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Produced by skiers and boarders for skiers and boarders
Your own place in the Alps + Racing in Afghanistan + Snow wear + Avalanche gear + Technique + Offpiste safety + Fitness + Discounts + Resorts + Puzzles
Resort hosting is back
(with a difference)
skis, boots, boards
Freetour issue publication
FLY TO BERN â€“ AND ARRIVE IN A WINTER HOLIDAY.
The airport near the family skiing paradise of Lenk-Simmental. Book now: madeinbern.com/flyskywork
ADELBODEN LENK-SIMMENTAL KANDERSTEG
Flights made in Switzerland
Editor Colin Nicholson firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor Ben Clatworthy email@example.com
Downhill skiing is a social sport. Like many people, I will happily go for a solitary walk, cycle or swim. I have even gone for days cross-country skiing on my own, and loved it. Yet I can scarcely manage a couple of hours alone on piste without ending up in imaginary conversations with non-existent friends. Piste skiing is all about having fun together. British tour operators understand this perfectly. For years, they have arranged for their resort reps to show guests around the pistes in groups, looking after stragglers while distracting speed demons in conversation, as part of their ski hosting service. Of course, most people travel with friends, partners or families. But rarely is everyone’s ability matched and the hosting service smoothes over tensions about people going too fast or too slow. So when I travel with my partner, we both prefer to ski in a group. Alas, Continentals simply do not ‘get’ how sociable we Brits are. To them, even our habit of sharing chalets with strangers is utterly alien. And they seem to be equally suspicious of our love of social skiing. Perhaps — if we are to be charitable — this lies at the root of the French ban on hosting, which has been followed by legal threats in the Italian region of Piedmont. Misunderstanding breeds suspicion, and the authorities appear to mistakenly believe that hosting equates to instruction on the cheap. Even more absurd is the claim that hosting is somehow dangerous. The irony is that in France, according to a legal derogation, any civil servant, such as a teacher, can lead a group. This was tragically demonstrated in Les Deux Alpes in January, when a teacher took a school group down a closed run, and two pupils and another skier were killed in an avalanche. What to do? The tour operators are in a difficult position. To continue hosting would only have led to more arrests. Though such are the vagaries of the implementation of French law, that Scandinavian tour operators appear to be still offering their hosting service in France, with uniformed reps leading guests down the slopes. To their great credit, ten tour operators, including the biggest, are fighting the case in the courts. But, from the French authorities’ point of view, it seems the longer this drags out the better. Perhaps they hope to fill up ski school slots in the meantime. So tour operators have had to come up with interim measures. What is striking is how different the approaches of the big three have been. None is perfect, of course. Neilson’s ‘Mountain Experts’ service uses instructors instead of hosts — but arguably rewards the Ecole du Ski Français, which helped bring about the ban, by using its instructors in certain French resorts. And, like Neilson, Crystal could have kept its hosts where they weren’t banned. Instead it replaced them with its hosting app. And, though Inghams is standing by its reps in Austria and Switzerland, it has no hosting service for its guests in France or Italy. However, it is easy to criticise and less easy to propose a comprehensive solution. The tour operators are doing the right thing by backing the legal challenge and by exploring interim measures. So Ski+board went to try out each of the services to see how they were working in practice. You, our readers, can decide which of the options you prefer.
art director Nicole Wiedemann media sales Madison Bell madisonbell.com 020 7389 0859 OVERSEAS MEDIA SALES Martina Diez-Routh firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 7508 382 781 PublisheR Ski Club of Great Britain London SW19 5SB skiclub.co.uk | 020 8410 2000 Distribution Jellyfish Print Solutions Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Independently audited circulation of 19,722 (January to December 2015) Issue 192 © Ski Club of Great Britain 2016 ISSN 1369-8826 Ski+board is printed by Precision Colour Printing, Stirchley, Telford TF7 4QQ
Cover photo: Ross Woodhall
All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the prior written permission of the publisher. All prices are correct at time of publication. Opinions expressed in Ski+board are not necessarily those of the Ski Club of Great Britain, nor does the publisher accept responsibility for advertising content.
Colin Nicholson Editor
February/March 2016 Photo: Neil Silverwood
6 Exposure Our team of photographers bring the thrill of downhill to your armchair
10 You say Feedback on technique, balloon debates, and a spirited defence of Flaine — it’s gorgeous
11 Ski club news Ski with the club and win a holiday, Freshtracks on course for new record and bigger savings for members
13 News Will your insurance cover you on the slopes and does it pay to buy British when you shop for ski gear?
32 Afghan racing It was once on the ‘Overland Hippie Trail’. Now the troubled country has embraced another form of touring
The inside edge 44 Snow wear
50 Ski tests
Spring time is party time. Our fashion team know how to look cool on the slopes and at the bar
Our testers pick the best freetour skis and offer vital advice to first-time buyers of touring gear
Fancy taking a hike? It’s time to engage walk mode and check out touring boots with our reviews
Are you aiming for deep powder? You need a big mountain board and the more stubby the better
17 hosting is back Our writers test the different ways the three big tour operators are showing guests around the slopes this season
Photo: Camping Grubhof
25 A HomE IN THE ALPS
41 THE SKY’s THE LIMIT
Every skier dreams of having their own place in a resort, so we offer solutions for bankers and backpackers alike
We hop aboard Courmayeur’s new SkyWay cable car to find the back door entrance to the Vallée Blanche
78 Resort insider
For those venturing offpiste, we try out the new safety gear that could save your life
From slush to crust and spring snow, we cover off-piste challenges, plus itineraries and their ilk
Do bumps give you the hump? These stretches and exercises for your back may calm the pain
It’s never too late for a weekend break, and our experts offer tips on the best places to head
SKIERS Pete Davison and Lynn Sharp LOCATION Kühtai, Austria PHOTOGRAPHER Ross Woodhall The Ski Club’s test team really like to put the new season’s skis through their paces — it is not unknown for them to inadvertently rip bindings off skis in the process. In this image, testers Pete Davison and Lynn Sharp have thrown up so much powder above the dam in the Tirolean resort of Kühtai that photographer Ross Woodhall was able to catch their shadows on the snow scattered in the late afternoon sun. Ski tests — Page 50
SKIERS Unknown LOCATION St Anton, Austria PHOTOGRAPHER Josef Mallaun St Anton and the Arlberg valley are much loved by off-piste skiers, and with good reason. There are 200km of off-piste itineraries and the second stage of the Valluga lift is only open to those skiing with a guide — there are no pistes from the top. But there are rolling fields of untouched snow, as photographer Josef Mallaun knows.
SKIER Dorian Konrad LOCATION Gressoney, Italy PHOTOGRAPHER Guy Fattal Israeli photographer Guy Fattal was spending the day in Italy’s Val d’Aosta, shooting in deep powder, when Dorian Konrad spotted a massive drop and felt confident enough to hit it towards the end of his line. As Dorian dropped in he carried a huge amount of snow with him that made Guy think he was skiing a waterfall.
SKATERS Various LOCATION Québec City, Canada PHOTOGRAPHER Jörg Mitter Ice skating is not usually a downhill sport — unless you’re taking part in the Red Bull Crashed Ice series. The first race of this season took place in Québec City, with the skaters darting under walls built by the French to repel British and later American invaders. One competitor was former GB slalom skier Alain Baxter, who qualified for the next round despite breaking three ribs in a crash at a speed nearing 60kph. The series of races on tilted ice rinks also goes to Munich and Finland, before the final is held in St Paul, Minnesota, in late February.
SKIER Unknown LOCATION Haines, Alaska PHOTOGRAPHER Dom Daher Who says you canâ€™t have fun on an off-piste slope that already has tracks on it? As photographer Dom Daher can testify, having covered the skiers on the Freeride World Tour, following other skiers down a face is no guarantee against surprises.
Stop these outrageous slurs on Flaine — we love the place
The pressure of learning to carve is a force to be reckoned with
Airline ignorance over ABS packs isn’t my bag I bought an avalanche pack and, before flying, told the airline of this, printed its reply plus two copies of IATA regulations, and disconnected the compressed air cylinder. This worked at Gatwick (just), but in Verona I was only allowed to board with minutes to spare after security staff called the airline, then the pilot. Given ABS packs are no rarity surely staff should know the rules on them? Martin Atkinson Avalanche safety gear — Page 66 Martin, left, with pack, in St Anton
Do we like Sun Peaks? We’re wedded to it I was delighted to read about Sun Peaks, in Canada, in Issue 2 of your much-improved magazine. I don’t think one can exaggerate the variety of skiing from gentle cruisers to hairy steeps and the best tree-skiing I know. I have never been bored there once and married my wife there 12 years ago in the chapel up the hill and, joy, we will be back in February. William Winter
Photos: Vanessa Fry
I enjoy reading Ski+board, but what bugs me are the continual derogatory descriptions of Flaine, the latest being “ugly duckling” in the article in Issue 1 ‘Go loco in a host of untracked resorts’. We’ve been six times and love it, having visited Les Crosets, then Chamonix (overrated in my opinion). Yes, it’s not traditional, but it has atmosphere, wide open spaces and is ski-in, ski-out. And the locals always welcome us back with open arms. Paula Boreham Ski+board writes: The Ski Club loves Flaine too — it has two chalets there!
Carving, as shown in the technique pages of Issue 3 of Ski+board, works when you match the force of gravity
Mark Jones’s tips on technique are among the most popular pages in this magazine and his article on carving in Issue 3 ‘How to make any piste fun’ was well-received, with the only complaint from readers being that every piste is fun by definition. That said some struggled with the concept of carving. For readers willing to dust off their school physics, one way of understanding this is through ‘resultant forces’, which are best understood pictorially.
To work out the sum of two forces you draw a parallelogram, as above. If Mark matches the force of gravity with an equal reaction by digging in the edge of his skis the resultant force will send him scooting sideways, creating a beautiful arc. But if a skier is on flatter skis, inset, the reaction is less and the resultant force is down the slope, sending them skidding downwards as well as across the piste. Try it on your next holiday… Technique — Page 70
Hey, that’s our hot air balloon Imagine our surprise when we opened the magazine to see a photo of our balloon and the feature about the Château d’Oex balloon festival. My husband John is the pilot and has competed in the Swiss resort for more than 30 years. We were Leaders in Wengen, so were delighted that the shot which the tourist board sent you was so apt for the magazine. Carolyn Armstrong
Tell us what you most love or loathe about resorts Next season, Ski+board will run two articles about all the things you love about resorts and skiing... and what you least like about them. We would
love to hear your contributions. Please send your ideas with ‘loves and hates’ in the subject line for emails to the addresses opposite.
ski club news
Ski with the club in France and win a chalet holiday in Tignes
What, only 45 days of skiing per winter? How will we cope?
The Ski Club’s Instructor-led guiding service is up and running in 11 French resorts and, as an added bonus, if you sign up for a session, you could win a week in a luxury chalet in the Alps. Every member who books a session will be entered into a prize draw to win a week for six in Evolution 2’s luxury chalet in Tignes in July 2016 (excluding flights and catering). Tignes has some spectacular terrain for hiking and mountain biking, and offers some of Europe’s best summer skiing on the glacier. The club’s Instructor-led guiding service is available in Tignes, as well as Alpe d’Huez, Argentière, Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, La Plagne, Méribel, Les Arcs, Val d’Isère and Val Thorens, and will run until April 9. The instructors, from ski school Evolution 2, will take club members to the best slopes, as well as hosting
The Ski Club caters for some of Britain’s keenest skiers, and some members have written in to say that the club’s new insurance simply does not cover them for the amount of skiing they want to do, with its limit of 45 days’ skiing on annual policies. Having spoken to its insurers, the club will add a ‘bolt-on’ for Platinum members to buy. It will increase total snowsports cover from 45 days to 60 days. It will also raise the maximum trip length from 31 to 45 days, and increase snowsports cover on any one trip from 24 to 31 days. Details will be at skiclubinsurance.co.uk.
Warm welcome: the Tignes chalet, with sauna
a social hour some evenings for members to get to know each other. One of the things members say they most enjoy about being part of the club is getting out on to the mountains with fellow members. Until recently, the club ran its unique Leading service — provided by volunteer members who ski and socialise with other members — in seven countries. But the club had to withdraw the service in France last season after Leaders’ volunteer status was questioned by the French authorities. It is fighting the case in the courts and Leaders are still in 18 resorts in Andorra, Austria, Canada, Italy, America and Switzerland. For Instructor-led guiding there is an online booking fee of £10 for half-day sessions and £20 for a full day. Bookings made directly with the instructor in resort are charged at €20 for half a day and €40 for a full day. Jacky Bernett, in Val d’Isère, said: “The instructor was amazing and we learnt a lot. It was great fun.” Martin Porter was in Les Arcs and said: “Patrice was fantastic and found some virgin snow despite no fall for two weeks. He gave me useful tips and judged my level perfectly.” See skiclub.co.uk/skiwiththeclub. Hosting is back – Page 17
Back issues available For readers who have missed out on various issues of Ski+board, the club has back copies of certain editions. They include the first two issues of this season; issues 2 and 3 from last season, as well as issues 2 to 4 of the previous season. Also available are copies of Ski+board’s summer sister. Elevation, from summer 2015. If you would like one, please send an email or letter to the addresses below.
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Freshtracks, the Ski Club’s holiday programme, is set for a record season, with bookings up ten per cent yearon-year in the period to January 10. The holidays, which are open to Ski Club members only, match skiers by ability, and are ideal for single travellers and those looking to hone their skills. The brochure is online at skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks or for a paper brochure call 020 8410 2022.
Snow+Rock increases discount for members Snow+Rock has increased its member discount to 15 per cent off winter sports products. Ski Club members should present their membership card at the retailer’s 20 standalone stores in the UK or visit skiclub.co.uk to find a discount code for buying online. The saving applies to full-price items only. Member discounts – Page 76
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Freshtracks holiday sales set to create new record
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 again be asking a randomly selected sample of Ski Club members to tell us what they think of this season’s magazines. If you receive such a request we would be grateful if you could reply, as comments are considered carefully. Of course you can tell us what you think at any time.
4 Countries - 1 Airport
â?† Ski resorts
Route closed during winter
Your Gateway to the Alps Discover the snowy landscapes of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Ski Lifts to Friedrichshafen-Airport (FDH)
‘Buy British’ campaign targets online shops adopting UK suffix
Drones banned by resorts as safety fears grow after crash
A new campaign encouraging skiers and boarders to buy equipment in the UK has highlighted the risk of British buyers being misled into shopping at foreign websites. Snowsport Industries of Great Britain (SIGB) aims to raise awareness of the benefits of buying in-store or online from a UK retailer. The trade association for the British snowsports industry says its Go UK, Buy UK campaign will not only benefit British business, but also help protect consumers — especially if an item is faulty or needs to be returned. A spokesperson said: “Warranty claims should be handled by the seller, so any complaint or return is a lot easier when dealing with a UK retailer. Correct binding fitting and adjustment is also important in terms of warranty validity.” SIGB also warns buyers that some foreign online retailers are “masking”
Resorts are grounding drones due to safety fears after Austrian racer Marcel Hirscher’s lucky escape in December. A camera drone crashed metres from him in Italy, so they are now banned from World Cup races. In the US, where up to a million drones were given as presents this Christmas, the National Ski Areas Association has drawn up a policy that its 313 resorts can adopt to ban drones. Many resorts, including Aspen and Crested Butte, have signed up. In France and Switzerland drones are banned under existing laws.
British retailers point to the level of ongoing service they can offer boot buyers in store
their physical location by using the .co.uk suffix to appear British. While such usage is not illegal, SIGB says buyers are unlikely to receive the same advice, consumer protection or after-sales support that they would when buying from a British retailer. There can also be problems with Customs over the payment of VAT and duty when buying high-ticket goods that will be imported into the UK.
Waiter, this steak tastes like old boots
British Ski Academy boss appears in court The head coach of the British Ski Academy (BSA), Malcolm Erskine, has appeared before a French court accused of breaking employment law. In the latest saga in the battle over British instructors in France, the former World Cup racer is accused of employing non-qualified coaches at his club, which trained Britain’s top female Alpine racer, Alexandra Tilley. The BSA runs winter-long courses in Les Houches. Pupils ski in the morning before going to regular lessons. The case was heard in January and has been adjourned until March.
Eddie the Eagle flies into the cinemas
The restaurant in Val d’Isère run by the nephew of Jean-Claude Killy displays historic equipment
Skiing runs in the blood of the Killy family… as does a taste for fine food. So Dimitri Killy has opened a new restaurant in Val d’Isère dedicated to his uncle, the legendary Alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy. The Fondue Factory is backed by Killy Sport, one of France’s original hire shops, and older readers could be forgiven for thinking they had
entered the store by mistake. Diners are surrounded by a beautifully presented permanent exhibition of vintage skis, boots and other equipment from the past 100 years. The collection includes the skis that Killy senior used in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, when he famously won gold in all three disciplines, Slalom, Giant Slalom and Downhill.
The story of Britain’s best-known and best-loved Winter Olympian will be told in a feature film written by a former Ski Club Leader. Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, the bespectacled Briton who finished last in the ski jumping competition at the 1988 Games in Calgary, Canada, is played by Welsh actor Taron Egerton. His coach is played by Hugh Jackman in the film, which will be released in cinemas nationwide on April 1. Simon Kelton, who was a Leader for the Ski Club in Aspen, co-wrote the screenplay with Sean Macaulay.
Older skiers are least aware if travel cover is inadequate
Scotland’s only southerly ski resort is at risk, after Lowther Hills’ clubhouse was destroyed by Storm Desmond in December. Volunteers had spent hundreds of hours bringing the temporary building, donated by a local firm, to the resort, which has just one drag lift and is run by volunteers. Meanwhile the UK’s first festival in a ski resort will happen in Aviemore on March 11 to 13, to coincide with the Scottish Slopestyle Championships. Tickets to Groove CairnGorm are £115 for two days, and £140 for three days, including lift pass.
Thousands of British skiers risk big medical bills on the slopes, as a new study reveals that a third fail to check if they are covered for winter sports. The research was conducted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of skiing without adequate protection. The study found that 31 per cent of skiers and snowboarders are unaware of their policies’ constraints. Perhaps surprisingly, the figure soars to 55 per cent of skiers over the age of 65. Of the 600 people surveyed by the Foreign Office and ABTA, those aged between 25 and 34 were found to be most likely to check their insurance, with just 24 per cent travelling without checking their cover. Many standard travel insurance polices exclude winter sports, while those that do include skiing often have exclusions. Examples include skiing off-piste without a qualified mountain guide, racing, heli-skiing and night skiing. Also, as Ski+board revealed exclusively last season, many annual policies allow for just ten or 17 days of ski holidays a year. Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, said: “We would advise anyone planning a winter sports holiday to ensure they have appropriate cover.”
Teacher in avalanche had mental health problems The French schoolteacher whose pupils were killed in an avalanche when he led them down a closed piste in Les Deux Alpes in January was discharged from a psychiatric unit two months before. The 47-year-old PE teacher, who has not been named, is said to have spent many weeks at the unit and was taking antidepressants and mood stabilisers. He was arrested for involuntary manslaughter in hospital. Two 16-year-olds from the lycée in Lyon where he taught were killed, as was a 56-year-old Ukrainian man.
