different types of holiday in Les Deux Alpes - our Development Holidays are based on five days’ instruction with one free ski day, whilst our Learn to Ski Off Piste trips include six full days of instruction.
Competent to ski blacks whatever the conditions & easy bumps.
Expert – Gold Competent to ski the fall line on all blacks, all bumps, all conditions.
OFF PISTE PROFILES
Aspirer – Red Competent to ski easy off piste in good conditions.
Accommodation is in a Mark Warner hotel, and includes single rooms with no supplement.
Intermediate – Silver
Ski Profile: Intermediate to Advanced on piste for Development Holidays, and Aspirer to Intermediate off piste for Learn to Ski Off Piste trips.
Advanced – Purple
On the off-piste trips, there may even be the opportunity to conquer the infamous La Grave by the end of the week.
Confident and comfortable skiing moderate slopes off piste.
Confidently enjoys skiing off piste on steeper slopes.
Expert – Gold Competent to ski all off-piste in all conditions.
Wanted on tour: skis to take you anywhere
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
Freetour skis dispense with the need for lifts, so it’s no wonder they are becoming so popular, says Mark Jones How many times have you seen a perfect slope that is miles from the nearest lift and thought: “I wish there was some way I could get to the top of that.” Well now there is. Switching into touring gear has been a game-changer for many skiers. The combination of skins to stop you slipping backwards and bindings that let you lift your heel, means you are free to climb any mountain. Indeed, you can even go skiing in the UK, if snow cover permits. You could have an epic backcountry adventure on your doorstep! And in the Alps too, the freedom touring gives is incredible. It can transform an area you thought you knew well into a whole new playground. And as making fresh tracks becomes more popular among skiers on conventional
alpine kit, the ability to ski far from the madding crowds is a major advantage. Because of the demand for touring kit, the choice can now be bewildering. All the major manufacturers are directing their resources into trying to claim a bigger share of this market. More than ever, you need a good understanding of the options before making a purchase. So ask yourself — what type of touring are you looking to do? Are you up for overnighting in mountain huts, or are you content with morning climbs? Before you buy, read our guide overleaf, which explains the different types of touring kit and how to match skis, boots and bindings.
For test results of freeride, piste or allmountain skis see 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
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
MARK JONES Director of ICE training centre in Val d’Isère and trainer for Basi icesi.org 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
The Ski Club’s test team is made up of top skiers who can offer unparalleled insights into a ski’s performance.
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
Meet the jury
STEPH EDE Instructor in Val d’Isère, France, nearing highest level of qualification firstname.lastname@example.org
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
AARON TIPPING Owner and director of Supreme ski school in Courchevel supremeski.com
F R EETO U R SKIS
If you want to get into the world of ski touring, it helps to understand how the category is subdivided. Touring kit can be classified as falling into three areas: lightweight, freeride and the combination of the two that is freetour — the segment which most of these skis fall into. LIGHTWEIGHT A lightweight set-up is ideal for experienced ski tourers going from hut to hut, or those doing day tours that involve a lot of uphill. It cuts weight to a minimum, making skiers more efficient on the climb. The skis have ultra-light cores and narrow waists. They work well with a light, technical pin binding and a light touring boot with a lot of movement
Photos: Ross Woodhall
Unsure what kit you need to get into touring? Start here in the cuff in walk mode. With this setup it’s easy to skin up slopes. It can feel like you’re wearing trainers. But skiing down can be more challenging, especially in chopped up snow. The lighter weight and lack of torsional rigidity means skiers must be technically proficient enough to be always balanced and in charge. FREERIDE This set-up features a ski with a wider waist matched to a solid binding and high performance boot. The torsional rigidity of the boot, which still has a walk mode, works well with a heavier ski and beefier freeride binding with a tour mode. This combination is brilliant for off-piste blasting in deep powder and fast cruising on the edge. Because of the weight it suits skiers looking to skin up for no more than an hour or so, seeking easy access to big powder stashes. FREETOUR This is a fairly new breed of touring kit. It mixes elements of the two segments above, and is best for most British ski tourers. That is why it was our focus in the ski tests. A freetour combination is good for day tours that involve a couple of fairsized ascents, while giving you more stability on the ski down. For this you can use a more substantial binding than the technical pin set-up. The new breed of PinTech bindings offers a great mix of downhill performance, safety and weight. They have a better range of release
settings and feel more solid. When matched to a performance-orientated touring boot and freetour ski, the setup works well. The increase in weight does have an effect on the speed of your ascent, but the ski down is easier to handle and more fun. The big trap skiers can fall into when picking touring gear is making choices from different segments and trying to mix them, especially between lightweight and freeride kit. Crucially, not all boots are compatible with all bindings, so as a bare minimum do check this. If not your safety could be compromised. If you stay within one of the three segments outlined above you will find ski, binding and boot all aim at a similar goal, with the balance of strength and weight similar in each. It was fascinating for our testers in Kühtai, Austria, to ski with odd skis and bindings to compare what their right leg and left leg was telling them. Mismatch gear and you can feel it. A classic error is to go for a freeride touring binding and ski — only to use a lightweight boot. The width and strength of the ski-binding combination overpowers the limited torsional stiffness of the boot. Of course, it would be impossible for our testers to go through every combination. But we are confident we have tested some of the best freetour skis to give an accurate picture of how they ski in variable conditions with suitable boots and bindings.
Photos: Ross Woodhall
M EN’ S F R EETO U R SKIS
K2 Wayback 96 £375 without bindings
What’s new in men’s freetour skis?
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-96-118 RADIUS 21m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 170, 177, 184 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,550g for 177cm
THEY SAY The Wayback toes the line with a 96mm waist and a lightweight paulownia-maple core built for the uphill. WE SAY This has a smooth flex that lets itself be felt through the shovel, making it easy to steer in chopped up, off-piste snow. It’s light, easy to use and well suited to short turns in the backcountry. On hardpack it doesn’t have high levels of grip, but the smooth flex and its well balanced nature help it cope. Overall, a great ski that’s a solid, all-round performer, especially given its price.
Smooth flex through the shovel helps in soft snow (Al Morgan) A great value, well balanced ski that works well for first-time tourers (Mark Jones)
Easy to use, light, smooth flex Struggles at speed on hard snow
Salomon MTN Explore 95 £500 without bindings
Dynastar Mythic 97 £655 without bindings
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & flax
THEY SAY Expand your playground… The best ratio between climbing efficiency and downhill performance. WE SAY Wow! This was a great ski that had fantastic feedback from all our testers. One of its standout characteristics is it always felt well balanced. This made it easy to steer, while the welljudged sidecut produced smooth, round arcs. It is light and easy to use, while the wide platform and smooth flex makes it userfriendly. Overall, it’s superb for all-round touring.
THEY SAY New ski combining freeride elements with ultra-light build, giving a high performance ski mountaineering tool. WE SAY This is a ski that feels it is on your side. It’s no effort to get into the start of turns, where it engages well with little effort. But it’s still able to hook up with the snow. In chopped up off-piste it felt comfortable with good float, and gives you confidence. On groomed runs, the construction felt a bit more brittle and less forgiving on the edge, but overall a great ski.
There are a huge number of bindings that release your heel for skinning up the mountain, but they can be seen as coming in three main types. Freeride touring bindings look most like the ones on piste skis, but the whole set-up rises from the ski as you walk. When you lock them in place for the descent, they offer the best ski down and a standardised release if you fall. Alpine touring bindings are similar, but lighter, making climbs easier. Pin bindings are lightest of all and best for long ascents. Here your heel lifts out of the binding. Also consider the new breed of safer PinTech bindings, such as the Marker Kingpin, though they do not work with all boots.
How to pick the right boots
Sidewall/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 133-97-113 RADIUS 17m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 171, 177, 184 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,400g for 177cm
lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 130-95-116 RADIUS 17.7m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 169, 177, 184 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,400g for 177cm
Perfect all-rounder accessible to many levels of skier, giving miles of fun, up and down (Derek Chandler) Well balanced, light, pivoty. Nice shape (Mark Jones)
Well balanced, smooth, light and easy Could be grippier on hard snow
How to pick the right bindings
Men’s freetour skis have seen greater use of high-tech materials this season, raising performance while losing weight. The binding and boot make a big difference to how the ski behaves, so we haven’t assigned best performance awards, as we did in Issues 1 to 3 for the freeride, piste performance and all-mountain skis respectively. But our selection represents some of the top players in the touring scene this winter.
All-round, easy-to-use ski, picked up the turn nicely and had an easy finish. Very versatile and not hard work to play with (Aaron Tipping) All-round ease of use, solid off-piste Less confidence-inducing on piste
If you are planning just the odd climb, freeride touring boots have limited cuff mobility and ski well. The soles may be interchangeable to suit various bindings. Some have rubberised soles to help you hike. If you skin up a lot, look at lighter, more touring-orientated boots that allow more movement in the cuff when they are in walk mode. The most critical point is to make sure your boots are compatible with your bindings. Generally, freeride touring bindings and alpine touring bindings take most boots. However, if you use pin bindings then you need compatible boots. And vice versa not all pincompatible boots are certified for use in conventional bindings.
