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Ski Blog

SnowAngel's Guide To Afternoon Après

clock 17th December 2012 | comment1 Comments

Our friends at SnowAngel have put together a great blog looking at the top aprés ski bars for a 3pm beer. As a site dedicated to visiting, reviewing and sharing the best venues in the Alps and North America, they boast a pedigree of knowledge that even AJ, our Sales Director, would approve of. So, here are SnowAngel's best bars for a sunny 3pm beer...

We stumbled upon Pano Bar in Les Deux Alps accidentally about two years ago, just before we took the last run of the day, and believe us when we say there's no way you'll miss it. You might have to weave your way through a sea of boards and skis to get to it, but it's totally worth it. This is Ibiza-style après, expect two for one beers, a DJ, some serious raving and even the odd topless dancer. By 5pm you'll be locked and loaded and ready for your last run of the day — a black run — back down into resort! Our tip — get there for 3pm to get a table — you'll be dancing on top of it by 5! If you're feeling a bit shaky you can always slide your way back down to the resort.

Now, Austria has a firm place in our hearts for its après scene, and if you happen to be in Lech this season, then you should definitely head to the Balmalp. This place has panoramic views of the mountains, which you can enjoy from the huge sun terrace. Enjoy a Bombardier while you listen to the resident DJ spin the tunes until way after 7pm most days. If you don't mind a bit of night skiing then you can ski back to resort once you're all après-ed out. Leave late enough and the steady blue back into resort will have already been bashed, so it's as good as the first early bird run of the day — what's not to like about that! If you've indulged in a little too much glühwein, the owner will take you home on his skidoo — if you ask nicely!

A few of the Iglu team enjoying the Pano Bar in Les Deux Alps.

Now, if we think about Jack Wills, onesies and Jägerbombs, then the Mooserwirt in St Anton is never far from our minds. Attracting a mixed crowd, but definitely a firm favourite with the uni crowds, this place really needs no introduction. The music gets pumped through the speakers on to the sun terrace and it's as lively inside as it is out, on a blue sky day. The waiters carry impossible numbers of pints on trays around with them, so you can just grab one and pay, no queuing at the bar here — genius! And they'll bring you Jägerbombs if you ask nicely too. It's heaving here by three so, if you're in a group and want a table we recommend settling in from lunch time.

Meribel's has been firmly on the après map for as long as we can remember, with more and more Brits flocking here year on year. If you're heading here, do not leave without paying Le Rond Point a visit. The sun terrace is always jam packed and there's live music most days and the obligatory happy hour of course!

Tucked away on the main street in Morzine, Bar Robinson serves one beer, and one beer only. And it's no ordinary lager, this bad boy is 7.3%! The owners of the bar, two ladies and a gent all over 70, recommend you drink by the half pint. And you really should take heed, because this stuff is rocket fuel. Not that you'll have time to settle in until last orders, as the bar closes at 8pm.

If posh is your thing, then where else would you be heading this season but Verbier. It's refined here, but don't expect the après to be any less raucous. We'd recommend heading to Le Carrefour and the Wax bar, they're next to each other and you can ski back down into resort. It gets busy though, so get there early if you're looking for a table. If you're feeling flush order champagne on ice and a kangaroo steak.

The Folie Douce in Val d'Isere is a regular haunt of ours.

When angels ski, we are always in the market for a bit of sunshine, and with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, it's safe to say Serre Chevalier is pretty sun-sure. And if it's sunny then a huge terrace is always the order of the day. La Grotte in Villeneuve is the place to head straight from the slopes. You'll get the last rays of sunshine and there's a different happy hour every day. If you get a little bit too comfortable, then don't worry its just as busy later in the evening with theme nights, DJs, live music and games.

Pas de la Casa is probably more famed for its nightlife than it is for its skiing — they really know how to party here. At the hub of the action, the Milwaukee is the resort's largest bar with a two-for-one happy hour which kicks off when the slopes close. If you're a sports fan then there's a big screen and Sky Sports here too, as well as live music and pretty good food to boot.

Last, but by no means least, we couldn't talk about straight from the slopes après ski without mentioning La Folie Douce in Val d'Isere. This is possibly our favourite place in the world to après, DJs, a live sax player and champagne galore. There's nothing understated about this ski hut. Head here at about 3pm if you want to grab a table as by 4pm you won't get a look in. It really is the Rolls Royce of après ski!



Childcare In The Alps — In Resort (Part 1)

clock 3rd August 2012 | comment0 Comments

We have a two part guest blog from Tessera Swallow. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation. Part one is her advice on childcare options in resort.

Childcare Options

Private Nanny

Option 1: Bring your own nanny with you. This can be great however you will have to share your lovely chalet or hotel with your nanny 24/7. This can be very expensive and intrusive.