British slalom skier is riding high in rankings Dave Ryding has got his season off to a successful start, having secured 12th and 13th place in the World Cup slalom races at Val d’Isère and Santa Caterina respectively. Speaking after the race in Italy, Ryding, 29, from Lancashire, said: “It was a tight race, and I had to ski really well to get a good placing.” His run of success continued in Adelboden, Switzerland, with a 27th place finish, which is enough to gain vital World Cup points. His coach, Tristan Glasse Davies, said: “The hard work is starting to pay off.”
Photo: Stef Candé
Scottish resort sees its new base destroyed by Storm Desmond
Many skiers don’t realise if they aren’t covered
Some insurance policies are invalidated if you fail to carry a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This allows you to receive the same state medical care as locals at no cost or reduced cost in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, but not Andorra. Many holders of the card are unaware that, unlike its predecessor, the E111 form, it has an expiry date, and most cards that were issued after the E111 was scrapped are no longer valid. Also the card does not cover the cost of mountain rescue or your repatriation back to the UK. According to research by insurance giant Aviva, the average cost of winter sports claims is £740, although the group says it has processed a claim of £31,000.
The white knights are back Following a successful inauguration last season, the Night Turf races return to the upmarket Swiss resort of St Moritz this February. St Moritz has been home to the annual White Turf horse races since 1907, but the evening event is new. Under the cloak of darkness, some 5,000 spectators are expected to watch the dramatic equestrian event, which also involves harness races with sledges, on the resort’s frozen lake on February 5.
Photo credit: Dave Lehl / Athlete: Mirjam Jaeger / Conception & Graphic Design :
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h o s t in g Hotelplan (Inghams, Esprit Ski and Ski Total) is upping the number of hosting days in some resorts in Austria and Switzerland — Page 22
i s b ac k
* *but not as you know it
Three of Britain’s biggest tour operators are reacting to the hosting ban in very different ways this winter. Ski+board tried them out
Crystal has scrapped its hosting scheme, but is offering guests an app — Page 20
or years now, tour operators have had their staff show guests around the slopes, taking them to the best runs and the sort of restaurants only locals know about. All the time the reps made sure noone fell behind and spared guests all those tedious moments of pulling out piste maps to search for non-existent connections. Crystal had a very good name for this — social skiing. However, in February 2013 the practice was ruled illegal in a test case in Albertville brought by the French authorities and the Ecole du Ski
Français against British tour operator Le Ski. Under the ruling, hosts must hold an instructor’s qualification to lead groups if they are paid. This is despite the fact that — as anyone who has skied with a rep will tell you — it is in no way a substitute for lessons. When reps act as ski hosts they are told not to offer guests technique tips, even if they ask. Le Ski is appealing the ruling, but in a further blow last season, Crystal was challenged by the instructors’ association in Piedmont claiming it was in breach of Italian law. This led Crystal and the two other major British tour operators, Inghams and Neilson, to withdraw hosting services there too. Although the three big tour operators are backing Le Ski’s appeal, they have responded to the ban in very different ways in the meantime. Neilson is this winter offering those of its guests who stay in chalets and hotels that it leases the chance to ski with instructors free of charge. It did a ‘soft launch’ of the idea last season, which was well received. Crystal, which is determined to keep basic holiday costs as low as possible, has scrapped social skiing entirely this
season, replacing it with an app that proposes routes around the mountain — among other things. Unlike the other two, Inghams works mainly in Austria and Switzerland, not France, and has expanded its hosting service in some resorts this season. Of course, the big question is how these different approaches are working in practice. So Ski+board sent three writers out to the Alps at the start of the season to try them out, as well as reviewing what some other holiday companies are doing. To see how they fared, read on…
Neilson has replaced its hosts with qualified ski instructors in its key resorts — Page 18
your host… 1 an instructor Neilson has hired ski school professionals to lead its guests. COLIN NICHOLSON was there
he first time I skied with a resort host was in France, 13 years ago. He told us: “Please don’t follow me down the slopes in an S-shape like in ski school, otherwise the gendarmes will throw me in a police cell.” He wasn’t joking, as recent events in the French Alps have shown. Now, in response to the hosting ban, Neilson is instead offering its guests the chance to be shown around by a ski instructor free of charge in 11 resorts, including
in Austria, Italy and Andorra. I went to try out the new service in the first week it was running in Alpe d’Huez. I was at first wary of being shown around by an instructor from the Ecole du Ski Français (ESF), which has been behind the ban. Happily Simon Cook, Neilson’s ‘Mountain Expert’ in the resort, is no average ESF instructor. ‘Cookie’ is the only Briton out of the 300 ESF instructors in Alpe d’Huez, and when he came to our chalet he said he
had leapt at the role, having worked on Neilson’s beach programme. Alpe d’Huez has 66 lifts and 137 pistes, but as this was the first day in the season for tour operators, the skiing was relatively limited. “Fold your map like ‘so’,” said Cookie, showing us a central portion, “and you can see where you can ski.” It helps having a guide, even when two-thirds of the runs are closed, as groups can quickly disintegrate without a clear leader, particularly if it’s a mixed ability group, as ours was. Our session, one of the week’s eight two-hour slots, was billed as ‘cruise the blues’, but Cookie was happy to adapt it. So after an introductory run, he took us to the Sarenne, which at 11km from top to bottom is billed as the longest black in Europe. Somehow he managed to keep the ten of us together (including four Neilson reps who had joined us) — from Izzy, a
racer, to her little brother, Alex, who snowploughed if the going got tough. This is a delightful run that takes you miles from the resort. Despite its billing, it is more a rainbow run than a black, being steep at the top and ending in a gentle path, from where Cookie led us back to the Chalet Lac Blanc, where we were staying. The hosting is a good value add-on, given the holiday price already includes flights, transfers, a week’s half board with wine, pre-dinner drinks and afternoon tea thrown in. And the chalet was cosy and the food excellent, our only gripe being we should have worn our helmets indoors, due to the low beams on the top floor. Given the low price, I did wonder what the guests would be like. True, they were into drinking, but all we heard of them at night was ‘shushing’ as they let themselves back in. Before the next session, my brotherin-law, who was equally taken with
the wine, said he felt tired. I didn’t want to go skiing alone, so I signed up for another outing with Cookie. Though I did wonder how it would work when I found myself with seven teenage boys obsessed with jumps and speed monitoring apps. If Cookie did tailor his sessions to our desires, were we off to the terrain park? Happily a set of parents rocked up who were my age. Mum promptly said to Cookie: “Harry fractured his ankle three days ago playing football — do you have any tips for him?” Harry rolled his eyes in embarrassment and I instantly felt more at ease. Cookie took it all in his stride in this the most technical of the sessions. And I suddenly noticed I was making progress as I learnt to grip the ice. Though Neilson only guarantees its 100-plus guests in resort a couple of two-hour sessions a week, I snuck in a third session. My brother-in-law often claims he, too, is qualified to teach me, as he can repeat verbatim what every ski instructor tells me — it never changes. But with Cookie it was sinking in, including the tip to Harry’s mum: “Try to break the front of your boots.” (Not being Harry, there was little chance of us breaking anything.) Being a snowboard instructor too, he even gave the two boarders some tips. There were 13 of us in that session. ESF instructors can take classes of up to 15, though it aims for 12. But as a Mountain Expert, Cookie can, in theory at least, take an unlimited number. And we did at times follow him, snake-like, down the mountain, without fear of his being arrested. Having used up our quota of slots (leaving the freestyle session to the boys) my brother-in-law and I spent the rest of the time finding variations of the routes we had explored, teaming up with a chalet mate. We went back to the Sarenne, admiring its views of Les Deux Alpes, which seemed so close, although a planned tie-up is unlikely before 2020. Probably the most frightening bit of the Sarenne is when you have to take the ‘scary chair’ back up. Cookie had warned us of this — you have to position yourself right if you don’t want to ride up on someone’s lap or get knocked like skittles at what is a mid-station for people coming from the satellite village of Auris en Oisans.
There are many more such satellites, including Vaujany, Oz en Oisans, Villard Reculaz and Huez itself, which weren’t skiable while we were there. Snow permitting, Cookie touted the idea of offering four-hour slots to explore these, the furthest reaches of the ski area. But I felt a two-hour session would be enough to give you a feel for a place that you might like to revisit at a slower pace. One bonus of skiing with an instructor is that it’s quick, as you can skip lift queues by going in the ski school lane. For myself I was delighted to find on my last afternoon one run that I hadn’t done, the Poutran, which leads towards Oz. By a law of unintended consequences I had come to Alpe d’Huez to explore a new area, not expecting my skiing to improve. I left feeling my technique was far better, but that there were swathes of the area I had yet to visit. Overall, I would recommend the Mountain Experts service. While the ban is in place, it looks set to continue. Certainly Cookie’s boss at the ESF is delighted by the number of guests Cookie is signing up for full lessons — he is making a good impression on his visits to Neilson’s chalets and hotel. In a lift, I overheard two French ESF instructors complain that the number of British pupils fell off dramatically five years ago. While the hosting ban remains in place, Neilson’s solution is a way of keeping everyone happy.
Colin travelled as a guest of Neilson (neilson.co.uk; 0333 014 3350), which offers a week’s half-board at Chalet Le Lac Blanc in Alpe d’Huez (alpedhuez.com) from £495 per person based on two sharing, including flights and transfers.
Simon Cook offers tips to Neilson guests as he shows them round Alpe d'Huez
your host… an app
Crystal is giving its guests software in place of a rep. ALF ALDERSON got his phone out
’m sitting on a chairlift in Les Arcs with Cam, when he whips out his phone, pulls off a glove with his teeth and fiddles with the screen: “Just checking the new app now mate, but strewth, my hands are cold!” Cam is from Australia, hence his habit of calling me mate and his ability to find moderate temperatures cold. What he is referring to is the new Crystal Ski Explorer app, which is designed to replace Crystal’s ‘social skiing’ programme, now that reps are banned from showing you around resorts in France, as well as parts of Italy and Austria. However, both Cam and I are wondering whether this could replace a resort host. I’ve spent three full seasons skiing in Paradiski — the linked area of Les Arcs
and La Plagne — so I was particularly keen to ‘compare and contrast’ (as they used to say in school exams) what the app told me about the French ski area with my own knowledge of it. Clearly an app can’t take the place of a human, but it can offer some useful advice, as I found as soon as I downloaded it. There, at the tap of a finger, is all sorts of information,
The app can show you where you — and your friends — are on a piste map, among other things
including a snow report, giving snow depths and conditions, as well as details on how many lifts were open. That said, some of those functions proved a little underwhelming on closer inspection. Yes, the snow report was updated daily, but I didn’t find the data particularly detailed or even accurate. And it didn’t me tell which lifts or pistes were closed, which is surely more useful than just a figure. It does other things, though. You can track where your friends are on the mountain (but this incurs roaming charges) and check where you are on the piste map (this is free). That function was useful given the blizzard conditions. Or rather, it was useful for Cam to have, as I didn’t have a waterproof case. Okay, maybe I was harsh on him for missing his gloves. I asked Cam what he made of the app so far. He paused a while, before saying: “Well, mate, it has its uses, but it would be a bloody sight easier to ask someone for info rather than relying on your phone.” He has a point, but as long as the hosting case drags on through the courts, an app is better than nothing. It offers four recommended half-day routes, two for
intermediates and two for more to use. There are the obvious worries advanced skiers. But because the about dropping your phone from blizzard followed a long dry spell in a ski lift, but most of the guests in the the Alps, some of the lifts we needed chalet have downloaded it and used to take to follow the routes were it at some point during their stay.” shut. So I found myself using the app’s Mark thought there were a number fun features as much as its practical of improvements that could be made applications. I liked playing with the — weekly updates, more information tracking facility, which records your on restaurants, especially prices and distance, speed, altitude and gradient. menus, recommendations from other I also reckoned that the largely guests, and in particular notifications non-interactive resort guide would be about lifts as they open or close. useful to skiers who didn’t know Les Mark’s wife, Siobhan, pointed out Arcs. This used to that getting come as a paper a signal wasn’t booklet, and guaranteed in the contains advice on mountains, and The app allows everything from she wanted more you to tweet avoiding lift queues hyperlinks to the resort's reps and telling you facilities listed by which runs suit the app. But she at any time which ability levels, liked the fact that for advice to the best bars and the app allowed restaurants on and her to tweet the off the mountain, resort’s reps at any plus other things to do time for advice, and found the help (Olympic bobsleigh, anyone?). useful. Crystal says that among other I wasn’t alone in liking this. One improvements it has planned for of the guests staying at Crystal’s Chalet the app, it hopes to incorporate guest Sylvie in Arc 2000, Mark Hardy from recommendations into future editions. Halifax, told me: “It’s probably best for It adds that it operates in no fewer planning your trip before you leave, than 130 resorts worldwide, so sorting particularly the non-skiing activities.” out these details is no mean feat. Having tried the app in a variety of The couple said they had also been conditions, he thought it was useful, using Paradiski’s own ‘Yuge’ app, but had its limitations. The 50-year-old which among other things provides said: “For me I found it pretty easy real-time information on lift and
piste openings and has a useful safety feature — it gives your GPS location to pass on to rescuers and has an emergency number on the home page. As the blizzard raged outside the chalet, our conversation left me thinking it’s still early days for ski apps. What they don’t allow you to do is switch off and let someone else do the thinking for you, which a lot of skiers like — they are on holiday after all. And they will never provide company for epic descents, lunch or après-ski beers. For solo travellers in particular, this is one of the great benefits of a hosting programme. Theoretically, an app could put you in touch with skiers of a similar ability and with similar aspirations to you. But it won’t introduce you to the staff of its favourite bar or restaurant, or facilitate the strong friendships that often develop in skiing groups. Yes, in time, the best apps will become as much a part of a skiing holiday as a piste map. And yes, you shouldn’t discount them if you’re exploring a new resort. But whether they will ever replace a human being is another matter. Personally, I don’t believe they will. Alf travelled independently. Crystal (crystalski.co.uk; 020 8939 0726) offers a week’s half board at the Chalet Sylvie in Arc 2000 from £661 per person based on two sharing, including flights and transfers.
And some guiding apps even go off-piste One of the most widely touted apps this season has been Fatmap, which is aimed at off-piste skiers. It covers nine ski areas in France, five in Switzerland, two in Italy and one in Austria, as well as several in the US. It offers clear 3D maps showing off-piste lines, and can display the location of your group and has a facility to record your routes. It also gives the slope gradient, aspect and altitude, as well as details on restaurants, bars and transport. The information is detailed, but for venturing seriously off-piste this is no substitute for a guide. Alf Alderson
your host… a rep
Inghams is raising the number of hosting days it offers in Austria and Switzerland. PETRA SHEPHERD went to try it out
henever I visit a new city, I start with a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get the lie of the land and see which bits I’ll want to revisit. And when I joined the Inghams’ rep in Crans Montana, Switzerland, start, Alex was not only friendly but I was looking for a similar overview. professional, gauging my standard of After years of skiing, I still can’t skiing along with how much to chat, make head nor tail of a ski map. And bearing in mind my lack of sleep and Inghams’ Meet the Pistes programme foggy head. He knew the best runs, is not only a free orientation service, those that were open, and short cuts to but a fun way to meet fellow guests avoid busy points and patchy snow. and potential new ski companions. He was also able to point out where But I did wonder how much of the to speed up or slow down and, most 140km of slopes I would see in this importantly for me, how far it was to sassy resort (Roger Moore has a chalet the nearest lift — my weary legs were here) in the French-speaking part of battling with the porridge-like snow. the Valais region. I had picked possibly Crans Montana is known for its the worst time for my annual ski views and Alex could show me the break — New Year. It had last snowed 18 peaks over 4,000m, including in November and Mont Blanc and the few open runs the Matterhorn. were patchy, icy I wouldn’t have got He was able to or slushy. However, that from the map. Alex Pryor, the rep Though the lovely point out where promised to make 12km red run down to speed up the most of the from Plaine Morte or slow down Alpine drought. to Les Barzettes Alex likes to was closed, Alex make the one to suggested we three days a week took the lift to that he offers as flexible as possible, the glacier for the top-of-the-world depending on the conditions and views and an excuse for a Rivella guests. You should be able to ski red and raclette at five Swiss francs. runs confidently, but don’t need to Rivella is a Swiss soft drink made be an advanced skier. He can host up from milk whey. It tasted like flat coke to 12 guests going at the pace of the but hit the spot and pepped me up slowest skier, with children welcome enough to try a confidence-boosting if they are accompanied by an adult. short draglift that was open at the top. I went on New Year’s Day, when, Another run I was keen to try was perhaps unsurprisingly, fellow skiers the Piste Nationale downhill course, were not much in evidence. From the having heard that it was a good, fast
cruise. I’d been put off the day before by the steep, icy start, and cowardly returned by gondola. Alex, who had skied the run many times, was able to steady my nerves and explain that around the corner the slope would ease off and the snow cover improve. Though the snow was lacking, we were blessed with electric blue skies and peak-to-peak sunshine. On days when visibility is poor, guests really appreciate Alex’s guiding skills, he told me. Crans Montana is a spreadout resort and not easy to get to grips with. Alex could explain how to get between the towns of Crans and Montana and had usefully committed the bus timetables to memory. Of course, Mother Nature decided that the blizzard would come as I was leaving, when 50cm of snow finally fell. But I now have a good idea of what this stylish and sunny resort has to offer and hope to return to enjoy the bits I missed. And I think I still have Alex’s number somewhere...
In g ha ms
Petra flew to Geneva with easyJet (easyjet.com) and travelled by rail to Montana as a guest of the Swiss Travel System (swisstravelsystem.co.uk). Inghams (inghams.co.uk; 01483 791 114) offers a week’s half board at the Hotel Olympic, in Crans Montana, from £849 per person, based on two sharing, including flights and transfers.
other tour operators and what they're doing While the three big tour operators all withdrew ski hosting in Italy last season, Mark Warner has kept the service in Courmayeur and offers four and a half days a week. One guest said: “The hosting there was a huge draw for me as I’m a solo traveller and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people and explore an area I’m not familiar with.” But the tour operator has withdrawn hosts in France and Austria, its main market. Instead staff book lunch stops for groups.
a mark w
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Skiworld, which is based mainly in France, now offers its guests in Val d’Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs and Val Thorens a two-hour introduction to the pistes on a Sunday afternoon using ski instructors. In St Anton, Austria, where hosting is banned, it offers a hosted trip to nearby Lech and Sonnenkopf. In two Swiss resorts where it has bases — Zermatt and Nendaz — it offers ski hosting three days a week.
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How the hosting ban is being fought in court In 2012, a rep for British chalet company Le Ski was arrested in Méribel for teaching illegally. Le Ski explained he was just showing guests around, but in 2013 a court in Albertville found against it and in 2014 a further appeal in Chambéry was rejected. Little movement is expected when the case is heard in Paris. Only if Le Ski takes the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is the law likely to change. But that may take years. Le Ski’s case is backed by Alpine Elements, Crystal Ski, Esprit Ski, Inghams, Mark Warner, Neilson, Ski Olympic, Ski Total and Skiworld.