M EN’ S F R EETO U R SKIS
Where can I buy a pair of those?
Blizzard Zero G 095 £525 without bindings
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/lightweight
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon &
wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-97-114 RADIUS 18m (178cm) LENGTHS (cm) 163, 171, 178, 183 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,600g for 171cm
Several retailers attend the ski tests and many offer Ski Club members savings on full-price items. They include: 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
Black Crows Camox Freebird £550 without bindings
THEY SAY A modern touring ski of medium fatness for those skiers who want to play a little on the descent. WE SAY With a high quality feel to its construction, this is a ski that feels light and set up for big tours. At low speeds it’s easy to pivot and feels eager to change direction and get into the new turn. In deeper powder the shape works well, with the wide shovel helping to give instant float. However, the tail feels pretty stiff and makes it less forgiving when steering out of the turn.
THEY SAY With a state-of-theart carbon fibre frame and an ultra-light wood core, the Zero is the most versatile ski you’ll find. WE SAY The Zero G holds an edge well, with great grip on hardpack and no worries on steeper terrain. On piste it feels rock solid, with good responsiveness in short and long turns. It offers a smooth, well damped ride and is comfortable when blasted. In deeper powder it worked well, but some testers felt it a bit stiff in the tail coming out of turns. Great for strong skiers.
Strong on hardpack, but stiff tail pushed me back in choppy off-piste (Aaron Tipping) Light, easy to pivot. Nice shape in powder (Mark Jones)
I love it! It skis like a freeride ski, but is lighter (Al Morgan) A cracking, dependable, go-anywhere ski. It loves to be turning on edge (Derek Chandler)
Light, very easy to pivot into the turn Stiff tail is tricky coming out of turns
Stable, could edge grip on hard snow Less easy to pivot at lower speeds
Movement Alp Tracks 94 LTD £675 without bindings
Völkl V-Werks BMT 94 £750 without bindings
BUILD Cap & sidewall combo/carbon &
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 130-94-119 RADIUS 19m (177cm) LENGTHS (cm) 169, 177, 183 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,120g for 177cm
lightweight wood core/full rocker 122-94-112 23.4m (176cm) 166, 176, 186 Not available
SIDECUT (mm) RADIUS LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
THEY SAY The Alp Tracks 94 is unique in the freetour sector as it’s powerful and ultra versatile at just 1,120g in the 177cm length. WE SAY Solid, but light, in short turns it feels agile and would work well for steeper couloirs. It has a stiff flex for such a light ski and this would work well on steep terrain. But that stiff flex often worked against it in other conditions, where the tip could get easily deflected in chopped snow and the ski could feel unresponsive. Overall, a bit uncompromising for some skiers.
Aaron is a former British ski team member who was once ranked the UK’s No.1 for slalom. He has been selected as a Basi trainer, and coaches and assesses aspiring instructors. He is also a time-setter for the Eurotest instructor race test. On a more quirky note, Aaron took Team Zimbabwe to its first ever Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and has taught all over the world. He is now owner and director of Supreme Ski School in Courchevel, France. supremeski.com
lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker 128-95-112 20m (171cm) 164, 171, 178, 185 1,150g for 171cm
SIDECUT (mm) RADIUS LENGTHS (cm) WEIGHT (per ski)
THEY SAY Full carbon fibre construction and light multilayer core allow nimble skiing in a variety of snow conditions. WE SAY We were gagging to try this one as it looked so high-tech. Of all the skis, it had the best edge grip on hardpack and felt strong cruising on piste. Despite that, it’s still easy to use in the backcountry and can handle any conditions with ease. Overall a fantastic choice for skiers with strong technical ability who want something to perform well, even when pushed hard.
Good for short turns in soft snow, but struggles to turn or slide smoothly (Derek Chandler) Stiff for such a light ski, tip gets deflected in crud (Al Morgan)
All-round belter for strong skiers. Solid on hard snow, easy off-piste (Derek Chandler) Smooth flex, stable, grippy. You get what you pay for (Al Morgan)
Light, stiff and strong on short turns Flex makes it a bit unresponsive
Smooth, balanced, grips hard snow High price
UNLIMITED ALL MOUNTAIN
EXPERIENCE THE BEST BLEND OF VERSATILITY, PERFORMANCE AND FIT
PANTERRA SKI-HIKE MY FIT 100% customizable shell and liner system, tuned especially to your needs
Easy to adjust hike- and ski function which allows comfortable walking and great skiing performance
VARIABLE VOLUME FIT ADJUSTABLE FLEX To regulate forward flex stiffness and the range of flexing motion
GRIP WALK COMPATIBLE Update your boot for better walking comfort and highly improved grip without compromises in power transmission and release function
Exclusive Dalbello technology: Developed to permit skierts to regulate the boot width - from a range of 102 mm to 100 mm
CABRIO SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY
WO M EN’ S F R EETO U R SKIS
E A I B
Touring skins are evolving fast. Most still stick to the base of skis using adhesive, but the new, glueless breed are worth considering. You needn't worry about them sticking together in your pack or regluing them. They have a rubber base that works much like those toys that stick to a wall when you throw them against it. Some skins are made for certain skis, or they can be trimmed to fit in a shop. Regular poles are fine if you put a powder basket on. Collapsible ones allow you adjust the length for the climb, and can be stowed in a backpack.
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 119-84-108 RADIUS 18m (169cm) LENGTHS (cm) 153,161,169 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,250g for 169cm
THEY SAY Based on a new shape it opens a door to the backcountry, but is capable when returning to groomed pistes. WE SAY Like other Movement freetour skis the Vista is superlight and would be great for tourers who love a light rig. That is matched to a rockered profile that makes it feel at home in deeper, off-piste snow. On harder, skiedout snowpack the Vista felt less confident, with a lack of edge grip and less stability. But for ease of use in the backcountry going up and down it works well.
THEY SAY This all-condition ski is light enough for long slogs up and confident enough to paint the white canvas back down. WE SAY This ski was a hit with the test team. It was comfortable making smooth, round arcs, and felt well balanced on edge, with a sidecut that steers a nice curve. Off-piste it was effortless to move from turn to turn, while offering plenty of float and a smooth ride. On piste it skied well for a ski in this category, but didn’t feel rock solid when going for high speeds on hard snow.
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-96-118 RADIUS 17m (163cm) LENGTHS (cm) 163, 170 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,350g for 163cm
The choice for women is exploding this year. These four skis are a small selection of those we could test. Overall, widths have increased as new technologies have cut weights without affecting performance. We will be back testing skis in March, when, as ever, the Ski Club’s testers go to Kühtai, Austria, to try the best of more than 800 of next season’s models. If you want tips on testing skis for yourself, watch the Ski Club’s short instructional video on bit.ly/howtotestskis
How to pick the right skins and poles
K2 Talkback 96 £350 without bindings
The Movement Vista is light and grippy in most off-piste conditions. However it feels unstable and lacks edge grip at speed on piste (Bella Seel) Rocker profile works well in deep snow Lacks grip on harder snow
Sponsors With thanks to Scott, Eider, Planks and Salomon, which provided clothes. Scott also supplied goggles and poles.
E A I B
Great value for money and my favourite in this category (Bella Seel) Affordable, easy ski. Very light, which makes it manoeuvrable (Steph Ede) Smooth, predictable, fun, easy off-piste Feels less stable at speed on hardpack
Photos: Ross Woodhall
What's new in women’s freetour skis?
Movement Vista W £429 without bindings
WO M EN’ S F R EETO U R SKIS
Faction Agent 90 W £419 without bindings
Blizzard Zero G 095 £525 without bindings
Sidewall/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip rocker SIDECUT (mm) 126-92-116 RADIUS 19m (174cm) LENGTHS (cm) 149, 159, 164,169, 174 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,210g for 169cm
Cap & sidewall combo/carbon & lightweight wood core/tip & tail rocker SIDECUT (mm) 128-95-112 RADIUS 20m (171cm) LENGTHS (cm) 164, 171, 178, 185 WEIGHT (per ski) 1,150g for 171cm
THEY SAY A 92mm waist,
THEY SAY With a state-of-
5mm of camber, flat tail and rocker tip let you charge descents or rip up groomers in style. WE SAY The Agent is easy to use and takes little effort to steer into and out of turns. It feels at its best off-piste, where the wide, light platform keep it on the surface. It has a consistent, uniform flex that makes it nice and predictable through the turn. That consistency makes it easy to read, but it can mean it lacks responsiveness, and could have more energy coming out of turns.
E A I B
The Agent is easy to turn and use, and has a nice flex through the ski, so there are no big surprises. But it could hold a stronger edge on piste (Steph Ede) Easy to use, good consistent flex Lacks responsiveness and energy
the-art carbon fibre frame and an ultra-light wood core, the Zero is the most versatile ski you’ll find. WE SAY The Zero G holds an edge well, with great grip on hardpack and can be pushed on steeper terrain. On piste it feels rock solid and responsive in short and long turns. It offers a smooth, well damped ride and is comfortable when blasted. In deeper snow it worked well with no big issues. Some testers found it stiff in the tail coming out of turns. Great for strong skiers.
