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Can you Ski the 10 Main Resorts of Les Trois Vallées in just one day?

clock 25th October 2013 | comment0 Comments

In March of last year Igluski's Sales Director, Adam Johnson took 3 Iglu team mates on a mission to conquer the largest linked ski area in the world, Les Trois Vallées, in France. AJ takes us through their epic day...

Can you Ski the 10 Main Resorts of Les Trois Vallées in just one day?

The answer is yes, and it’s an excellent day out that gets you to all the corners of this massive ski area. We started our ambitious mission in the most central resort of the largest ski area in the world, Méribel {1}, in the middle Les Allues Vallée. We were staying with Total Ski in the lovely Chalet Cedre Blanc in the Mussillon area above Dick’s Tea Bar. Around the dinner table in the Chalet, my team and I had planned our whole day travelling anti-clockwise on the map around the 3 Valleys the night before. However, there was a hitch from the moment we opened the curtains in the morning. It was a Powder day above 1600m! And as everyone knows, the 1st casualty on any Powder day, is the plan! On a day like this you need to be up with the sparrows and queuing for the 1st lift. My IGLU veterans crew of Scotty on K2’s with Telemark bindings, Boyd on Volkl Grizzlies, Damian on some heavy rubbish he hired, and myself on Stöckli Coral Snakes, were more excited than 6 year olds on Xmas morning.

Kick off at 8.30am at the Chaudanne

The plan called for us to head for St Martin de Belleville {2} at the bottom in the next Vallée that leads up to Val Thorens. The quickest way up was to take the Tougnete 1 Gondola and then the Express 6 seater, Tougnete 2, which would very swiftly take us from 14520m to 2434m. At the top we skated off right looking for the Seasonaire’s favourite Red run, Jerusalem. This is a long fast banking red that never gets too steep but has oodles of tempting powder stashes left and right. And here in lies our 1st error. Scotty got so excited by the depth of the Pow that he stayed on the right hand side of the piste for too long and ended up on the Blaireau Red piste taking us back to the Tougnete 2 express chair. OK, not much of a detour except that the crowds had caught up to us so we had an annoying 15 min wait. Back at the top we were away again and this time we frolicked in the pow on the left of the piste heading to Jerusalem and had a ball. Freshies all the way to St MdV. It’s a Village that most visitors to the 3V never get to and that’s a shame. It’s a sweet little Savoie village with more character than its neighbouring purpose built resorts and it hosts some lovely restaurants like Le Montagnard owned by Eric Suchet a local cheese maker, and just down the road at St Marcel is Chef Rene Meilleur’s Michelin starred La Bouitte. You can ski there off-piste or call for a lift from St Martin.

The main street of St Martin de Belleville

Already, at only 10am, we were late and behind plan. We quickly got on the St Martin #1 Gondola and then the St Martin #2 (painfully slow) quad chair. Once back up at the Tougnete peak we jumped on the long flattish blue piste Gros Tougne down to Les Menuires {3} at 1850m. Not a lot to look at in Les Menuires but it is incredibly popular with families who like the convenient village, slopes and cheapest prices in the whole ski area.

Les Menuires looks better at night ;)

We skied through the crowds in central Les Menuires to the short Doron Chairlift which gave us enough elevation to ski to the fast Bruyéres Gondola. You can stay on this from 1850m all the way up to the Col de la Chambre at 2850m. We peeled off to the right and skied down the skiers left* of the 4 Vents red piste and joined onto the Mont de la Chambre blue for a speed tuck straight through Val Thorens{4} the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m, for the 3 Valleys #1 chairlift. We had planned to have a break in VT and the drinking terraces did look inviting but time was getting away from us. It was past 12 midday already and we had a long, long way to go. The 3 Valleys # 1 chairlift is quite fun. You travel through town at around the 3rd floor level looking straight into the apartments on either side (not that we peaked through the curtains) and at the top of the chairlift you can see one of the great on-piste parties of the skier’s world. The new for last season La Folie Douce, the same crew as the original Val d’Isére Folie, passes right by within touching distance of the table top dancing girls and was ever so tempting. But we were on a mission, so we jumped straight onto the Bouquetin Gondola for a fast ride back to the Col de la Chambre.

*For the uninitiated, skiers left or right is always the view looking down from the top. Not the tourists view from the bottom which is the opposite.