We would say this, but… This season the Ski Club launched its Instructor-led guiding service in France to replace its Leader service there. Like hosts, Leaders have been banned by the French authorities, though the service is very different. Leaders are volunteers and offer sessions to any member in the resort. Leaders still operate in 18 resorts in six countries, but in France the club has arranged for members to be led by Evolution 2 ski school instructors. Ski+board cannot claim to be impartial here, but we can report that, despite a few teething problems over meeting points, feedback has been mostly positive. Mark Purnell in Méribel said: “It’s a good way to get insider knowledge on where the best snow is, and fun to board with someone else navigating.”
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â€Śtwo very different ways of having your own place to stay in the Alps If you feel nostalgic about your favourite resort and long to go back more often, perhaps you are drawn to the idea of a home-from-home in the mountains. Ski+board looks at ways to make the dream come true, even on a budget.
For PooreR... Photos: Savoie Mont Blanc/Lansard/Avoriaz and Camping Grubhof
we went skiing in our motorhome from home One of the delights of campervans is you can be spontaneous, yet travel with everything plus the kitchen sink, says Ben Clatworthy For as long as I can remember my family have owned a motorhome. My father worked in motorsports, and it meant there was no hunting for hotels near far-flung race circuits in corners of the UK. But that was as far as it went. Until my parents came up with a cunning plan. My younger brother, Stefan, has cerebral palsy. As he grew older, the amount of kit and caboodle he needed grew likewise, and holidays started to become a faff. So my parents traded in the old van for a new, all-singing, all-dancing megamotorhome. It was perfect. There were two beds at the back for Stefan and me, a pull-down double bed at the front, a kitchen area, wet room and tons of storage space. We went everywhere in it — from impromptu weekends away in England, to lazy summers by the sea in Spain. But taking this monster to the
Alps never crossed our minds. Skiing holidays are about chalets and log fires, not negotiating three and a half tons of motorhome up narrow roads with hairpin bends covered in snow. Motorhoming, we assumed, was a good hobby from May to September. Then, one autumn, my father learnt of campsites in the Alps. Set on the idea of a boys’ week away, he set about organising the practicalities. Luckily, my father — an electrician by trade — is the most practical person I know, and a stickler for preparation. Before I knew it, he was buying European adaptors for gas-bottles, insulation for the windows, and lorry-sized snow chains. Mum — clearly concerned for our welfare — provided a fridge full of food, to which Dad added wine. We’d picked Méribel, in France’s Three Valleys, in part because of its extensive slopes, but mainly because
the chalet on wheels
has been skiing for 20 years and has taken his daughters skiing since they started walking. With Ella, 14, Elise, 11, and Aimee, 7, all at school, the family (pictured) are tied to travelling in periods when accommodation prices typically double — so they take their motorhome. They go twice, if not three times, a year and have been to Italy, Austria, France and Switzerland. Ste says: “I like the campsites with no frills, but the children like ones with a pool and fitness centre. “Ski-in, ski-out ones are ideal. Camping Schwarzee in Kitzbühel, Austria, is fantastic
there was no lugging luggage or unpacking
Families seasoned in the art of going skiing in a motorhome reveal their tips to Clare Kelly As ‘staycations’ grow in popularity, the number of motorhomes in the UK has risen sharply. And, inevitably, several owners are taking their home comforts with them when they go skiing, too. Ste Stock, who runs a building company in Stockton-on-Tees with his wife Gail,
of the fully functioning Martagon campsite in the hamlet of Le Raffort, which offers pitches for €31 a night, or €38 with electricity. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the Olympic gondola and has all the amenities you’d find expect to find on a campsite in Britain, including a restaurant. The journey there was long, but unlike on the 18-hour coach trip I once made on a school ski holiday, I was able to get up and move about, make tea and fetch cold drinks for my father and when tired (ironic given I wasn’t driving) head to the back for a snooze.
too. It’s easy to drive to, with no twisting roads, and there’s a lovely walk into town around the lake, plus it has a ski bus stop.” As well as the essential winter tyres, he recommends snow chains, a shovel,
Photo: Camping Grubhof
Camping Grubhof is one of many with good facilities
The reward was that once we did arrive, we had the novelty of not lugging luggage about, or unpacking, and our ski clobber was already safely stored in the motorhome’s ‘garage’. The campsite has just 15 plots, but attracts all sorts. In our week-long stay, our neighbours, all skiers, ranged from a happy-go-lucky young Dutch couple in a battered little campervan, to an older French couple, who, like us, were winter camping for the first time. Of course, there were no lazy
and a long brush and small ladder to clear snow off the roof, as it can damage the windows if it melts and refreezes. The family try to use the showers on site to avoid adding moisture to the living area. Meanwhile, Kevin Batchelor, pictured, from Southampton, goes three times a year with his wife and two daughters, aged five and six. They love Les Coches in the Paradiski area and Morzine. He says: “For the first trip, we thought we’d stay low to test it out. We headed to Bourg St Maurice and skied Les Arcs by catching the funicular to Arc 1600.”
afternoons spent reading or balmy evenings spent barbecuing. Our days were filled with skiing, and the evenings spent inside, making dinner and watching films. But it did feel like home. At the end of our week, and with no immediate reason to head back, we upped anchor (that is to say we uncoupled from the electricity hook-up) and, on a whim, headed south to the small resort of Puy St Vincent. So were we total converts to skiing by motorhome? On the next trip, to Les Deux Alpes, we learnt a vital lesson that makes my palms sweat thinking of it. Never trust a satnav in the mountains. It sent us on the old road to the resort, which we realised could take no more than a Citroën 2CV. With no obvious way of turning our pantechnicon around, we found ourselves wedged up a mountain pass. It was only after I went to fetch a man from a small hamlet to watch the other side of the van while Dad did a 15-point turn that we were able to extract ourselves. Then I really began to miss chalets and log fires.
However Kevin, a teacher, struggled to find details online about places to go for skiers with motorhomes, so he started posting reviews of campsites he liked and went on to create the website motorhomeski.com. He says: “I’d advise first-timers to go somewhere low and ensure their van is properly insulated to stop them getting cold.”
Questions, questions... Will I need a special driving licence? If you passed your driving test in 1996 or before, you can drive a motorhome weighing up to 7,500kg (the ‘C1’ category). But if it’s your first time start small. Reversing is tricky, as you rely on wing mirrors. If you passed your test in 1997 or after, the standard licence covers motorhomes weighing up to 3,500kg (the ‘B’ and ‘B1’ categories).
Are campsites open in the winter? Yes, and in Europe you’re spoilt for choice, with prices from less than £10 a night. And many popular ski resorts offer top-notch campsites. Most have service points for water and toilet disposal, and some have cafés and shops. Try the website eurocampings.co.uk.
How will I get from there to the lifts? Just like hotels, campsites are usually served by ski buses. For instance in Salzburgerland, Camping Grubhof (grubhof.com) is 2km from the Almenwelt Lofer resort, and a free shuttle runs every half hour to the cable car. In some resorts it’s just a case of walking to the lift.
Do I need to book in advance? Yes, or specialist tour operators can book for you. Spontaneous souls can stay in an aire or stellplatz. This is a farm or car park offering overnight stops for free. While there may be a point to empty your loo, you may have to do without an electric hook-up, so ensure your leisure battery is charged and you have gas. The book All The Aires lists places in France.
Where do I keep my wet kit? Ideally your motorhome will have a ‘garage’ or wet locker, but some sites have drying areas.
Will I need winter tyres or snowchains? The AA has a comprehensive table of several countries’ rules at theaa.com. Remember that, as with cars, not all chains fit all tyres. Practise fitting chains at home if it’s your first time.
Will things freeze up? Yes, so pack anti-freeze and take insulation. Many newer motorhomes come with ready-tofit insulating foil screens that can be attached via suckers. You’ll need to do all the windows.
What if I don’t own a motorhome? Companies such as Harrogate Motorhomes (harrogatemotorhomes.co.uk) rent winterised vans from £420 a week including insurance. Clare Kelly
Good buys are so hard Low mortgage rates and fair prices should make this an ideal time to buy in the Alps, but it’s not that easy, warns Sean Newsom It’s a thought that distracts every skier at least once in their lives. Should they cement their relationship with the mountains by buying a home there? After all, developments are again sprouting up in the Alps, interest rates on euro mortgages are at record lows, and sterling is strong against the euro. France is the obvious choice, given the ease of access, with a host of flights and direct trains to Bourg St Maurice and, new this season, Lyon. The country also offers everything from snowsure resorts to villages where skiing is like travelling back in time to the 1950s. But bear in mind that if rental income is important the market won’t follow you off the beaten track. Buy near lifts in bigname resorts with lots of skiing above 2,000m if you want your property to be full most or all of the season. For year-round income pick a resort with a vigorous summer scene, such as Chamonix, Morzine or Megève. Those seeking secure rental income should look at France’s leaseback scheme, available on some newbuild apartments. These give buyers the freehold of the property, but oblige them to lease it back to a management firm in return for rental income — usually for a minimum of nine to 11 years. The number of weeks they can use their flat is limited, especially at peak periods. Availability can range from a weekend to a couple of months, and popular dates may need to be booked a year or so in advance. By way of compensation, the VAT of 20 per cent on the purchase price is refunded, and in some cases the rental return is guaranteed by banker’s bond. How much you get depends on how much you use the flat. It can reach five
per cent a year of the property’s price, but three per cent is more likely. It’s not just new-builds that provide good returns. In Chamonix, local agent Mountain Base reports that the most reliable rents come from cheap, ageing high-rise flats that are handy for the Aiguille du Midi cable car. With studios starting at less than €100,000, there’s a waiting list of buyers. Admittedly, buying a property is more bureaucratic than in the UK. And if you make an offer that is accepted, this is usually regarded as a contractual agreement. You can’t just walk away if you change your mind. If that sounds scary, there are pluses. Lloyd Hughes of Athena Advisers, one of a host of Brit-friendly estate agents, says: “Security and transparency is where the French beat the British. Gazumping is almost unheard of, with both buyer and vendor protected by the law, with deposits held in escrow until paperwork has been ratified.” Most British banks offer euro mortgages, but don’t assume getting one is a foregone conclusion. John Busby, at French Private Finance, says: “Low rates, the weak euro and soft prices have meant banks are kept busy with applicants, so they are reluctant to look at applications of less than €125,000. Also the requirements for €1 million-plus loans are more stringent. But between those sums you can find competitive rates, with repayment mortgages fixed for 20 years available at 2.7 per cent on a loan-to-value of 80 per cent.” France isn’t the only place to look at. Thanks to its financial stability, Switzerland is popular with wealthy buyers, but the market has long been constrained by anxiety about resorts being swamped by foreign-owned second homes. In 2012, there was even
In Chamonix there’s a waiting list of buyers
Britons love the charm of resorts such as Méribel
a ban on new-build second homes in resorts where 20 per cent of properties fell into this category. Restrictions vary from canton to canton, and in some resorts, such as Zermatt it’s all but impossible to buy property unless you’re Swiss. By contrast Villars, Leysin and Les Diablerets, in the Vaud canton, are more accessible to foreigners, as is La Tzoumaz, near Verbier in Valais. There are restrictions on foreigners buying second homes in Austria too. Generally, you can’t buy in a ski resort unless the property is going into a rental pool, but at least you can claim some VAT back if it’s a new-build. One resort attracting a lot of interest is Saalbach-Hinterglemm, which has just been linked to Fieberbrunn to create Austria’s second largest ski area. Most of the pistes are below 2,000m, but the resort has a vibrant summer scene.
Why buy if you can swap?
Photo: Savoie Mont Blanc/Gouedard/La Petite Rosière
However, before you get your calculator out, ask yourself this: Do you need a home in the Alps? Yes, the dream of owning a piece of the mountains is seductive. But it’s not without risk. Recession, currency fluctuations and climate change have all given Alpine property owners a bumpy ride in recent years. Now the disappearance of Russian buyers has brought the shutters down on the market for top chalets. The line on the graph of property values doesn’t always keep on rising. And here’s another reason to stop and think. If all you want to do is pack your life with more mountains, do you want to nail all your skiing adventures down to a single location? After all, half the fun of skiing lies in tackling new slopes, and exploring new areas. If you’re tied to a resort, how will you fit in the delights of North America? My feeling is that younger skiers
shouldn’t even think about buying, even if they have the means. They should spread their wings. It’s only later, after they have had children, or their legs are starting to stiffen, that a ski property may begin to make sense. Families can develop relationships with kindergartens and ski instructors that will last for years. When the children are older, they’ll want to come back with friends, partners and — eventually — children of their own. And all the while you can kick back in the sunshine on the terrace of your favourite mountain restaurant, and let family life and middle age blossom in a beautiful part of the world. Yes, the value of your property may appreciate over the years. But what matters more is making your life richer in all sorts of other ways.
There are new ways to stay in the mountains now, with house-swap websites and services such as Airbnb springing up in recent years. House-swapping intermediaries such as HomeLink, HomeBaseHolidays and HomeForExchange charge annual membership fees of £60 to £150 and give users access to thousands of listings. Lorraine Wait uses HomeExchange, which costs £100 a year and has over 65,000 members. The HR consultant, who lives with her husband Tony and their children Archie, 13, and Poppy, 11, has had no shortage of interest in their house in Wandsworth, South-West London. She says: “I can’t believe we’ve done five ski exchanges in five years. Two of them we were in holiday apartments in resorts in Switzerland and Italy. The others were in villages down the valley in people’s yearround homes. We’ve exchanged cars on a couple of occasions, picking up a car at the airport, having received the keys a few days before in the post — yes it worked.” The sites say they regularly check references before letting people sign up. Another option is Airbnb, which has more than 8,500 places to rent listed in the French Alps, 20 per cent of which are used by Britons. But some users have said their bookings were cancelled at short notice. A third option, timeshares, are now said to be more regulated. But a third of the 850,000 owners in Europe are in dispute with providers, with many refusing to pay. Harriet Johnston
‘We beat bureaucracy’ If you get it right, and find a property that suits you, it may not take long to move in. Ken Humphrey retired recently and decided with his wife Mandy to target Flaine because of family connections, its proximity to Geneva, and a good snow record. They saw a two-bedroom apartment on November 23 last year, and bought it through Athena Advisers. They completed on December 17, and first skied from it on January 1 this year. “It’s a fantastic feeling to be here,” says Ken. “We’ll be skiing in Flaine for the next ten or 15 years, and hope our children will come to think of this as their second home.”
Put all your Easter eggs in one snowy basket! Easter – what’s not to like? A long weekend off work, time with the family and delicious food, including loads of chocolate. So how can Easter be improved upon? By spending it skiing of course! Easter’s a great time to go skiing – the days are long and sunny and the snow conditions are often amazing. What’s more, the long weekend means that you can really make the most of your time off, especially if you’re booking a cheeky extra weekend away to round off the season.
ls on our skil y p o l e Dev s en piste wide-op
Here are a few of the Easter trips on offer with Ski Club Freshtracks this season…
Deux Alpes Development Les Deux Alpes, 20-27 March £999 including flights and five full days of instruction Les Deux Alpes offers fantastic high-altitude skiing, so you’ll not only get to grips with your technique on piste, but you’ll also have a lot of fun. With over 100 marked runs, and variety ranging from the wide and forgiving pistes up the top to the steep, narrow, challenging pistes lower down there will be the opportunity to broaden your skiing repertoire extensively! The laid back après atmosphere will be just what you need after an exhilarating day on the mountain.
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Davos Easter Extravaganza
Welcome to the Parsenn ski area - one of the finest in the world. Enjoy your Easter away in the large town of Davos where you’ll stay in the lovely 4-star Sunstar Park Hotel. On the slopes, the ski area offers something for everyone – it’s a red run heaven with lots of easilyaccessible off piste for the more adventurous. This everpopular holiday includes single rooms at no supplement.
Davos, 24-28 March £899 including flights and single room with no supplement
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ski club holidays
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Argentière Easter Off Piste
Argentière, 24-28 March £799 including flights and three full days with mountain guides
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This Easter getaway is the perfect opportunity to snap up four more thrilling days toward the end of the season in the legendary Mont Blanc area. Famed the world over for its challenging slopes and exciting, varied terrain, each individual ski area in the Chamonix valley is a mini resort in itself. Your local mountain guides will make sure that every second of these precious days is filled with skiing adventure and excitement.
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Families Easter Italian Instruction Canazei, 26 March – 2 April £1,025 including flights The Sella Ronda is the perfect destination for intermediate skiers who love to cover miles of pistes. With 12 resorts, 450 lifts and 1,200km of slopes it’s impossible to get bored! There is so much to explore here - both on and off the slopes - as the area is steeped in history. The WWI museum in the Marmolada cable car building is a must see. On the slopes, your Leader and instructor will be keeping you busy - tours of the Sella Ronda, famous downhill runs, the hidden valley... the list goes on.
Improvers Powder Skills 5 Flaine, 26 March – 2 April £999 including five full days of instruction This course is designed for those who have had some powder experience but are keen to continue improving. The week will give you technique tips and help you to ski steeper slopes more confidently. Our impressive roster of instructors will aim to teach you how to deal with more advanced powder fields, couloirs and steeps. To make the most of this week you should have a good level of fitness and be able to ski all day with a decent stop for lunch. Accommodation is in the Ski Club’s welcoming and comfortable chalet, perfectly situated in Flaine.
