2 of the biggest ski destinations in Europe fight it out this weekend in the group stage of the UEFA EURO 2016. On Sunday 19th June, the France and Switzerland football teams go head to head at the Grand Stade Lille Métropole. Both contries are big favourites for many skiers and snowboarders, but which one will be crowned King of the Alps? We compare the slopes, après and cuisine to find out…
SwitzerlandMost resorts in Switzerland are set at a high altitude, bringing guaranteed snow as well as glacier skiing and good conditions throughout the season. Many of the ski areas provide long runs and challenging pistes, making it particularly good for skiers at a more intermediate to advanced level. There are, however, still opportunities for beginners. The resort of Wengen has a ski school as well as a blue piste and a ‘slow speed zone’ for those just starting out. From stunning scenery to plenty of pistes, backcountry runs and snowparks, Switzerland certainly has a lot of variety. The Graubunden ski area is Switzerland’s largest alpine area, offering a whopping 225km of skiable piste. Head to Verbier and you’ll find your ski area expanded to across the 4 valleys, which includes the neighbouring resorts of Nendaz and Les Collons. If you visit Zermatt you’ll soon spot the famous Matterhorn peak (pictured above), which is often featured in many photos of the resort. There are some great advanced runs here as well as the opportunity to do some heliskiing for those who are looking for a new challenge. It is also the highest altitude resort in the country sitting at a top height of 3900m.
For the adventurous ones out there, Flims Laax is home to 4 snowparks (including Europe’s largest half pipe) and a glacier for spring and summer skiing.
France Much like Switzerland, France also offers plenty of variation, from high altitude resorts to snowparks and glaciers. Snow reliability is high and the majority of resorts offer good snow conditions throughout the season. Les Deux Alps is the highest resort, standing at a top altitude of 3600m. The resort experiences long sunshine hours and boasts 220km of piste, a board park and a halfpipe. There are plenty of linked ski areas such as the massive 3 Valleys with its 600km of runs. Portes du Soleil is one of the largest skiable areas in the world, with lots of ski-in ski-out accommodation which is ideal for families and kids. For your freestyle fix, the Paradiski area has four snowparks and two half-pipes. France caters equally well for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Alpe d’Huez has lots of blue runs, beginners only areas and no abundance of ski schools. If you like backcountry skiing, Tignes has some fantastic off piste opportunities, as does Val d’Isere. There are also numerous glacier resorts in France, including Tignes, some of which offer skiing all year round. Winner: France
La Plagne, part of the Paradiski area in France
Switzerland The après scene in Switzerland is a little on the small side, with not a great deal of après venues on offer. However, each of the bars makes up for it, with resorts such as Verbier known to have some fun and lively nightclubs. As well as nightclubs, expect to find discos, jazz bars and quiet pubs – something to cater for every taste.
France France is home to some well-known après venues, like Rond Point in Meribel and the legendary La Folie Douce, which has bars in Val d’Isere, Meribel, Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez. Ibiza Rocks the Snow Festival is also held yearly in France, bringing some great partying and music to the mountains. All in all, expect some wild après, live bands every night and quieter venues where you can relax with a drink. Winner: France
Folie Douce in Val d'Isere
Switzerland Switzerland is the home of the delicious Fondue as well as a whole other collection of comforting mountain foods. Enjoy Käseschnitte (cheese on toast), Raclette (melted cheese scraped overmeat, bread and vegetables) or fried potato Rösti’s. To satisfy your sweet tooth, Switzerland is a great place to find Swiss Chocolate and no end of delicious cakes and pastries.
France Most dishes found in the French mountains are cheese, potato or bread heavy. Traditional French dishes include Tartiflette (baked cheese, potatoes and meat), Beaufort Tart (a cheese and pastry tart), sweet crepes and pastries. Winner: Switzerland
Swiss cheese fondue
Winner: France This one was a very close call – both countries have some excellent skiing, après and food and are both firm favourites for many snowsports enthusiasts. The winning streak came from France due to its ability to cater equally to beginner, intermediate and advanced abilities. It also knows how to throw a mean après party to end the day!
Our friends over at Ongosa have put together this handy guide to assist preparing for skiing and snowboarding off piste. It is super important to stay safe doing this sport we love so following some basic rules and hiring a guide will help you enjoy your day on the mountain to the max!
4 preparation essentials before you ski off piste: Powder days seem a faraway dream for the moment, but while you spend your summer getting ski-fit (that’s what we’re all doing right?!), here’s a list of four essential things you’ll need to have prepped, before you even leave the chalet.
