Posts Tagged ‘ski resorts’

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Skiing in Europe – Les Portes du Soleil

January 21, 2009

You might remember that I talked about our brief skiing trip the other day up in the Portes du Soleil. It is a resort/region/area which is worth going into in more detail for all you extreme sports enthusiasts out there – whether winter or summer … or both!

But we’ll start with winter…

The region offers 650 km of marked runs and about 230 lifts in total, spread over 14 valleys and about 400 square miles. Snow dumps over the Portes du Soleil are common and snowmaking ensure that slopes are kept healthy during warmer periods.

We stayed in Chatel, France, (though in the past I have often stayed at Champéry in Switzerland) but there are 11 other resorts in this huge region which are all connected making one of the biggest ski areas in Europe – if not the world. Abondance, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine, St. Jean d’Aulps, Champéry, Morgins, Torgon and Val d’Illiez-Les Crosets-Champoussins are the other linked resorts.

This region crosses between France and Switzerland and this video from jfperron73 happens to have been filmed in the resort we stay at – Chatel.

Snowparks

The Portes du Soleil has 9 snowparks dotted all over the network. With boxes, tables, walls, a big air superpipe, raised bends, freestyle airbags and rails, there’s plenty to keep all riders smiling.

AVORIAZ has the bulk of them with 5 parks for all styles, disciplines, levels and needs. Arare snowpark is a shoe-in for advanced riders, La Chapelle is for improving riders hungry for thrills, while rookie freestylers should head for Trashers snowpark or the new Kids Parkway. Superpipe hounds can find this sculpted beauty near the top of the Prodains cable car, whilst The Stash is a genuine Jack Burton conception with multiple trails featuring wooden modules in Lindarets forest. The track winds through the woods with all-natural wooden obstacles at regular intervals. Look out for the Flat Log, Rainbow, Step Up and Wall Ride. avoriaztv posted this video and it certainly looks fun.

This year Avoriaz is opening The Little Stash, exclusively for kids !

This looks really cool too – wouldn’t mind doing it myself! Thanks to avsegaga for posting it.

At Chatel, beginner and improver riders have the Super Châtel SmoothPark; experienced riders might be tempted by the 800m long Cornebois Happy Park slopestyle in Linga-Pré La Joux. Happy Park is recommended for crazy adrenaline kicks and is open only to expert riders. It is a paradise for intermediate and advanced riders with all kinds of boxes, ramps and drop-offs.

In  Les Gets rookie, intermediate and hardcore riders hang out on the sunny slopes of Mont Chéry’s Freestyle District.

Les Crosets’ Superpark is a freestyler’s paradise for big air tricks where beginner riders can train up on the Micro Park.

And Champoussin offers Edge Park. This is best for beginner riders…

So much for the wide selection of snow parks – what else is there?

The Portes du Soleil is also a no-limits winter playground for powder-hounds. The unspoilt mountains are a fabulous challenge as long as they are treated with respect… enjoy them to the full – but with care too!

Avoriaz Snowcross gives skiers and snowboarders all the thrills and spills of freeriding on runs that are unbashed but safe. After fresh snowfall, riders in search of powder scoot over to Les Crozats, La Frontalière, Les Brocheaux and La Marmotte.

At Champéry, Cuboré is a favourite point of call for anyone in search of powder. From the top of the chair the only thing you have to do is choose your couloir… If  Chavanette is an iconic run, the bits bordering it are also a favourite for fans of fresh powder turns. Anyone in search of fresh tracks will find all the untouched powder they’re looking for on the edge of the Grand Paradis slopes.

In Les Gets, both sides of the resort have  plenty of powder for experienced skiers –  for instance the Rosta sector (Chavannes side)  or the more technical slopes of Les Planeys near the Snow Park, or Chéry Nord (Mont Chéry side). As an added bonus there’s a wonderful view of the Mont Blanc range…

The Nyon and Chamossière peaks in Morzine offer many an extreme skier a slection of wide untracked slope riding.

Les Crosets and Champoussin are pure joy for riders and there are many favourite spots: The Pointe de l’Au and its steep ‘n’ deep couloirs, La Combe de Bonnavau for beginner freeriders, the Pierre Plate couloir Tovassière way and the Aiguille des Champeys sector are just some of them.

