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Ski Blog

The Ski Holiday Checklist

clock 2nd December 2011 | comment0 Comments

Now I appreciate most people who use Igluski are regular skiers, but for those who are either new to the sport, are forgetful or wonder why they are always cold, no matter how big their jackets are, here is our ski holiday checklist, to make packing that little bit easier.

Whether skiing or snowboarding, the vast majority of your 'software' will be the same, brands apart. Where it differs is down to personal preference, the weather and the type of skiing or snowboarding you plan to undertake — for example you don't really want a shovel on your back and an expensive transceiver on if you are hitting the park.


Don't be left feeling like something's missing.

The Essentials

So to help you be prepared for every occasion, here are a few essential items to make sure are in your suitcase and ski bag before you leave the house:

  • Thermals: thermals keep you warm and dry, they are breathable and keep moisture away from the body, but don't have to be expensive.
  • Gloves: ski gloves, not woolly gloves, as they are waterproof, windproof and warm.
  • Goggles & sunglasses: Goggles are for skiing in, sunglasses are for wearing at lunch. Most goggles come with spare lenses which are always worth taking too.
  • Sun cream, lip balm and after sun: you are several hundred metres close to the sun, surrounded by a white reflective surface, you've been warned!
  • Beanie or headband: remember the old adage that you loose 70% of you heat through your head? Well keep it in. Headbands are for skiers only!
  • Water bottle: simple, you're doing exercise, so keep hydrated. There are loads of different types from camelpacks to thermos bottles you can use.
  • Ski jacket: a proper outdoor jacket is needed, they are water/snow proof, breathable and keep you warm, ski jackets also have garters to prevent you getting snow everywhere.
  • Salopets: again, proper ski salopets or board pants will keep you warm and dry. Skiing in jeans won't!
  • Ski socks: you don't need expensive ones, but you need proper ski socks are as opposed to thick socks or football socks, which won't keep you warm at -5°c.
  • Helmet: would you ride a motorbike without one? Thought not. Your head's pretty important, keep it safe.
  • Travel insurance details: make sure you are covered for winter sports and in an emergency you know where you've put it. Also take emergency contact details with you.
  • Phone: pay for a roaming package as you'll be surprised to how many times people take 'the other left' on the mountain.
  • Rucksack: whether carrying a hip flask or packing your kids off to ski school for the day, rucksacks are essential.
  • Labels: if you are skiing with your family, label EVERYTHING. You'll be surprised how helpful it is at ski school the following morning when little Johnny gets his gloves back.

Layering

You've probably heard all this before, but it's all about layering when skiing and wearing the correct layers. Just because something is heavy, doesn't mean it's going to keep you warm, and that goes for everything from your socks to your jacket.

Whether you are on your first lesson, a seasoned skier or hiking the Vallée Blanche, wearing the correct layers is essential. Remember it's easier to cool down then to warm up. As basic guide to layers is:

  • Thermals: in all weather it's good to wear a thermal top, they keep you warm when it's cold and cool when it warm. If you feel the cold or it's particularly chilly one day, thermal long johns or leggings will help keep you warm, I even know ski instructors (male may I add) who wear tights as well.
  • T-shirt: short sleeve or long sleeve depending on the weather and comfort.
  • Fleece, hoody or jumper: try and pack at least one 100 weight and one 200 weight fleece or hoody, so you can dress for the weather.
  • Ski jacket and salopets: I prefer a Gore tex shell most of the time and have a big down jacket for those -20°c powder days.

Off Piste & Ski Touring

If you are planning on doing some off piste skiing or back country hiking here are a few more essentials to pack for the mountain:

  • Helipack: for piste skiing a comfortable backpack is enough, but when backcountry skiing you need a rucksack designed to carry all your kit, including your skis.
  • Avalanche transceiver: these things are literally a life saver, but don't just carry one, learn to use it first.
  • Shovel: from digging out buried friends to building a kicker, shovels are an essential piece of kit.
  • Probe: you can use your probe to test the snow depth, or to find buried friends, a very helpful piece of kit.
  • Spare goggles and gloves: there's nothing worse than cold hands or snow-filled goggles miles from home.
  • Water and snacks: you may find yourself further from a mountain restaurant than usual, so essential to keep you going. I personally go for Mars and Snickers.
  • Walkie talkie: you may not have phone coverage and will want to keep in contact with your buddies either in front or behind you.
  • Avalanche whistle:; not essential, but a helpful tool so your friends can find you.
  • Spare batteries: you don't want your transceiver or walkie talkie running out of juice on the mountain.

