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The summer is now well and truly under way, you know four days of sun followed by weeks of grey skies and muggy weather. To get through this difficult period the team here have been reminiscing about our favourite ski trips and have shared the thoughts on our favourite resorts and apres ski bars. I've previously blogged about where to get your summer snow fix and what festivals are worth heading to this winter but one thing to yet grace these pages is maybe the most important topic of all, what is your favourite ski run?
Everyone has a favourite run, whether it's the piste where you first linked your turns, the most terrifying powder stash you've taken on or your favourite spot to find yourself intentionally inverted, or at least dreaming about it.
For each and everyone one of us skiing and snowboarding gives us something different. I love nothing more than a short hike with friends to an untracked powder line, it doesn't matter whether it's through the tree's, flying down a couloir or charging down an empty waist deep piste. I put this to the Igluski experts, who are a mixed bunch of hedonists, and an analysis of snow parks, precarious moments and motorway pistes were the discussion of the day.
With so many amazing pistes to choose from, I found it hard to decide for myself, Vaujany has some hidden treats and there are so many lines in Avoriaz but on reflection my favourite run of them all is Jerusalem in St. Martin. Taking the Olympic Express chair out of Meribel and dropping into the gentle yet enjoyable off-piste on a powder day before joining up with the legendary red run and straight-lining the rollers is definitely among my most memorable boarding experiences.
Here's what the guys at Iglu went for.
I'm having trouble deciding between the most fun best run I know or my most memorable moment on a mountain. On a rather significant birthday a few years ago in a particularly good snow season I was in Jackson Hole, USA standing on the edge of Corbett's Couloir looking down at a 30 foot drop. The cornice at the top was so steep and high that year that I couldn't even see the landing zone. It was a complete leap of faith. When I leapt into that empty space I reached a certain nirvana that I doubt I'll ever match again. However, if I was to do one run again for the rest of my life it would be the Rock Garden in Lake Louise. To blitz that field of snow covered rocks you need blistering foot speed, instinctive decision making, and the delicate touch of a dancer - AJ
My favourite park has to be in Tremblant. The resort has a few parks the biggest and most advanced has a charge to enter. I think this is fantastic because the park is exceptionally well groomed and not busy. So you can hit any of the massive kickers or rails with no queues, or without massive crowds of people waiting to see the outcome if it all goes wrong, although it is nice sometimes if there are a few cuties around. - Nick HH
Mont Gele to Verbier - Held in the same high esteem as Val d'Isere and St Anton, Verbier scores heavily over its two rivals with an abundance of challenging terrain. Evocatively named runs such as Stairway to Heaven hint why this Swiss mega resort is full of ungroomed runs suitable for intermediates and hotshots alike. With plenty of high altitude steep terrain and good quality snow, these hybrid runs officially marked but not pisted make for some truly epic skiing.
Typical of the resort is the run from top of the Col des Mines to Verbier, famous for it's generous vertical and Mont Blanc backdrop. As one crests the ridge after Lac des Vaux, Verbier's chalet studded plateau appears far below with nothing but a steep west facing bowl with miles of skiing in between. Bereft of lifts, pylons or anything man made, this jaw dropping scenery is so wide crowds soon scatter. Fellow skiers look like dots on the mountain, resort buildings far below likewise. Morning runs offers lots of good cold snow, afternoon runs with the sun setting around the mountains and Rhone Valley truly spectacular. Terrain on approach to the resort becomes more compact and by bearing left skiers are treated to mogul fields flanked by trees, an excellent opportunity to mix in with the Verbier's many bumps experts.
For those who want to start above the Col des Mines, this is possible by taking the Mont Gele lift first. Suitable only for the most experienced and in proper conditions, this fearsome section rewards hotshots with the knowledge their attempts are in full view of the restaurant terraces of Attelas 2. Whether a skier or a boarder and you start at the Lac des Vaux or further up on the Mont Gele, it all makes for a very complete ski. - Thomas
Streatham Common when the roads are blocked and the toboggans are out! - Tracy (she's a bit Urban)
I may be biased because I had a great season there and got to know the local secrets but it has to be in Les Arcs. After fresh snow it's all about the black run from the top of Deux Tetes above Les Arcs 1600 into the off piste through the trees, under the Mont Blanc chair. It is the ultimate tree run! Beware the cliff! It's a long drop when you're not expecting it. - Nick J
All 11 km or seven miles for the (imperial minded people out there) of highway 7. It's the run which links Zermatt to Cervinia. You get some stunning views of the Matterhorn as you cruise over to Italy from Switzerland. Don't leave it to the last minute to catch the return cable car because there are plenty of bars en-route to top up those dwindling energy levels. - Nigel
My favourite ski-run is at Sunshine village, which starts with a five minute hike right off the Wawa Chair. You head out of bounds through what locals call, "The Back Door". The run follows a river bed, and cuts through a long natural half pipe/canyon full of powder. As the course follows along a creek bed, you're forced into skiing flat out, following the contours of the river, it feels like you are on an insane waterslide! You then end up skiing deep in the glades, for some of the best tree skiing I've ever experienced. On a powder day, this is the stuff of dreams! Enjoy. - James T
La Balme in La Clusaz. Some long challenging turns but manageable at speed, never busy, a long satisfying run that leads straight to the entrance of a bar. - Calway
The Wall - Avoriaz. It's steep, it's bumpy, it's scary! - Adam Clark (The only blader in the company has actually done The Wall on them!)
