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Okay so it might only be mid-March but the big tour operators are already preparing for next winter. For those who know exactly what they want there's never been a better time to book early.
Last winter my friends and I realised that after three trips in a row to Morzine it was time for a change of scenery. We knew that we wanted to go to Meribel and that we would go early March 2011, so we booked our holiday by the end of May 2010. On arriving to the chalet three weeks ago we discovered the late bookers had paid the same price as us, but we had our lift passes (including a 3 Valley upgrade) and ski carriage included in the deal.
If you are happy to follow the deals and take the lowest prices around, then last minute bookings have their place, but by booking an early deal we proved to get much better value than the guests who left it until the last minute. With this is mind I've started having a look into my New Year and March 2012 holidays and I've already to discovered that the offers are as good, if not better than last winter.
I must admit we usually go for the chalet holidays, but having had a couple of fantastic summer Club Med holidays, the French all-inclusive hotel chain are looking very appealing for next winter. For those unfamiliar with Club Med they offer all-inclusive ski holidays, mostly in Europe, where the price includes your transport, lift passes (3* local, 4* and above full area), group ski lessons and all the great food you can eat. Plus the bar is free as long as you stay away from the Champagne and luxury brandies and single malts.
Now, we bagged a cracking deal this winter with our lift passes and ski carriage included, but after a week of lunches on the mountain, chalet staff night off and a few après ski drinks, we ended up spending the same as we would in a 4* Club Med. Whereas the initial outlay of around £1000+ may seem a lot, if you are on a catered holiday to the big French resorts you can easily eclipse that by time you come home.
Our French friends are also offering us up to £180 per person discount based on the early booking prices, plus the brochure prices are as low as they will go for the whole season. Throw in the fact that resorts such as Val d'Isere and Tignes have enjoyed a bit of a facelift over recent years and the addition of a new property in a stunning, yet unobvious resort, Club Med Valmorel and the choice is incredible — there's even a Club Med in China these days.
Having taken a cheeky look at Val d'Isere for my 30th during Easter — the prices are still great value. £1149 per person for a 4* Club Med in one of the world's top resorts during a peak week (now tell me that's not great value). With ski carriage, lift pass, all your food and drink included and the option of lunching in Club Med in Tignes, it's the perfect holiday for a romantic week on the slopes.
For the same week a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) can book to go to the 3* Club Med Les Deux Alpes, with everything minus ski hire, staying in interconnecting rooms for only £3080. They could even head to the 4* resort of Club Med Tignes Val Claret for only £4548, again in interconnecting rooms. For all-inclusive, glacier resorts during the Easter holidays that is fantastic value.
With the prices due to go up in July and again in October, these great properties are worth a look. Whether you are looking for a family, group or romantic holiday there is a Club Med for everyone, from the luxurious Club Med Peisey-Vallandry and Club Med Meribel Le Chalet, to the great value of Club Med Arcs Extreme and Club Med Aime La Plagne.
Igluski's Sales Manager and former Whistler ski instructor, AJ, has offered us his top tips to skiing. Seems a little odd to hear an Aussie giving ski tips, but what the heck, it's worth a go.
1. Be a sloucher.
The perfect stance for skiing is like slouching in a car. You must bend your spine and push your rear slightly forward and hunch your shoulders. Otherwise you will be skiing in the classic duck-ass stance. Try keeping your spine straight and sticking your butt out and bending down to touch the ground. Then try bending your spine and doing the same thing. See how much easier it is. You need that same flexibility when skiing.
2. You should always be able to see your hands.
Imagine you are driving an old style bus with a huge steering wheel. That’s where your hands should be at all times.
3. Tuck in your elbows.
You are not a bird and you do not need wings to ski. Make yourself compact rather than large and flappy. The less movement in your upper body, the better.
4. Punch through your pole plants.
When you do a pole plant you must push your fist through it so that your shoulder is not thrown back. Remember rule two, keep your hands forward and always moving so that you are always looking for the next turn.
5. Your knees are your headlights.
Instigate your turns with your knees and not your upper body. Imagine your knees are lighting your way and turn them before you make other movements.
6. Always put your downhill ski on first.
Before putting your skis on always line them up across the slope and start with your downhill ski.
7. Never look at your skis once you are moving.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that intermediate skiers make. Your skis are at the end of your legs. Trust me on this. If they fall off, it will be immediately apparent. Your eyes should be focused at least five metres ahead and if you are going fast then at least ten metres ahead.
8. Thin socks are warmer.
Don’t believe me right? Boot technology is extremely advanced. By putting on thick socks you are fighting against the manufacturer who has spent millions in research and development. Thick socks keep moisture around the foot making you cold on chair lifts, they reduce your fine touch, and worst of all, they create shin friction that will hurt like crazy. Thick socks tend to bunch on the shin which brings me to another very important thing.
You want as little as possible between your shin and the boot so never wear two pairs of socks or put anything else apart from your sock in the boot including long underwear. This is the cause of the most severe pain problems most new skiers experience. Spend the money and get a decent pair of ski socks. Your woolly winter socks for hiking are the worst thing you can wear.
9. Always stop on the high side of the piste.
This is especially important for snowboarders. By staying high you give yourself more options. You don’t want to be hiking or side stepping if you don’t have to, so stay high until you know your line.
10. Take the path less trod.
A common trap for new skiers is to follow everyone else’s tracks. This puts you in the slippery zone that has been flattened and scraped by hundreds of other skiers. It will make you go too fast and slam into bumps that are created by this ‘Pied-Piper’ like phenomenon. The powdery edges are slower and easier on your knees.
11. Don’t turn on ice.
If at all possible, wait until you are past the ice before you try to turn. Some of the worst accident happen when skiers see ice and try to panic stop. Even the very best skiers struggle to turn or stop on ice. Take the speed build up and wait for a slightly softer spot to turn.
12. Goggles during ski and sunnies après ski.
If you never ski faster than you can run then keep your sunnies on, but who really skis that slow? Goggles protect your eyes in so many ways and are vital should the weather turn nasty. Skiing in sunglasses in fog, snow and low light is suicidal. Keep your sunnies with you for when you hit the aprés ski sun decks. Make sure they are trés-fashionable and have 100% UV protection. Experienced skiers use goggles in all weather, including sunny days.
13. Always check your carry-on list before you leave the chalet.
I like to carry a back pack but most jackets can handle this small list of important extras: Water!!, chap stick, glasses and goggles and lens wipe, suncream 50+ (don’t worry, you’ll still tan), piste map, phone with Ski Patrol’s number already stored, and a tool like a Swiss Army knife or one of the many specialist ski/board tools out there.
Now we've all heard of the Green Cross Code and most of us grew up walking to school with lolly pop ladies keeping us safe from speeding cars, but did you know there is a code of conduct for the mountains?
There have been more and more cases of piste-rage hitting the press over the last few seasons, including a story on PlanetSki where an adult had to be restrained for hitting a 15 year old girl! With this in mind I thought I would share the F.I.S. Code of Conduct with you, so you can go on holiday with the peace of mind that you are skiing responsibly.
F.I.S. Code of Conduct
The code of conduct is really common sense and has been devised so we can all enjoy the mountain and ensure that accidents, which do happen, are dealt with safely and swiftly. Hopefully the only concerns will be skiing safely and respecting others, which includes not skiing over their equipment in lift queues. The mountains are there to be enjoyed.
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