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.
We all deserve a little luxury in our lives, and what better way to treat ourselves than to indulge in an exquisite chalet setting for our yearly ski holiday. Luxury ski chalets aren't just for the rich and famous, we have a wide selection of affordable luxury properties in Europe, USA and Canada. A luxury ski chalet is how you would dream your ideal ski retreat, with opulent alpine furnishings, spectacular spa facilities, gourmet food and fine wines. The expert and professional staff will match that of 4 and 5 star hotels. They will cater for all your needs and enhance every detail of your stay so you will experience the finest week of your life. Excellent food is at the heart of a ski holiday. At a luxury chalet or hotel, an exceptional menu and cuisine is an essential part of the service. Chefs will tantalise your taste buds and cook to your likes and dislikes. From a hearty breakfast, to a gratifying afternoon tea after skiing and a dinner banquet fit for royalty. Expect canapés and aperitifs followed by a 4 course meal, then coffee and treats to bring the night to a close. Each luxury property will have its own unique features, from saunas and steam rooms, to private cinemas, hot tubs, gyms and even wine cellars. Iglu Ski has a large selection of luxury ski holiday options, including all-inclusive holidays. Take a look at our 10 favourite once in a lifetime ski chalets to inspire your next ski adventure and speak to our expert ski sales team to discuss your dream options.
Chalet Lafitenia, Val d'Isere, France
Chalet Sirocco, Verbier, Switzerland
Chalet Uberhaus, Lech, Austria
Chalet Ambre, Tignes, France
Chalet Maria Schnee, St Anton, Austria
Hotel Kaila, Meribel, France
Hotel Carlina, Courchevel, France
Hotel Fitzroy, Val Thorens, France
The Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Canada
Club Med Val d'Isere, France
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I recently recovered from my first ever ski holiday with the Iglu Ski team in Tignes, France. I had such a great time that I am definitely hooked and can’t wait to go again next year.
I learnt so much along the way, I thought I would share my new-found knowledge, from one non-skier to the next.
When you’re up in the mountains, you’re at a very high altitude and much closer to the sun. This means whether the sky is blue or grey, you are still being exposed to high intensity UV rays; so whilst you think you may not be affected, there might just be an unsuspected goggle tan creeping up on you.
Try to wear Factor 50+ on whatever skin is exposed. It might also be a good idea to get a lip balm with an SPF. Bring moisturiser and after sun too – just in case you only realise before it’s too late!
When you face such weather and temperature extremes, it’s difficult to know what to pack. I would recommend anything and everything, here, we have a breakdown of essentials; but what people don’t tell you is – the wackier the better.
To those that plan to snowboard – this is irrelevant, but to the skiers amongst you – snow ploughing will become a way of life. For some, parallel skiing may come naturally, but once you’ve got this move down, the rest of your week is set.
Ski boots are not the most comfortable footwear. Non-skiers might be familiar with the cramp feeling you get from ice-skating boots – imagine this, and then imagine wearing and dancing it out in these all day. Take plenty of comfortable ski-socks with you – they’re worth the investment!
Allow yourself at least 3 half days for ski lessons. This is enough time to learn the basics and build your confidence; private lessons and group lessons both have their benefits – it depends what sort of holiday you are looking for.
This means you have been working hard, plus, an element of fearlessness goes a long way. Falling over is all part of a beginner skier’s day’s fun so don’t let it knock your confidence.
Helmets, goggles, sunglasses, heavy jacket, light jacket, ski socks, sun-cream, gloves, salopettes (not trousers) – they all offer protection. Stay safe. Do as Jonah says.
When considering your holiday costs, don’t forget to account for your lift pass hire. Once you arrive in resort you still need to get up the mountain to learn how to ski down. For beginners, you may not need a full 6 day hire; 3-5 may suffice.
Beginners lifts are available in most resorts and these are often free – reference your local piste map or resort representative. If you are taking lessons, your instructor will take you through the basics.
If not included in your holiday package, you can often buy a pass by day or half day – depending on your mood. Pre-holiday, your travel agent can help you arrange this. You can also purchase this anywhere in resort or from your chalet representative. Recommended ski resorts for beginners.
Gently rest your bottom on the button lift as it gently pulls you along; sit down too comfortably and it might take you back into the air!
In your first few days, you might not want to go for a full day’s skiing. Why not take a pedestrian pass and enjoy the piste on foot?
Once lessons are over, it’s down to you to navigate your way around the slopes. I spent the first half of my week thinking everywhere looked the same, a piste map will help keep you on the right track. Normally, the difficulty of the slopes is signposted very clearly.
Remember: Green, Blue, Red, Black
It’s not all about skiing or boarding, it’s about creating memories with your friends and family…or potentially losing them due to excess apres. There are hundreds of bars on the slopes and in resort for you to enjoy. With DJs, live music, dancing and great food to suit all tastes. Best ski resorts for apres ski.
More often than not and depending on which chalet or hotel you are staying in, you will be spending a lot of time with the same chalet staff throughout your stay. They will be with you at breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea. Look after them and they’ll look after you – a sure guarantee that there won’t be an empty wine glass in sight at dinner.
