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Now us Brits love a good chalet holiday. Those of us who frequent the Alps have probably been to Europe's big super-resorts and huge ski areas such as Meribel, Val d'Isere, Les Arcs and St. Anton. There is also a rather large proportion of us who find ourselves going back to the same resort year on year. I'm as guilty as anyone with three trips to Morzine in the past two winters.
With this in mind I'd thought I'd take a look at the forgotten gems of chalet holidays. There are a mixture of world class resorts and hidden gems here, and though you may argue some of these resorts are not exactly forgotten, in terms of chalet holidays, not hotels, we all forget about them.
Zermatt, with the iconic Matterhorn, is among the most famous and revered resorts in the Alps, though it is not a typical chalet holiday resort. The resort may boast a great selection of chalets but it is better known for its 5* hotels and luxury accommodation. The Matterhorn and the Gournegrat offer some fantastic skiing, and with Cervinia the other side of the valley offers great motorway pistes and affordable Italian mountain restaurants. Zermatt chalet holidays are a great way of staying in this über luxury resort.
The chocolate box resort is again better know for its luxury hotels, ski in/out village and the glacier, but it also offers a couple of incredibly popular chalet hotels. With only a handful of chalet hotels to choose from this picturesque resort often falls under the radar from the masses, yet offers a world class snow record and beautiful Swiss village-style resort. Whether you are skiing with your partner or going away with your family, Saas Fee chalet holidays offer great value in one of Switzerland's finest, snowsure resorts.
Ischgl is one of Europe's finest resorts, yet remains largely undiscovered to Brit skiers. With two of the biggest parties in the Alps, the resorts opening and closing festivals, a great apres ski scene and superb skiing, this is a resort we have somehow forgotten about and really shouldn't have. Okay, so along with the likes of Zermatt, Lech and Courchevel it is one of the more exclusive resorts full of 4* and 5* hotels, but with the addition of the Chalet Hotel Abendrot you can enjoy a more affordable Ischgl chalet holiday and make the most of this fantastic resort.
Obergurgl is my token purpose-built resort, though some people are not fans of the high rise buildings and lack of trees, these resorts were built with one thing in mind - the skiing. Not as unattractive as Val Thorens or Tignes, and offering a slightly more chilled feeling compared to the usual Austrian apres madness, Obergurgl is great for families and intermediate skiers. With loads of glacier skiing, Hochgurgl only a cable car away and Solden a short bus journey, there is more than enough on offer here to fill your week. With Obergurgl chalet holidays making a come back, this is a resort for families to flock too.
Quaint, French and friendly are not three words that some skiers will use to describe the Tarantaise Valley. Though a fan myself, the Three Valleys' vast pistes and crowds are not to everyone's liking and La Rosiere is anything but busy. This great little resort is a family skiing haven, yet also offers un-tracked off-piste and the chance to ski over to Italy thanks to being linked with La Thuile. If a more French & relaxed feel, among one of the most famous skiing valleys in the world, is what you are looking for then La Ros is perfect. Most of the accommodation on offer is chalets therefore a La Rosiere chalet holiday is the way forward to enjoy this hugely under-rated resort.
We may be creatures of habit, but if you fancy a change of pace from the hectic skiing in the Three Valleys and Espace Killy or a resort with more of a village feeling to purpose built ski resort, these are all worth a look.
If you want to escape the Euro-zone then Zermatt's Matterhorn offers incredible views from the rotating restaurant in a star studded resort, or Saas Fee offers a romantic and picturesque feel. If Austria's love of sausages and um-pa-pa apres ski is more up your street then try out the world renowned Ischgl or more family-friendly, though purpose-built Obergurgl. And last, but by no means least, if you have a love affair with the French skiing scene head to La Rosiere for its quieter slopes, fantastic terrain and relaxed atmosphere.
As a Meribel and Morzine addict I am looking forward to trying somewhere new this year, with Ischgl at the top of my list!
Now this may no be everyone's cup of tea, but there isn't much that compares to spending a day flying off a kicker into fresh powder with your friends. Though this is a past time I enjoy I am far from an expert and don't profess to be one.
Cue Ryan Davis, the former Brits winner is renowned for finding killer spots, and styling out the huge kickers he builds. If anyone is qualified to offer up a few resorts it's him.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding are both growing faster than ever. Gone are the days of purely schussing down the Hahnenkamm or the Face for our thrills, these days winter sports are taking adrenaline levels higher than ever. Though it's easier to head to the snowpark or slalom run, you can't beat a short hike to a secluded spot and hitting natural lines or building your own kicker. Us mere mortals will try and cram as much as possible into our few days on the slopes each year, but there are those who somehow get to do this for a living.