The 3 Valleys #1 lift and VT Folie Douce

Now we were heading back into the middle Les Allues Vallée and the next stop was Mottaret {5} at 1600m, the slightly cheaper, slightly uglier and quieter, but far more convenient resort for ski in/out than it’s close neighbour Méribel. Our plan had been to hit the Famous (Seasonaire’s secret) Mottaret Montagne Burgers. I was sure I was smelling a Montagne burger as we came shooting down the skiers right of the Venturon red piste under the Cote Brune chairlift. FYI: As we splashed around in the piste side pow, we noticed a few guys hiking up the slope to our skier’s right. We took note of this and did the same hike, scrambling over the little terrain park entrance 6 times the next day. An awesome little painless hike for the deep untracked. By this time of the day we were famished but to our great despair the Montagne Burger café had a queue of scruffy, woolly hatted chalet staff about 20m long.

Damn I wanted that burger!

I sought consolation in Boyd’s hip flask of mighty fine skiing single malt and headed for the Pas du Lac Gondola to the famous Saulire peak at 2738m and entry to the 3rd Vallée called St Bon. We still had 5 more resorts to visit in the Courchevel area. At least we knew Courchevel has a plethora of awesome mountain eateries. We were just slightly wary of the usual wallet melting bills that go with it. From the top of the Saulire we had to forgo the usual skiers left dip into the thrill and spills that are the Courchevel Couloirs. On a day like this they would've been awesome. Instead we decided to go as far out to the boundaries of the area as possible so the rest of the trip would be coming back towards home. So we zoomed down the Marmottes red run and jumped on the Chanrossa chairlift. It was about now that I had an inspiration, perhaps brought on the Boyd’s medicinal administrations. I remembered the Ski Instructor’s favourite restaurant in Courchevel, The Bel Air. Still not cheap, but within our budgets and a cracking south facing terrace. The food is great and the service somewhat mindboggling. How do those waiters move so much food and drink through the crowds at such speed and accuracy?

Luckily for us the service at the Bel Air is famously fast and we appreciated getting in and out in under 45 mins. Now it was 2 pm and we still had 5 resorts to go. 1st on the list was 1650, now known as Courchevel Moriond {6}. We had a nice little romp down through fluffy white stuff under the Ariondaz Gondola all the way to town. We couldn’t stay so we were straight onto the Ariondaz and zipped up to high enough to get over to the Aiguille du Fruit chairlift. We could’ve jumped on the Gravelles and skied across the Altiport, but why would we waste an opportunity to bomb the Suisses Black run on a powder day. The lads larked about and jumped off anything they could find and this got me worried for time. I cracked the proverbial whip and chased the crazy fools all the way down past the Altiport, down the Bellecote, and through Courchevel 1850 {7} only stopping for a photo.

Next stop was after a thrilling but icy Brigues Red piste down to Courchevel La Praz at 1300m {8} the lowest point of our circuit. La Praz is another little gem of a resort. The Ski Jump from the Albertville Olympics stands proudly over the entrance to the village. This village is more like a Savoie town than a ski resort and although it’s pretty quiet it has some really nice Restaurants like the Michelin starred Le Bistrot du Praz. But no time to waste here. Another photo and away we go on the Praz Gondola. We really should've gone to 1550, Courchevel Village 1st but we missed the turn off. Now we were running it damned close for getting all resorts done.

Courchevel Village at 1550m {9} is the workers village of the St Bon Valley. Lots of staff from the Hotels, chalets and ski schools live down here. This makes the town a lot of fun and very functional. The bars and restaurants cheaper and well suited to looking after the young people that really make the Valley work. There is a selection of well-priced accommodation down here for the British market and it’s ideal for being able to have a drink in Courchevel 1850 before either sledging or skiing straight down the Tovets blue piste to get home in the dark. You’ll see lots of workers doing exactly that all night long. By now it approaching 3.30pm and we still had to do 4 long lifts to get back to the Col de la Loze peak that would enable us to ski all the way back to Méribel. We jumped on the Grangettes Gondola and nervously watched the minutes tick by. At the top we ran onto the Chenus lift as the clocked seemingly flew past 4pm and then 4.15pm.

The Grangettes Gondola up to Courchevel 1850 from 1550

At the top of the Chenus Gondola we jumped in our skis in record time and just tucked it for La Tania {10}. We weren't popular as we raced past (or through) groups and families having a lazy last run on the red pistes Bouc Blanc and then Moretta Blanche, but we were on a mission that could go very wrong, very soon. If you miss the last lift back to your own Valley the Taxi drivers rub their hands together with glee and start assessing you for how cash all of you can get out of the nearest cash machine in one go before setting the fare. There’s not a lot you can do as the public transport doesn't go from Valley to Valley and 4 wild eyed and desperate men with big skis hitching is almost impossible. After scaring a few dozen La Tania guests and ourselves at around 100kph we hit La Tania just after 4.30 and we still had 2 long lifts. Would the Dou des Lanches Chairlift still be open when we got to the top of the La Tania Gondola? They were closing the Gondola as we arrived but the Lifty knew from our sweaty and desperate faces that there was no way weren't getting on that Gondola. We were the last on.