Any skier on the mountain is at mercy of Mother Nature. On the piste, however, risks are assessed and managed; off piste the decisions are yours. To be able to plan a trip to the backcountry, monitoring the weather and snow conditions is one of your best tools. Make note of recent activity: avalanches, cracking, whoomping (that strange rumbly noise snow makes when it’s scrunched or moving), sudden rises in temperature or strong winds. All these things should make you question your trip, or at least look at how you can manage the risks they will present.
Speak to a local, or hire a guide who will have detailed knowledge of what the conditions have been like all over the mountain. They’ll be able to tell you if your ideas are safe or silly. In addition to what’s been going on recently, look up a detailed forecast. Again, any predictions of high wind, heavy snow or rising temperatures should flash a red light, however if it’s a forecast for bluebird powder days, it could be your signal to rally the troops!
There are optional items to take skiing off piste: fancy technical jacket, weird-tasting energy sachets, Go Pro paraphernalia, the list goes on! And then there are the essentials: beeper, shovel and probe. Skis or snowboard too yes, but let’s not split hairs… You don’t have to immediately invest in a beeper (transceiver), shovel and probe if you’re new to skiing off piste.
If you head out with a guide or off-piste instructor and they’ll often have kit to lend you, or point you in the direction of a hire shop. Furthermore, you should be taking a map, compass and first aid kit. First aid kit for yourselves, and for your skis that is; imagine being stuck up at 3000m with the breaks jammed on your skis and no way of fixing them… no thanks! This may sound like stating the obvious, but check and double check that all your kit is functioning and fully charged. It will not only be dangerous if you’re stuck with faulty kit, but you will have carried that dead weight for nothing.
The conditions are looking good and all your kit is tip top. Now the human factor plays its part. An ideal group size is between two and four people, of the same fitness and skill level. This is so important because it means your goals and attitude are likely to be the same too.
It’s vital that everyone has the same level of risk perception, ie. no one person is going to push others outside of their comfort zone. It will become clear if you’re all on the same page when you plan how to tackle certain ascents and descents. If you know the area, and conditions, this shouldn’t be a problem. If not, hire a local guide who will help to put together your itinerary, and show you the most amazing routes you’d never have found. Either way you’ll be preventing the need for snap decisions on the hill (some of course, are unavoidable).
The last thing that you must have agreed before you head out and up, is what to do in an emergency avalanche situation. Besides having the local snow patrol’s number and being equipped with all the (fully functioning) kit, you need to be extremely well practiced and comfortable using it. Even if one person in the group’s knowledge is slightly lacking, it puts the whole group in a higher position of danger.
This goes for using your shovel and probe as much as the transceiver. Effective probing and shovelling techniques can make or break a rescue. Using a transceivers and shovelling are both more efficient activities when you work in a team, so make sure you have your plan decided before you reach the snow. Plenty of resorts have transceiver training parks with beepers buried for you to find. Or, on a bad-weather day, why not hire an off-piste instructor and spend a couple of hours getting some tips, and hunting out their beeper, to refresh your skills.
Find out more about Ongosa
Ongosa is a helpful tool to assist you with finding the best instructor or mountain guide. It allows you to search through some of the best ski and snowboard professionals in Europe. All of the instructors and mountain guides have been handpicked for their experience and qualifications in order to provide the best service. All you have to do is tell Ongosa your holiday dates and requirements then they find the best matches for you that are available to book.
Will this ski season be known as the winter that kept on giving? The start of winter didn’t get off to the best start but February, March and April have seen fantastic snowfall with many ski resorts in the Alps still open during the last week of April. El Nino has smashed records in North America with reports of increased visitor numbers thanks to the magnificent snowfall throughout winter, creating one of the best seasons in recent years. Jackson Hole in USA ended the season totaling over 10 metres of snowfall for its 50th anniversary year!
Back over in the Alps some of our leading resorts received over 8 metres of snow during the season, including St Anton, Tignes and Flaine. British skiers and snowboarders basked in the excellent ski conditions throughout most of winter.