For details of the full Freshtracks programme, visit skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks or call 020 8410 2022
Skiing is a new sport in Bamyan, with parents fashioning skis for children from planks and making poles from branches
Shahr-e Gholghola, or the ‘city of screams’, is a haunting monument to Bamyan’s past. The name comes from when Genghis Khan discovered the secret entrance to the maze of hidden temples and caves, and slaughtered the city’s defenders
The new Kandahar club Afghanistan is the unlikely setting for a ski club and an annual race. Neil Silverwood went to Bamyan to take part
All photos: Neil Silverwood; Typeface: Lecter Johnson
Stepping out of our guesthouse in Bamyan was like walking into the pages of National Geographic magazine. Just metres from the door of the comfy hostel are two empty sentry boxes cut into the cliffs where two giant Buddhas stood for 15 centuries — before they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The surrounding cliffs are a warren of 800 caves, which were excavated by Buddhist monks who lived here two millennia ago. Stretching out beyond them is a desolate, sparse-looking city of 60,000 or so inhabitants. Their homes are built above and below ground, delving into the caves and ruins of old fortresses — a testament to more prosperous times. The people are poor and the economy is reliant on sporadic funds from aid organisations. Tourism brings in a little extra revenue, and coming as a journalist I hoped to encourage others to visit. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I spent
weeks weighing up the risks. Each day the war in in the 1960s. It’s easy to see why. Peaks nearly Afghanistan is brought to the world’s attention 5,000 metres high tower over the ancient villages by the international media 75 miles east of here in and offer outstanding ski touring possibilities. Kabul. The reports highlight suicide bombings, During the first fortnight, Heidi and I explored the attacks on women and wobbly front lines in the seemingly infinite valleys and mountains around the south, where soldiers fight a long, drawn-out town. Each day a driver would pick us up and take us war against Islamic insurgents. It hardly sounds over poorly maintained, snow-covered roads to like the place to go for a skiing holiday. our starting points. The skiing was underwhelming at The province of Bamyan, however, is considered first, as the snowpack was barely a metre deep — not one of the safest parts of unusual for this time of year. Afghanistan. The population It is a typical continental climate is predominately Hazara, — dry and cold in winter, but Peaks nearly 5,000 metres a moderate people, and with the advantage of being the ones I met would do chilly enough that what snow high tower over the ancient anything for peace. In the does fall, stays there. villages and offer outstanding end, the chance to visit Finally, after two weeks ski touring possibilities such a fascinating country in Bamyan, the promised late outweighed the risks in February snow came. It fell, my mind — much to my lazily at first, then steadily, mother’s dismay. with flakes as big as golf balls. My companion, Heidi Godfrey, is a qualified guide The intense storm delivered over half a metre of and works with Untamed Borders, a tour company snow, with drifts of up to two metres. It was without that takes international clients skiing. But it was also question the lightest, driest snow I have ever seen. training local racers for the upcoming 2015 Afghan Early the next morning I joined five other ski Ski Challenge, hosted by the Bamyan Ski Club. tourers who had come with Untamed Borders. These institutions may sound unexpected in warWe jammed ourselves into a van and headed into torn Afghanistan, but Bamyan was once a stopping the Koh-i-Baba range. The van’s worn tyres point on the ‘Overland Hippie Trail’ from London struggled to grip the icy roads, but after a nervous to India and beyond. Under the reign of King Zahir half-hour ride we made it to our destination. Shah from 1933 to 1973, the country was peaceful As we put on our skis, the driver grinned broadly and fairly progressive, leading the Ski Club of Great and asked: “Why do you want to go up there? You’re Britain to recommend it as a destination to members crazy.” Without waiting for an answer he said, half
Ski tourers are drawn to the light, dry snow, which remains until June
35 Enterprising young locals always find a way to go skiing
Touring in Afghanistan comes highly recommended by the Ski Club... Afghanistan is a destination recommended by the Ski Club to its members... or at least it was in the 1960s. According to Ski Club files rescued from a backroom cupboard, “there is skiing to be had in the Chitral Mountains … where there is plenty of snow, even in summer”. Although the Chitral range is predominantly in Pakistan, it forms the awe-inspiring frontier with Afghanistan, with the latter seemingly the easier access point. Half a century ago, members were being assured that the government “encourages
Bamyan was home to the world’s largest Buddha statues, before they were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. Now there are only hollows where they stood
to himself: “Rather you than me.” I knew he was joking. The friendly drivers loved to poke fun at our exploits. But we could always rely on them to be there on our return. For all their laid-back manner, they were people we could trust. At the end of the road, our skis sank deep into the aerated powder. After skinning to the top, I looked over the basin below. The scene was every ski tourer’s dream. The slope was covered in kneeor waist-deep, feathery white goodness. Beyond were more basins and ridges covered in pristine, fresh snow. In fact, there were more powderladen slopes than we could have hoped to ski in a lifetime, but we planned to give it our best shot. In the afternoon we toured higher still. Two Brits in our party were faster than the rest of us and skinned up a steep incline ahead. The slope was more than 30 degrees and wind-loaded. Suddenly they heard a ‘woomf’ and the ground
tourist groups — and there are no difficulties for groups who want to go ski touring”. Back then, the name Afghanistan conjured up a very different image from today. Bamyan and the capital Kabul were on the ‘Overland Hippie Trail’, much travelled on the cheap by Western and Antipodean hitchhikers. They made this journey in, or even on, trucks and buses, travelling through the spectacular Hindu Kush range en route to India and Nepal, and sleeping in hostels, cheap hotels or tents. In the 1960s, Afghanistan was scarcely more dangerous than many other countries, hence the club’s lack of qualms in recommending it. But it is far from alone in exotic destinations that members might think twice about visiting today. In those pre-internet, pre-Google days, members would browse folders in the club’s library to learn of the delights of skiing in Algeria, Kenya and Nepal. Even Bolivia featured, though the Chacaltaya glacier has pretty much melted in recent years. Arnie Wilson
The Afghan female ski programme aims to empower women so they can break free of social constraints
beneath them shook as though from a small earthquake, while deep fractures ripped through the snowpack. But happily the snow didn’t release. One of them later told me: “I had a feeling of terror I’ve never experienced before. Afterwards I had to force myself to keep skinning up.” Luck was on our side. But tragically it wasn’t for some Afghans. When we returned to town that night, we heard that avalanches from the same storm cycle had struck a village in The race was created by a a nearby province, visiting Swiss journalist who killing more than 300 saw the potential for worldpeople. Then I felt class skiing in the area truly thankful we had made it through the day without harm. The days passed fast and after nearly a month in Afghanistan, our time was coming to a close. But we were determined it would end on a high. We had one adventure left — the fifth Afghan Ski Challenge, and I had entered. Although Afghanistan’s second city, Kandahar, gave its name to the world’s first downhill ski race in Crans Montana in 1911, that was a Swiss-based event. The name, which was later adopted by the celebrated Kandahar Ski Club in Mürren in 1924, came about because the trophy was presented by Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who himself never skied. As if to set this quirk of history straight, the annual Afghan Ski Challenge was created by a visiting Swiss journalist, Christoph Zürcher, who saw the potential for world class skiing in the area. After staging the first race in March 2011, Christoph returned with a load of equipment and began to train local skiers. He has now set his sights on getting two Afghan racers into the 2018 Winter Olympics. Studying the competition, I couldn’t help but think Christoph had done too good a job. I was one of 40
competitors, and we lined up shoulder-to-shoulder. Most of the equipment was new — the result of a sponsorship deal with Völkl — though in the month we were there we had also seen skiers with little more than string holding their boots to their skis. From the starting line, participants race down a narrow, bumpy gully, then put skins on and climb 400 vertical metres up a steep ridge, before skiing through deep powder and over a jump at the finish. After a colossal, lung-burning effort, I came 13th — and marvelled at how the locals had acclimatised to the thin air. In the celebrations that followed, my competitors’ visage changed from fearsome
One of the ten female competitors in the race
back to warm and smily, reminding me again of just how welcoming the Hazara people were to us. The following day, I joined a handful of foreigners to watch the women’s race. Ten locals were competing, having trained for two weeks with Norwegian coach Henriette Bjørge. With their families, we were watched over by soldiers carrying guns. In a country where females are often treated as second-class citizens, the women didn’t want to let their families down and gave the race everything they had. When they spoke to us afterwards, many were in tears, telling us the event felt liberating. Finally it was time to go, but having got to know the people it was hard to tear myself away. Looking back, I can see it was one of the richest experiences in my life. We were warmly welcomed by the locals and always looked after. Not only is Bamyan a relatively
safe haven in a sea of chaos, it is one of the most stunning places on earth. Its crumbling ruins, rich culture and mountains call me back. But I would happily return just to experience the warmth of the people — that alone would be enough. Afghanistan is a difficult country to travel in (see gov. uk/foreign-travel-advice) and is nearly impossible to visit without the aid of a local travel company. Neil travelled as a guest of Untamed Borders (untamedborders.com), which also provides interpreters and local transport. For ski tourers, the best time to go is from mid-February to April, with March best for powder. The winters are dry and cold with most snow coming in late February and March, though you can ski until June. The sixth Afghan Ski Challenge is in late February and costs $100 (£60) to enter. For details see afghanskichallenge.com
Dawn over Bamyan, as seen from one of its hundreds of caves
o t f f o Slope trip i k s t r o for a sh
Once you’ve discovered skiing in Switzerland, it becomes a life-long affair. Only an hour’s flight away, Switzerland is perfect for short ski breaks and has many high-altitude resorts that banish fears about snow conditions. One soon finds that Switzerland is all about quality, whatever the price range. There are plenty of resorts to choose from for dependable snow. Andermatt has been transformed with huge investment in enlarging the ski area serving slopes lying between 2-3,000m. Skiing through woods is a hallmark of some runs from Weissfluhjoch at 2,660m above Davos, while Zermatt can offer year-round skiing thanks to the cablecar to Klein Matterhorn at 3,883m. For the most proficient skiers, Verbier offers some real challenges among its 412km of runs, such as the black mogul run from the top of Mont Fort at 3,329m. Switzerland is renowned for the quality of its hotels at any price range, whether a small mountain chalet hotel, one of the grand Victorian-era five-star hotels or their modern
equivalent where world-famous designers have created individually designed bedrooms as well as public spaces, such as the Tschuggen Grand in Arosa. Look at some of the smaller resorts for great value, such as the four ski villages in Val d’Anniviers in the Valais. The après-ski too is of a different order. The Cavern Bar of Zermatt’s Omnia hotel is up close to the face of the Matterhorn with topclass jazz musicians and singers. Many of the hotel spas are destinations in their own right, designed with breathtaking flair and originality. To find the perfect hotel for your ski break, whether you’re looking for ski-in/ ski-out hotels, typically Swiss hotels, wellness oases or hotels full of history, visit MySwitzerland.com/besthotels It doesn’t take long to realise that the reputation of the Swiss Travel System as the world’s finest public transport system is entirely deserved. You board the train underneath the airports at Zürich and Geneva and are taken through glorious landscapes to your destination
using a single ticket, the Swiss Transfer Ticket, even if the final part of the journey is by funicular, cablecar or PostBus.
How to book You can book your flight on SWISS.com and your hotel directly. Alternatively, the Switzerland Travel Centre can put together a tailor made package for you (020 7420 4900; stc.co.uk). Or if you want more convenience, Inghams’ carefully designed travel packages make everything as simple as possible. With flights and transfers by train arranged in advance, you can pick up your lift pass when you arrive, so you don’t lose a second on the snow. Book now at inghams.co.uk/skiweekends
For more information visit MySwitzerland.com
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Ski the Vallée Blanche …by the back door A new cable car in Italy offers a canny way to reach Europe’s most celebrated off-piste route. Ben Clatworthy tried it out
rom the top of a new cable car you can ski Europe’s most famous off-piste descent, the Vallée Blanche, which descends into Chamonix, France. Built at a cost of €135 million, the two-stage ‘Skyway’ whisks skiers and pedestrians from near the Italian resort of Courmayeur to the Punta Helbronner peak at 3,466m in just 15 minutes. Until now, reaching the feted glacier run from Italy involved nearly an hour’s ride on a creaking, three-stage cable car built in the 1950s. Coming from over the border avoids the terrifying climb down a narrow, icy ridge, from the Aiguille du Midi cable car, where you have to contemplate a sheer, 3,000m drop into Chamonix below. Instead, the route from Punta Helbronner begins with a gentle traverse across the Mer de Glace — Sea of Ice — before snaking its way down the valley for many miles. It’s then just a short hop on the train into Chamonix, before catching the bus, which runs six times a day, back to Courmayeur. Travelling with a guide is
still advised — the many crevasses mean one ill-judged turn can be fatal — but for intermediates and experts alike, it’s a route that will remain etched in their memory. Only the very best skiers can manage the tricky descent from Punta Helbronner back into Italy — some guides refuse point blank to take guests. I was on the SkyWay in December for the first day of its winter operation, but sadly it was too early to tackle the off-piste. However, half the fun of the journey is absorbing the rugged landscape, and admiring the beauty of untouched peaks, as the revolving cabin spins the world around you.
Courmayeur lift passes cover the SkyWay (montebianco.com) while pedestrians pay €40, with discounts for children and over-65s. To find out more see aosta-valley.co.uk
South Tyrol seeks winter lovers looking for the Alps’ best-kept secret. South Tyrol seeks you.
Discover more about So uth Tyro l at suedtiro l.in dolomigh fo/ ty
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Discover Italy’s beautiful hidden gem, with breathtaking views set against the dramatic backdrop of the Dolomites. 300 days of sun shine and guaranteed snow on more than 1,000 km of slopes means South Tyrol offers a truly unique skiing experience. Exquisite food and wine, delivered with friendly local hospitality, make the après ski as perfect as the setting. Come and see how Italian flair and German precision combine to create the ultimate winter holiday. www.suedtirol.info/dolomighty
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The inside edge The snow is here and the days are getting longer. Here’s the definitive guide to feeling good on the slopes
56 Boots These boots are made for walking… and climbing and skiing. We review the latest touring models
78 Resort insider It’s not too late for a weekend break, and our panel of experts know what to look for and where to go
44 Snow wear It’s party season in the Alps, so we recommend some of the best ski outfits that work for après-ski too
We reveal the best exercises to strengthen your back for skiing, and are winter sports really more risky than others?
We review new big mountain boards and find that short and stumpy is perfect when it comes to powder
66 Gear This is the kit that could save your life in an avalanche, plus our tips for flying with an avalanche airbag
Mark Jones shows you how to cope with offpiste challenges when touring, plus how safe are itineraries?
The Ski Club’s testers are in the backcountry to offer unparalleled advice on touring and freetour skis
How to turn heads on the slopes… and at the bar Photography: Melody Sky
Combining sport and après-ski wear has never been easier thanks to new materials, says Maisha Frost Spring, with plentiful snow and clement weather, is considered by many to be the best time to ski. But while afternoons are warm, the mornings can be bitterly cold, so choosing an outfit that both regulates your temperature and looks good can prove tricky. Merino wool, prized for its breathability, is where you can find a great combination of sport and leisure styles this season in brands such as Picture and Mons Royale. Also Power Wool, the latest fabric from Polartec, weaves natural and synthetic fibres into figure-hugging base and mid-layers. And they needn’t be hidden away. You can now expect more from mid-layers, as skiers move away from conventional three-layer outfits, instead choosing to wear their midlayer as a main jacket on all but the wettest of days. Meanwhile, colours are more earthy for après-ski wear this winter. The appetite for garish colours is dwindling, with brands moving towards more natural hues and patterns that nonetheless make an impact at the bar. Practising yoga outside St Anton’s museum, Ashley, left, wears O’Neill Blaze fleece (£80) and a Coal The Rosa beanie (£18). Rachel wears Icebreaker Vertex Fair Isle top (£110) and a Picture Judy bobble hat (£32)
Standing at the top of the Valluga, Will wears Picture men’s Welcome jacket (£340) and pants (£230), a Picture William hat (£30) and Nike Command Vision goggles (£185) Ashley wears Armada Lynx Insulated jacket (£200) and Planks Freak Out sunglasses (£45)
Will, skiing in St Anton’s backcountry, wears Scott Explorair 3 Layer jacket (£215), Scott Vertic 2 Layer pants (£290) and Oakley Flight Deck XM goggles (£145)
A fuzzy line between real and fake Fur is a key trend this year, especially in women’s wear, featuring in hoods, hats and trims. And of course we don’t need to feel guilty about looking fabulous now, as it’s all faux fur, right? Apparently not. An investigation by the BBC and animal charity Humane Society International recently found that major high-street retailers were selling real fur, when customers had reason to believe it was fake. At House of Fraser, a Silvian Heach jacket labelled as 100 per cent polyester and nylon was found to feature a real fur trim. And at TK Maxx a pair
of gloves were found to be real fur, despite both stores’ no-fur policy. Claire Bass, a director of the charity, said: “More than 100 million rabbits, foxes and raccoons endure appalling lives and suffer terrible deaths just to make cheap trim for coats, hats and gloves for the UK high street.” One online retailer, The Fur Bobble Shop, is open about its use of raccoon fur, but says it would consider offering more faux accessories if it could find more affordable sources of faux fur. Both TK Maxx and House of Fraser say they have rectified the mistakes.
Walking on St Anton’s high street, near the onion dome church, Ashley wears Roxy Harmony fleece (£55) and an Eisbär pom-pom beanie (£30). Will wears Horsefeathers Jamie jacket (£88) and Picture Chill New jogging pants (£65)
Jeans on the slopes? Don’t laugh We used to poke fun at people who skied in jeans. But this season denim dominates snow wear, so don’t be surprised to see skiers wearing jean-style pants. New technical versions of the cotton classic are soft, light and weatherproof, making them perfect for use on piste and at après-ski venues. For instance, Horsefeathers’ men’s Jamie jacket looks like something you might wear around
town. But like Picture’s women’s gilet it has all the technical qualities of traditional ski wear, such as water resistance and warmth. So such items can be worn over a base layer if a ski jacket would be too hot. Denim is also environmentally friendly. Manufacturers use less water, energy and chemicals than with many other fabrics, thanks to the use of modern dye, laser finishing and recycled synthetics.
The models are at the famed MooserWirt aprèsski bar. Rachel, left, wears Icebreaker Zone top (£80), Burton Vida pants (£130) and O’Neill Drifter RX104 sunglasses (£75). Ashley wears Picture Maud fleece (£100), Picture Time pants (£190) and O’Neill Runa 103P sunglasses (£45)
Rachel wears Picture Holly 2 gilet (£130), Roxy Torah Bright Whisper pants (£150) and Nike Vision Volition sunglasses (£110)
BRITISH Retailers Ellis Brigham: ellis-brigham.com Snow+Rock: snowandrock.com Surfdome: surfdome.com TSA: snowboard-asylum.com All four retailers above offer Ski Club members ten per cent or more off full-priced products CONTACTS Armada: freezeproshop.com Burton: gb.burton.com Coal: coalheadwear.com Eider: eider.com Eisbär: specs4sports.co.uk Icebreaker: uk.icebreaker.com Horsefeathers: Horsefeathers-store.eu; 01787 881144 Nike: snowboard-asylum.com Nike sunglasses: nikevision.com Oakley: oakley.com O’Neill: oneill.com; 01899 491006 Picture: picture-organic-clothing.com Planks: planksclothing.com Roxy: roxy-uk.co.uk; 020 7392 4020 Scott: ellis-brigham.com
Fashion editor Maisha Frost Fashion assistant Rachel Rosser Production manager Ben Clatworthy Photography Melody Sky Hair and make-up Jemma Barwick Models Ashley Crook Rachel Tugwell Will Siggers Tony Walker
Considered one of the world’s top ski resorts, St Anton am Arlberg is part of the expansive Ski Arlberg region, with a modern network of 97 lifts, offering 350km of groomed pistes. With on and off-piste challenges, awe-inspiring scenery and unrivalled après-ski, there are many reasons to visit. Daily flights are available from London Gatwick and twice weekly from Bristol and Liverpool to Innsbruck with easyJet. Alternative airports include Zurich, Munich or Friedrichshafen. St Anton is also easily accessible by train. For further information on St Anton am Arlberg visit stantonamarlberg.com, while to find out about the Austrian Tirol region see visittirol.co.uk
sidewall A wall of plastic, typically ABS (the stuff Lego is made of), running from the metal base edge of the ski to the top sheet. It drives power to the metal edges, protects the core and can also help absorb vibrations
Camber 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
cap This is where the top sheet and other layers roll down over the side of the ski to the metal edge. Caps can offer benefits over sidewalls, often cutting weight, making skis more forgiving and more resistant to damage
Rocker 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
combo Cap and sidewall can be combined in several ways, for instance by having sidewall underfoot with cap at tip and tail, or cap rolling down to meet sidewall for the length of the ski. Each will affect the ski's performance differently
Ski cores 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
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 ski
Sidecut This is the width of the tip, waist and tail of the ski. A ski with a wide waist floats better off-piste, while a ski with a narrower waist will grip better on piste
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
Radius This is the radius of the theoretical circle that a ski will naturally make in the snow when tilted on to its edge. A smaller radius will produce tighter turns and a larger radius will produce wider turns
What it all means
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
Kit for those who earn their turns
The Ski Club’s ski tests are unique to the industry, as our independent, impartial testing team comprises only the best skiers. They are signally able to relate what they feel under their feet to a ski's performance.