Option 2: There are a few tour operators who offer a private nanny service. This means a nanny will come to your chalet for normally eight hours per day to look after the children. The only way you can get one of these nannies is if you book your holiday through one of these tour operators (including through an agent), so it can be slightly limiting.

Option 3: Use an independent private nanny service. This gives you the most choice as you can book any hotel or chalet you like. This option will give you the most flexibility as evening babysitting can be arranged as well as daytime care. Things to ask are: Where do the nannies come from and is the company an agency, or do they employ the nannies for the whole season?

t4 Private Nanny Service — opened fours years ago in Val d’Isere and has been growing each year. They now also have private nannies in Tignes and Meribel as well. As experts in our field, we recruit native English speaking nannies and mannies (male nannies) to take care and entertain your children in the magical mountains. The nannies know the best places to take the children and also all the safety issues of looking after children in the Alps.

This service is very popular and gets booked up extremely quickly; the reservations line is friendly and happy to chat through any questions you might have. We have a wealth of knowledge helping you choose the right childcare solution for your family.

For alternative nanny services and other resorts, check out the list on our childcare and nannies page.

Crèche

There are a few tour operators who offer crèche services. These offer good value for money. Things to be aware of are obviously your child is not going to get as much attention when there are four children to one nanny and make sure you ask how often the children go outside to play.

Questions to ask when booking a chalet holiday

  • Where is the chalet? Location is key; the last thing you want with children is a long walk in ski boots!
  • Is there a driver service? Lots of chalet companies offer a driver service to the slopes in the morning and back in the afternoon. This can be a lifesaver.
  • When is the chalet staff's night off?
  • Is it ski in ski out? This can be great as it means the children will probably be able to sledge in the afternoons outside the chalet. If so, what colour run is it to the chalet? This is a very important question if the run back to the chalet is a red run and you can only ski greens this can be a problem.
  • Can the nanny prepare lunch for the children? Normally the chalet staff are quite relaxed about this, as long as the kitchen is left how it was found.
  • Will the chalet provide lunch for the children? Some will do this, some won’t.
  • Will the tour operator allow private nannies in the chalet? Some chalet companies are fine with this, others — usually for insurance reasons — will not allow this. The ski specialists on the Iglu sales team will be able to check these details for you.

Next week in part two, Tess shares her advice of skiing with children.



How To Buy Skis

clock 29th June 2012 | comment0 Comments

You can tell when summer has arrived at Iglu, as AJ puts down his sales head — giving the sales team some much deserved respite — and picks up his blogging pen. This week's gem is a guide on how to buy skis.

Buying skis has become a lot more popular in recent seasons. This is partly because ski rental prices are soaring in the Alps and partly because British skiers are getting better and want to advance further.

Having your own skis means you don’t have to spend time learning how to ski a new shape every time you go. You can buy much better skis than you can get as a rental and the bindings on rentals are very heavy because they have sliders to fit many boot sizes and must be heavy duty enough to be bashed around by punters every week of the season. No one respects a rental and if you see someone cruising through thin snow with rocks they are more than likely to be on rentals.

Look how pleased Scotty, one of our ski experts, is with his recent purchase — the K2 Kung Fujas

Is it cost effective?

Renting your skis costs between £60 & £120 depending on your level and on the resort. A good set of skis with bindings will set you back £300 to £450, but this can be halved if you buy at the right time, at the end of a season. Then there is ski carriage of £35+ for every time you go skiing.

So, the answer is that, it costs about the same if you use your new skis five times. However, your ski experience will be enhanced, and if you are like me, then there is no price on the love affair you will have with your shiny new kit. It will also increase your real skier cred in the airport queue, in the cable car, and at the après ski bar. So to sum up, you will look better, ski better, and have more friends!

There are so many more skiers taking their own kit that some smaller charter flights have had to limit the number of skis taken onboard. So make sure you book your ski carriage at the time of booking your holiday!

The average UK skier buys a set of skis after going skiing six times and boarders slightly earlier at four times. By this stage you should have a good idea of what kind of skier you are. Beginners, however, should not buy skis! I wouldn't’t recommend buying skis until you are comfortable on black runs and capable of basic off-piste.

I could go on at length about the technical side of ski design. Techies talk about side cut, turning radius, flexibility, camber, rockers, binding risers, bla bla bla. These are important but can be broken down into three very simple categories of ski. There aren’t really any bad skis made anymore, so it’s just a case of finding your preference.

I am going to leave out specialist competition mogul skis, racing GS skis or big mountain, fat heli-skis. If you are in the market for these then you sure don’t need my advice. Actually, maybe you can take me in your helicopter next time — please.

Piste Cruisers and Mogul Masters.

Not everyone wants to blast the frosty lip off a monster cornice and drop through the big blue into bottomless pow on a 50° couloir. Let’s face it, most people don’t do anything remotely like that.