Powder day in April in Les Arcs
Here at Iglu Ski we work with over 50 ski holiday tour operators in order to provide the largest amount of ski deals in the UK market to ensure we can find the best holiday for our customers. We currently have ski holidays available in over 200 resorts across 16 countries with thousands of ski chalets, hotels and apartment options. With this broad selection of holidays available we have an excellent insight into UK skiers and snowboarders favourite ski destinations. Here are your best-selling ski resorts for winter 2015/16: 10. Courchevel The swankiest ski resort in the prestigious 3 Valleys comes in 10th place again this winter as it attracts thousands of skiers and snowboarders every year to discover the world famous slopes. Despite its elite status, there are plenty of fantastic value chalets here including Chalet Cascades and Chalet Hotel Coq de Bruyere. View ski holidays in Courchevel
9. Les Deux Alpes Les Deux Alpes is consistently popular each season as it is one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps and is the perfect destination if you can only travel at the start or end of the season. Delight in the long hours of sunshine and party the night away in the legendary après bars. View ski holidays in Les Deux Alpes 8. Alpe d’Huez This bustling resort attracts extreme sports enthusiast all year round, but truly comes alive in the winter with it’s breathtaking alpine views from Pic Blanc glacier, it’s insane après scene and 250km of fantastic pistes including the longest black ski run in Europe! View ski holidays in Alpe d’Huez
7. Val Thorens If you are after top snow conditions then look no further than the highest ski resort in Europe. With skiing up to 3200m above sea level and access to the 600km of pistes in the 3 Valleys you are guaranteed a fun packed week in this ski wonderland. View ski holidays in Val Thorens 6. Meribel Discover one of the prettiest ski resorts in France and spend a week surrounded by charming chalets and beautiful tree lines runs in the largest linked ski area in the world. Meribel is popular due to the large variety of ski chalets and chalet hotels available. View ski holidays in Meribel
5. La Plagne This ski paradise has managed to push its way up 3 spots since last season as a result of the huge amount of ski accommodation on offer (Iglu Ski currently has 60 properties available) and the dependable snowfall (La Plagne received 839cm of snow in winter 2015/16). Head to La Plagne next winter to explore the extensive 425km of ski runs that make up the Paradiski area. View ski holidays in La Plagne 4. Les Arcs Les Arcs has secured its spot within the top 5 as it is a fantastic ‘all round ski resort.’ With spectacular views, towering peaks and connections to the equally-as-impressive La Plagne, you are always surrounded my pristine mountains vistas during your stay. Together with the fantastic ski area, choice of villages and bustling bars you are guaranteed an exhilarating week on the slopes in Les Arcs. Have you read about the new Mille 8 area?
View ski holidays in Les Arcs
3. St Anton British skiers and snowboarders love après. FACT. This is why year after year St Anton makes it into the top 3. If you want the best après, you head to St Anton! Once you’ve experienced Mooserwirt and KK’s there’s no going back to anything else. Winter 2016/17 will see a brand new cable car link in the Arlberg ski area connecting Stuben to Zurs making passage between the ski resorts much easier and faster. This will make ski holidays to St Anton much more desirable and the newly connected 305km of pistes may help push St Anton up the leader board next winter. View ski holidays in St Anton
2. Val d’Isere The Escape Killy duo take the top spots as the world famous ski area attracts thousands of British skiers and snowboarders once again. The charming Val d’Isere village has over 80 ski property options including Chalet Hotel Champs Avalins, Chalet Hotel Savoie and Chalet Lo Soli. View ski holidays in Val d’Isere 1. Tignes Tignes reins at the top for the second year in a row as the most booked ski resort at Iglu Ski for winter 2015/16. With high altitude skiing available nearly all year round, it is one of the most snow dependable resorts in Europe. Totaling 876cm of snowfall this season there has been excellent skiing available most of the winter and the greatest selection of ski chalets, hotels and apartments for all group sizes. View ski holidays in Tignes
Top North America
Thinking about next ski season? View 2017 ski deals
Are you still dreaming of tartefliette or fantasising about waking up in the mountains one last time? Weekend ski breaks or short ski trips are the perfect way to squeeze in a second ski holiday before the end of the ski season.
If one week a year just isn’t enough to overcome your ski itch, or you don’t have the time to take a full week off, then a short ski holiday may be ideal for you.
We have a selection of 3 and 4 night getaways that run over the weekend or during the week in France, Austria and Switzerland. Weekend ski holidays are available in a large selection of hotels and chalets in top resorts across the Alps including Meribel, Morzine, Chamonix, La Plagne and Brides Les Bains. There are even coach travel options from the UK if you are looking for a super budget getaway.
By taking an extra two days off over the weekend, you can get up to 4 days* skiing or snowboarding, plus the opportunity to enjoy a vin chaud on top of the mountain just one more time (*if you are able to get a Thursday evening inbound flight and a Monday evening outbound flight).
Morzine in France
1. It’s a great value ski holiday if you are on a budget2. Trying out a new resort and exploring a new ski area3. Maximising your time off over the weekend4. Opportunity to go on a ski holiday more than once a year without using up all your holiday time5. Enjoying and fun, healthy sport
Le Petit Dru Hotel in Morzine, France
4 Nts - 24 Mar 2016 from £759 pp
Hotel Beaulieu in La Clusaz, France
4 Nts - 31 Mar 2016 from £499 pp
Chalet Cleopatra in Les Menuires, France
4 Nts - 14 Apr 2016 from £474 pp
View the Top 10 Ski Resorts for a Weekend Ski Break
You do not currently have any holidays in your shortlist.
You currently have in your shortlist.