Ski touring is taking off and manufacturers are responding by producing gear to entice newbies and old hands alike, says Mark Jones
The ski touring world is going through a revolution. Interest in skinning up the mountain to earn your turns has soared in the last few years, with skiers falling in love with the combination of a more physical workout and more naturalistic way of skiing. This means the big brands are directing more resources to this area, with a huge number of new skis coming on to the market, which is great news for first-time buyers who want to get into the backcountry. That is why Ski+board is, for the first time, covering touring skis in its tests (having featured freeride, all-mountain and piste performance skis in Issues
1 to 3). Unlike the other categories, these are all light enough to be unisex, so there is no women’s section. We no longer cover niche big mountain skis. With so much choice it can be hard to pick the right skis, bindings and boots for you, and in no other category is the combination so critical. We list what we believe to be ten of the best freetour skis available to the British buyer, but we urge readers to follow our advice overleaf to avoid the trap of mismatching items.
You can read the full results of the ski tests and watch video reviews online at skiclub.co.uk/skitests
Director of ICE training centre in Val d’Isère and trainer for Basi icesi.org Ski Club head of Member Services and former ski service manager skiclub.co.uk
Director of Marmalade ski school in Méribel and trainer for Basi skimarmalade.com
Ex-race coach and ski model who now covers competitions for TV kevinharris.tv Racer-turned-coach giving private tuition in Val d'Isère to highest Basi level jamesallenskicoaching.com
Ex-action model who now owns retailer LD Mountain Centre ldmountaincentre.com
CAMBER WITH FRONT ROCKER
Mike Barker cap construction
CAMBER WITH FRONT AND TAIL ROCKER
Ex-head coach of England squad, offering off-piste and performance courses snoworks.co.uk
Topsheet Core Reinforcement Edges Base Sidewall
These exaggerated diagrams show a ski's rocker, camber and effective edge as well as its core construction
Ski user rating We rate each ski by the type of skier it would suit. So in the example below, 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.
Highly qualified ski school director at Matterhorn Diamonds in Zermatt matterhorn-diamonds.com
Fully certified in the French, Swiss and UK systems, she runs concierge service ALS alsprivate.com
Ex-British champion who now owns Target ski training and race coaching targetski.com
A great skier training for the highest Basi exam who runs a chalet in Val d’Isère email@example.com
Avoid some of the classic traps when buying your first pair of touring 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 all the skis featured on these pages fall into.
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 nonetheless has a walk mode, works
Photo: Peter Mathis
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 as efficient as possible 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 in the cuff in walk mode. With this set-up the ease with which you can skin up slopes is astonishing. It can feel like you are wearing a pair of trainers. But skiing down can be more challenging, especially in chopped up snow. The lighter weight and lack of torsional rigidity means the skier has to be proficient enough technically to be constantly balanced and in charge.
well with a heavier duty 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 in a resort. 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.
Photo: Chris O'Connell
FREETOUR This is a fairly new breed of touring kit. It combines elements of the two segments above, and is where most British skiers who are interested in touring will find something suitable, and so was our focus in the ski tests. A freetour combination is good for day tours that involve a couple of fair-sized 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 combination of downhill performance, safety and weight. They have a better range of release settings and feel more solid underfoot. When matched to a performanceorientated touring boot and freetour ski, the set-up can give a great touring experience. 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 you must check this. If not your safety could be seriously compromised. If you stay within one of the three segments outlined above you will find the ski, binding and boot are all aimed at a similar goal, with the balance of strength and weight similar in each. It was fascinating for the testers in Kühtai to mix things up. In some cases they would 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 example 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 and makes it hard to ski effectively. Of course, it would be impossible to go through every combination. But we are confident we have tested ten of the best freetour skis this winter and believe we have an accurate picture of how they ski in variable conditions with suitable boots and bindings.
Salomon MTN Explore 95 £500
130-95-116 17.7m (177cm) 169, 177, 184 1,400g for 177cm
THEY SAY The best ratio between climbing efficiency and downhill performance. WE SAY This is Salomon’s first touring ski and it was clear within a few turns that the brand got it right. It’s one of those skis that instantly feels easy to use, being light and easy to pivot. This helps in tricky off-piste conditions, where it feels it’s on your side. When going harder and faster on more piste-like conditions the weight and feathery tip puts limits on performance. But for easy, fun and reactive skiing in a range of off-piste conditions it excels. Light, easy, confidenceinducing, hard to fault (Mark Jones) Light and easy to turn. Good for those who ski at slow to medium speeds (Al Morgan)
E A I
Light and easy to use in all conditions Feels less sure for high speed blasting
Atomic Backland 95
There is a huge range 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.
Black Diamond Link 95
Build Cap and sidewall combo /carbon and
light weight wood core/tip rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
164, 173, 182 1,550g for 173cm
E A I B
A fun, easy introduction to off-piste, but doesn’t perform as highly others in this category (Al Morgan) Twitchy and light in cruddy snow (Derek Chandler) Easy to use, light, playful at lower velocities Less solid at speed and in variable snow
164, 172, 180, 188 1,550g for 180cm
THEY SAY The Link 95 is inspired by light touring skis and also rockered powder skis. WE SAY Though it has lots of width the Link is a light ski that is easy to use. It pivots easily and is no effort to use at slower speeds. Torsionally it is soft, which helps with ease of use, but does mean it lacks grip and edge hold on harder snow or steeper terrain, where it feels less solid. A great ski for first-timers who are apprehensive about skiing deep snow, but more experienced skiers will want to look for something with a higher level of performance. E A I B
The soft flex pattern means it lacks performance on firm snow (Pete Davison) Light and easy in powder, less strong for high performance skiing (Mark Jones) Floaty, light and easy to use Slow edge to edge, less grip on hard snow
Sidewall/carbon and light weight wood core /tip and tail rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
122-95-109 22m (180cm)
128-95-112 21m (178cm) 164, 171, 178, 185 1,150g for 171cm
THEY SAY With carbon chassis and ultralight paulownia core, it’s the best all-round touring ski. WE SAY This is a TOP super-light ski that SKI delivers an astonishing R F OR M range of performance. Its smooth flex and super-light build really allows the skier to feel what’s going on underfoot. It was easy to use in both long and short turns in all conditions while the flex and construction gave it strong stability and grip at higher speeds. Genuinely a ski that can deal with all conditions, speeds and is a great asset for tourers. PE
THEY SAY The successor to the Drifter and the widest, most progressive ski in our touring series. WE SAY The Backland instantly feels easy to use at slow speeds. This, combined with its width, makes for great floatation and manoeuvrability in powder. In variable conditions and crud it felt more easily deflected off its line and so was harder to predict. On piste it felt comfortable, easy and grippy at slower speeds, but started to flap when ramping up the speed. Overall, an easy ski to use, but faster skiers will want something more accurate.
Blizzard Zero G 95
Sidewall/light weight wood core/ tip and tail rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
132-95-121 19.9m (182cm)
Freeride touring boots have limited cuff mobility for ascents but 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 tour mode. The most critical point is to make sure that 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. Boots — Page 56
E A I B
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
How do I choose my boots?
How do I choose my bindings?
Build Cap and sidewall combo/carbon, flax wood core, honeycomb tip/tip and tail rocker
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Great ski — I tried a shorter length but skied like a god! (Derek Chandler) Finally, a light touring ski with proper freeride performance (Pete Davison) Strong in everything, super smooth flex Some may want more width for better float
Black Crows Camox Freebird £580
Sidewall/Titanal, carbon and light weight wood core/tip rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
23m (177cm) 170, 177, 184 1,250g for 177cm
THEY SAY Efficient at going up and down due to Air Tec Titanal, Aeroshape and Tour Rocker. WE SAY The Hannibal TOP is light, easy to use, SKI and pivots with no VA E LU effort, setting it up well for dealing with all conditions. It’s one of the most manoeuvrable skis we tried and is suited to steep gullies and tricky conditions. On hard snow it grips well and feels rock solid on icy slopes. It also manages to float well in powder and works well in all conditions and terrain. Overall, a great ski. SK
Mike Barker Mike has a huge amount of experience in the ski industry. Previously head coach for the England ski team, he has moved into performance coaching for keen, all-round skiers, mainly working for Snoworks, a training company that delivers performance courses worldwide. He holds the highest Basi Level 4 qualification and as a senior race coach delivers and assesses coaching awards in the UK. snoworks.co.uk
E A I
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Light, easy, great for pivoting and floaty in powder (Mark Jones) Awesome: a well distributed flex pattern complements its touring ability (Mike Barker)
Great in all conditions, awesome on steeps Hard to fault
Dynastar Mythic Build
E A I B
Easy to ski, easy to tour, extremely well balanced with a soft flex (Mike Barker) Great looking ski that promises to be fun in all conditions (Mark Jones) Excellently balanced, great build quality Feels less stable at speed
Cap and sidewall combo/carbon, Kevlar and light weight wood core/tip rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
133-97-113 17m (177cm) 171, 177, 184 1,400g for 177cm
128-95-116 21m (178cm) 178, 184 1,330g for 178cm
THEY SAY A high performance ski that brings mountain exploring to a whole new level. WE SAY This is TOP another light ski that SKI surprised us with its RF OR M all-round abilities. A key characteristic is its smooth flex and well damped ride — you would usually expect a light ski to chatter over harder snow. It also holds an edge well and grips even hard snow. In deep powder it feels playful and reactive and is set up to be skied with energy. A fantastic ski that delivers amazing performance for its weight. PE
1,575g for 171cm
THEY SAY So light you can get fat! An ideal companion for all conditions when touring. WE SAY A great ski that manages the balancing act of being light and easy to use while feeling strong enough for high speed turns. It's wide enough underfoot to give lots of float in deeper snow and is a bit of a weapon when it comes to making big arcs in powder. On hardpack it feels stiff torsionally, which gives it strong edge hold and makes it confidence-inducing in fast turns. A well-rounded ski that performs well enough to suit even experts.
163, 171, 178, 183
Scott Superguide 95
Sidewall/carbon and light weight wood core/tip and tail rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
Al is head of member and information services for the Ski Club of Great Britain. He has the daunting task of selecting which of the 872 different pairs of skis at Kühtai will be tested and helping to manage the team. His in-depth knowledge of ski equipment is astounding — he once ran a ski rental service in the Alps and managed one of the busiest ski shops in the UK. He backs this up with being a fantastic all-mountain skier who has a huge passion for the sport.
128-97-115 18m (178cm)
THEY SAY A fat, playful ski, its rocker makes it easy to manoeuvre and its float makes it fun in powder. WE SAY As with a lot of the Black Crows skis we tested this immediately feels like a quality piece of kit. It’s very well balanced with a soft flex pattern, but still manages to be torsionally quite stiff. This means it’s really easy to use, being light and pivoty, while being balanced enough to cope with a variety of turn shapes. At higher speeds it can lose composure, but overall this is a solid touring choice that can cope well in all conditions.
Sidewall/carbon and light weight wood core/tip and tail rocker
Gives you the support to ski flat out both on and off-piste (Pete Davison) Easy going in deep snow. Well balanced and lively, but tip can flap at speed (James Allen)
Light, easy, yet confidence-inducing at speed One of the most expensive skis on test
Photo: Polly A Baldwin
Fischer Hannibal 94 £460
IN ITA OF GREAT BR
Good for two to three hours of skinning up (Al Morgan) Light, playful, it skis well on firm snow, with nice fore-aft support for charging deep stuff (Pete Davison) Solid all-rounder, can handle all conditions Felt twitchy at times in chopped up snow
Movement Shift 98
Cap/carbon and light weight wood core/tip and tail rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
137-98-125 18m (178cm)
In deep snow this can perform as a 98mm-waist ski should (Mike Barker) Easy pivoting, but a cumbersome beast in varied conditions (Derek Chandler)
Super floaty in the powder Cumbersome from edge to edge
Völkl V-Werks BMT 94
Build Cap and sidewall combo/carbon and
light weight wood core/full rocker
Sidecut (mm) Radius Lengths (cm) Weight (per ski)
122-94-112 26.8m (186cm) 166, 176, 186 1,570g for 186cm
THEY SAY Gives an excellent transmission of power with perfect control for tackling all conditions. WE SAY As expected with Völkl, this is a classy-looking ski that would look the part in the roof rack of a Porsche. It has a solid build and you can see it's a piece of high-tech kit. From the start it felt stiffer than its rivals and is easily the grippiest ski we tested. But, moving into powder and variable conditions, that intense engineering and stiffness worked against it and it struggled to give the floatation and ease of use that is required for low effort skiing. E A I B
How do I choose skins and poles?
How do I choose my safety gear?
169, 177, 185 1,450g for 177cm
THEY SAY The Shift's long shovel with light rocker gives optimum performance off-piste. WE SAY The Shift is a touch wider underfoot than its rivals, which makes a big difference in deep powder. It floated up quickly and we felt it could take speed in these conditions. However, the width does make it feel a bit cumbersome from edge to edge and it lacked the quick, easy agility of many of the other skis we tested. Overall, this is a great ski for deeper conditions, but would struggle in varied snow and terrain. E
Bombproof build, but overstiff and over-engineered for this category (James Allen) A strong ski on harder snow, but not so easy in deeper stuff (Mark Jones) Amazing performance on hardpack Lacks float and ease of use in deep powder
Touring skins are evolving fast. Most still stick to the base of skis using adhesive, but the new breed of glueless skins are worth considering. You don’t have to worry about them sticking together in your pack or regluing them. They have a rubber base that works much like those toys you throw against the wall and they stick there. You can buy skins for a specific ski or get them trimmed to fit in store. Regular poles are mostly fine if you put a powder basket on them. Collapsible ones can be stowed in a backpack.
The least you should have with you when skiing off-piste is a transceiver, shovel and probe. Select a probe that is at least two metres long when extended, and make sure the shovel fits in your backpack before you buy. Modern, three-antennae transceivers are easy to use effectively, so focus on those. Avalanche airbags (backpacks with inflatable bags that can be deployed if you get caught in an avalanche) are becoming increasingly popular and may be worth looking at. But you may encounter issues taking these on an aeroplane. Gear — Page 66
Where can I buy a pair of those?
Ski test sponsors
Several retailers are present at the ski tests and many offer discounts to Ski Club members. They include: Absolute Snow: 10 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 Sail and Ski: 10 per cent off sailandski.co.uk 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 for servicing snowlab.co.uk Surfdome: 10 per cent off surfdome.com
With thanks to Atomic, Eider, Salomon, Scott and Planks, who provided clothing for our test team in Kühtai. Ski Club members can get savings on these brands through the many shops in the UK that offer them discounts. You can see the full listing of members' discounts on Page 76 or at skiclub.co.uk/discounts
Photos: Ross Woodhall
What it all means Shell
Liner Designed to keep your feet warm and comfortable, some are standard, while others can be custom fitted to adopt shape of your calves and feet
Most shells are two-piece and combine a cuff, on top, attached by a hinge to a lower part, often called a clog, below. Threepiece models also have an external tongue
Tongue 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
Power strap The power strap acts as a vital extra buckle around your leg, and is usually closed by Velcro, but some high performance boots use a metal closure. Don’t forget to do it up!
Cant adjustment With many boots you can tilt the cuff slightly towards the big toe or little toe side of the clog, making you feel more balanced in the boot
Buckles These are used to fasten the boot. Buckles should wrap the shell evenly around the foot, keeping it snug without creating pressure points
Walk Mode Cuff release allows the back of the boot to hinge — up to 90 degrees in some instances — for climbing and locks again for the ski down
This is the theoretical force in Newtons needed to decrease the angle between cuff and clog by ten degrees, and is written after the name of the boot. High performance boots are stiffer, but often less comfortable
This is a trainer-type insole that comes with the boot. A customised footbed is recommended to improve stability and give better foot-to-boot contact
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
Take a hike in a new pair of touring boots
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
Stripped back and streamlined, these boots are for skiers who want comfort uphill and performance downhill, writes Chris Exall
Chris Exall (skipress.co.uk) describes himself as being 40 years into an 80-year apprenticeship in skiing: his first boots were made of leather. He is a member of the International Federation of Ski Instructors governing body and has written widely on snowsports safety
Boots for ski touring cover a vast range of possibilities, from those that suit skiers doing a few hours’ climbing a day, to those tackling weeklong tours. All touring boots try to offer the support and responsiveness of an alpine (or downhill) ski boot with the flexibility of a climbing boot, but the extent to which they do either varies. If you are planning on serious climbing, you may want to opt for a lightweight mountaineering boot. These boots are stripped down and often have just two buckles to close the shell. Such bare bones designs are usually a kilogram lighter than
four-buckle alpine touring boots. They are often produced by mountaineering experts, such as Scarpa and Black Diamond, rather than wellknown brands in skiing. Conversely, boots at the high performance skiing end of the continuum tend to be less suited to climbing, offering more support and power downhill. Care is needed when matching boots to bindings. Lighter pin bindings require the boot to have metal inserts in the sole, while serious mountaineering boots may not fit into ordinary alpine bindings. If in doubt ask your ski shop… before you buy.
Scarpa Alien 1.0
scarpa Freedom Sl
Atomic Backland Carbon
Price Special order Size 24-30
Price £500 Size 24-31
Price £525 Size 22-31.5
The Alien is about as far removed from a downhill ski boot as you can get. In climb mode it has 60 degrees of movement in the ankle, making it possible to run in them. Nonetheless, skiing down, testers describe the boot as sturdy. Weighing 1.8kg a pair they are half the weight of some we review, though there is a payoff. The shell has an open throat and is fastened using cables. This wraps the shell snugly around the foot, but does little to keep the elements out. It has a very low volume shell and is only compatible with pin bindings. Super-light, specialist ski mountaineering boot Not intended for long tours
This boot would not look out of place among piste boots, save for the Vibram sole and pin binding inserts. Weighing 3.5kg a pair it’s twice the weight of the Alien, but packs twice the skiing punch. It fits like an alpine boot with a 101mm last and an Intuition heat mouldable liner. Generally, it suits low to medium volume feet best, especially in the toebox. However, the shell is easy to modify in tight spots. For those who are doing only a little off-piste, the boot’s touring sole can be swapped for traditional alpine versions.
This may be the lightest boot made by a big ski brand. With a carbon fibre cuff and a clog made using lightweight Grilamid and carbon, a pair weighs just 2kg. The Backland is suited to climbing and aided by a beefy clip that releases the cuff. An unusual cable closure gives the feel of two buckles, but has only one lever to tighten them, resulting in an excellent forefoot wrap. It fits a wide range of feet and the clog can be heat moulded to customise the fit. With a 120 flex it’s a great choice for strong skiers.
It looks, feels and skis like a piste boot Too piste-orientated for some
Super-light with a customisable shell The sole is only compatible with pin bindings
Men’s Touring boots
Salomon Mtn Lab
Black Diamond quadrant
Price £499 Size 24.5-29.5
Price £500 Size 23-28.5
Price Special order Size 24-30.5
While the Mtn Lab is a two-clip model, it has a more conventional alpine feel than you may expect. This is partly because it’s based on the 98mm X-Max piste boot, so the shell is — in touring boot terms — anatomical, although with a little more space in the toebox, heel and instep. The cuff lock is robust and once closed there is little movement between clog and cuff. With a 120 flex, the boot has enough power to theoretically ski groomers all day. The shell is hard to customise, but the liner can be heat moulded.
