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This week a French court in the Alpine town of Albertville ruled that ski hosting offered by British tour operators is illegal and has therefore been banned. Following the news several tour operators we work with have come out and stated they are no longer offering the service.
The court ruled that under French law you have to be a qualified ski or snowboard instructor to lead groups on the mountain and under the scrutiny of safety, the staff offering ski hosting were not qualified to do so. Therefore, under French law the ski hosting that has been offered is both illegal and dangerous.
What Is Ski Hosting?
Ski hosting is where either your resort rep or chalet host take you out for a day on the mountain. The tradition behind hosting has always been to get like-minded, intermediate skiers together, show them the best blue and red runs and to point out interesting runs, sights and good lunches. The good old British etiquette has then been for the group, as a whole, to buy lunch for the host/hosts.
Having offered the hosting as a chalet host myself and also having been on a morning's hosted skiing with a reputable tour operator, it's easy to see what people love about ski hosting, or social skiing as Crystal call it.
Why Do We Love It?
Ski hosting offers three main positives. The first is being shown around the resort and being given a local's opinion on good areas to ski and great places for lunch — more often than not with good food, service and prices.
The second aspect is the chance to meet other skiers of a similar level. Imagine you are away and your other half is in ski school all week, it means on a couple of mornings there are like-minded people to ski with, which is both sociable and fun. Thirdly, it's a good way to get to know your rep or chalet host a little better, and as they are looking after you all week, it has the potential to make for a more fun holiday all round.
The big thing here is the social aspect of skiing — people to ski with, to chat to and to lunch with, regaling the morning's fun with each day. Having hosted guests, it's great fun and you can't beat a week in a chalet when you have a good rapport with your guests or hosts.
What Went Wrong?
There is much debate about why ski hosting has been banned, but with the courts citing safety, let's stick to that.
One problem with hosting is people who turn up, get on the lifts and then are unable to ski the slopes they are being taken down, due to over exaggerating their ability — and believe me it happens. The other is sometimes down to a few bad eggs in resort. The resort rep may know of some irresistible powder, and decide it's safe to take the guests there, even though they are not qualified or insured to do so.
As is often the case, the minority can sometimes ruin it for the many.
Who Loses Out?
So, who loses out? Well, to be honest, everyone. Holidaymakers miss out on the fun of skiing with new people, finding out the best spots to ski & have lunch and the social aspect of skiing within a group. The hosts miss out, whether a chalet host or resort rep, as building up a rapport with guests is both fun and vital to ensuring everyone is having a good time. And finally, many local businesses miss out — restaurants off the beaten track or that may look unappealing, but offer great food, will lose this stream of customers.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I'd like to see a sensible solution to this being put in place. Tour operators don't have the finances to pay ski instructors to offer the hosting and the same guests are never going to book a day's guiding with a ski school. So where do we go from here?
I'd like the ESF, as the national ski school, to work with the operators in resort and to run a two day course with all the reps working in each resort — but based in the resort they will host, as opposed a generic course hub. The course would ensure the ski hosts were safe enough skiers and understood how to safely guide a group of people around the resort's intermediate runs. I would then like the tour operators and the ESF to police this together. Anyone who is deemed to be skiing dangerously, off piste or attempting to teach guests would lose their lift pass along with their job.
This way the ESF will know who the individual ski hosts are in each resort and can be confident they are skiing within pre-arranged guidelines and sensibly. Holidaymakers could continue to enjoy the ski hosting and everything that goes with it, in the knowledge that those hosting them have been approved by the local ski school. Whether this ever happens is another story.
I enjoy going on a morning of ski hosting and used to enjoy hosting my chalet guests on the mountain. Though it won't put me off skiing in France completely, it will mean that Switzerland and Austria are going to be more prominent in my searches from now on.
By Stephen Adam
April may be the end of the season to most, but for Iglu it's a chance for most of the team to enjoy some hard earned slope time, even if it was the third or fourth trip of the season for some of them! AJ, our fearless Head of Sales, takes you through what the guys got up to last week in the snow.
I love April Skiing!
Spring snow madness hit the mountains yet again this season. Reports of the death of the season of 2011/12 after the warmth of March were greatly exaggerated. As usual there is more snow falling in April than March and we love it. This would be the fifth year straight that my ski week in April has been better than my week in March.
Chamonix on arrival.
Iglu had big end of season parties in three resorts for Easter last week.
My team were in Chamonix, the legendary home of Alpinism. There’s no better way to start a holiday then to have snow hitting your ChamExpress transfer vehicle on the way from the airport. We knew that meant powder from the very first day of skiing and despite the mind numbing tiredness that comes with a 4am start, we were grinning.