During a week’s stay in the average chalet, there will be one day of rest for the kitchen and chalet staff. You will still get your usual continental breakfast but this means no cooked meals. Take advantage of this day to go out and experience some traditional local food – think fondue, tartiflette, steak amongst anything else you might not expect to see on the menu.
Where did you manage to ski or snowboard this year? Did you go to a French favourite, maybe Tignes, Les Arcs or 3 Valleys? Or did you venture to Austria in search of the best après? Or do you crave powder and ventured off to Canada, Japan or a secret gem? Hundreds of thousands of UK holiday makers head to the slopes each winter, but what resorts are the most popular? We have looked at our customers this season to find out. Did you know we work with over 50 ski tour operators so we can offer ski deals in over 200 ski resorts in 16 different countries? This huge selection of holidays gives us the top variety of ski deals anywhere so we can find our customers the perfect getaway. With so many ski holidays to offer we send customers to a tremendous range of ski properties and resorts all over the world. Being able to do this gives us a brilliant insight to the UK market’s favourite ski destinations. We have looked at where you have chosen to ski and snowboard this winter and put together the top 10 ski resorts of this ski season.
Val Thorens, France 10. Courchevel This exclusive resort in the 3 Valleys is a firm favourite with customers with the 600km of pistes on its doorstep, the beautiful alpine village and the stunning mountain restaurants. There may be seven Michelin-starred restaurants and two 6-star hotels in resort, but there is still accommodation for all budgets, including apartments and chalet hotels. View ski holidays in Courchevel 9. Alpe d’Huez Alpe d’Huez has so much to offer; 250 km of varied pistes, from the green areas surrounding the resort to the longest black run in Europe; incredible bars to keep you partying from après through to dawn; so many non-ski activities to do, you don’t even have to think about skiing (ermmm...) and super high peaks to give you access to great snow throughout the season. I visited this brilliant ski resort in March 2015, read my 10 reasons why I love Alpe d’Huez.
View ski holidays in Alpe d’Huez
The Peak of the longest black run in Europe (La Sarenne) 8. La Plagne This massive resort is made up of 10 ski villages, all offering a colossal range of accommodations and amenities. From the abundance of apartments in Belle Plagne, to the ski in-ski out hotels across the resort to family ski chalets with onsite crèche facilities, La Plagne has something for everyone. View ski holidays in La Plagne 7. Les Deux Alpes A popular option if you are looking to go on a ski holiday at the start or end of the season. With skiing up to 3600km it is a snow sure resort that is even open to skiers and snowboarders in the summer months. Les Deux Alpes has an extensive ski area, vibrant après scene and a range of budget priced properties making it a top option for groups. View ski holidays in Les Deux Alpes
6. Val Thorens
The village of Val Thorens was purposely built to give guests the best access to the slopes making this an ideal location if you love hitting mountain first thing in the morning. Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, with the village sitting at 2300m and the pistes peaking at 3200m and is illustrious for its excellent snow conditions.
View ski holidays in Val Thorens
5. Les Arcs
The only ’non-mover’ in the top 10. Les Arcs is an all-round resort which is popular year after year with families, groups and couples alike. The variety of the ski areas and the villages appeals to beginners on their first ski holiday, and even offers enough to keep a seasoned skier or snowboarder entertained all week.
View ski holidays in Les Arcs
Positioned perfectly in the heart of the largest ski area in the world, Meribel is in an ideal location to make the most of this renowned region in France. The tree lined runs and chocolate box style village charm make it one of the prettiest ski resorts in France.
View ski holidays in Meribel
3. St Anton
The legendary après of St Anton draws in the crowds year after year and is consistently our top selling Austrian ski destination. Ski holidays in Austria have been dramatically popular this season; we have seen huge jumps in numbers year on year to some of the popular Austrian resorts, including Mayrhofen, Lech and Ischgl.
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2. Val d’Isere
Last year’s champion has been knocked off the high spot by its ski neighbour. The Espace Killy ski area is a favourite with our customers and ski team every season. The first rate ski area provides a large variety of terrain for all abilities and a snow-sure glacier making it one of the most attractive destinations for a ski holiday.
View ski holidays in Val d’Isere
With the largest share of customers choosing Tignes as their ski holiday destination this year, you have made this outstanding resort the top ski resort in winter 2014/15. With the poor start to the ski season, Tignes would have been a safe option because of the high altitude skiing with pistes up to 3400m on the Grande Motte glacier. With its fantastic snow record it is no wonder why thousands flock to Tignes year after year.
View ski holidays in Tignes
Grande Motte, Tignes
Top 3 France
1. Tignes 2. Val d’Isere 3. Meribel
Top 3 Austria
1. St Anton 2. Mayrhofen 3. Lech
Top 3 Italy
1. Sauze d’Oulx 2. Cervinia3. Selva
Top 3 Canada
1. Whistler 2. Tremblant 3. Banff
Top 3 USA
1. Breckenridge 2. Jackson Hole 3. Killington
Top 3 Andorra
1. Soldeu 2. Arinsal 3. Pas de la Casa
Top 3 Switzerland
1. Zermatt 2. Verbier3. Wengen
Want to see who came out on top last season? Take a look at the top resorts from winter 2013/2014
View 2015/16 ski holidays
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