Thanks to mokeystyley for posting this video.

What else?

If you’re first time skiers or going with young kids there’s plenty for you too.

La Chapelle d’Abondance offers the new 6-man Crêt Béni chairlift on the north face of Mont de Grange which leads to the plateau which is ideal for beginners. More experienced skiers can rejoin the resort far below at the bottom of the Cerf piste. All visitors should keep an eye out for the wild deer which roam the nature reserve on the slopes of the Abondance valley.

And Les Gets has a playful and educational discovery route for 5-12 year-olds – a playground for children  with skis on. Pure fun, with red Indians and trappers to see, and bumps, woops and raised bends to tackle.

To finish off on the skiing  on offer – though I fear I have to admit I have barely scraped the region – if you want to prolong the day, Linga, at Chatel, offers night skiing on Thursday evenings between 7.30 and 9.30 p.m. This is a different way to enjoy your favourite sport – ski to the sound of the latest pop hits! It is free for everyone.

So much for the skiing, but what else can you do in this area in winter?

Well, you can ice fish, you can ice dive (!!!), you can ice skate, you can snowshoe, you can ski jore (I think I have that right) and of course there are the high-altitude mountain activities.

Ice fishing is done on the Lac de Vonnes. All equipment is provided and anyone from the age of 6 (accompanied by parents!) can do it.

You don’t need to be an experienced diver to try ice diving – though I am sure it would help. However, whether you have dived before or not, you can take the plunge and experience some unforgettable thrills in complete safety, with underwater diving instructors who hold recognised qualifications. All equipment is provided and there is a heated changing room where you can leave your clothes! I have a feeling you might need it!!!

Ice skating is done on an artificial rink near the Lac de Vonnes in stunning countryside. If the ice conditions permit a natural rink is also open on the lake. Now that would be fun!

Snowshoeing, of course, you all know about and it is a ‘sport’ that can take you off piste and on your own trails whenever you choose. However, the resorts of the Abondance Valley and Morgins (in Switzerland) have more than 80 kms of prepared and waymarked trails for exploring the winter countryside in all its beauty. The different trails, some of which cross the border between the two countries – France and Switzerland – have been designed to please everyone from a 1-hour ramble to an energetic hike lasting 4 – 5 hrs. You can also sign-up for a half-day or full-day trip with a resort professional.

And last but not least – ski joring. This is a different way of exploring the mountains in winter. Combine skiing with horse riding. Sounds fun.

The high-altitude mountain activities offer a whole range of high mountain activities including supervised off-piste trips, heli-skiing, ski touring, ice climbing, mountaineering, etc.

There is something for ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE… and remember, this is all in one huge linked region.

This is such a huge area that it is difficult to know where to stop – and I haven’t even begun to talk about what’s on offer when the snow melts. For starters it has some of the best mountain bike trails in the world… but more on that later.

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Why limit yourself to just ski-ing? or just snowboarding for that matter?

November 25, 2008

‘Just’ skiing did I say? There’s nothing ‘just’ about skiing. It is one of the most exhilarating sports in the world I think… although my son would beg to differ – his choice would probably be snowboarding or kite surfing.

But back to my question… why limit yourself to just skiing? With mountain regions becoming accessible to anyone with snowchains, resorts are getting more and more imaginative and offering more and more things to do for all adrenaline junkies out there.

Take COLORADO for example. We all know that some of the best skiing in North America can be found there. After all, they are lucky enough to have the whole spine of the Rocky Mountains running through their state. But this fabulous area now has a lot more to offer.

You can now dogsled at Snowmass, snowshoe hike at Bear Lake, four-wheel all-terrain Jeep ice race on frozen Georgetown Lake, climb frozen waterfalls at Ouray Ice Park … to name just a few alternatives. When it comes to extreme sports and the ultimate adrenaline rush, I think Colorado has most things covered come Summer or Winter.

You can actually dogsled at many other places besides Snowmass – that was just my first example, try Breckinbridge, Copper Mountain, Frisco, Winter Park, Vail, Beaver Creek, Durango to name just a few.

Dog Sledding at Sunset

Then you can four-wheel, all-terrain Jeep ice race on frozen Georgetown Lake. When most other people park their toys in a garage in the winter, some in the Snow Belt don’t –  they screw on studs and hit the lake!  BRadOO7 put this video on to show us all what it’s about.