Super light, grippy ski which handled speed. Great fun! (Bella Seel) Holds the piste well, a lot of dynamic performance in harder conditions (Steph Ede)
Smooth, grippy on hardpack Tail can grab coming out of the turn
How to pick the right safety gear The minimum you should take with you offpiste is a transceiver, shovel and probe. Select a probe at least two metres long when extended, and make sure the shovel fits in your backpack before you buy one. Modern, three-antennae transceivers are easy to use effectively, so focus on those. Avalanche airbags (backpacks with inflatable bags to be deployed if you are in an avalanche) are becoming increasingly popular and may be worth looking at. But you may face issues taking these on an aeroplane. Gear — Page 67
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 higher the flex index, the more expensive the boot, which is why some prices are given as ranges. Models made with more lighter, more high-tech materials will be more costly
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, with some models specifying by how many degrees
BUCKLES These are used to fasten the boot. Buckles should wrap the shell evenly around the foot, keeping it snug without creating pressure points
BINDING COMPATIBILITY All the boots on these pages have inserts that mean they can be used with certain types of pin binding. Some are compatible with alpine bindings and alpine-style touring bindings, but do check compatibility before you buy
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.
Climb every mountain as touring fever grips You won’t have to search high and low, as brands rise to the challenge, says Chris Exall
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.
For some, ski touring boots offer a way of making short climbs in search of great snow more tolerable. For others it offers a chance to scale whole mountain ranges on longer, more epic journeys. So, when buying, it’s important to be clear on your touring goals, because touring boots offer a different balance of comfort and performance. A super-light ski-mountaineering competition boot will let you climb with ease, but at some cost to performance on the way down. A beefier, quasi-alpine boot with cuff release will make perfect arcs on the way down, but will slow you on the way up. Do consider the range of motion in the cuff, as this is often more important than
Scott Superguide £500
FLEX 130 SIZES 23–28.5
When Scott purchased Garmont’s ski boot business, it acquired one of the brand leaders in touring boots. And with the extra investment, the Superguide was born. The three-and-a-half buckle closure — with the top buckle also serving as a power strap — ensures that the shell wraps well, but a 103mm last means that the fit is a little better for the medium to wide foot. The threepiece shell with carbon reinforcement has lateral support to match any alpine boot, but with a smooth flex you won’t be knocked about by variable terrain. The use of Ultralon foam means it can be heat moulded, and Gore-Tex keeps the boot feeling fresh.
Dalbello has lots of choice for ski tourers and those most serious about touring will want to look to the Sherpa. It’s a three-piece design which is loosely based on Dalbello’s successful cabrio shell. The middle buckle pulls the heel back into shell and means heel hold is fantastic for those with narrow feet. A lower than normal hinge point gives the shell a powerful feel on the way down, especially in larger arcs riding wide, big mountain skis. The super-light construction and tech inserts make it handy for superior uphill treks. With a 100mm last, three buckles and an Intuition heat-moulded liner the boot is tolerant of all but the largest feet.
Great for driving piste orientated skis On the heavier side for a touring boot
For more advice on touring kit, see bit.ly/tipsfortouring
Dalbello Sherpa Ti £400
the flex, which is of greater importance for the categories of boot that we covered in Issues 1 to 3 of Ski+board — freeride, piste and all-mountain respectively. All touring boots have sticky rubber soles for gripping, while most have inserts to connect with light pin-type bindings, but check for compatibility. Finally, remember that touring boots are close-fitting, with a narrower last than many alpine models. So it’s not unusual to see a race-like 97mm fit. Those with wider feet will want to start off by shopping for a talented bootfitter.
Out-of-the-box fit Limited walk range of motion
£335 FLEX 115 SIZES 23-31.5
The Orbit is definitely at its best on long approaches and for serious skimountaineering adventures. It’s stripped back and lightweight, with a simple, twobuckle closure. As with the Superguide, the shell is made from lightweight Grilamid, which is beefed up with carbon fibre for strength and support. A heat mouldable liner, Gore-Tex wrap and a generous 103mm last mean that this fits most feet out of the box, though it’s at its best with a medium to wide forefoot. A quick release cuff allows around 60 degrees of movement for climbing, secured by a robust locking mechanism for descents. With a flex of 115 it has enough power to cope with most terrain. Great for long ski-mountaineering expeditions Not the best for those with narrow feet
B O OTS
Atomic Backland £450-£550 Carbon
Tecnica Zero G guide £350-£450
Dahu Mr Ed/Numero Uno £449-£469
FLEX N/A SIZES CARBON: 24-30.5 CARBON LIGHT: 24-29.5 FLEX 90 SIZES 22–27.5
FLEX 130, 110 SIZES 130: 22-31 110: 24-31 FLEX 105 SIZES 22–27.5
FLEX N/A SIZES 23–30.5
The Backland Carbon was built to tour, with lightweight Grilamid and carbon paring back the shell weight. It has a two-buckle closure, kept snug with a lace-like cable. Flex is controlled by interchangeable tongues and the cuff release allows 75 degrees in travel. The soles only work with pin-type bindings. The women’s model also has 75 degrees in cuff travel and is extremely lightweight. With a rockered touring sole, it is only compatible with a pin binding. It comes with Memory Fit shell technology and a washable liner. Great cuff motion potential Some say liner is thin so toes get cold
Coming from the moulds of the Cochise all-mountain boot, the light Grilamid shell in the Zero G guide and rockered soles keep it firmly on the untracked side of the ropes. It has 45 degrees of movement in the cuff — enough for all but the steepest climbs. There’s also lots of space in the instep. Lighter than the Cochise, the Zero G has rockered touring soles and tech inserts for pin bindings. It offers comfort for medium width feet and suits those wanting to tour without compromising on performance. Spacious in the instep Slightly more limited cuff travel potential
Dahu is the boot of choice for explorer Mike Horn in what is perhaps the ultimate ski tour: a 7,000km traverse of the Antarctic on skis. Dahu boots use an exoskeleton design, where a hard but lightweight Grilamid shell wraps around a comfortable, lace-up liner. The liner can be worn without the shell when walking or climbing. It is waterproof and designed to lock into the skeleton when it’s closed around the foot, with the deep groves in the sticky vulcanised sole securing the slope of the liner into the base of the clog. The outer shell is light enough so it can be kept in a backpack or clipped on to one when skinning up is no longer an option. A comfortable alternative to the traditional Radical design may not be for everyone
Salomon MTN Lab/ Explore £450-£500
Scarpa Freedom SL/ Gea RS £430-£450
Lange XT Freetour £450-£500
FLEX 120 SIZES 25.5-29.5 FLEX 90 SIZES 23.5–27.5
FLEX 120 SIZES 25-31 FLEX N/A SIZES 22.5-27
FLEX 130, 110 SIZES 24-29.5 110 FLEX SIZES 24–27.5
Simply structured, this boot is made for touring, with a rubber sole, pin inserts and a cuff release lever that gives it 68-degree movement. The Grilamid clog and reinforced Pebax cuff have an alpine feel. The thermoformable liner irons out some fit hotspots, but it’s harder to modify than some boots. Offering 63 degrees in cuff travel, this is a light boot that aims to make the uphill climb as efficient as possible. It has a rockered touring sole for grip and has tech inserts to make it compatible with any touring/pin binding.
The Freedom is an alpine boot with four-buckle structure, cuff alignment adjustment, but with backcountry heritage. The 101mm last and light Pebax shell wrap an Intuition liner, so it fits well out of the box. However, the metalto-metal cuff release offers less travel than some others. The Gea RS combines performance and lightness with a liner offering a precise fit. The ratchet strap provides great heel hold. With rockered touring soles and 39-degree motion in the cuff, it’s good for hard ski tourers.
Good cuff movement Men’s version is harder to modify than others
Good out-of-the-box fit Limited cuff motion for climbing
At first the idea of Lange touring boots seems unnatural, but with Dynaﬁt binding inserts, a sticky sole and a metal on metal cuﬀ release for climbs, they are a great choice for skiers who want to hike but keep downhill performance. The thermoformable liner and Lange last means that they fit like an alpine boot. The XT Freetour fits generously and, using Grilamid plastic, performs well downhill. It comes with a walk-to-ride sole with tech inserts for most touring bindings. The boot offers 40 degrees of motion in the cuff. Performs well downhill The women’s sizes are limited
B O OTS
Photos: Melody Sky
Ski boots come out of their shell with some weird and wonderful designs
Exoskeletons let skiers wear comfy boots, or snowboard boots, such as the MadJacks, inset
In years past, the biggest difference between ski boots has been whether they fall into one of two categories: two-piece side-hinged, or three-piece with an external tongue. However, some brands have been experimenting with a far more radical approach. Both Switzerland’s Dahu and US brand Apex use an exoskeleton design pioneered in the 1970s in Dynafit’s experimental DX-2. With these, the foot sits in a cushy snowboard type liner secured by laces. The liner, in turn, is held by a hard plastic skeleton that supports the foot. Dahu chief executive Nicolas Frey says: “Once the day is over, take off the exoskeletons and simply keep your inner boots on to drive, sledge with the kids, do some shopping or head straight to the après-ski bar for a drink. They are so stylish and comfortable, you can even party all night long in them.”