Everyone has their own idea what to pack a trip to the slopes, some people like hand warmers, others need a good bottle or brandy or single malt for their hip flask. Forgetting the essentials can cost you a fortune in resort and even ruin your holiday. So as Robert Baden Powell would say: "be prepared".



A Change of Scenery — Skiing in Luxury: Europe

clock 7th October 2011 | comment0 Comments

Having taken a look at alternative resorts in the last couple of weeks, with Austria and Italy, I thought I'd take a look at where to enjoy a luxury ski holiday next.

Luxury ski holidays can mean something different to all of us, for some it's sitting in one of Chardon Mountain Lodges chalets in Val d'Isere, enjoying fabulous food and Perrier Jouët on tap, for others it's about staying in one of Courchevel 1850's exclusive hotels, or enjoying the champagne ice-bars that accompany the après ski scene in Lech.

Luxury skiing is also about the resort you stay in, the mountain you ski and, of course, where to eat, drink and shop. As mentioned everyone want's something different on their ski holiday, so here are a few of our favourite European destinations to burn a hole in your wallet with.

Courchevel 1850

Courchevel 1850 has been synonymous with luxury skiing holidays for longer than I've been alive and will no doubt out live me too. The resort offers the world's largest linked ski area in the Three Valleys, some fantastically flattering pistes around the resort itself and is stunning.

Courchevel is known for its superb hotels, designer shopping and, of course, the James Bond altiport — okay, so it's not actually called that, but you may recognise it from the opening sequence of Tomorrow Never Dies. Courchevel boasts lavish, exclusive hotels, for those who can afford them and also a handful of chalet hotels, for those who can't, but enjoy watching the Prada clad skiers/shoppers and the fantastic atmosphere.

As mentioned, Courchevel is renowned for great hotels, and though they currently seem to be filled with the Russian nouveau riche, there is still an elegantly Anglo-French atmosphere and plenty of wealthy Brits in town. The Hotel Annapurna has to be the reference point for Courchevel's hotels, it has been well established for 36 years and under the same management for the past 20 years — testament to it's reputation. The Annapurna is also closest to the altiport, important for those looking for helicopter transfers or mere James Bond fans.

The Hotel Les Airelles has been a celebrity favourite for years and it's regulars include Eddie Jordan, Mike Rutherford and Chris Rea, as opposed to reality TV stars. The relaxed atmosphere and lavished surroundings, as well as a great location, also add to it's popularity. Now, Le Chabichou, may only be a four star establishment, but boasts the world renowned, michelin starred, Michel Rochedy as it's restaurants head chef. The restaurant received its first Michelin star in 1979 and its second in 1984 and there aren't too many hotels in the Alps that can boast the same level of cuisine!

Lech

Lech has been referred to as the Courchevel of Austria, and though it's an exclusive resort, filled with luxurious hotels, offers world class skiing and is steeped in history, it is a very different resort to Courchevel. Courchevel is where the rich happily flaunt their money, Lech is the opposite of this.

Over the Christmas and New Year holidays you won't be able to find a room for love nor money, as many of Europe's elite have the hotels wrapped-up, and have done so for decades. You'll find the owners of Mercedes and BMW, along with their families taking over the resort during the festive season, and though there is always an air of wealth, there types of skiers in Lech never feel the need to show it.

With the big, open, motorway pistes of Lech and the more technical skiing of St. Anton to enjoy, along with this gorgeous, relaxed resort you can see why it is a former favourite of the late Princess Diana.

The Gasthof Post opened in 1937, and like the Annapurna in Courchevel, is the reference point for Lech, the family run hotel has stuck to the same recipe for years and remains a favourite of Lech's regular skiers. Other notable hotels in Lech include the Almhof Schneider, based a the foot of the Schlegelkopf mountain and the luxury chalet-styled, boutique hotel, Hotel Aurelio.

St. Moritz

Though Klosters can often take the limelight when it comes to luxury skiing in Switzerland — and when the Royal family are in town there's no surprise to why — St. Moritz is one of the world's most elegant resorts, boasting one of the most iconic hotels in the Alps, Badrutt's Palace.

St. Moritz is the original winter sports resort, if not the first true ski resort. It came to popularity with the Brits at the turn on the 20th century as skiing began to grow as a holiday activity for the wealthy, and has remained a favourite resort for generations since.