Few boots can rival the design heritage of the Dalbello Sherpa, which is modelled on the needs of legendary freeskier Glen Plake. Despite being marketed at skiers spending 70 per cent of their time in the backcountry, the boot feels more tailored to skiing down than climbing up. The Sherpa has a three-part tongue with a mechanical hinge, which allows your leg to move backwards once the cuff is released. It is more powerful than many touring boots because its unusual hinge sits lower and further back on the clog than most.
Coming from a brand synonymous with the backcountry, the Quadrant is simple and elegant. It has a strippedback alpine style design, with four wire buckles and a clog made from two plastics. It has a rigid skeleton for support, while non-critical areas are filled with a lighter plastic. The cuff is made in two parts, with an extra sliding hinge on the big toe side. Using the two together creates a stiff 120-flex shell. Weighing about 3.5kg a pair, the boot is not the lightest, but performs well. With a 103mm last, the boot fits well out-of-the-box.
A lightweight tourer best suited to downhill arcs There is no cuff alignment adjustment
Sole is wrapped around the clog for extra grip Could benefit from a power strap
A well designed and finished boot Some find the toe box snugger than expected
Men’s Touring boots
Scott Superguide Carbon
Price £460 Size 24-30.5
Price £580 Size 25-31.5
Dynafit used to be one of the biggest brands in piste skiing. Today the company is one of the leaders in touring gear. The Tlt is a serious boot for those who like to earn their turns. The lightweight shell uses Grilamid and has a carbon-reinforced cuff with a buckle that both fastens the boot and releases the cuff for climbing. As with Atomic’s boot the Tlt has a removable tongue to control its flex and increase the range of ankle movement. The Tlt is a very low volume boot and only works with pin bindings. Light and easy to work on Strong skiers can overpower it in choppy snow
Since buying Garmont’s ski boot business, Scott has focused on allterrain and backcountry gear — with success. The Superguide Carbon is a versatile touring boots and, despite having a downhill feel, is able to cope with serious ascents. It has a threepiece shell, with a three-clip design and a power strap that is closed with a buckle, acting as a fourth clip. The tall cuff and low hinge make the Superguide more powerful than many other touring boots. Carbon inserts on the side of the boot reduce its weight, but make it hard to stretch. It comes in comfortable 103mm last… … so is too wide for narrower feet
Custom fit liners … as standard An increasing number of ski boots come with customisable liners that improve performance and comfort. Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) liners are the most common. They are heated in an oven in-store and you put them on as they cool, allowing them to take the shape of your foot. Intuition is biggest manufacturer of EVA liners. Flo liners also come as standard in some boots and use a mixture of cork beads in a gel sealed in pouches. Here the shell is warmed, which transfers heat to the liner. This heats the gel so that it fills the gaps around the foot and also any in the shell. These options cater for almost all skiers’ needs. However, for an extra £400 you can buy a foam liner, where two chemicals are mixed to provide an exact mould of your foot, giving the best fit.
M O U N T A I N H E A V E N
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woMen’s Touring boots
Tried and tested before you buy The freetour category continues to see rising interest. So much so that manufacturers are starting to use some of the technology in touring boots to modify classic downhill boots, making them lighter and more user-friendly. The women’s range is a little limited as brands often release a men’s boot before modifying it for women’s feet. At least our boots are tried and tested!
Photo: Scott sports
Janine Winter is ski manager and buyer at specialist bootfitter 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
Atomic Backland W Price £450 Size 22-27.5
A new series for 2015-16, Atomic’s Backland W is designed to make touring more efficient and easier than ever. Built using lightweight plastic, and with 74 degrees of movement in the cuff, the boots are brilliant for climbing. They have rockered touring soles, which are only compatible with pin bindings, and are primarily aimed at serious ski tourers looking for a super-light set-up. The shell uses Memory Fit technology, so can be oven heated in store to match your foot shape, while the liner can be hand washed to keep it odour-free. Extensive range of movement in climb mode Restricted to using pin bindings only
Tecnica Cochise Light Pro Dyn W
Scarpa Freedom SL Wmn
Dynafit Khion Ws
Price £340 Size 22-27.5
Price £500 Size 21.5-27
Price £420 Size 22-27.5
This new boot is a spin-off from the original Cochise Pro, but a lighter version with a different liner, lighter buckles and rockered touring soles. With a medium 100mm last and a flex of approximately 100, the boot offers all-day comfort for touring, without compromising performance too much. A softer plastic is also used over the instep to make putting the boot on easier. The touring soles have Dynafit inserts making them compatible with pin bindings, however a traditional alpine sole can be fitted if desired. A good boot for longer tours.
Back for its third winter, this boot retains its popular lime and turquoise colours, and continues to combine both performance and lightness. The cuff and shell are made from Pebax Renew, an organic material known for its elasticity, even at low temperatures. It comes with an Intuition heat mouldable liner as standard, and rockered, pin-compatible touring soles. However, this can be switched for a sole that will work with a classic downhill binding. The Freedom has an aggressive flex and is therefore aimed at hard-charging female tourers.
A new model for this season, the Khion has been designed to offer a precise fit and progressive ski control. And coming in a bold pink it’s a boot you will either love or hate. With an anatomical foot shape, it offers a snug fit, but is generous in the toe box. The liner comes with bootlaces — like a race boot — to fully secure your foot, but this does make getting in and out of them trickier. The new One Touch buckles are a good addition, and allow you to adjust the boot’s tension easily. The Khion has an astonishing 90 degrees’ motion in the cuff.
Doesn’t compromise on performance Heavier than some competitors
Has an Intuition liner for lightness and extra warmth Scarpa half sizes are different to most brands
One Touch buckles are easy to adjust Can be a struggle getting into the boot
ski club benefits
Ski with the Club in France and win a summer holiday in Tignes Book our Instructor-led Guiding service in one of 11 French resorts this season, and you could win a week in a luxury chalet in Tignes next summer. INSTRUCTOR-LED GUIDING The best way to get around French resorts this season The Ski Club’s Instructor-led Guiding service is now up and running in 11 French resorts - and now’s the time to book! Not only is it the best way to get around French resorts this season, every member who books a session will be entered into a prize draw to win a week for 6 people in Evolution 2’s luxury chalet in Tignes in July 2016* The instructors, from ski school Evolution 2, will take Ski Club members to the best slopes, as well as hosting a social hour each evening where members can relax and get to know each other. Ski Club members can also get 10% off privately booked lessons with Evolution 2. Tignes is a fantastic destination for a summer trip – it’s famous for some of Europe’s best summer skiing high up on the glacier, and spectacular terrain for hiking and mountain biking.
Find out more at skiclub.co.uk/instructors
Advance online bookings: £20 full day / £10 half day** Direct bookings with instructor in resort: €40 full day / €20 half day Some sessions are already filling up, so you’ll need to book fast to make sure you don’t miss out. *Accomodation only – does not include flights or catering **Online bookings can be made up to 3pm on the Friday of the previous week.
Photo: Vanessa Fry
SKI CLUB LEADERS Get more from the mountain Not going to France for your skiing this season? You can still ski with a Ski Club Leader in 18 resorts across Europe and North America. If you’re tired of looking at your piste map, join a Ski Club Leader group and get straight to the best slopes the mountain has to offer. Our volunteer Leaders can take you to the best snow, and help you meet people of similar ability to ski with. Leaders also host a social hour each evening, where you can relax with other Ski Club members and recount your stories of a hard day’s skiing. Pick the days and times which suit you best, as each weekly programme includes a variety of options for skiers of different abilities.
Nikki did more than lead us, she turned a ski break into a lifetime experience.
Ski Club Leaders are in 18 resorts in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra, USA and Canada.
Robert, Ski Club Member
Find out more at skiclub.co.uk/leaders
BIG MOUNTAIN BOARDS
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
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
Length 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
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. All boot dimensions are given in UK sizes
Flat Profile A board with a flat profile is flat under the feet, with the board rising only at the tip and tail
Rocker Profile 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
Camber profile 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
What it all means
A board with a combo profile combines elements of both rocker and camber boards
Fat is beautiful for big mountain boards
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
Powder boards have undergone radical changes of late with fatter and shorter models dominating, writes Tristan Kennedy Innovative ideas have been changing the shape of boards in recent years, and this season changes are especially noticeable in big mountain models. The conventional wisdom is that boards designed specifically for riding powder need to be long to spread the rider’s weight over the soft snow. This has been challenged by a new crop of shorter, fatter models. These still have a greater surface area than models made for pistes, but the extra material is added to the waist of the board, as opposed to the tip and tail. Two brands pioneered this approach — Burton, with its Nug models,
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
and Yes with its 420 board and the 20/20, which is new this season. Other manufacturers have followed suit, and it’s now common to see powder boards that are less than 150cm long. Fat, it appears, is beautiful. Longer boards still have their advantages, such as when riding open faces at speed, but if you’re looking to buy a powder-specific stick this season, it’s worth looking at models a little shorter than you might otherwise. They are more manoeuvrable and thus easier to turn. And they can prove really useful in the trees, which is where the best powder is often found.
Yes 20/20 £545
Flex Profile Combo Shape Directional Lengths (cm) 151, 156, 161
Flex Profile Flat Shape True twin Lengths (cm) 146, 150
Flex Profile Combo Shape Directional Lengths (cm) 157, 161, 166
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
The Fish is a great example of the recent evolution in powderfocused design. An acclaimed board, it’s been part of Burton’s stable for a long time, but the latest model is noticeably shorter and fatter than before, coming in 151cm, 156cm and 161cm lengths. It still floats well, because of its wide waist, but the shorter length and stubby tail allow it to turn on a sixpence. This makes it perfect for tight tree runs, but a little slower edge-to-edge. Great for tight tree runs Slower edge-to-edge than others
Having pioneered stumpy shapes with the 420 — a board that seemed crazily wide at the time — Yes has gone one step further this year. The new 20/20 is a true twin version of the 420, allowing it to ride equally well in switch — backwards — which is great if you want to do tricks in powder. It has a unique profile shape, with concave sections at the nose and tail, making it appear like a wakeboard used on water. It’s a great choice for deep snow, but not a stick for the park.
This is a classic powder stick designed for charging down steep faces in powder. Its long nose, tapered tail and setback stance allow it to float really well in the deep stuff. If that’s not enough, the combo profile also features a pronounced rocker that rises towards the nose, making it almost impossible to bury, however hard you try. The downside is that its shape does make it a little less manoeuvrable than some of the other powder boards featured.
Rides as well backwards as it does forwards New technology doesn’t come cheap
Great at high speeds on open faces Not as manoeuvrable as some powder boards
BIG MOUNTAIN BOARDS
Jones Hovercraft £375
Flex Profile Combo Shape Directional Lengths (cm) 156, 159, 162; 161W
Flex Profile Combo Shape Directional Lengths (cm) 152, 156, 160, 164
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Jeremy Jones is widely regarded as one of the best freeride boarders ever. So when he started his own brand in 2009, he naturally focused squarely on big mountain sticks. The Explorer is based on the successful Flagship model, but is softer. This means it’s not as good at high speeds, but is easier to ride, more forgiving and — because it doesn’t feature the carbon inserts — less expensive. A great choice for a starter powder board. Softer flex makes it easy to ride… …but not as stable at high speeds
Another of Jones’s range, the Hovercraft has become a bit of a classic. Inspired by board shapes seen in Japan, it combines a wide, spoonlike nose with a wider than average waist and a short tail that tapers to a cutaway swallowtail. The extra surface area at the top allows it to float beautifully in powder, even in shorter lengths, while the short tail makes it easy to manoeuvre and fun to ride. And, despite appearances, it’s great on piste too. Carves beautifully on and off-piste Short tail makes it hard to ride switch in deep snow
THE BRITS 3RD - 10TH APRIL 2016. LAAX, SWITZERLAND HOLIDAY PACKAGES AT WWW.THE-BRITS.COM
A golden chance to buy women’s powder boards The design of women’s powder boards is seeing a similar revolution to that of the men’s category, with an increasing number of shorter, fatter models coming on to the market, as brands experiment with new shapes and technology. But while these designs are making waves, there is still a greater proportion of more traditionallooking models for women. These perform well both on piste and in the deep stuff. This may reflect the fact that, on average, fewer women’s big mountain boards are sold each year, with riders looking to buy more versatile models. But for powder, as Jenny Jones has shown with the Pillow Talk, these boards are fit for an Olympic gold medallist.
BIG MOUNTAIN BOARDS
Burton Day Trader £400
Salomon Pillow Talk
Flex Profile Flat Shape Directional Lengths (cm) 147, 152
Flex Profile Shape Lengths (cm)
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
With its large, spoon-like nose and tapered tail, the Day Trader is designed for deep snow and steeps. But it’s also at home on the groomers. Its medium flex is forgiving, yet it still powers through choppy snow and handles well on hardpack. The graphics may suggest this is a powderonly stick, but in reality it’s a great all-rounder, albeit one with a slight bias towards big mountain terrain. Great both on piste and in powder Doesn’t turn as tightly as some shorter models
K2 Wild Heart
Flex Profile Rocker Shape Directional Length (cm) 152
Flat Directional 143, 147
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
The Salomon Pillow Talk is built for blasting through the pillows that form when deep powder settles on uneven terrain. Available in just two lengths, it is short for a powder board with a wider than average waist. This, combined with a deep sidecut, makes it quick edge-toedge and good for trees. And it floats well in powder: this is the board that British Olympic medallist Jenny Jones uses on her backcountry missions.
As with many of K2’s big mountain sticks, the Wild Heart is designed using the company’s BC Shape. Essentially, this means the board has a wider than average nose — helping it float in powder — while keeping the waist width fairly regular. So although it’s not as fat as some of the short, modern boards, the Wild Heart feels like one, with a soft flex, pronounced rocker and a stance that’s only slightly set back.
Fun to ride and easy to turn Not as good on ice or hard-packed snow
Fun, forgiving and easy to ride Not the best at high speeds
Flex Size 8 to 11 Lacing system Speed lace
Flex Size 6 to 12 Lacing system Speed lace
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Spending over £500 on boots may feel excessive. But this is no ordinary footwear. Designed and worn by French big mountain boarder Xavier de le Rue, the boots are comfy and lightweight, yet offer a stiff, responsive flex. They have many features designed for splitboarding, such as the powerstrap extending the shell’s range of motion.
Burton’s top-of-the-range boots boast its best technology, including ReBounce Cushioning, which absorbs impacts and reflects heat inwards to keep your feet warm. They are rigid enough to support the most aggressive backcountry riders, while this year’s model also features speed laces built by New England Ropes.
Burton Supreme £280
Flex Size 3 to 7 Lacing system Boa
Flex Size 3 to 7 Lacing system Speed lace
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Pistes Powder Jumps Rails
Designed to go with the Wild Heart board and Hue Binding, the K2 Contour is a stiff and responsive boot that offers enough support for backcountry terrain. The double Boa lacing system, which has two knobs to adjust the upper and lower section of the boots, makes altering the fit easy — a useful feature when hiking in search of new lines.
These are boots that give you plenty of bang for your buck. As with Burton’s men’s model — the Viking — the boots feature the brand’s ReBounce technology, which keeps the rider’s feet both warm and cushioned. The boots are lightweight and offer female snowboarders an excellent level of support and responsiveness.
How to fly with an avalanche pack
Kit to save your life Heading for the deep stuff? This is what you need to help you stay safe, says Alf Alderson If you’re heading off-piste, it is vital to carry the ‘Holy Trinity’ of safety kit — a transceiver, probe and shovel. Many off-piste skiers also buy an avalanche airbag backpack. In a snow slide, you yank the trigger on the shoulder strap, deploying the airbag,
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
so you float to the surface. Research shows that since 1991, of 262 people who have deployed an airbag in an avalanche, 97 per cent have survived. However, there are reports of skiers being told that they cannot fly with a charged canister and activation handle. This should not be the case outside the US. IATA regulations say that travellers may fly with one pack, “containing a cylinder of compressed gas with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism,” but that this must be “packed in such a manner that it cannot be accidentally activated”. One solution is to hire one in resort. Some brands have also introduced airbags that are inflated using batterypowered fans. Black Diamond’s Halo JetForce pack, reviewed here, was the
• Contact the airline two weeks before you fly, and tell them you will be travelling with an avalanche airbag system, as allowed in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations 2.3a, subsection 2.3. Ask for written confirmation and print this. • Also print a copy of IATA regulations, and two copies of the IATA Dangerous Goods Table (both available at bit.ly/fly-abs). Keep one copy with you, and attach the other to the pack, as it may be checked by baggage handlers. • Detach the canister and activation handle from the airbag. Also check the canister cap is on.
first of this kind, and can be taken on aeroplanes without hassle, as there is no compressed air cylinder. Another is Arc’teryx’s Voltair airbag, which was launched as we went to press. It is also activated by a rechargeable battery and, like the JetForce, can be deployed several times between charges, so you can practise.
PIEPS DSP SPORT
MAMMUT BARRYVOX PULSE
SILVA EXPEDITION S COMPASS WITH CLINOMETER
Worn on a fairly comfortable chest harness, the Pulse is light enough that you don’t really notice it. On start-up it executes a ‘self-check’ to ensure it is transmitting. It has two search profiles: Basic, which searches for the strongest signal, and Advanced, which does so based on distance and survivability criteria. The screen has a ‘floating’ arrow, that also points behind you, should you be facing the wrong way. It has a range of 90 by 50 metres, and can ‘mark’ people as found. Should the victim be wearing a Pulse too, the searching transceiver will detect if they have a heartbeat (hence the name). This is one of the most popular transceivers among mountain safety professionals.
As a compass is vital for ski tourers, it makes sense to spend a bit more and also have a clinometer — which measures a slope’s angle. Most avalanches occur on slopes with a steepness of 30 to 45 degrees, so being able to measure this while skiing is useful for assessing potential slide risk. The Expedition S also has a number of other features, including a grippy case, lanyard, magnifying lens, map-measuring scales, and a mirrorsighting function. An online manual explains all the features, including the clinometer (far easier to use than you may imagine). It also has built-in adjusters for magnetic declination — the variance of the magnetic pole.
One of the best value transceivers, the Pieps DSP Sport is also intuitive to use, making it a great option for novices. I also found the harness to be more comfortable than that of the Barryvox Pulse. The on-off switch is easy to use and it performs a self-test of all of its components on start-up. It’s small enough to grip comfortably and its single button is simple to operate with gloved hands, but a concern I had was that the switch could be accidentally moved from ‘search’ to ‘send’. It has a range and search width of 50 metres and a good direction indicator. If many people are buried it is possible to set the DSP to detect one signal at a time. Its software can be updated online. Easy to use and great value Battery indicator could be more accurate
Intuitive and easy to use, plus great build quality More expensive than others
Useful for assessing avalanche prone slopes You need the patience to stop and actually use it
BLACK DIAMOND ANARCHIST AVALUNG DAYPACK
BLACK DIAMOND HALO 28 JETFORCE PACK
THE NORTH FACE MODULATOR ABS
I’ve been using an AvaLung system for about nine years, and the Anarchist is a vast improvement. When in avalanche terrain, you release the breathing tube from a pocket on the shoulder strap, and put it in your mouth. Should you get buried, it allows you to breathe air from an integrated valve in the pack, while expelling carbon dioxide. Clearly this won’t prevent burial as an ABS system would, but it’s better than nothing, and cheaper. The pack also has a large zippered back panel — allowing access to your gear besides the top zipper — and an easy-to-use A-frame ski carrying system. If you can’t afford an ABS pack this is the next best option.