MadJacks, a US startup, has taken the concept a step further. The firm has developed a frame that will wrap any snowboard boot and allow it to fit an alpine binding. MadJacks claims that this is more comfortable and cheaper than a traditional alpine ski boot. Founder Eric Mehiel, whose work as an aerospace engineer helped to refine the boot, says: “We want to give skiers the comfort they want without losing agility.” While these boots are unlikely to appear on the World Cup circuit, we may see coaches, instructors and other ski professionals try them as a way to avoid changing footwear every time they need to walk somewhere. Chris Exall
SKI CLUB PROMOTION
The Ski Club’s all-new Snow & Weather App The Ski Club’s snow and weather app has been given a brand new look and redesign from the ground up – making it easier than ever to view the conditions in your favourite resorts.
With the app you can access our industry-leading snow reports and 6-day weather forecasts for over 250 resorts, all wrapped up in one easy-touse app. You’ll also receive notifications letting you know what’s happening in your favourite resorts – where to find our Leaders or Instructor-led
Guiding service, where you can use Ski Club discounts, and details of social hours where you can meet other members. The app is now live on the Apple App Store for iPads and iPhones – search for Ski Club Snow Reports. The Android version will follow very shortly – so watch this space!
More powder to the people! Today’s skis make it easy to adapt your turns to soft snow, so now’s the time to try it, says Mark Jones Most ski magazines focus on powder shots — nothing quite compares with that feeling of floating in soft, light snow. But such conditions are surprisingly rare, with wind, temperature and visibility conspiring to stop the party. So if fresh powder comes your way, you’ll want to grab the chance to ski it with both hands, as the next time may be far off. However, particularly if this is your first foray off-piste, having the wherewithal to tackle it can make the difference between a dreamy experience and a nightmare. “Should I lean back in powder?” a lot of people ask me. The answer is that you no longer need to. Fatter skis, which were introduced more than 20 years ago, have greater width and a rockered profile, making it far easier to pivot, twist and steer the ski. This means that even in deep snow it’s far easier to control your speed and direction than if you are on all-mountain skis. If you are able to lay your hands on a pair of freeride skis it will make a huge difference to the quality of your day. Hire shops will often swap your skis during your stay at no extra charge. Even if you do have to spend the equivalent of a round of drinks later, at least you’ll have something to celebrate. So getting the right skis will make
Mark Jones is director and owner of ICE (icesi.org), a training centre for aspiring skiers and instructors in Val d’Isère, France. He’s also a trainer and assessor for Basi, and has represented Great Britain many times with the British demo team at the Interski Congress.
more of a difference than any tips from an instructor — and that’s coming from me! They’ll stop you wallowing around and give you instant floatation to the top, where life is much, much easier. Once up there, the extra width and profile will allow the ski to be turned with minimal effort, to the point where technique becomes less important, as the ski forgives mistakes. In terms of balance you just need to stay over the middle of your feet, as you would on piste, since the rocker profile will save you changing your fore-aft balance. TERRAIN So if the powder is out there and you have the right pair of skis, the second most important decision you will make is the type of terrain you are on, particularly if it’s your first time. Keep it easy, go for an open slope with an easy pitch, where there is no chance of your speed running away from you. As a first-timer, if you take on anything too steep it will force you into making ‘survival’ turns to control your speed, leading to a lot of tumbles. The first fall might feel like fun, dropping into a feathery bed of powder, but the hard part is getting back up, and it will suck the energy out of you very fast. FIRST TURNS For all that the right sort of skis and terrain help, life will be truly effortless only if you can nail the technique. This side of the equation can be confusing, as the moves you need in powder are completely different to those you need to make on piste. Here’s how it works: On easy terrain start by letting the skis move down the hill in a straight line. In a matter of seconds you will feel them getting closer to the surface, not unlike a speedboat when it is up and planing. This is the key moment when the skis will resist your input the least, and will be easier to steer. Keeping a narrow stance, turn the skis by rotating them with your feet and legs. Once they are turned you will feel resistance from the snow and your speed will drop. At this point start the new change of direction by flattening the skis
and releasing the edges as this will let your body topple into a new direction. PRESSURE POINTS Once you have the basic idea and can link a few turns it will help to add vertical movements to create pressure. Use a rhythmic, bouncing movement, coming from your ankles, then moving up to your knees. Waves of pressure will
Ensure you have enough speed for the skis to start floating up
Release the skis’ edges; allow your body to move laterally into a new turn
Keep those turns round and at a constant speed. Enjoy the experience!
TEC HNIQU E
move through the skis, which makes the snow underneath them compress when pushed, or light when released. These waves will make your turns easier. The timing of this needs to be aligned to the rotation of the skis. The moment of pushing down is the time to steer the skis away from the fall line to the end of the turn. Once you have finished the turn flatten the skis, release the edges and allow your body to move upwards. When this is timed with the upwards movement it will allow the skis to use the compressed snow as a mini-launch ramp, making them light and easy to
turn, so that they are facing straight back down the slope. In deep snow you must distribute your weight equally over both skis to create a stable platform. On piste, you work from outside ski to outside ski in a pedalling motion. If you try this in powder, the inside ski will catch on the snow and is more likely to trip you up. POLE PLANTS If all is going well and you are starting to link turns, it makes sense to add the pole plant. Using the pole gives an extra point of balance and makes it easier to stay in
control as you finish one turn and move into the next. The timing and action of the pole plant is the same as on piste. Once everything comes together it helps to get lots of mileage in these conditions. And not just because itâ€™s a load of fun! In terms of technique, repetition means those turns in time will give you confidence and will develop into deeper muscle memory. So the more you do it, the less you need to think, and the more you can enjoy the ride.
Read more of Mark Jonesâ€™s tips at skiclub.co.uk/asktheexpert
Steer through to the end of the turn by rotating your feet and legs
Try to keep even pressure on both feet to help with balance
Use a solid pole plant to help balance as you move into a new turn
SKI CLUB BENEFITS
SKI WITH THE CLUB One of the great things about being part of a club is getting together with others and doing what you love best. In the case of the Ski Club that means being in the mountains and having a great time on the snow with fellow members.
SKI CLUB LEADERS Get more from the mountain If you’re tired of looking at your piste map, join a Ski Club Leader group and get straight to the best slopes. Our volunteer Leaders can take you to the best snow, and help you meet people of similar ability to ski with. Pick the days and times which suit you best, as each weekly programme includes a variety of options for skiers of different abilities. Leaders also host a social hour each evening, where you can share a drink with fellow Ski Club members and recount your tales of a hard day on the slopes.
Quite honestly my holiday was made by our Leader John his enthusiasm and leadership, faultless. Rob Parkynn
Ski Club Leaders are in 18 resorts in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra, USA and Canada.
Find out more at skiclub.co.uk/leaders INSTRUCTOR-LED GUIDING Melody Sky
The best way to get around French resorts New for this season - Les Deux Alpes, and extra sessions added in Tignes and Val d’Isère! Last season, more than 1,000 members used our Instructorled Guiding service in France, and we received some fantastic feedback. So this season it’s back! Instructorled Guiding is running in 11 major French resorts – with full-day and half-day sessions each week to suit different skiing abilities, ranging from exploring the resort’s pistes, to off piste adventures for experienced powder hunters. Instructors also host social hours – the frequency varies from resort to resort so check the website for more details. Advance online bookings: £30 full day / £15 half day* Direct bookings with instructor in resort: €45 full day / €25 half day *Online bookings can be made up to 12pm on the Friday of the previous week.
Find out more at skiclub.co.uk/instructors
Had a great time and found some lovely snow. No need to look at the piste map for 1.5 days. Awesome value. Daniel Smith
…and don’t forget our new resort Facebook groups! Our resort Facebook groups are another great way to connect with other skiers and find out what’s going on in resort. We’ve got groups running for all Leader and Instructor-led Guiding resorts, plus a few selected others. Just search on Facebook for Ski Club of Great Britain followed by the resort name – and join up!
Just how low can you go?
Photo: Ross Woodhall
A few simple tips can save you from a long walk at the bottom of your epic descent, says Nigel Shepherd Whoo, whoo! You’re storming down the mountain, relishing each turn in fresh powder, so you reluctantly stop… only to find you’ve overshot the turning to a lift. Even if you have touring gear, those extra turns can pose a problem. If you’re super-fit you may be able to climb 500 to 800 vertical metres in an hour. But for most of us 250 to 300 is a good rate. As a rule of thumb, this means that every five to ten minutes of skiing down equates to an hour of climbing back up. And what if you have no touring gear? If the snow is deep, hiking out with skis over your shoulder will be brutal, if not impossible. Sidestepping on skis is equally tiring and demoralising. Only if you’re lucky will you spot a track left by someone who made the same mistake. The usual solution is to traverse in the hope you’ll rejoin the planned route. A more gung-ho option is to continue down, aiming to reach a track back to base, or better still a road, where you can
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.