We hoped that they would always take the last skiers on the Gondola onto the Dou des Lanches chair to make sure Méribel guests got home but we weren’t sure of it. As we approached to the top we prepared to argue for all our worth to get on that chair but there was no need. I think the Lifty was expecting us and he hurried us on and off we shot for the Col de la Loze and enough elevation to get us all the way back home. We broke out the celebratory hip flasks and toasted our achievement. Now that the pressure was off it was time to decide which of the 2 main sunny south-facing on-piste après ski bars of Méribel to go for, the new upstart, La Folie Douce or the long standing favourite, The Rond Point. I’ll spare the blushes and not mention the ages of my IGLU crew but when we pulled up to La Folie Douce and looked across the vast sea of table dancing and champagne fueled smiling faces, and noticed that very few of them were born before 1990 we realised that this might not be the scene for us. Off we went to the Ronny for a few Jugs of Mutzig and to relive a most excellent Trois Vallées adventure.

Top tips for making the circuit

1.Take a packed lunch
2. Don’t do it on a powder day
3. Don’t take someone trying on Telemark bindings for the day (thanks Scotty) or any boarders, bladers or monoskiers
4. Try and get as much done before lunch as possible. Afternoons seem to slip away
5. Do your talking in the Gondolas or on Chairlifts. Leave the piste-side chats to the instructors and awed bystanders

Apologies to the resorts that some would consider to be part of the 3 Valleys like Brides Les Bains and Orelle which have gondola access to the ski area but aren't possible to ski to in late March.



‘Britain’s Fastest Snowboarder’ Jamie Barrow sets the World Indoor Snowboard Speed Record

clock 9th July 2013 | comment0 Comments

UK Snowboarder Jamie Barrow set the world indoor snowboard speed record at the weekend after reaching 69.4km/h at SnowWorld in Landgraaf.

Back in April Jamie broke the British Snowboard Speed Record Record down the Mont Fort Speed Track in Verbier after clocking a huge 151.60km/h.

Jamie chose to attempt this record at SnowWorld as it is the world’s biggest indoor snowdome with a massive 520 meter long slope.

Jamie was overjoyed to have broke another record and afterwards said, “I’m really happy with the result and the opportunity to both train and set another record. This has given me even more confidence to push my limits and hopefully set more speed records in the future.”

He added, “I hope this record will encourage others to attempt to beat it and go even faster. Without competition the sport wouldn't be where it is at the moment.”



Top 5 Family Friendly Resorts

clock 28th June 2013 | comment2 Comments

This week’s Top 5 is all about families!

A ski holiday is a great opportunity for the family to spend some quality time together. With family-friendly accommodation, ski schools and a range of family fun, there is no better way to spend time away with your family.

We spoke to 11 year old Zara and here is what she had to say:

"I love skiing, I have been skiing for seven years now and visitied lots of ski resorts. My favourite ski holiday was Meribel, I love the snowpark and the beds in the Hotel Tarentaise are super comfy. Tignes is a really friendly resort, Evolution have great English speaking instructors and after a day on the slopes I love skiing back down to resort and hearing the music blasting from Loop Bar. I go to the swimming pool most evenings and love the husky rides. In La Plagne it is so easy to go bum boarding after skiing as the hotel is on the piste. There are lots of children in La Plagne so ski school and kid’s club was really fun."

Here are our Top 5 Family Friendly Resorts:

1. Meribel

With a huge range of beginner and intermediate pistes, it is the perfect resort for a family holiday. Children benefit from plenty of beginner friendly ski areas, and will love the mini boardercross and animal themed Moon Wild.

2. Tignes

Skiing in Tignes in so vast, it is great for all abilities. There are several free lifts for beginners and has excellent ski and snowboards schools. Children will love the après ski in Tignes, with ice skating, bowling, swimming pool and Husky rides.

3. Saas Fee

Saas Fee has one of the largest beginner areas separate from the main slopes, yet is still next to town and right behind the Chalet Hotel Annahof. Families will love the Ice Pavilion and the 3500m high revolving mountain restaurant.

4. La Plagne

This skiers Paradise is an ideal choice for families of all abilities. There is an excellent selection of family friendly accommodation throughout the resort and has a great reputation for it’s encouraging ski schools.