Ryan may not be gracing the front pages of Document Snowboard or Whitelines as often as he used to, but he's happy to share with us his top five resorts for powder kickers. Hey, we might not all be able to float through the air pulling tricks but most of us can still enjoy an afternoon riding white fluffy snow and enjoying the view!
So it's over to Davo.
Ok, so Davo's top powder kicker resorts. Basically a good powder kicker resort consists of two main ingredients. 1 - consistent powder, and 2 - good knowledge of the terrain.
I had to say Morzine is my all time top pow kicker resort because I know it better than any other resort and there are loads of great spots.
So here they are.
Written by Stephen Adam featuring Ryan Davis.
One of the ever present arguments of how to get the Alps is the train vs plane debate. With the demise of the infamous snow-train, its all night party culture and its two extra days on the slopes, can the direct Eurostar service hold its own compared to short haul flights?
There are a variety of arguments over why one mode of transport is preferred to another: the resorts you can access, cost, travel time, luggage allowance, comfort, and access to stations and airports. All of these different aspects have to be considered to give a fair opinion on what works for you.
One of the reasons the old snow-train was so popular was the fact that you could be in the resort by 9am Saturday morning and didn't have to get the return train until after 7pm the following week, giving you eight days on the mountain. Everyone from snow addicts, to the one holiday a year crowd, would happily jump on the train, crawl into their couchette and enjoy those extra two days of skiing.
The second factor was the legendary disco-carriage. Many a hangover and even a few pre-skiing injuries were a result of the all night disco from Paris.
The current ski-train, as it has become known, is a direct daytime Eurostar service. But how does it fare without the extra days' skiing and ability to party the night away? Well there are some definite advantages over flying in my opinion. The train departs London St. Pancras at 10am and arrives in Moutiers around 5pm and Bourg around 6pm (this season's times are yet top be published). So you are looking at around an 8-9 hour journey.
Flying, from London Gatwick for example, to comparable resorts, takes around an hour and a half to Geneva and around two hours to Chambery. Chambery transfers range from an hour and a half to two and a half hours, whereas from Geneva you are looking at between three and four hours to the Tarantaise resorts. Add into the mix travelling to the airport two hours before the flight, and the fact that a vast amount of ski holiday flights depart between 6am and 8am and you are looking at a very early start. Once you combine this with a flight to Geneva, collecting your bags and sitting on a four hour transfer to Val d'Isere, you can easily be looking at a 8/9 hour day.
Cost is a funny one, if you are looking at your standard package holiday the price includes flights, usually from a London airport, therefore to go by train often adds a premium. Flights tend to be cheaper than the train, but for someone who can jump on the tube to St. Pancras, getting to the Eurostar is much cheaper than using the Gatwick Express, and much quicker. Therefore depending on the cost of the supplement, and where you live, the price can balance out.
Luggage allowance, on most charter flights you are looking at 20kg and if you're taking your skis an additional £30. If you are travelling by train as long as it fits in your suitcase, and you can carry it, then your baggage is fine, also your ski carriage has been included in previous years. The last time I travelled by train I had a 32kg suitcase and a huge boardbag with two snowboards, boots, bindings, helmet and all my snowboard clothing, the extra charge? Nothing. Lets hope this remains the same for this season.
Resorts; this is where the train does fall down. You can get to three of the five largest ski areas in France, including the largest linked ski area in the world, the Three Valleys. Other resorts include the Espace Killy, Paradiski, La Rosiere and St. Foy. Offering you a fantastic choice of skiing that will suit every ability and preference. By flying you have access to every resort in the world, from Klosters to Borovets and from Whistler to Niseko The choice is incomparable.
For my yearly trip out to Morzine I'll be jumping on a plane to Geneva as it's only an hour transfer, and if I decide go to Austria or Italy this year, the only choice is to fly. Though I have to say if my planned trip to Tignes or Meribel goes ahead I will take the Eurostar. For me its 20 minutes to the station, I don't have to worry about my girlfriend overloading her suitcase and then filling half of mine and I can take one boardbag with all our kit in it. Add in an M&S picnic on the train, a couple of bottles of wine and maybe a film on the lap top and you've got a relaxing journey to the Alps.
The great thing about travel is that there an option that suits everyone.
Written by Stephen Adam.
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