Ex-stream skiing: features in the landscape can help chart your course, though watercourses are fickle
call a taxi, albeit at a cost. Both options require some careful thought. The biggest issue is route finding. Do you know what obstacles or perils lie ahead, or do you have some way of accessing this information? A piste map won’t help, but a 1:50,000 scale map or GPS device may give some indication of crags or cliffs to avoid, the steepness of the slope, and may also show walking paths that are easier to follow, even if blanketed in snow. Another useful aid is an altimeter. Many watches, GPS devices and phones can show altitude, and let you set an alarm so you know when you are about to go below a ski lift’s lower station, say. But be aware that a few (usually wrist-worn) altimeters work on barometric pressure, so need to be calibrated often. This isn’t hard, as many lifts give the altitude of the base and summit stations in big letters on the side, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone. If your knowledge of route finding is lacking, the safest option, however painful, will be to retrace your tracks Ski+board
back up hill. Better that than get caught in terrain where cliffs, cornices and impenetrable forest hold untold hazards. To avoid this scenario, choose routes that lead back to a piste or some easily identifiable linear feature. In navigation terms we call these ‘captive features’ that bound ‘captive terrain’. So an area of off-piste bounded by a piste, say, has a handrail that will lead you back to safety. Virtually any easily identifiable linear feature can be used, with the notable exceptions of streams (which may vanish under deep snow or lead over big drops) and cliff edges, for obvious reasons. If the weather is poor and visibility is low, it may be best to sit tight and wait for conditions to improve. Often with a bit of thought, you can then work out where you are from a map or handheld GPS. Only if there is a genuine threat to life and limb should you call the rescue services, who should be able to locate your position from your mobile.
Read snow reports that are updated daily at skiclub.co.uk/snowreports
Learn to be a hands-on skier By strengthening your hands and wrists, you can ski more confidently without fearing injury, says Craig McLean It’s easy to assume only snowboarders have to watch out for wrist injuries. But skiers must also ensure their hands and wrists are strong enough for the poleplanting that powder and late-season slush require, not to mention ski touring. With this in mind, the last print issue of Ski+board of this season will cover the best ways to have your thumbs, hands, wrists and forearms ready for skiing, having covered shoulders, legs and backs
in Issues 1, 2 and 3. This should not only lessen the risk of sprains and repetitive strains, but it should also reduce the risk of more serious injuries. As a skier, an outstretched hand in the wrong position, or a pole yanked in the wrong direction, can stress the thumb, and stretch or tear ligaments.
Read more of Craig’s tips in back issues at skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard
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.
1 STRESS BALL A
A Have a few of these foam balls around the office, or by the TV and kettle, and get squeezing. B Do 20 pumps of the ball in each hand in circuits of three. This should improve finger, wrist and forearm strength.
You’re doing it wrong if… You find your body is tensing up — just relax as you squeeze.
2 WRIST FLEXION
A Start by gently holding a can with your palm facing upwards. Bend your wrist up and down. Repeat ten times. B To turn this into the wrist extension exercise, turn your hand over, so your palm faces down, and repeat the drill.
You’re doing it wrong if… Your elbow is bending out. Keep your elbow by your side, bent at 90 degrees.
If you’ve been training hard for your trip don’t let it all go belly up as soon as you reach the ski resort
Former racer Graham Bell is backing a government campaign to keep Britons safe on their skiing holidays. He suggests that as well as doing ski-specific exercises, you should work on balance and co-ordination. Other advice includes buying a pair of rubber snow grips to put over shoes for use off the slopes. And
remember that the effect of alcohol is greater at altitude. Revellers should avoid walking home alone, as temperatures fall fast at night. Drink has been to blame for many of the 58 deaths and 118 hospitalisations of Britons on European ski trips reported to the Foreign Office in the past four years.
F ITN ESS
3 WRIST EXTENSION A Once you’ve built strength with the can, move on to a heavier weight, such as a dumbbell.
B Again lift the dumbbell towards your body by rotating your wrist, keeping your arm strong. Do three sets of ten. You’re doing it wrong if… You bend your body towards the dumbbell, especially when your palm faces up.
4 FINGER STRENGTHEN A Wrap a theraband around your fingertips so you can’t see them. Start with fingers and thumbs together.
B Separate them as much as possible. Let them come together again and do ten repetitions. You’re doing it wrong if… You’re over-tensing your hand or simply pushing it against the theraband.
5 THE PLANK
A Focus on your wrists and shoulders to gain strength. Start on all fours, with the aim of lifting your knees into a plank. B From the plank position, lift yourself on to your fingertips, if you can, as this will strengthen your fingers as well as wrists. You’re doing it wrong if… Your core is not engaged or your wrists face the wrong way. Keep your shoulders strong.
Checking you are fully insured is also vital. A recent survey by the Foreign Office and Abta (formerly the Association of British Travel Agents) questioned more than 2,000 Britons and found that a third of skiers fail to ensure they are covered for all the activities they do. Those most at risk were the over-55s — nearly half of this
age group said they never checked their cover. A similar survey a year before revealed that younger skiers are more wary of limitations to cover. Ski+board has highlighted in past issues how readers can scan the PDFs of lengthy policies to find exclusions. Hitting ‘Control F’ on your keyboard and entering phrases such as ‘winter Ski+board
sports’, ‘10 days’ and ‘17 days’ can reveal limitations to multi-trip policies. Other tips including taking your free European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) and checking that it is valid — it expires after five years. To renew, call 0300 330 1350, and avoid the many unofficial websites requiring payment. Colin Nicholson
SKI BOOT LAB
www.profeet.co.uk/skiing photo - www.konradbartelski.photography
THE UK SPECIALISTS IN SKI BOOTS, SKI BOOT FITTING, CUSTOM SKI INSOLES & CUSTOM LINERS "I had my boots blown out to accommodate my bunions, so I needed specialised fitting of the shell to my feet. It was done perfectly and the difference that it makes is considerable... every skier ought to take the time to get their feet right before any ski holiday." Konrad Bartelski - Former British Team Skier
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Shell customisation & foam liners
One of the widest ranges of ski boots in the UK!
Call 020 7736 0046 to book your appointment *depending on appointment type
Profeet 867 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5HP
Don’t get all heavy about going off-piste
Photo: Melody Sky
Lighter, easier-to-use kit is making powder more fun and accessible, says Alf Alderson The sheer complexity of off-piste kit can leave you feeling weighed down before you buy a single item. But this season’s gear is lighter and easier to use. So even if you simply like dropping into some powder off the side of a lift, you’ll find safety gear inviting you to join the party. Transceivers are both cheaper and simpler to use, while even basic shovels and probes have become more userfriendly and easier to fit into backpacks. Avalanche airbag backpacks have also been undergoing a quiet revolution. Companies such as Black Diamond and Arc’teryx have introduced battery powered fans to inflate avalanche airbags, rather than compressed gas. These have several advantages. The
batteries are rechargeable, so you can practise pulling the handle and setting them off at home (although my dog was so terrified when I appeared to double in size that he hid for hours). And you’re less likely to face issues with airlines, which often don’t like you carrying compressed gas cylinders on planes. The pressure for lighter kit comes partly from the growing popularity of touring. We cover lighter touring bindings, such as the Marker Kingpin, overleaf, as well as the new, dedicated slopes popping up on the Continent encouraging skiers to get into touring.
Read more gear reviews as they are posted online 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.
£1,180 (20-litre) £1,280 (30-litre)
Ortovox Avalanche Rescue Kit 3+
Black Diamond Pilot 11 JetForce
Arc’teryx Voltair Avalanche Airbag
This is the smallest of Black Diamond’s avalanche packs and its capacity of just 11 litres rules it out for hut-to-hut touring. However, for short lift-accessed adventures, cat or heli-skiing it’s great. Its JetForce fan inflation fills a 200-litre airbag in four seconds, and automatically deflates after three minutes to create a potential air pocket. I found the inflation handle easier to locate and pull than on the compressed air cylinder packs I’ve used in the past. And after use it can be easily repacked and used again. Due to all the technological gubbins inside, the pack is fairly heavy, especially given its limited capacity. But you get an easy-access avy tools pocket, tuck-away diagonal ski carrier and helmet-holder.
The award-winning Voltair uses a centrifugal blower to fill its 150-litre volume airbag, which delivers more initial pressure than any other battery powered avalanche airbag system on the market. You can also recharge it on the go, useful for anyone out in the backcountry for days at a time. The 20-litre pack will be enough for a day out, while the 30-litre model will work for multi-day tours. There’s space for your avy gear, front lash ladders and straps to carry skis or a snowboard, and loops for climbing tools. It has a bombproof construction in case you’re caught in a slide, and should handle many seasons of use — by which time it’s highly likely that ABS packs will be much cheaper than at present.