What’s next? Climbing frozen waterfalls… The Ouray Ice Park is a 2 mile long stretch of the Uncompagre Gorge that has been designated for public ice climbing.Thanks to bwadeocra.

But you could also go to East Vail and climb their 120 ft free standing pillar of ice – fondly nicknamed ‘The Fang’. Routes on this climb are prime examples of technical ice climbing and should only be attempted by the knowledgeable and well-trained. This enormous ice pillar forms from the cascading waterfall only in exceptionally cold winters. It can be up to 50 m high (120 ft) and has been known to have a base measuring 8 m wide.

You could also, of course, do a spot of snowshoe hiking. Snowshoeing can be the perfect escape – if you are desperate to experience some much-needed peace and quiet… or just a wild day out with friends. Try Bear Lake and Wild Basin. These two areas are particularly popular with the big shoeprint set, thanks to DrOfWax for the video. Most other areas of the park could be considered “ski mountaineering” rather than “ski touring” with steep climbs and descents, narrow routes and sharp turns. This area is also suitable for cross country ski-ing.

And then of course there are other such arbitary things as para-gliding, heli-skiing, back country skiing etc. to take in.

I started this article on the derogatory lines of “Why limit yourself to just skiing” and I will end it on a video from XTremeVideo to show that there is no such thing as “just skiing”…

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Which opening dates have been scheduled for European ski resorts?

November 5, 2008

Having had a look at America I thought I’d take a quick look at what’s happening over here in Europe. I must say, for all us poor Europeans, it’s not looking as exciting as America yet… However, for what it’s worth, here goes…

Val d’Isere

FRANCE

Tignes – November 03, OPEN with 30-60″ of snow and 6 out of 96 lifts operating.
Val d’Isere –
November 29
Serre-Chevalier –
December 13

Val’d’Isere really is a winter wonderland. Despite all the development and the huge increase in the popularity of skiing, it has managed to retain its French Alp charm. Quite apart from its picturesqueness, it has 300 kms of slopes and a snowpark – something for everyone from beginners to champions. It’s high altitude assures a long season.

Val d’Isere

SWITZERLAND

Zermatt – November 04, OPEN with 6 – 80″ snow and 7 out of 62 lifts operating.

Zermatt, at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn, is a world without cars. Electric-cars and horse-drawn sleighs and carriages are the only transport allowed. It offers all year round skiing. In the summer, skiing and snowboarding is possible on over 20 km of ski runs. In winter over 313 km of ski runs challenge skiers of all levels. On top of that, Gravity Park offers snowboarders half pipes, jumps, kickers and rails for 300 days of the year, whilst the downhill runs on the Gorner and Findel glaciers will test even the most hardened extreme sports adventurer – in fact they recommend that you do not take this challenge without a mountain guide.

AUSTRIA

Hintertux – November 04, OPEN, 13 of 21 lifts operating
Kitzsteinhorn –
November 04, OPEN, 13 of 20 operating
Molltal Glacier –
November 04, OPEN, 5 of 10
Soelden –
November 04, OPEN, 10 of 34
St. Johann –
December 06

Hintertux is 3000 metres above sea level in the Tyrolean Mountains. The Zillertaler ski regions of Penken, Rastkogel, Eggalm and the Hintertuxer Gletscher can guarantee snow and combines in winter to become the Ski & Gletscherwelt Zillertal 3000 – 4 ski regions – 1 Skipass – and unlimited ski fun from 630 metres to 3250 metres above sea level. This region covers 227 km of slopes in a surface area of 800 hectares. 59 state of the art lift and cable car systems guarantee a superlative winter holiday.

It was a fabulous start to the season in Hintertux… they had early snow in October and it is like the deepest winter there – powder on the slopes, a brilliant snowpark, there was free testing of the latest material and two big opening parties. Fun for everyone.

ITALY

Bormio – November 04, OPEN, 2 of 13 lifts
Breuil-Cervinia – November 04, OPEN, 4 of 24 lifts

The Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche Zermatt district is one of the largest in the Alps, with varied terrain on offer. It stretches through three valleys in two countries, Italy and Switzerland, from the 3,883 m of the Piccolo Cervino descending to the 1,524 m of Valtournenche. 350 km of ski runs offering the chance to ski all day without ever repeating the same run twice.

breuilsci_0

… and that’s all I can find at the moment. I can see I shall have to update this article soon!