Though not as flashy as Courchevel with it's designer shopping, fur jackets & Range Rovers, it is not as understated as Lech. This is a resort that, again offers an air of wealth and chic surroundings. The shopping would be enough the break to average bank account and the skiing is comparable to Val d'Isere — in size at the very least. There are motorway pistes and flattering runs, for the more pedestrian skier and challenging off-piste for the adrenaline junkies out there.

The historic Palace Hotel in St. Moritz opened in 1896 as the successor to the first winter sports hotel, the Krup Hause. The hotel has recently changed it's name to the Badrutt's Palace, but remains one of the most recognisable hotels in skiing. The founder of hotel built the first bobsled run for his guests and the current owners have maintained the reputation of one of the leading hotels in the world.

There are so many great resorts for a luxury skiing holiday, with Val d'Isere, Davos, Klosters and Ischgl to name a few, but Courchevel, Lech and St. Moritz have long been at the top of most people's wish lists and will remain there for years to come. The question is which resort is the right one for you? Whether you are there for the skiing, the lavish hotels or the shopping.



A Change of Scenery — Italy

clock 30th September 2011 | comment0 Comments

Following on from last week's piece, A Change of Scenery — Austria, I've taken a look at the Italian resorts that offer something a little different to the usual top resorts us Brits tend to head to.

Italian skiing is renowned for its great value and relaxed pace, which almost feels ironic for an espresso-fuelled country, renowned for its sports cars and helmet-less, moped riding nutcases.

Selva

Selva is a truly beautiful resort that boasts amazing scenery — the Dolomites change colour throughout the day depending on the light. The ski area is ideal for beginners and intermediates, offering the perfect terrain to build confidence. Elisa Boccara, one of our longstanding sales consultants described the Selva as "the most beautiful ski resort I have ever been to."

For the more experienced skiers there is the whopping 1220 km of the Sella Ronda to explore and though the slopes are not the most challenging, the vast array of terrain and ability to ski in so many different resorts, including Arabba, Corvara and Canazei makes it worth the trip.

The resort itself offers a mix of Italian and Austrian food and culture, making for a quite an original experience and probably more akin to Switzerland, apart from the vast difference in prices! The après ski is more gentle than last week's Austrian resorts, but there is enough to have a good time. Whether on the mountain or in resort you'll find your euros going a lot further, as the typical prices of food and drink are much more reasonable than France or Austria.

Madonna di Campiglio

As one of the country's top resorts, Madonna di Campiglio's popularity with the local market and relatively small number of beds ensures its exclusive — to the British market at least — reputation.

Whereas Courchevel and Klosters are becoming synonymous with nouveau riche Russians, Madonna is better known for hosting Ferrari's pre-season party, thanks to the generous sponsors, which adds a little F1 style glamour. If you head into the resort in mid-January you can expect to see the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Stefano Domenicali, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jules Bianchi and even Michael Schumacher in town.

The resort is full of Milanese happy to parade the latest fashion every evening in the charming town square. Nearby boutiques, lively Italian bars and attractive cafes all add to the resort's character. Along with all of this there is also 150km of skiing in what is an intermediate skier's dream. It really is like a smaller Courchevel, minus the pretence.

Champoluc

One of Iglu's most renowned ski specialists highly recommends Champoluc, and Thomas Moulton doesn't hand out recommendations willy nilly, "A good skiing buddy of mine raves about the resort — vast empty pistes next to the Monte Rosa with flattering skiing, great Italian food and good accommodation. A West Country group of ours who book every year also expressed similar sentiments. It's well priced too."

Champoluc isn't as renowned as many of Europe's resorts, but for those tired of skiing in Val d'Isere, St. Anton and even Verbier, it offers superb touring skiing, whether hiking the Monta Rosa with a local guide or splashing out on some heliskiing in the nearby area. The resort itself offers great, confidence-building skiing, so for mixed ability groups looking for something a little different, with money to spend, and wanting to stay within a short flight from the UK, Champoluc is a great option.

As with many Italian resorts, Champoluc is quiet during the week, but picks up during the weekend when the Milanese and Turin crowds flock to the their weekend apartments and Italian run hotels. The Relais des Glaciers offer superb accommodation and remains family-run, adding to the charm.

Skiing and snowboarding shouldn't be about skiing the same runs and staying in the same hotels and chalets year-on-year, I am guilty of repeatedly visiting Meribel and Morzine, don't get me wrong, but we should all try and ski somewhere new once in a while. There are so many fantastic, though largely undiscovered resorts out there to experience, and on holiday it makes a nice change to be surrounded by locals, as opposed to bumping into your neighbours, someone off the PTA or the lads from the rugby club.



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