5. Lapland

Children will love skiing at the Home of Santa Claus. Families can enjoy the thrill of Reindeer sleigh rides, husky sledding and snowmobiling. Ski resorts are much smaller in Finland but there is so much more to experience in this magical winter wonderland.

What are your favourite family ski resorts? Let us know @Igluski!



Was the 2012 - 2013 ski season the best ever?

clock 2nd May 2013 | comment0 Comments

We have had a look at the Snow Data for some of the most popular resorts in the Alps, to see if this really has been the best season ever.

Updated 03/05/13: Added American and Canadian data.

The answer?

The 2012/13 ski season has been an astonishingly epic one for snow. The season started early with, massive dumps arriving as early as the 3rd of December. Large quantities of snow in the first fortnight of December laid the crucial foundations for what has been an excellent winter.

According to Alyn Morgan of the Ski Club of Great Britain, "It’s been a fantastic season for snow across Europe. The very heavy early snowfall built good base depths and set the season up nicely compared to last year’s late start".

"Whilst the large resorts in the Alps all had good seasons, it was the less popular areas in Spain and Bulgaria that saw the greatest improvement on recent seasons. The Dolomites also had a fantastic season with lots of snow falling throughout."





Meribel, our most popular resort for British skiers, had a great winter. Based on the snow depth at upper levels this week, 2012-2013 was the most succesful season there since 1995. At higher levels in the resort, which has skiing up to 2950m, there is still a base layer of 210cm of snow and it’s now May! Last season was slightly better, with 225cm in late April, although this difference can be attributed to the recent warm weather.

Verbier, another very popular resort for British powder-hounds and royals, currently has a snow-base of 290cm on the upper levels. Although this is marginally less than the end of season last year, when Verbs had 300cm, it compares favorably with the end of the 2011 season, when the resort had a base of only 125cm. Thus this season has been fantastic, although marginally less snow was left by late season than in 2012.

Other resorts don’t conform to this pattern. Elsewhere in Switzerland, the super high resort of Zermatt has more snow now than it did last year, 220cm in April 2013 rather than 175cm in April 2012. Zermatt’s recent record was back in 2009 when by late April, the base layer up high was an astounding 400cm deep.

Another resort with its own snowy micro-climate is Chamonix. Proximity to Mt Blanc gives Chamonix massive snowfall at the top. In April 2008, the snow level above Argentiere was an astonishing 600cm, considerably more than any of the resorts up the Tarentaise valley, so this seasons current level of 270cm, although good, is not unusual.

Whistler has had a great season, as demonstrated by the fact Blackcomb mountain is open for skiing until May 26th. Yes you did read that correctly, there is skiing in Blackcomb until May 26th. Canada had excellent snow throughout the season, with the picture below taken in Kicking Horse in December 2012, when a metre of snow fell on the Iglu boys in five days before Christmas. Kicking Horse has had an eye-watering 7 metres over the 2012 to 2013 season, which puts the snow falls in Alpine resorts in humble comparison.





Whistler collects the abundant precipitation from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the snow dumps in absurd quantities on the resort. This season so far Whistler has collected 10 metres of snow. That's enough to bury your house. Compared to last year, Whistler has had less snow, but is still currently above average in terms of snow depth.

Elsewhere in North America, according to our rough meteorological calculations, Aspen, Colorado had a below average snow fall this year, with 155cm at upper levels, compared to 350cm in 2008. In Jackson Hole, our favorite resort in North America for advanced skiers, there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that the 2012 - 2013 season was not as good as the previews two years. The good news is this still gives you a respectable 213cm of end of season snow base to play with!

Back in the old world, Val d'Isere has just has its most successful season for snow depth at height since 1995. Early season this year, Val d’Isere had so much snow on the 18th of December that the link to Tignes was closed and the avalanche risk was raised to 5/5, meaning an avalanche could fall at any time and all skiers had to come off the mountain. Storms like this gave the 2012 - 2013 a strong snow-base. The Espace Killy of Tignes and Val d'Isere tends to accumulate vast quantities of snow because of its geography and height, but this season has been remarkably good for the resort area. Crucially the season saw consistent falls of powder from December to April.

According to ski instructor and Ski Club of Great Britain technique expert Mark Jones, who’s based out in Val d'Isere: "It’s the best season for fresh snow in 25 years.".

So the best season ever? Let's say the best season since the '80s! The key improvement with this season was not just lots of snow, but lots of snow regularly. There simply wasn't a single bad week to ski this season, even right to into the spring. Now here's to looking forward to next year.





By Bernard Goyder © Igluski.com


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