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Don’t Suppose Surfing Skills Transfer Across to Boarding?

May 21, 2008

Surfing skills certainly help if you are thinking of starting snowboarding. As does skateboarding. It’s a question of balance and if you start with the advantage of understanding your balance it won’t take you long to conquer snowboarding.

The snow season is beginning to hot-up down there in the southern hemisphere – hot-up did I say? Perhaps i should say ‘cool down’. The Aus resorts open in 16 days, though in some places they are already churning out artificial snow so that the slopes are ready – apparently cut prices on passes are being offered in some resorts for the first few days…

Another great pre-season snowfall has covered Mt Hotham over the weekend, with around 20cm falling in the village. The cloud has cleared this morning leaving bright blue skies, and spectacular alpine views with snow down to about 1000m.

Heavenly Valley, Hotham

  1. Falls Creek High in the Australian Alps in North East Victoria.
  2. Mt Buffalo Ski Resort
    A small personal resort, ideal for learning to ski or improve your skiing ability. 320km north of
    Melbourne.
  3. Mt Hotham
    Victoria’s highest alpine resort. 350km from Melbourne.
  4. Mt. Buller
    Australia’s premier mountain resort, located 3 hours from Melbourne. Includes trail maps and ski report.
  5. Perisher Blue
    Australia’s largest ski area covering 1,250 hectares.
  6. Selwyn Snowfields
    Wide open groomed terrain near Cabramurra, Australia.
  7. Thredbo
    The highest skiing and longest runs in Australia. 5.5 to 6.5 hours from Sydney or Melbourne.
  8. Thredbo Ski Resort
    In the heart of Kosciusko National Park, 31 kilometres from Jindabyne, Australia.

New Zealand generally opens around June to October, but this varies considerably, as you can imagine, from one ski area to another. It is one of the most popular places for skiing and snowboarding in the southern hemisphere. Browsing around a forum earlier it seems that the Aussi slopes are more tame than New Zealand – although I stand to be corrected on this moot point as I have never skied in Australia or new Zealand.

The most extreme location I have ever skied in

The furthest South I have ever skied is the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. not a place one would normally associate with skiing, but it was so off the beaten track we just had to try it! It was an unforgettable experience!

The road up was terrifying – a narrow crumbled tarred strip clinging precariously to the edge of the mountain abounding in blind corners and gut wrenching drops. The amount of times we met a lorry hurtling down, clinging obstinately to the middle of the road, forcing us into the mountain – happily not over the edge – were too numerous to keep count of.

We were wrecks by the time we got to the ‘resort’. And ‘resort’ is a bit of a misnomer. There was one shack at the bottom of the slopes where you could hire the kit. The skis weren’t quite wooden planks but they were jolly close to that. The sticks had massive buckets on the end. The bindings wrapped round our legs it seemed a thousand times, and, being early April, the snow was heavy and slushy and there was only one piste open. This didn’t deter a determined group of guys at the bottom shouting “guide, guide, tu veux un guide” !!!

I digress…

New Zealand is one of the most popular places for skiing and snowboarding in the southern hemisphere. It varies considerably from one ski area to another. Snow-making machines assist nature when necessary – as they do in every ski resort in the world – when necessary.

South Island has some of the best commercial ski fields in New Zealand – Coronet Peak & The Remarkables in Queenstown, Cardrona & Treble Cone in Wanaka and Mt Hutt in Methven.

North Island has one of largest ski areas – Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Whakapapa has 30 groomed runs and 23 lifts. Around the other side of Mt Ruapehu is the Turoa ski area and is the country’s second largest ski area.

Coronet Peak Ski Field

Queenstowns Coronet Peak is the South Islands most popular ski area and with good reason. Diverse terrain, fantastic views and a cosmopolitan ambience create a superb winter experience for every level of snow sport enthusiast.

The Remarkables Ski Field

Queenstowns true alpine ski area. The emphasis is definitely on joining in and having fun, whether beginner, intermediate or looking for serious adrenaline.

Mt Hutt Ski Field

Nestled high inside the eastern rim of the Southern Alps is Mt Hutt ski area, which receives some of the deepest, lightest, driest powder in Australasia.