Monday was sunny, powdery and perfect as we hit the top of Grand Montets, in Argentière, for thigh-burning long powder runs. Tuesday was good but it was getting leg wearyingly slushy down lower. Good thing then that it puked down on Tuesday night, with around 25cm of fresh falling. It also got a little colder and the snow held for the next two days when we explored the Brévent/Flégère areas.
Top of the Grand Montets.
There was one final treat left though — Thursday night brought another big fluffy dump and Friday was the best day of the week. The sun peaked out and there was 25cm of powder all the way to the valley floor so we got to hit the trees of the Grand Montets. We did some GoPro filming and I hadn’t realised just how big my smile is when I’m bouncing in powder. My scurrilous ski buddies called it my pow-pout but I’ll take that kind of ribbing if I’m doing deep and steep powder tree runs, on Friday the 13th April 2012!
Iglu had another crew in St Anton for the week. Here’s a quote from JT on 12th April: Having an amazing time here, it's dumping down with snow at the moment, so tomorrow is gonna be insanely epic. Can we move Iglu to St Anton please? Ha ha.
Chamonix after some fresh snow.
And the response from Christian and the crazy crew in Les Deux Alpes was pretty similar: Same in Deux Alpes... had a solid thirty or more up high, fifty in the wind blown. Great end season conditions... love from Les Airelles!
The snow is still falling and we have reports coming in from Chamonix today that the higher areas are still pow-ticularly good.
See you on the slopes in April next year. AJ.
With more chalet hotels to choose from in the Alps then ever before, a few properties have re-branded in an attempt to stand out from the crowds. Here are a couple of my favourites, offering a similar name, but a very different experience. So, let's check out the lodges.
The Ski Lodges
The Ski Lodges to me are a great idea, the only problem being that when I hear the name Ski Lodge I think of a lively, British-run pub in the Three Valleys' resort of La Tania. These Ski Lodges however, offer a very different, and more relaxed experience.
The three ski lodges on offer are one new property, where the name has been taken from — The Lodge in Val d'Isere, and two very popular, former chalets hotels, the Aigle in Tignes and the Stoanerhof in Mayrhofen. The experience in many ways will resemble that of a chalet hotel — along the lines of chalet-style food and friendly service, but on a larger scale — with some subtle and major differences.
The Ski Lodge concept is to offer a more elegant, almost exclusive experience, but in a large chalet environment. The three Ski Lodges will all feature a dedicated Snow Concierge, to help with all things snow and a wellness area with hot tub, sauna or swimming pool (in the Aigle). The properties will also boast free Wi-Fi, heated boot racks, occasional English papers and a selection of ski magazines and DVDs in the lounge or bar area.
To me, this makes the whole chalet hotel thing more appealing. I love chalet food and hotel-style facilities, but I usually prefer accommodation for sole occupancy when skiing. With these properties you get the feeling that you can escape to your room or the wellness area, as you would in a hotel, for peace and quiet, but could also mingle with friends or new found acquaintances in the bar or lounge. The free Wi-Fi is a nice touch as are the English papers and magazines.
Another thing I like about these properties is the food, as I mentioned I love chalet food and as with a few properties of this ilk, you can enjoy a later breakfast until 10am and a choice menu each evening. The choice menu in this style of property is increasingly popular, with the menu usually put out at breakfast a choice of start, main and dessert — with fish and vegetarian options available.
The Riders' Lodge
The Riders' Lodge, as it sounds, is aimed at a younger crowd, with a real emphasis put on freestyle skiing and snowboarding. With similar names you wouldn't want to mix them up as relaxed conversations over a cheese board are replaced with tales of shredding the park and riding knarly lines, before hitting the resort bars until the early hours.
The Riders' Lodge is a great concept though. There is a whole crowd of skiers and snowboarders in their more youthful years looking for a less 'stuffy' environment, where they can hang out with their mates and meet new people to hit the hill and bars with. The two properties are based in high altitude and high octane resorts with the Riders' Lodge Tignes and Riders' Lodge Val Thorens and offer ski-themed artwork, big TV with Xbox 360 and in Tignes a table football and pool table.
The Riders' Lodge have their own answer to the Snow Concierge with their Snow Guru — an expert in all things snow and social in the resort. The Snow Guru will organise freestyle lessons, take you guiding on the mountain and show you how to party seasonaire-style.
These two very different concepts, targetting very different audiences, in my opinion are just what we needed. I love the idea of heading to The Lodge in Val d'Isere with my misses and the family, having a relaxed holiday, enjoying great food and elegant surroundings. I also love the idea of heading to the the Riders' Lodge in Val Thorens or Tignes with a few of the boys and enjoying long days on the hill, chilling with a few games on the Xbox before dinner, then heading out on one of the bar crawls or recharging ready for a freeride lesson the next day.
Every year the ski industry broadens its appeal, and to me this is part of the charm of working in it. There is something for everyone these days, no matter what your needs — you just need someone to point you in the right direction.
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