I love the stash in Avoriaz. Its a park that is made from solid materials and is in place all year round. As soon as the snow falls its ready for action and the 540 Twisty Mcfly's can commence! - Ade
Belle Plagne - The one's with snow on otherwise I tend to find it hurts when I fall over - James (Head of IT)
It has to be one of the Itinerary routes down Mont Gele in Verbier.
The trepidation starts in the cable car where everyone's geared up to the max with the all latest gadgets that I can't afford. They'll need them skiing in my powder wake. You get dropped of onto the most basic of landing stations. It's just a metal platform stuck on the edge of the mountain. After a short hike it's time to click your boots in with the highest DIN setting you dare and look over the edge. No matter which way you dare through the couloirs, gullies, drop offs, or bumps, it's either steep or very steep. On a powder day... don't get me started. - Scotty
If it wasn't for the fact that the World Cup is on a screen two metre's from me I'd probably lose my afternoon watching clips on Mpora and counting down the days until I book my next holiday!
Written by Steve Adam
Every year Igluski takes a team of ski travel experts away for a week of skiing in Val d'Isére in mid-April, as a reward for their efforts during the long winter of busy sales. Val d'Isére has never failed to provide powder in April in the last 5 years I have done this. This year was busier and better for Igluski than ever before, so not only did I take the largest group away ever, I also secured seven rooms in the 5 Trident Club Med Village of Val d'Isere for seven nights from 11th April 2010 for the top sellers and managers . The other 25 of our group were spread between the superbly located 5* Chalet Cherrier and the very basic but lovable 2* Vieux Village, both run by well-known chalet package operators that provided flights, transfers and catered accommodation.
The only catch for those of us in Club Med was that we had to travel independently, as they ran out of UK flights. No sweat, we're travel experts, right?
Towards the end of our amazing week cocooned in the all-inclusive luxury bubble of Club Med, the word started to spread about some troublesome Volcano way off in Iceland blowing its top and spewing out ash and bad attitude. Did we care? Of course not! It was several thousand miles away and we were having the time of our lives, hunting powder stashes in the bright sunshine and enjoying long lunches with wine at either our hotel or at the brilliant Club Med Tignes, which has an excellent sun terrace for watching the beautiful people, or laughing at the kids ski school right in front. Those tiny kids with their big helmets and miniature skis are hilarious.
Our interest in this distant and insignificant Volcano was peaked when a rumour spread like wildfire through the resort that for some unfathomable reason the airspace around the UK was being closed. Surely this was being excessively Safety Sam and our Swiss airline would be back in the air within a few hours. That evening the seven of us independent travellers gathered around a TV to watch CNN deliver the news that not only was the UK airspace not opening but two thirds of western Europe's airports were also closing. Uh oh!
The next morning, the 25 of our crew that were on packages were getting loaded onto coaches, while we were frantically searching for ways back on our laptop (Club Med has Wi-Fi). Their tour operators had acted swiftly to secure coaches and ferry slots to make sure their guests were back on the day expected, even if they were a little weary after 22 hours on a Coach.
None of us stranded 'Volcano 7' had brought our full car licenses to hire a car, and even if we had, the prices being quoted for a seven-seater were somewhat shocking for a one way trip to London and we couldn't get a ferry space at any major port. Club Med had also gotten all the guests who had booked travel through them onto coaches to get home but we independent travellers were stuck. Club Med understood our predicament and promised to look after us until we found a way home and we were very grateful to have a roof over our heads as we could not find a train and bus seat anywhere online or by phone.
We gave up trying to get home Monday and had a lovely blue bird powder day after the Sunday snowshowers, with a nice Raclette meal back at the hotel. I know that all sounds great but we were feeling the stress of missing work. Eventually, after many hours on the laptops and phones, on Tuesday we secured some individual Eurostar seats. It was time to say a tearful goodbye to Val d'Isere for another year.
Myself and three others of the Volcano 7 finally got moving and we caught a taxi to Bourg St Maurice, a slow train to Chambery, a fast TGV train to Paris, spent a night in a 1 star Fawlty Towers-like special and a sunny lunching day in Montmartre near Gare du Nord, before finally catching the 20.53 Eurostar back to London. It had been a fun trip but this was a very, very expensive Volcano rescue.
The other three of the Volcano 7 couldn't get Eurostar tickets so they caught a transfer to Geneva, an overnight slow train via Basel to Amsterdam, spent a hazy night in the Flying Pig hostel, caught a train to Rotterdam and then an overnight ferry to Harwich and a train down London. Their trip was slightly cheaper but they lost an extra day (and several billion brain cells) by not getting back until Thursday night.
You never never know when the next Force Majeure, act of God or Casus Fortuitus is going to strike. In the last few years I've heard so much about how the travel insurance companies just don't have to pay for things, which seem to be getting more regular like Tsunamis, Earthquakes, and now Volcanoes.
Thank you Eyjafjallajökull for an eventful week but my feelings towards insurance companies has taken a nose dive from deplorable to an unprintable level.
Written by Adam Johnson
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