This is a great option for anyone looking to buy the full set of transceiver, shovel and probe — you get the whole lot in a sturdy box for less than the cost of buying each item individually. The pack consists of an Ortovox 3+ transceiver, a Beast shovel and a 240 Light PFA probe, along with a useful Safety Academy Guidebook, which explains the ground rules for avalanche rescue and contains a lot of additional background information. The transceiver has a transmission antenna and display screen, so that avalanche victims can be found faster. The shovel is strong and easily packed into a backpack. The probe weighs 270g and can be made ready for use in seconds, and collapsed just as quickly. All you need in one good-value package No choice in the combination of kit
Reusable, rechargeable and travel-friendly Expensive; small volume
Fast, efficient deployment system Expensive
G EA R
Mammut Alugator Twist Snow Shovel
Marker KingPin 13 bindings
Black Diamond GlideLite Mix STS climbing skins
The Twist gets its name from the fact that you can twist the shaft within the blade of the shovel, so that you have a choice of shovelling mode or cutting mode. Changing mode takes just a second or two, which is important as time is of the essence when conducting a search. And the addition of the cutting mode means you also have a useful tool for digging snow pits, snow blocks, and even constructing an igloo. The blade of the shovel is made from durable, anodised aluminium and has stabilisation ribs for added rigidity and cutting power. The telescopic shaft extends to 80cm to make shovelling easier on your back, collapsing to 60cm for storage. And the weight of the whole thing is just 670g. Twist feature makes it more versatile Blade not as big as that of some snow shovels
The KingPin is a hybrid binding, aiming to combine the performance and control of an alpine set-up with the lightness of a touring binding. This is achieved by using an alpine style heel binding and a touring style pin toe. Weighing just 1,460g a pair, the KingPin’s six springs at the toe ensure great energy absorption and grip, while an ‘XXL Power Transmitter’ keeps things stable when blasting downhill. It comes with the reassurance of official DIN settings ranging from 6 to 13. You switch from touring to ski mode (and vice-versa) by shifting a heel unit under your foot backwards or forwards. It’s great for regular skiers who want a secure, well designed binding that can be used with confidence on and off-piste. Lighter and less bulky than alpine bindings You have to remove your skis to switch mode
The GlideLite Mix STS is one of Black Diamond’s lighter and more packable climbing skins, engineered for longer days out — the extra suppleness of the GlideLite makes it 20 per cent more packable, and, as someone with an old pair of Black Diamond Ascension skins, I can tell you that at 696g a pair the weight saving is noticeable. It features a mix of 65 per cent mohair and 35 per cent nylon for efficient glide and traction, and is embellished with a new and rather funky print. The ‘STS’ tail system allows up to 10cm of adjustability, while the adjustable tip attachments will fit most skis. Widths vary from 80mm to a massive 140mm, which should cover just about every ski you’d use them with. Will fit most skis; light and supple At the expensive end of the GlideLite range
Mammut Probe 240 Fastlock
Komperdell Fatso Carbon Vario ski poles
Black Diamond Helio Carbon ski poles
The probe will work to a depth of 240cm, marked on the shaft in 1cm increments. It collapses down to 45cm, and its weight is a mere 265g, so you’ll hardly notice it in your pack. I especially liked the locking system, which, unlike that of some probes I’ve used in the past, is pretty foolproof — you extend the probe, pull a handle to secure all the sections in place, then push a locking mechanism into place to keep everything stable. This can all be done with gloved hands. It can be a faff to disassemble, as it’s easy for the locking mechanism to slip back into place, but this isn’t a major issue as speed and stability are of the essence when searching, not when packing up afterwards. Quick, secure and stable locking mechanism Locking mechanism can slip back
An adjustable ski pole can make life easier touring as it can be short for skinning uphill and the usual length for skiing down. It’s useful when travelling, too, as it takes up less space in a bag. The Komperdell Fatso Carbon Vario has a smooth and easy adjustment that ranges from 100cm to 145cm in length, so will work for any skier. It has a chunky 16mm diameter aluminium upper shaft and 14mm carbon fibre lower shaft. It’s quicker to make adjustments than with a three-part pole as there’s just one locking mechanism to deal with. The wide strap and ergonomic handle are comfortable on long days out. The 85mm basket stops the pole from sinking into powder, and a tungsten carbide tip will withstand regular bashings. Versatile; quick, smooth action Soon looks grubby
Aiming this at ski mountaineers, Black Diamond describes the Helio as “the embodiment of ultralight minimalism”. It’s hard to disagree. The pole comes in lengths of 115cm to 130cm and weighs as little as 256g a pair. It is made from a single piece of high-strength carbon fibre with a slightly wider shaft than normal and an integrated grip. It come with wide, stiffened powder baskets featuring hooks that allow you to adjust the bindings on touring skis without having to bend down. It has a minimalist wrist strap. Though it’s designed for ski mountaineers, I’d happily use it for regular skiing as it is a lovely bit of kit, but could I justify spending £250 on a pair of ski poles…? Beautiful minimalist design; light and cool Super-expensive; not adjustable
G EA R
Photo: Melody Sky
Now you can try using skins without doing a grand tour Getting into ski touring can be difficult, given the mountain of gear you need to get started. However, possibilities are sprouting up all over the Continent for beginners to try it out before committing to a full adventure. Resorts are opening dedicated touring areas so that firsttime tourers can try skinning up in an avalanche-safe zone. This means the only kit they need to rent is touring boots, skis and skins. In some cases, hiring these for a morning’s tour can cost less than a day’s ski pass. This is particularly attractive if you want to grab an extra half day’s skiing before you catch a late transfer and flight back to the UK. In Andorra’s Grandvalira ski area, a new touring space called Cami Obac has opened in El Tarter. And Les Deux Alpes has opened a permanent ski-touring slope this season where visitors can now experience the sport in an environment with professionals. Ski touring is also possible in another French resort, Val Thorens, where a marked circuit has been created, so skiers can do a 1.5km loop direct from the resort, with 280m of vertical. The route takes about an hour to complete, and is ideal for newcomers, as it drops you off at the Plein Sud blue run. You can rent touring skis, boots, poles and climbing skins for the day for €19 from Goitschel Sports Shop in the Place Caron. In Les Arcs, which has opened a second dedicated touring slope this season, the Big Up & Down competition returns
from January 27 to 29, with mountaineer Kilian Jornet leading the charge. Events include the Kilianomètre, an ascent open to all, and the Big Nak, which also has a light version. There’s a ‘girl’s only’ element, for women who want an introduction to ski touring, supervised by champions Caroline Freslon and Liv Sansoz. Frédéric Charlot of Les Arcs says: “We hope people will discover another type of skiing. We are keen to help develop ski touring, and support it with places to hire ski touring kit. Once people progress they can consider an outing with a mountain guide.” Harriet Johnston
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
• Heli skiing, glacier skiing, backcountry skiing and ski touring all covered as standard
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
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
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.
Boards so versatile they can do the splits The wave of splitboards coming into the shops are opening up touring possibilities to snowboarders, writes Tristan Kennedy As snowboarding’s early protagonists grow older, they are abandoning parks, with their inevitable bumps and knocks, and turning instead to the backcountry. As a result, snowboards designed for powder have become increasingly popular. This trend has been accelerated by the invention of splitboards. These are boards that split down the middle to form two skis, allowing snowboarders to skin up the mountain like ski tourers without resorting to carrying a separate pair of snowshoes. At the top, you simply re-attach the two halves of the board and then ride it down like normal. In 2009, Jeremy Jones’s splitboard-
focused movie Deeper reinforced their popularity. And with winter sports lovers increasingly aware of environmental concerns, splitboarding offers an sustainable way to access the backcountry without resorting to gas guzzling helicopters or snowmobiles. Getting somewhere under your own steam also feels more adventurous, while skinning up keeps you fit. So it’s perhaps no surprise that these strange looking split sticks are the talk of this season in the shops.
To find out how to pick the best board for you, visit bit.ly/choosingaboard
Jones Explorer Split £590
Burton Landlord Split £650
Ride Alter Ego
FLEX PROFILE Combo SHAPE Directional LENGTHS (cm) 152, 156, 159, 162, 158W, 161W, 164W
FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
Jones has been leading the charge in the development of splitboards. The firm’s founder, Jeremy Jones, released the seminal splitboard-focused movie Deeper and now makes some of the best split kit on the planet. The Explorer is a great example. Softer and easier to ride than some splitboards, this is a great entry to the world of touring, snowboard style. Jones, an environmental campaigner, has also committed his firm to the ‘one per cent for the planet’ initiative, pledging one per cent of sales to environmental NGOs. Built to be environmentally friendly Not as stable at speed as others
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
The Landlord is built for powder days — and those prepared to work to earn their turns. It’s Burton’s top of the range split model, and it’s a beast. The board has a tapered shape, with a nose that’s wider than the tail, helping it float in the deep stuff. Its stiff flex helps it on hardpack, and the light weight means it’s easy to handle when it’s split into skis on the ascents too. The camber profile and stiff flex offer unparalleled stability. If you’re after a well-designed, high performance splitboard, they don’t get much better.