If you’re keen to make nice edge turns, on piste, at high speed then then get yourself a good carver. I’ve always loved the feeling of compression and then spring back energy from the ski, when you are at warp speed and swinging from edge to edge. A carver has a middle width of around or less than 80mm, a nose of 115mm to 120mm and a tail of around 100mm to 110mm. This gives a nice big side cut for classic edging and still offers enough of a shovel at the front to get through any occasional powder or crud.

Get a length that comes up to the bottom of your nose. These shorter and more responsive skis are also the best to get amongst the moguls with. For carvers, you should stick with the established big brands to get a well-made ski that will last 10 years or more. Try Head, Rossignol, Atomic and Nordica. My favourite carvers are made by the best of the US ski makers, K2 — The Stinger 119/72/103 is fast and smooth and The Charger (122/74/106) is just a bit more advanced and capable of really high speed turns and a quite bit of off-piste fun. With this type of ski you may want to get a riser under your bindings to give you a greater angulation for sharper turns.

K2 Stringer K2 Stringer. Photo: © K2 Skis

The All-Mountain, Off-piste Adventurer.

This sort of ski has become the most popular in this century. Modern ski manufacture has made skiing off-piste so much easier, that virtually everyone is getting involved. These skis are wider and longer than piste skis, so that they can float on powder and smooth out crud and rough terrain.

They still maintain some side cut, so that you can easily navigate the pistes but they tend to have a much longer turning radius. This means that when you roll over on your edges the turn takes longer to complete. If you want to make short turns it takes more skill to pivot rather than carve. For these skis you need to be fairly advanced to get the most out of them and you should get them at a length just taller than yourself.

There are so many skis in this range that I could fill several pages with reviews. Every manufacturer has at least three models in the all-mountain range. Before you buy a bigger ski, try out a variety of rentals. Most rental shops will offer a package where you can change skis for a little bit more money. If the chance arises then get yourself to a demo day — where plenty of ski makers will gladly give you a chance to ride their latest kit in the hope of making a sale.

I’ll readily admit to being a ski snob as I expect to outlay £500 to £600 for my skis, with good lightweight Marker bindings — go for the £200 in the sales as they'll cost you. But for that I will get the very best ski I can find, and it will last me at least 7/8 years. Mine are made by the best Swiss manufacturer, Stöckli, who are the last of the big manufacturers that hand-make their skis. They will last forever like a Rolls Royce. I can also highly recommend brands Völkl (those Germans make things to last), Scott, Armada, and K2. I love the K2 Kung Fujas (133/102/127) and they are the ones I’d buy right now. They are achingly cool and best in class.

Park Rats and Jibbers.

This is generally a younger crowd that, 10 years ago was only ever going to go boarding, but the new park skis mean you can do more in the park on skis than you ever could on a board.

Skis for the park can be pretty versatile, but your basic needs are twin tips for skiing and jumping, both forwards and switch (backwards). They need to be really flexible to give the most forgiving landing. As an example, I was filming one of our resident park loving sales team this season in the Val d’Isére Terrain park, when he pulled a back flip in the black section. He under-rotated and landed on the knuckle of the down-slope with his weight way over the front which would normally be terminal and painful (like my jumps). His soft park skis with central bindings were so forgiving that he somehow pulled off the landing. I was made to feel much better when he tried a barrel roll on the next jump and over-rotated and face planted. I got it on film and it still gives me a chuckle!

Freestyle skis tend to have wider, straight sided middle sections and spoon shaped shovels at both ends and have the bindings positioned more centrally. These skis will be flakey at high speed carving and too soft to take into the big mountain environment where precision can be the difference between going off a cliff by accident or making the vital stop. They are perfectly fine for normal piste skiing and powder work but they will not carve or float as well as skis designed for that purpose.

These skis are a bit more specialised and therefore you should look for brands that are at the cutting edge of technology. The best park ski out there at the moment is the Dynastar 6th Sense Distorter, with dimensions of 119/87/109. I also like the Scott Punisher Jib and the Armada T-Hall — named after freestyle Guru Tanner Hall. I see lots of jibbers on short skis for easier aerial work, but if you want a more versatile ski that can crank outside the park then get them at a length that comes up to your forehead.

Next time you go into a shop to look for a ski that suits you, think about the three main varieties. Are you the high speed piste blaster, the big air trickster and jibber, or the all-mountain off-pister? All skis can do all things and multi-task, but start with what you love and go from there. Your ski shop techie will love nothing more than to give you his advice. They are all ski-bums at heart and think about the snow all day long. Just don’t get railroaded into a sale.

It may take many visits to many ski stores, just like speed dating, to find your new love affair. And do NOT try to save money on the bindings! Get the very best they have available. They can save your life.



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