Black Diamond’s JetForce system is one of the most important recent innovations in avalanche safety. Thanks to a collaboration between Black Diamond and Pieps, this was the first airbag with a jet-fan, allowing it to inflate a 200-litre bag in four seconds, meaning you should stay close to the surface in a slide. Should you get buried, the airbag deflates after three-minutes, creating an air pocket around you. Unlike regular ABS systems, the pack’s battery allows for up to four deployments per charge, so you can practise, as well as take it on airlines without hassle. For serious backcountry skiers this is a great option — albeit an expensive one.
This award-winning airbag attachment is the result of a collaboration between The North Face and ABS, the German airbag manufacturer. Strapping the Modulator on to the side of your regular pack turns it into an ABS avalanche bag. Once done skiing, removing the Modulator converts it back to a standard rucksack. With dual airbags, a pneumatic trigger, and a nitrogen activation system, the Modulator system will work with any pack with two shoulder straps, and has colour-coded webbing to help with fitting. This is a good ‘halfway house’ for those who don’t wish to buy an ABS pack that will spend the summer in the wardrobe.
Could prove a lifesaver… … but it won’t prevent you from getting buried
Probably the most efficient system of its kind At £900, by far the most expensive bit of kit
SKI BOOT LAB
Allows you to convert any bag into an ABS pack… … but buying an ABS pack costs much the same
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.” Konrad Bartelski - Former British Team Skier
Biomechanical analysis Custom insoles*
One of the widest ranges of ski boots in the UK!
Profeet 867 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5HP
*depending on appointment type
Call 020 7736 0046 to book your appointment
MSR STRIKER 240 AVALANCHE PROBE
BLACK DIAMOND QUICKDRAW CARBON PROBE 320
LIFESYSTEMS WINTER SPORTS FIRST AID KIT
Although simple, a probe is vital offpiste. Once you’ve homed in on an avalanche victim with your transceiver, you use a probe to accurately locate them. The MSR Striker 240 is a good option thanks to its variable-diameter — it tapers to just 13mm at the tip — helping deflect snow, saving time and energy when searching. The probe, which extends to 240cm and collapses to just 46cm, weighs 300g and comes with its own bag. It has 5cm markings to help with assessing snow and burial depth. It’s quick and efficient to use, thanks to its single-pull locking deployment and T-handle for more ergonomic use. And it now costs £5 less than last winter. A good value, lightweight probe Less sturdy than some others
At 320cm the Quickdraw is Black Diamond’s longest avalanche probe, and — thanks to its carbon fibre construction — it’s light, weighing just 342g. Black Diamond claims it’s designed for guides, patrollers, and those touring in deep snow or glaciated terrain, but that’s no reason to assume it’s not for you, as a recreational skier, because it’s a lovely piece of kit. It has one-pull deployment and a good non-slip grip, while the oversized alloy tip improves probing sensitivity by creating a hole larger than the probe’s shaft. There are high visibility 1cm markings along its length, and it comes with a stuff sac that allows for rapid deployment. Great quality and ideal for deep snow The extra length equals extra weight
Carrying a first aid kit is a good idea when venturing into the backcountry. This modestly-sized kit by Lifesystems is about the size of a bag of sugar and will fit into a daypack with ease. It weighs just 460g and contains 40 items, stored in a durable nylon case. Among the contents is a thermal blanket and hand warmers along with a large variety of wound dressings and bandages. It also includes a snap glow-stick, which may prove useful for attracting the attention of a helicopter. There is also a primary care leaflet. However if you ski in remote mountain regions on a regular basis it’s well worth attending an introductory first aid course too. A useful addition to your daypack Contains some items you’re unlikely ever to use
MSR OPERATOR SHOVEL
BLACK DIAMOND EVAC 9 SHOVEL
MSR BETA SNOW SCIENCE SAW
The MSR Operator is a reasonably priced shovel that comes with the option of a T handle or a D handle and is made from strong aluminium. The blade’s traditional flat chopping face delivers a stable strike, while its serrated leading edge breaks up snow and ice. It can be deployed quickly thanks to a two-section telescopic shaft and lock-pin. Both handles have been engineered to maximise comfort, control and leverage, although the T version is slightly lighter than the D at 645g and 698g respectively. However, I find the D handle to be more ergonomic when digging, despite the slightly heavier weight. The blade’s flat back can be used to smooth snow pits. Versatile and relatively light Not as robust as some more expensive models
The Evac 9 is Black Diamond’s top-ofthe-range shovel, with a handle that has two configurations, one for digging out a buried skier (fast mode) and one for digging test pits — when you can take it easier. It has a large blade, so is good at shifting lots of snow, while the compact D handle and long shaft (it’s 10cm longer than the MSR Operator) make it an effective digging tool. The downside is its weight — some 794g. The blade’s flat-bottom helps create a clean face on snow pit walls. The size and weight of the Evac 9 may put some people off, but this does make it very efficient, and I liked the fact you can set it to two configurations. The two-configuration handle is useful Large size and weight may not appeal to everyone
This is one for real snow geeks. Few of us need a snow saw, but if you’re keen on studying avalanche risk and the snowpack then you may consider it. Its slim blade allows it to be easily slipped into a backpack, and it also comes with a strong sheath — needed to protect your other gear from its sharp teeth. Weighing just 178g, it is light, but with a stainless steel blade, it is capable of cutting even the most hard-packed snow. Its aggressive teeth will also cut through wood. It has laser-etched 1mm and 3mm crystal grids marked on the blade. This is too much for most skiers, but for an enthusiast this is a good piece of kit. And it’s useful for building igloos… Lots of fun for snow geeks Hardly vital for everyday skiing
ski club benefits
Ten tips for a perfect holiday, using your Ski Club membership 1 Make sure you’re covered Winter sports travel insurance is a must – and Ski Club Travel Insurance is designed to give you the cover you need, on and off the snow. Members get 15% off all policies, and you can save even more by upgrading your membership to Ski Club Platinum – membership and annual multi-trip insurance all wrapped up in one great-value package.
2 Get some inspiration Ski+board magazine is packed full of news and features to stir your passion for snowsports, and the Club’s website, blog and social media pages are regularly updated with articles, photos and videos that are sure to build your excitement levels as your trip approaches.
3 Choose your resort Discover your ideal destination with some of the most comprehensive resort guides you’ll find anywhere online. Our guides include detailed reviews, piste and village maps, photos, facts & figures and pros & cons to help you choose the perfect resort for your holiday.
4 Get yourself fit As a member, you can use our ‘Ask the Experts’ service to get advice on fitness programmes and injury recovery, from experts in their fields. And every issue of Ski+board includes a fitness section that will help you get in tip-top condition for the slopes.
5 Get the right kit
Photo: Ross Woodhall
Looking for new skis? Our ski tests, online and in Ski+board, tell you everything you need to know to help you make the right choice. You’ll also find info on boots, boards and loads of other gear. And as a member, you can call our resident kit experts and have all of your questions answered to ensure that you get exactly what you need.
6 Hire a transceiver If you’re planning to escape the crowds and ski off piste, you’ll need the necessary safety equipment. Members can hire an avalanche transceiver for just £15 a week. Safety on the slopes has never been such great value!
7 Save some money With your Ski Club membership you can save hundreds of pounds in just a few purchases. Whether you’re booking a holiday, buying clothes and equipment, taking out insurance or even buying a new car, becoming a Ski Club member could be one of the best value decisions you ever made!
8 Check out the conditions Whilst you’re waiting for your trip to come around, build the excitement and keep up-to-date with the Club’s detailed snow reports, updated delay and emailed directly to you. On the website you’ll find weather forecasts and our full snow overview, updated every Monday and Thursday.
9 Find some friends to ski with One of the great things about being a Ski Club member is finding new friends to ski with. If you’re on a Freshtracks trip or skiing with a Leader or Instructor (see below), you’ll be matched up with other skiers just like you. But if you prefer to do your own thing, you can contact other members using our online CatchUp service, or the ‘Members Meet Up’ section of the chat forum, to find new friends to enjoy the snow with.
10 Ski with a Leader or Instructor If you’re in one of our 29 resorts where a Ski Club Leader or Instructor is stationed, skiing with them is a great way to find the best slopes on the mountain, meet other members, improve your technique or just have fun. You’ll find all the details at skiclub.co.uk/skiwiththeclub
To find out more about all the great benefits you get with your Ski Club membership, visit skiclub.co.uk/benefits or call 020 8410 2015.
Touring tips that let you access all areas Hiking to powder is growing in popularity, but the variety of terrain and different gear require a change in style, says Mark Jones Ski touring can be the dream ticket to perfect powder… but it can also expose you to everything from crust to refrozen sludge — to name but two of a host of conditions you might otherwise be spared if you go for just the occasional foray off-piste. In many ways, variable snow is the attraction of backcountry skiing, as you deal with the mountain in its most natural state. But you need to have a full set of tools to cope with the challenges. Another thing many firsttime tourers forget is that a backpack with avalanche gear and water alters their weight distribution substantially. But a few technique tweaks (including ones to save energy on the way up) will let you enjoy touring all the more. Here I explain some of the issues, and how to deal with them.
DEEP POWDER On the face of it, this is exactly what we hope to find when touring, and this is what is shown in the photo. But it’s easy to get tentative. Build speed so the skis rise up and feel manoeuvrable. Entering a turn, feel for pressure on the inner ski. Maintain it so that both skis have fairly equal pressure. This will keep them at similar heights, making it easier to balance. Start new turns by releasing the edges and letting your body ‘topple’ sideways over your skis. Keep a steady speed and steer from one smooth curve into another. When making short turns use a narrower stance.
CRUST This is the stuff that makes you go ‘argh!’ when you hear the crackle around your calves as you sink through the hardened surface of the snow. Be more aggressive, punching your
skis down through the crust in the turns. Similarly, unweight your skis more than usual to clear the surface and initiate the next turn. Try to land on the fall line, then steer out of the turn by using leg strength to push and twist the skis into the new direction. If you land at too much of an angle you are likely to be tripped up by the crust. Use your momentum to drive through the crust, but take frequent breaks.
HEAVY SLUSH Slush will make your legs ache, sorry! Use smooth, round arcs. A sudden change of direction will cause the skis to alter speed, tripping you up. It’s often easiest to use smaller arcs in a narrow corridor. In wide arcs it’s harder to maintain a constant speed.
ICE This can be scary on steeps. Control your speed by turning your skis so they scrape sideways. Be careful when increasing the edge angle of the skis. Do this too early and you’ll accelerate across the slope. Increase the edge angle only when the skis are scraping sideways. And adopt a wider, lower stance for more stability.
tighten the waist strap so most of the load is carried through the belt. Only then tighten the shoulder and chest straps. If you use the shoulder straps to take the weight, and leave waist and chest straps loose, the pack will shift around, making it harder to balance. Adjust your stance. Stand taller with your hips forward, so they feel in line with your feet. You’ll use your natural skeletal strength, conserving energy, rather than using muscles to balance.
ENJOYING THE CLIMB Hiking up should become just as much
Use a pole plant to give you greater stability as you move across
Start to feel pressure on the new outside ski to steer through the turn
SPRING SNOW This is a thick, frozen crust. Keep a low edge angle so the skis scrape cleanly across the surface. Think of spreading butter over toast — too much edge angle and you will break through. Keep turns smooth and progressive. A sharp change of direction increases pressure on the snow too fast, making it more likely you will break through.
SKIING WITH HEAVY GEAR Stow heavy items at the bottom of your pack to keep it stable. And
Allow your body todive to the inside of the new turn
fun as skiing down if you’re going to get into touring. Here are a few tips: 1. Move at a slow rate, with all your body. Copy experienced guides, who seem to climb in slow motion. Sharp, erratic moves waste energy. 2. Keep your skis on the snow. Skins are designed to allow the ski to slide forward. If you are new to touring it’s tempting to lift them on every stride, wasting vital energy. 3. Use the binding height adjustment sensibly. If you keep adjusting it you waste time. Look ahead at the terrain and, if it’s not absolutely
necessary to change the height, leave it. Continue at a steady pace. Relax into a steady rhythm. Once you find a comfortable pace, stick with it and focus on your breathing. Smooth movements at a constant speed will help with this. Ten minutes of skinning up will raise your temperature fast. Take off layers before you start, on the basis that you’ll warm up rapidly. Stripping off layers en route is time-consuming, and you may have started sweating already, making you more susceptible to wind chill.
Mark Jones is director of ICE (icesi.org), a training centre for aspiring skiers and instructors in Val d’Isère, France. He is also a trainer and assessor for Basi and has been in the British demo team at the industry-leading annual Interski Congress four times
Read more of Mark Jones’s ski tips at skiclub.co.uk/skitechnique
Keep pressure on the inner ski so both skis remain at similar heights
Start to add pressure to your inner ski to stay stable
Start to release both edges to allow your body to move over your skis
Start to add pressure to the inner ski to maintain stability
ski club insurance
15% OFF for Ski Club Members
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. This season we’ve launched new travel insurance that will continue to provide excellent service, but with even wider cover at lower prices. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your travel adventures, on and off the snow. NEW:
• All policies include Fogg Medi-card (mountain rescue card) as standard
• Improved cover for all holidays, not just skiing
• Winter sports equipment cover including goggles, helmets, boots & gloves as well as the usual cover for skis, poles and snowboards
• Off piste skiing and boarding without a guide
• Single trip cover up to the age of 85 (75 for multi-trip) • 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
• Cover for lack of snow, and avalanches • Heli skiing, glacier skiing, backcountry skiing and ski touring all covered as standard Ski Club Platinum membership is also available this season, which includes European annual multi-trip insurance and Fogg Medi-card – all wrapped up in one price. For a quote, visit skiclubinsurance.co.uk or call 0300 303 2610
technique: off-piste safety
When is a piste not a piste? Itineraries, the yellow or dotted lines on ski maps, attract powder hounds, but are they controlled in the same way as other runs? No says Nigel Shepherd If you yearn to ski off-piste, you’ll doubtless begin your quest off the side of groomed slopes in search of a little magic. From such small beginnings, a taste for wilder adventures can follow and the natural progression would be to tackle an ‘itinerary’. But what are itineraries and how do you find them? Not every ski area has itineraries. They are mostly to be found in resorts with a long tradition of off-piste skiing. They are likely to be marked on the piste map but, unlike black, red, blue or green pistes, are not colourcoded in terms of difficulty. They may be shown as a dotted or dashed line. Itineraries may be a route from the top of one lift to the bottom of another in a next-door valley. Or they might rejoin a piste further down. In practice, an itinerary could be: • A tough black run; • One that is marked by a single line of posts rather than the usual parallel series of posts to your left and right; 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.
• One that is not groomed in any way; • One that may regularly be declared closed by the resort on safety grounds especially if the avalanche risk is high. If this sounds vague that is because nothing more categorical exists to define what an itinerary is. Sure, there are famous itineraries — the Vallon d’Arbi in the Swiss resort of Verbier being one. It’s a great journey through impressive mountain scenery. And if you’re lucky enough to ride it early in the season after a big snowfall it could be one of the most memorable descents you ever do. But the less often an itinerary is topped up with fresh snow, the bumpier it becomes in the absence of grooming machines. The first skiers are likely to follow the markers, but this line will develop moguls. As skiers spread ever wider, the whole slope may become mogulled, making it less and less like an off-piste run. Conversely, there are some famous itineraries that are in fact genuine off-piste areas. One such is the Tour du Charvet in France’s Val d’Isère. Ten to 15 years ago this descent was marked as an itinerary. It had a line of posts showing skiers the way and was patrolled by pisteurs. Somewhere along the line it lost its status, with the supposition being that this was due to accidents and avalanches. Now it is officially off-piste terrain, but many skiers still consider the Tour du Charvet as an itinerary. On a sunny day, when snow conditions are good, several hundred skiers and boarders go down it without a guide and — in
many cases — without avalanche gear. To complicate matters further, some piste maps indicate what might be construed as itineraries, but are in fact ski and high mountain touring routes, such as the ones off the Steinmähder lift in Lech, Austria. In recent years there have been a number of accidents on the run back down to Zug, mostly as a result of avalanches triggered by riders who may have been unaware of
Photo: Ross Woodhall
the classification of the descent as offpiste as it features on the piste map. This leads to the common question of how insurers view itineraries. Are they off-piste or similar to pistes in terms of resort responsibility? Check your policy, as some include off-piste, some include only certain areas of off-piste, some include it only if you are with a guide, while others exclude it. All this raises more questions than it answers. The best advice is to regard itineraries in the same way you would an off-piste run that is away from a patrolled, avalanche-controlled area. Wear a transceiver, carry a shovel and probe — and go carefully. Read comprehensive weather forecasts at skiclub.co.uk/snowreports
Bulletproof your back If skiing bumps makes your spine tingle, it’s time to get supple, says Craig McLean The back is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and, as many of us know, is susceptible to pain as we ski over bumps in snow. Research by the British Chiropractic Association shows that four in five people in the UK suffer from back pain, with one in four experiencing it daily. And skiing bumps or chopped up snow can trigger pain. The exercises below are good for loosening tight muscles, while the three opposite focus on strengthening your core muscles, as these help prevent back injury.
Craig McLean is a chiropractor and fitness expert. He has worked in the ski industry for over 15 years, helping Olympians Chemmy Alcott and Graham Bell recover without surgery. He consults for the Warren Smith Ski Academy
1 Passive stretches
2 Active stretches
A. This yoga pose stretches and opens your lower back, without straining it. Your knees can either be kept together or spread open, which also stretches the hips.
A. These active stretches are repeated ten to 20 times in quick succession. The ballerina stretch is a good start, as it opens your oblique and lower back muscles.
B. To stretch your glutes, lie on your back and pull one knee towards your chest, making sure you keep your lower back pressed to the floor and the other foot flat. Hold for 30 seconds.
B. Stretch your hip flexors by lunging and raising the arm on the side of your back leg. You’ll feel the stretch in your abdomen. Do not bend the front knee past 90 degrees.
C. This stretch is great for relieving lower back tension. Start on your back with knees bent, then let them fall to one side, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
C. Stiff piriformis muscles can cause back pain. Stretch them by standing on one leg, and lifting the other so the ankle is across the opposite thigh. Balance against a wall if needed.
You’re doing it wrong if… you attempt the one-legged version of the above stretch. This can over-stretch the back, causing pain. Stick to doing both legs together.
You’re doing it wrong if… you attempt to touch your toes. This exercise should be avoided (especially as an active stretch) as it puts pressure on the lumbar discs.
Skiing is one of the most dangerous sports… or is it?