Combo Directional 155, 159, 162
154, 159, 163, 168
Easy to ride on hardpack or powder An expensive option
The Alter Ego is a hybrid — it’s a swallowtail powder board but the split tail can be fastened together using a similar clip to those used on splitboards. When you’re riding powder you can separate the two halves, allowing them to flex independently, giving a surf-like ride. Back on piste you can fasten them together, giving you the responsive feel of a conventional board. The rigid flex makes this solid underfoot, while Ride’s ‘slimewalls’ absorb speed vibrations. All this helps make it one of the best powder-charging boards on the market. The split tail adds versatility The stiff flex means it isn’t forgiving.
SNO W B OA R D S
Jones Hovercraft £400
Combo Directional 148, 152, 156, 160, 164
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Directional LENGTHS (cm) 147, 152
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
Initially modelled on the handmade boards that Jeremy Jones had seen on powder-laden trips to Japan, the Jones Hovercraft is now a classic in its own right. Very few boards can boast either the same agility on tree runs or the same float in deep powder. This year’s Hovercraft is more of an update on last year’s model than a complete revolution, but its combo profile and swallowtail shape work so well that Jones would be silly to change them. This carves beautifully on piste, and in powder it’s quite simply one of the best things you’ll ever ride.
The Anti-Social boasts a tapered shape, with a tail that’s thinner than the nose, and it has pronounced points at both ends. This helps it float in deep powder on the descents. When you’re going uphill, the two halves come apart easily. Burton’s channel system means that splitboard bindings are much easier to mount than on conventional splitboards. If you pair this with Burton’s Hitchhiker binding you’ll have the ultimate women’s splitboard set-up. If getting way out in the backcountry is your thing, then this is your board. Arguably the best women’s splitboard Piste performance suffers slightly
Turns quickly, floats beautifully Not a board for attempting jumps or rails
Sims Blade FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
£480 Camber Directional 155, 158, 161, 159W, 162W
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
Sims is the brand named after Californian snowboard pioneer Tom Sims, who died of heart failure aged 61 in 2012. For more than 40 years, he had pushed the limits of kit design, inventing things such as the highback and the metal-edged board which seem so obvious today that it’s a wonder anyone ever rode without them. This year the firm has put out its first line since the pioneer’s death, and this is the pick of the bunch. A directional beast, this is built for powder, but also performs well on piste, thanks to a flex and shape that allows you to ride switch. Versatile and fun Not as comfortable on tree runs as others
K2 Cool Bean
FLEX PROFILE Camber SHAPE Directional LENGTHS (cm) 138, 144,
FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
Combo Directional 142, 145, 148, 151
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
PISTES POWDER JUMPS RAILS
K2’s Cool Bean might not look that unusual, but what sets this board apart is not the nose or the tail — it’s the bit in between. This is one of the widest snowboards on the market. The fat waist means that this has the surface area to float in powder even though it’s really short. The short length has advantages — it is easy to turn, making it ideal for tree-riding. The swallow tail naturally sinks and that wide nose floats, making it one of the best powder boards out there. It’s not just about backcountry either — it also performs well on piste. Floaty and fun Not as stable at super-high speeds
It was just a few months after Gnu rider Kaitlyn Farrington had won the Olympic halfpipe gold medal in 2014 that she was diagnosed with a congenital spine condition, which meant any aerial accidents could leave her paralysed. “I can walk, I can snowboard,” she said, “I just have to keep my feet on the ground.” Since then, she’s discovered a passion for powder riding. Her latest pro model, with its combo profile, directional shape and wavy magnetraction edges is designed to be the best women’s powder board out there. Responsive, great for carving and powder Not designed to leave the ground
Photo: Melody Sky
FLEX PROFILE SHAPE LENGTHS (cm)
Burton Anti-Social Split £580
Hit the slopes from
Including Geneva, Grenoble & Innsbruck
Book now at Monarch.co.uk 94% of customers rated our service as good or excellent on Feefo.com during November 2016. *Terms & conditions apply, see www.monarch.co.uk. 0% fees on credit card bookings. Seats subject to availability. Offer applies to travel on selected dates between 01/01/17 & 30/04/17. 16,408 seats available at ÂŁ39 & correct as of 23/12/16. Prices are one way per person including taxes & charges. Flights are sold by Monarch Airlines Limited.
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Beginner’s luck… with a helping hand WRITERS Peter Coombs, Chris Exall, Harriet Johnston, Colin Nicholson, Arnie Wilson
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.
Many of us keen skiers are naturally excited by the prospect of introducing the sport we love to friends, partners and family who have never skied. But doing so means researching a resort for them that is very different to the ones we usually frequent. Beginners require safe, undaunting slopes on which to practise their snowploughs, so it’s essential to find a resort with varied terrain. Otherwise they will either be terrified, or you won’t have the challenges that allow you to make the most of your holiday. Other things to look out for are a well priced, well respected ski school, and a range of other activities on offer if children, especially, don’t take to skiing. This might mean deserting the Alps in search of resorts that allow you to do much more than just downhill.
To read guides to more than a thousand resorts see skiclub.co.uk/skiresorts
Pralognan-la-Vanoise Limited ski area and tiny village
A beautiful Alpine hamlet in a national park Why there? Pralognan is about as different from its neighbours in the Three Valleys as it’s possible to be. With 700 inhabitants, this postcard pretty village sits at the head of a valley and at the foot of the 3,855m Grande Casse, the highest mountain in the Vanoise Massif. Being surrounded by
glaciers, it offers the best guarantee of good snow, as well as amazing views. The ski area is very small, but so is the cost of a lift pass. It consists of a series of long, flattish, ego-boosting pistes running though the trees. If an expert tags along they can do the two ski touring trails or take a side-trip to La Plagne and Courchevel, which are both about 15 minutes away by car. Pralognan is best suited to families making their first turns and who aren’t just there for skiing but also to experience the magic of a winter break in the mountains. Can’t ski, won’t ski There are sledging runs, winter walking and snowshoeing paths, and cross-country trails — you can even try biathlon or paragliding. Other activities include dogsledding, skijoring and Segway tours — a very 21st Century take on snowshoeing. CE
Snow Lifts Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass
Piste height: 1,410m-2,355m
Photo: Patrice Mestari/Savoie Mont Blanc
Great snow record, nice views
R ESORT I N SI DER
Arinsal Sunny, treelined slopes to learn on
Slopes can be icy in the morning
Inexpensive, with English speaking instructors Why there? If you like your après-ski cheap (drink is duty-free) and lively, and your ski slopes not too difficult, Arinsal, in Andorra, is for you. It’s linked by cable car to Pal, which has lovely, tree-lined slopes. The ski school has a good reputation and most of the instructors speak excellent English — and are often British or from other Commonwealth countries. Experts may want to desert their friends for a day to take the 30- to 45-minute busride to the resort of Arcalís, also covered by the Vallnord ski pass. Can’t ski, won’t ski There’s dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tobogganing. Do try the Caldea spa on the outskirts of the capital Andorra la Vella. AW
Levi Children won’t easily get bored Can be bitterly cold at times
Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools
Piste height: 1,550m-2,560m
M O U N T A I N H E A V E N
Heavenly Skiing At Down To Earth Prices
Can’t ski, won’t ski Where to begin? Reindeer sledding, visits to Santa, crosscountry skiing, ice-skating on frozen lakes, ice-fishing, the Northern Lights… CN
Lifts Queue-free Food
Charisma Ski schools
Low budget Off-piste
Endless nonskiing activities
Why there? Levi is one of Finland’s two biggest resorts and has seen a new fast six-seater chairlift installed. For 36% advanced skiers and boarders there are 44% good terrain parks and the odd off-piste run through the trees. Most British 7% skiers go with tour operators, but this season Monarch is flying direct to Kittilä, just ten minutes from Levi, on Fridays and Tuesdays.
High Quality Catered + Self Catered Accommodation
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Piste height: 205m-530m
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R ESORT I N SI DER
Åre Can be very windy on upper slopes
Sweden’s biggest resort, catering to all abilities Why there? Trees and rolling terrain give Åre some beautiful, easy piste cruising. And head away from the base, through the woods towards Förberget peak, and you’ll believe you have the resort to yourself. There are plenty of child-friendly areas, and a large section of treeless alpine slopes up top, with some good off-piste, which will challenge more advanced skiers. Åre hosted the World Championships in 2007 and a nice legacy of the event is that a series of tunnels, built for spectators, have been turned into pistes under the erstwhile race courses. This means 17% that beginners can pass under steep black runs on gently snaking trails rather than having to cross them. Until last season, you had to fly to
Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se
Uncrowded slopes, snow lasts until May
Trondheim, in Norway, to get to Åre, with a two-hour transfer. But this winter easyJet introduced a Sunday morning flight to Åre Östersund, which is only an hour away.