Skiing is often seen as one of the more risky sports, but do the facts bear this out? Statistics suggest that many other activities, such as football or rugby, are every bit as dangerous, if not more so. Dr Mike Langran, former
doctor to the Aviemore ski patrol, says that for every 1,000 people skiing in a day, on average between two and four will require medical help. By contrast the figures for football and rugby are 30 and 60 respectively.
Though accidents are only recorded when the ski patrol has attended, new research also suggests that ski safety has improved. America’s National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has reported a 50 per cent reduction in the number of
3 Back strength
B. Lifting both your legs and arms off the ground at the same time is a more advanced back extensor exercise. Hover for ten to 20 seconds, repeating the movement three times.
C. From the all-fours position, lift one leg, extending it until it’s straight and in line with your torso. Do three sets of ten. Lift your opposite arm to increase the effort.
You’re doing it wrong if… you over-extend your back. When doing back extension exercises, you can achieve the desired effect by stretching just beyond the ‘neutral’ position.
B. If your core strength is good, progress to the side plank. Support your body with one arm and hold for 20 to 120 seconds. If this is too difficult, try resting on your elbow and knees.
C. If your back is strong, lie supine with legs and arms bent, then extend them horizontally keeping them in the air before returning to the start position. Start with small movements.
You’re doing it wrong if… you attempt an old school sit up. This places too much stress on the lower back, and works the hip flexors more than the abdominal muscles.
A. The clam, a hip activation stretch, is done lying on your side, feet together, with your legs bent. Lift the top knee up and down.
B. The scissors action is a more advanced hip activation exercise and is done by lying on your side with straight legs. Lift the upper leg 20 times. Repeat twice on each side.
C. The dead lift action should be started with a very light weight. Begin with your knees bent, your back straight and your chest out. Straighten your legs. Repeat 20 times.
You’re doing it wrong if… you’re lifting a dead weight with your back bent. Make sure to keep your knees bent, your back as straight as possible, and your head up and looking forward.
head injuries in the past decade. Its research also found that two thirds of skiers involved in a collision who were wearing a helmet were uninjured. Michael Schumacher’s accident in 2013 sparked speculation that helmet
cameras might be a contributory factor in injuries, as the Formula 1 driver was wearing one. However, when the BBC investigated the safety of helmet cameras worn by its crews, it found that they didn’t make impacts worse.
Caution appears to be the watchword in injury prevention. Perhaps surprisingly, ski injuries are most common on clear days, according to researchers at the University of Utah, and they mostly happen on
snow that is hardpacked. And experience counts for a lot. Most at risk are beginners skiing on blue or green slopes. Also the better your general fitness is, the less likely you are to have an accident. Harriet Johnston
A. These exercises strengthen your back. Lying face down, lift your head, shoulders and arms. Hover for as long as you can.
4 Core strength A. A strong core helps prevent back injury, and the plank (holding a pushup position) strengthens your abdominal muscles.
5 Hips and back
Member discounts The Ski Club offers its members a host of discounts at a variety of organisations to help save money both before and on your holiday. To claim your discount visit skiclub.co.uk/discounts where you will also find full terms and conditions.
Simply Dolomiti £100 off simplydolomiti.com Simply Snowsports 6% simplysnowsports.com Ski Amis 10% skiamis.com Ski Independence 5% ski-i.com SkiNorway 5% ski-norway.co.uk
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Swiss Quality Hotels 10% Resorts in Switzerland and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany swissqualityhotels.com Verbier Rentals Verbier 10% verbierrentals.com
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Monashee Magic Silver Star, Canada 10% +61409645168 firstname.lastname@example.org Sport Hotel Camparient Valsesia, Italy 20% alpedimera.com
££ Financial Caxton Fx £10 balance on registration See skiclub.co.uk for details Granite Morgan Smith 10% to 20% off accounting fees and processing tax returns granitemorgansmith.co.uk WeSwap £10 discount
STC 5% stc.co.uk
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ski club benefits
lift passes Coda Travel 10%
Gym, fitness and leisure Actilean 25%
Ski A 15%
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shopping Absolute-Snow 10% Bamboo Clothing 20%
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for the car
Magic In Motion Courchevel 10%
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Sanef Tolling — France Free registration The AA Various discounts The Roof Box Company 10%
Connected clubs 10% off and various others Cotswold Outdoor 15% Craigdon Mountain Sports 15%
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ski luggage Luggage Mule 10% Piste of Mind 10%
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Swiss £25 off flights to Switzerland
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transfers Ben’s Bus 10% off return transfers from Grenoble airport to Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes Holiday Taxi Innsbruck Airport 5%
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snowsports instructor courses
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Basecamp £250 off ten-week courses Call 020 8788 8668 basecampgroup.com Basi 10% off Level 1 course Call 01479 861 717 basi.org.uk EA Ski and Snowboard Training 25% E3 Ski Academy 10% Call +43 6606 850 500 e3-skiacademy.com Non Stop Ski & Snowboard Various discounts Simply Snowsports £150 off 11-week courses Call 023 8097 0176 simplysnowsports.com Ski Instructor Academy KG £70 off various courses
summer holidays Exodus 10% exodus.co.uk Inghams 5% off Lakes and Mountains inghams.co.uk Mark Warner 10% markwarner.co.uk Neilson Holidays 10% neilson.com Sunsail 5% to 10% sunsail.com All discounts are based on information available at the time of going to press, and are subject to change without prior warning. All member discounts are subject to partners’ terms and conditions. See skiclub.co.uk/discounts for further information or call Member Services on 020 8410 2015
Something for the weekend? Whether you’re short on leave, or fancy an extra weekend on the slopes, our experts know how to maximise your skiing time WRITERS Ben Clatworthy, Minty Clinch, Neil English, Arnie Wilson
A last-minute break can provide the perfect late-season snow fix. But select the right resort to take the stress out of your trip. Obviously you are looking for a short transfer time. The best way to travel in Switzerland is often by train, while in other countries it is worth hiring a car. You may well find that organised transfers, even to popular resorts, are infrequent if you are not travelling on the tour operators’ transfer day.
Villars An authentic, year-round small mountain town
Photo: Villars Tourism
Why there? The 90-minute trip from Geneva airport to Villars is both short and sweet by road or rail, through vineyards and the Montreux Riviera along the shores of Lake Geneva. Villars is a traditional resort and was one of the first to attract British skiers in the 1960s. From town an eight-seater gondola whisks you to the — mostly blue and red — local
Also flights to regional airports can be tricky to find on weekdays or later in the season. Accommodation is mostly restricted to hotels for short stays. Choose one that is close to the slopes and pre-book ski passes and hire gear to avoid lengthy weekend queues. Also don’t rule out using a specialist weekend tour operator, as independently arranged trips can often take as long to plan as the weekend itself.
slopes. These can also be accessed from the other side of town (using an old rack-and-pinion mountain railway that goes to Bretaye) or by gondola from the nearby village of Gryon. The ski area stretches to Les Diablerets. Snow reliability on the mostly tree-lined slopes has improved dramatically in the past two years thanks to 8.5 million Swiss francs of snowmaking equipment. The Glacier 3000 area is included in the lift pass. This year Villars is celebrating 150 years of road access. A Derby style ski race, open to all in period dress, will take place on February 20 along with other anniversary events in 2016. Geneva airport is 90 minutes away. Can’t ski, won’t ski Myriad forested and open snowshoe walking trails exist. The quaint mountain railway commands views over the golf course pistes, terminating at Bretaye where non-skiers can walk or join skiers for lunch. There’s also an ice rink, bowling centre and a spa in the resort. NE Several distinct areas make skiing varied Old, slow chairlift both to and from Les Diablerets
Pistes Our pie 22% charts show how 15% resorts grade 30% 33% pistes according to difficulty, showing what percentage are black, red, blue or green (but Austrian, Swiss and some Italian areas don’t have green runs). SLOPES We list the combined length of all the resort’s pistes, as claimed by the tourist office. We include nearby areas that are also covered when you buy the resort’s standard lift pass. Lift pass Prices are for a six-day adult pass during high season.
What we think Snow Lifts Lack of queues Restaurants Mountain food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass Lifts Pistes Piste height
£221 45 120 km 1,300m-2,970m 4%
Photo: OT Chamonix
in France. The Point de Vue and Pylones ungroomed black pistes are long and offer true challenges. You can also ski the celebrated 24km (in good conditions) Vallée Blanche off-piste route via the Aiguille du Midi cable car with a guide. If you’re with a group of skiers of different ability levels, the various ski areas are a little far from each other — but there is a reasonably good bus service if you don’t have a car. The Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass allows for a day’s skiing in Verbier in Switzerland, Courmayeur in Italy, and, new this season, nearby Megève.
Chamonix A choice of different areas for all skiing abilities Why there? It’s a one-hour journey from Geneva by car, which you will want to reach the easy slopes at Le Tour, which are almost 13km out of town. There is plenty of intermediate terrain at Brévent, La Flégère and — albeit 7km away — Les Houches. Advanced skiers should head for the Grands Montets at Argentière, home to some of the best steep terrain
What we think Snow Lifts Lack of queues Restaurants Mountain food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste Lift pass £215 Lifts 47 Pistes 157km Piste height 1,030m-3,840m
Can’t ski, won’t ski Chamonix is a bustling town with plenty to keep non-skiers amused, including ice skating, winter walks and plenty of restaurants as well as snow-shoeing and dog-sledding. And if you have a head for heights, you can step into the void in the new glass box at the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car and marvel at the massif. AW
Good, varied skiing and stunning scenery Resorts are far apart
before continuing long into the night in town. The resort is a 40-minute transfer from Innsbruck airport.
The place for a weekend of hard skiing and hard partying Why there? If you’re after a weekend that leaves you craving a recovery detox, head to the party town of St Anton. It’s a resort that features highly on most advanced skiers’ bucket list, as it is known for its hair-raising descents, most notably the North Face of the Valluga. This is a serious descent that can only be tackled in the company of a qualified guide. There’s also terrain for those looking for more relaxed skiing in the unlinked Rendl area, although most of the blues are to be found in nearby Lech, which is included in the lift pass. A trip around ‘Der Weiße Ring’ (The White Circle) takes in Zürs, and offers a clearly signposted way to explore the area without constantly needing to check the piste map. Après-ski in St Anton starts on the slopes at the acclaimed MooserWirt,
What we think
Can’t ski, Won’t ski There is an excellent — if pricey — sports centre with both an indoor and outdoor pool, plus plenty of spa options. There’s also an outdoor ice rink, which offers curling lessons on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings (reservation is required). A day out to explore historic Innsbruck is also worth considering. BC
Snow Lifts Lack of queues Restaurants Mountain food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste
Great party resort for serious skiers Lack of local terrain for beginners
Photo: St Anton/Josef Mallaun
Lift pass Lifts Pistes Piste height
£185 94 340 km 1,305m-2,810m
Grindelwald Traditional Swiss resort an hour’s drive from Bern WHY there? Dwarfed by a sweep of great peaks — including the North Face of the Eiger — Grindelwald is a resort with spectacular views. A train takes you from the village to Kleine Scheidegg, from where you can access the resort’s main slopes, which are shared with nearby Wengen. These include the famous Lauberhorn downhill course, the longest on the World Cup circuit at 4.5km. Nearly all the runs from Kleine Scheidegg are long cruisy blues or gentle reds. In the Männlichen sector there is a good choice of reds, some of which descend back to the resort. There is a small local area, called First, on the other side of the valley, which is accessed by a three-stage gondola from the resort. There is good learning terrain here, along with more blues and a smattering
of slightly steeper reds. Bern can now be reached direct from London City with SkyWork Airlines and from there, you can catch half-hourly connections by public transport to the resort.
What we think Snow Lifts Lack of queues Restaurants Mountain food Charisma Ski schools Low budget Off-piste
Can’t ski, won’t ski Take the railway through the Eiger rock face to the eerie glacial world at the top of the Jungfraujoch. The new Cliff Walk will test your nerves on a singlerope suspension bridge, but offers breathtaking views of the glaciers and 4,000m peaks. The small museum outlines the Eiger’s history. MC Plenty of quality hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs Lacks the old world charm of Mürren and Wengen Photo: swiss-image.ch
Lift pass £214 Lifts 42 Pistes 213km Piste height 945m-2,970m
In your next issue… Cool ski apps Our gear and technology expert Alf Alderson reviews the best ski and winter sports apps for your mobile
Exposure Even more stunning shots from our team of Alps- and Rockies-based professional photographers
Playwear for on the piste Photography: Melody Sky
Combining sport and après-ski wear has never been easier thanks to new materials, says Maisha Frost Suntio veriaest re endit exceres torecusda quiatem escimoles molore aut que ratecatur am rest, cum venit, eatias quo eserspelis reratusae. Ut aut re, quam exceatiur solectatur? Iligenem simaiore doloreped minctor aligend ucipsan dellacc ullicta cus, vellecatio blame dis inveres estrum as anditat quaercid et eicabore doluptas aspeliant lam as et eaquid ut latem eos et re eossequi re officiendis doluptatur, sit ma volut volorate pedis etus incto beari nihicab orest, sum, atent et accus, nis venditatur? Obistio nseque venectur, volupta ectaescid et autemol uptatio reperum quis simint, inum, tem laboreptatur sinietur, consed evelluptati officto volut maximpe rspist, vollorion ea dem es rae preptia am ipiendigent audande dellenis dolecus raepudignia nus et laut offic tem venistia volestetur audita iustia voluptasped ut venit labore, inveliquae deste peribus eum quid exceperunt, occatet hillam, sint evelluptati dolupta quiam eatium est, omnis nos nonsequibus doloritis porerrum enitaquasse nit eum evelest etus volorenimo quibus diate et aligene min nus venis destore mporaestorro cumet vel esti as doloratur aut min nones pedicat uriberrum sim con evernature quaesto
Resort insider Our panel turn their attention to the terraces as they pick their favourite foodie resorts
Practicing yoga outside St Anton’s museum Ashley wears O’Neill Blaze fleece (£80) and a Coal The Rosa beanie (£18). Rachel wears Icebreaker Vertex Fair Isle top (£110) and a Picture Judy bobble hat (£32)
Dodgy knees? Are your knees playing up? One skier investigates contraptions from braces to suspension systems before coming up with a surprisingly simple solution
How to read the Ski+Board online issue.. The next issue of Ski+board will be published online in March and will be free to both Ski Club members and non-members at skiclub.co.uk/skiandboard. The four print issues of the magazine will return next season, with the first out in October.
By Myles Mellor
Try your hand at one of our ski-themed crosswords. Experts can attempt the cryptic crossword here, but should avoid turning the page as the same crossword appears overleaf with less daunting clues. The solution will be in online Issue 5 of Ski+board. Across 1. Al found his way back into Turkish dessert to keep warm (9) 6. Leaning tower sends me to sleep after Italian lunch (5) 8. Wears a red ski suit in Lapland (5) 9. Big snowfall ends the relationship (4) 11. Chest muscles reach a peak (4) 13. Night skiing aid with a ‘dark side’ (4) 15. Get a —, and hold it! (4) 18. Something smells funny about scree (5) 20. Courchevel swapped horse for mayor, sort of (10) 21. Mingling with new ID opens doors (5) 23. Um, how do you address the Queen initially? (2) 25. Monoskiers’ favourite number (3) 26. Hits darned things? (5) 29. Borrowed poem (3) 30. Hole in the piste is so testing (7) 32. Turner painting found in North Sea (3) 34. Round about peace greeting in Israel (6) 35. — up… boilers and ski mountaineers do it (7) 36. You do it with flights and then take it to read on them (4) 39. Tech billionaire has a go at racing (5) 42. Lactic acid is a key (4) 43. Shoulder muscle is shorter than the Latin (3) 44. It’s a plus if you can do it (3) 45. Ski resort that's more action packed grammatically (7) 46. Like a lower sixth exam (2)
17. It’s tough to know what to take on a skiing holiday, especially when there’s no new snow (8) 19. Continentals have only just started to make money (4) 21. Lonely owl finally starts looking for a mate (3) 22. Snowdonia river… with a delta (3) 24. Yoghurt is a great way to get through the white stuff (3) 27. Overhang might freeze a crop (7) 28. Québécois emblem cunningly disguised (3) 31. My brain went dead after starting figures (4) 33. Freezing rain alters aqueducts dug in ground (5) 35. Chinese reason (2) 37. Cricket is so passé (4) 38. We stare (4) 40. So little it would feed half a small frog (3) 41. Man (or woman) shelters from the wind (3)
Down 1. Low down area for après-ski (4) 2. Inner boot is made for cruising the big blue (5) 3. Climbing with them can be such a pain (7) 4. Pyrenees have an admirer (7)
So much more than just a winter holiday
5. Good weapon for pole plants (3) 6. Put on non-plussed face by Italian river (2) 7. Flies by so close (6) 10. Successor to League of Nations is not very anything (2) 12. Algebraic unknowns (3) 14. It's tricky in skiing and slows to a crawl in the pool (9)
Quality Catered Chalets in the French Alps
Luxury Fully Catered Chalets Fine Food l Personal service l Stunning Locations in Mèribel l l
15. Potter wizard has view of Eiger (11) 16. Preferable in your G&T to on the slopes (3)
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Telephone: 01702 589543 E-mail: info @skicuisine.co.uk www.skicuisine.co.uk
By Myles Mellor
Across 1 Facemask (9) 6 Italian lunchtime favourite (5) 8 Bringer of winter presents (5) 9 Slang for a large snowfall (4) 11 Summit or old ski boot brand (4) 13 Astral aid for night skiing (4) 15 Hold firmly (4) 18 Stinks (5) 20 Resort in the Aosta Valley (10) 21 Enlarge (5) 23 Stumbling expression (2) 25 Single (3) 26 Foot warmers (5) 29 Poem of praise (3) 30 Hole dug to test the snowpack (7) 32 Lubricate (3) 34 Downhill ski race (6) 35 Climbing (7) 36 Tome (4) 39 Poles put up for racing (5) 42 In need of a massage (4) 43 Muscle in shoulder (abbr.) (3) 44 Put in (3) 45 Swiss resort noted for its off-piste (7) 46 Exam taken after the first year of tertiary education (abbr.) (2) Down 1 Area at the bottom of a ski resort (4) 2 Inner boot (5)
3 Ski boot accessory for climbing (7) 4 Grandvalira ski area is here (7) 5 You use it for pole plants! (3) 6 River starting in Italy's Cottian Alps (2)
7 Jacket closer (6) 10 Successor to the League of Nations (abbr.) (2) 12 Crossings out (3) 14 Type of skiing focused on tricks (9) 15 Resort near the Eiger (11) 16 Snow condition much feared on the slopes (3) 17 Solidified snow (8) 19 Currency you need in the Pyrenees, but not everywhere in the Alps (4) 21 Try to win a sweetheart (3) 22 River that starts in Snowdonia (3) 24 Take to the slopes (3) 27 Snow overhang (7) 28 Crafty (3) 31 How toes might feel after a long day on the slopes (4) 33 Rain turning into snow (5) 35 For that reason (2) 37 Done with (4) 38 They are protected by goggles (4) 40 Small quantity (3) 41 Area of mountain protected from the wind (3)
OFF PISTE SKIING AND FREERIDE COURSES AT OUR BASES IN:
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Photo: Jonathan Griffith
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