Can’t ski, won’t ski The cafés, restaurants and boutiques of Åre are stylish and chic; don’t miss the reindeer steak. Kite skiing is also available. PC
Snow Lifts Queue-free Food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass
Piste height: 372m-1,275m
SKI CLUB PROMOTION
Ski Club Resort Facebook Groups The Ski Club has launched new resort Facebook groups, where you can chat with other members, arrange to ski together and post your photos, videos and updates from your trip.
But it’s not just about looking at the things we post – it’s about your own contributions. So the idea is that each resort has an online ‘hub’ that will help us create a community, and get members talking to each other. 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 one!
There are currently groups running for all Ski Club Leader and Instructor-led Guiding resorts, plus a few selected others. So if you know where you’re going this season, look up and join the relevant resort Facebook group, and get posting your content to help us create a buzzing resort community!
R ESORT I NSI DER
Do You Own Your Own Ski Boots?
Niederau Wild, pretty and charming
Good ski school, suits children well
Why there? With its family ambience, Niederau is a nice getaway for those who may not have skied before. Of the three villages in the Wildschönau region of the Austrian Tirol, it has perhaps the most varied terrain. The one-hour transfer from Innsbruck makes it handy for a long weekend or if you’re travelling with restless children. The slopes are challenging enough for improving technique, and both ski schools in the area have solid credentials. For those who feel they’ve outgrown the slopes that Niederau has to offer, a 20-minute bus ride will take intermediates or experts further afield to Alpbach, to explore the other 120km of piste covered by the lift pass.
Red runs can be challenging
Can’t ski, won’t ski Cross country
17% skiers can find about 50km of trails
along the valley floor. Another bus link will take you to neighbouring Oberau, a slightly smaller but equally charming village to explore. Tobogganing is also popular, with the 5km Schatzberg run for an adrenaline rush. Shoppers can find a few boutiques in nearby Wörgl. HJ
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Piste height: 830m-1,620m
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SKI C LU B O NL INE
There are many ski writers out there — and you could be one Pens down, please… The student ski season is here Do you remember the excitement of those university ski trips? In many cases they made getting through lectures possible, as we daydreamed of conquering snowy peaks. Now the Ski Club’s not-so-studious little sister, Line-S, is offering a way for students to make the most of their time in resorts with some great competitions and giveaways throughout the season at line-s.co.uk. The site is looking for contributors to report on their holiday experiences. So if you know of anyone who would like to contribute, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website gives snow depths and forecasts
You may regularly check skiclub.co.uk for snow reports and discounts, but did you know that the Ski Club has a team of bloggers sharing their experiences at skiclubgb.wordpress.com? Together they cover a variety of topics that should quench your thirst for knowledge as a snow fanatic. For instance, have you ever wondered how skis came to be the shape they are? Blogger Clementine Gray delves into the beginnings of winter sports in her ‘origins of skiing’ series, with bite-sized articles examining how the sport has developed historically. Originally writing for the Ski Club’s student sister line-s.co.uk, Clem started the series last month, going back in time to take a look at the very first ski resorts. Since then she has turned her
attention to environmental and social issues spanning a range of subjects, penning short pieces on snow-making, say, perfect for your morning commute. And have you ever been curious about what it takes to compete in snowsports? Angelica Sykes is a British freeride snowboarder who competed in the Freeride World Tour qualifying rounds last season and reports on what’s happening on the competition circuit. Meanwhile, Ski Club member Tom Clark provides real life tips as he searches for a holiday home in the Alps. You can discover how he gets on in his quest at skiclubgb.wordpress.com. If nothing else, you’ll become the star performer of any resort pub quiz team. And if you want to contribute yourself contact email@example.com.
How much snow? We’ll give you the true figures
days, and how much snow has fallen on the upper and lower pistes. Thanks to heavy investment in snow making and moving, you’ll find most pistes are in fantastic condition. Even heading off-piste there are still some hidden gems waiting to be unearthed. So for up-to-date snow conditions and 23 years of historic snow records, head to skiclub.co.uk/snowreports.
So have the Alps had an epic start to the season, or has the snowfall stalled? Most importantly, how is the snow looking in the resort you are heading to this winter? You don’t need to rely on second-hand information to determine this. If you go to skiclub.co.uk/snowreports you will discover details from resorts in no fewer than 20 countries. These are updated daily, so you can see when it last snowed, how much snowfall there has been in the past seven
To find out more visit
Photo: Les Deux Alpes
Blog and belong
Photo: Angelica Sykes
Angelica Sykes, pictured centre, plans to blog from Japan
Photo: Melody Sky
If you have yet to pick your resort for this season, we have a fantastic tool at skiclub.co.uk/resorts. The Ski Club has teamed up with the experts at Where to Ski & Snowboard to provide details on over a thousand resorts — more than you could hope to ski in a lifetime. They give details of piste length, number of lifts, transfer times, lift pass prices and reviews posted by Ski Club members. So to find a new destination — and to add your own review — visit skiclub.co.uk/resorts.
Photo: Bruce Goodlad
Our pick of the world’s resorts, by the thousand
Go on a Greek odyssey When you think of holidaying in Greece, it’s likely that snow-capped mountains and sub-zero temperatures don’t spring to mind. Though the country is famous for its beaches, four-fifths of the mainland is mountainous and is home to more than 20 ski resorts, which stretch from the Bulgarian and Macedonian borders to the north to further south than Athens. Before the economic crisis, more skiers had been visiting Greece, and a few state-owned resorts such as Mount Parnassus and Vasilitsa had started to receive government funding to improve their infrastructure. However, in 2009 the global economic downturn hit Greek ski resorts, and the optimism that once surrounded the Greek ski industry slowly disappeared. Ski+board covered skiing in Greece in February 2012, with correspondent Andreas Hofer helped on his way by Greek Orthodox monks. Indeed their
blessing seemed to work, because he survived an avalanche in the country. For an update on how the industry is faring, the Ski Club TV production crew visited Northern Greece in January 2016. With heavy snow forecast, they booked last-minute flights to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, as part of their coverage of the ‘resorts under the radar’ series. So began an adventure around one of the most beautiful areas of Europe. But, with unseasonably warm weather across Europe, would they find snow, surrounded as they were by the Mediterranean? How would locals react to their strange quest? To find out the answers to these questions and many more, simply visit the Ski Club’s YouTube Channel at youtube.com/thesnowcast where you will also see footage of other countries covered in the series, including Slovakia, Spain and Scotland.
Greece is full of surprises as a ski destination
Follow our fly-on-the-wall documentary
Take a tour of this winter’s skis with the club’s testers
You may have read about the Ski Club’s Freshtracks trips, but to give a real sense of what they’re like, our TV crew tagged along on a couple of trips this season to create a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary. Their first stop was Zermatt, where they were confronted with the jaw
With the season in full swing, many readers are looking for new skis. But it’s never easy to know what’s best. You may have read the reviews of freetour skis in this issue, but those looking at other categories can find video reviews of the new freeride, piste performance and all-mountain skis. They offer impartial, simple and helpful advice from some of the industry’s top testers on nearly a hundred skis as the testers speak to the camera straight after each run. We don’t stop at skis. Ski Club TV’s ‘product talk’ videos cover everything from goggles, boots, avalanche packs, bags, helmets and more.
Photo: Melody Sky
Photos: Tom Ewbank
Find out why our TV crew packed a shovel and transceiver rather than bucket and spade on their voyage to the Mediterranean
Discover what Freshtracks trips are really like
dropping beauty of the Matterhorn and couldn’t wait to get shooting. Off-piste, on piste, the Freshtracks holiday has it all. The team even got treated to untracked powder, despite the Swiss resort not having had fresh snow in three weeks. It wouldn’t have happened without the Freshtracks Leader. The fun didn’t stop there. After that, the crew made their way to the new Freshtracks chalet in Chamonix. Go with them to experience this spacious, authentic chalet, a stone’s throw from the French town. You can see the great food served by friendly, hard-working staff. And the crew filmed the amenities, from bedrooms to the boot-drying room, and from the hot tub to the sauna, much to the surprise of the members inside at the time. (Only joking.) The crew were impressed, but don’t take their word for it. See for yourself on the club’s social media channels — Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Ski+board
Get the bigger picture at…
L D B S
U O J B U
VO P N
V P D T
In your next issueâ€Ś As always, Issue 5 of Ski+board will be in an online-only format. The next print edition will be back in September, but in the meantime click on skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard to put a bit of spring into your April skiingâ€Ś
Snow wear The best clothes to keep you cool as days warm up
Exposure Top shots by world-class photographers of late season stunts and on-snow action
Gear We reveal tips and tricks to help you make the most of the mountains
Resort insider 020 8123 2978
Longing for a late season weekend? Look no further than our resort guide
mountaintracks.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org facebook.com/MountainTracks Twitter @mtracks
You can also see back copies of all of this yearâ€™s issues of Ski+board online at skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard
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