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Ski Blog

Driving Miss Peisey

clock 21st March 2012 | comment0 Comments

Ever thought about driving to the Alps for your next ski trip, or are you a regular of the trip from Surrey to the Savoie?

If you are indeed planning a skiing road trip then it's definitely worth taking some time-out to make sure you are up to date with the latest local laws, to avoid an untimely fine on your way to the mountains. But how many of you are aware of the intricacies of French law while travelling along their toll booth-filled roads?


Photo: Evodriver.fr

To help you prepare for a week on the slopes and to ensure your spending money is reserved for lift passes, local cheese and an après ski beer or two — as opposed to lining the pockets of the French motorway police — here are a few things to make sure you pack:

Your Personal Breakdown Kit: You are probably already aware that driving regulations in France require every vehicle to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in case of an emergency. However daft you might feel getting your bright yellow jacket out on the hard shoulder, a fine will feel much worse.

Snow Chains: Again, this may seem obvious, but cars driving on snow-covered roads must have snow chains fitted where roads signs to such effect are in place. On busy transfer days in the snow, the police will often be sat at the bottom of mountain roads, from Avoriaz to Val d'Isere, making sure everyone has snow chains before letting you go any further. There is also a 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit when snow chains are in use — not that you'd want to drive any quicker then that with bits of metal wrapped around your tyres!

Breathalysers: Yes, breathalysers. As of 1st July 2012 all drivers of any motor vehicle will be required to carry a disposable breathalyser in their vehicle. Failure to do so will result in a fine. As you may need to use one, it's recommended to stick two of them in your glove box for safe keeping. The breathalyser has to be certified by the French authorities showing an 'NF' number and they usually last for 12 months before going out of date.

Radar & Speed Camera Detectors: Though radar detectors are still legal in the UK, as of 3rd January 2012 they have been outlawed in France. Anyone caught with a radar speed camera detector can be fined up to €1500 on the spot and their device will be taken away immediately — this includes satnavs that show the locations of speed cameras. According to the AA's guide on the matter, you should be able to disable this function from your device and if you contact the manufacturer there may be a software update that removes the locations of speed cameras in France. Either that, or leave the satnav at home and rely on your trusty old maps.

Speeding: Speed limits in France are affected by both where you are, what you are driving and the weather. Standard speed limits for cars are easily seen with road signs, but during high-winds, rain and snow these all drop. For example, the speed limit on the motorway is 130km/h, which is reduced to 110 km/h in the rain. Note: Holders of EU driving licence — if caught driving more than 40 km/h above the speed limit — will have their licence confiscated on the spot by the police. For more info on speed limits in France, take a look at the AA's France Touring Tips.

Tolls: As you are probably aware, the French motorways and duel-carriageways are all tolled in France. The advantage is no road tax, the disadvantage is the need to stop and pay the fees every so often. You can now purchase the Liber-t toll tag, which allows you to effectively jump the queue buy using the automated tolls, as opposed to paying each time. The set-up cost is around €40, of which €20 is a refundable deposit. If you are on a long journey, to say Val d'Isere, the €20 cost will easily be worth the savings in time and the possible fuel costs caused by sitting in queues when the traffic is busy. I know us Brits love to queue, but there nothing wrong with joining the quicker, more organised and efficient queue — in fact, that is the British way to queue. These can be purchased on the Sanef Tolling website, where more information on the costs and how they work can be found.

Driving to France can be a great way of travelling to your skiing holiday, whether on a cheeky weekend away or for a full-blown family holiday. Just make sure the experience makes your holiday easier, as opposed to a hassle. Remember, French police will take no encouraging to fine you, so be prepared.



Family Friendly Ski Accessories

clock 4th November 2011 | comment0 Comments

It's that time of year again when you go through all your old kit, deciding what to keep, what to repair and what to bin. Before torturing yourself by looking at all of this year's new stash. Whether you need some new skis, a new jacket or some new boots, you won't be able to keep your eyes away from the rest of the kit on offer.

With so much kit being launched at the moment, from HD helmet cameras to iPhone friendly ski gloves, I thought I'd start us off with what new kit is around this year that will make a family ski holiday a little bit easier, without being too hard on your wallet. Firstly, because anything that makes skiing with 2.4 children easier is a winner, and secondly, we don't all have £300 to spend on a GoPro camera.

The NipperGrip

The NipperGrip, does exactly as it sounds, it grips your nipper. The child ski-harness is a fantastic idea as it means you can let your little 'un loose on the slopes, while making sure they don't fall over, or ski off!

The NipperGrip was designed by parents, therefore they seem to have everything covered. The simple harness means you can pick up our children, should they fall, with ease and it also makes getting off chairlifts a much easier experience.

There are also detachable reins, which turn the NipperGrip into a kind of kids skiing-lead, meaning you can ensure they are skiing within a close distance and not racing off down the mountain out of control — or wandering off in busy resorts chasing after some random French dog.

All-in-all, this is a really simple idea, that's well executed and I won't be surprised if resorts are full of kids wearing them this winter.

The Ski-Walker

The Ski-Walker is another great and simple idea, which makes carrying skis much easier. It is basically a handle that loops around your skis making them easy to carry. Now, this might seem like an obvious, yet somehow inconvenient idea. Well, it really isn't. The Ski-Walker is about the size of a Mars Bar — meaning you can stick it in those random pockets, half way down your salopettes, that you never use and are seemingly there for looks over function.

There really isn't anything to explain about how it works, but there is to why it's a great idea. First of all, carrying skis is a pain in the backside and this makes it much, much easier, second of all it gives you a lower centre of gravity, meaning walking around in treacherous ski boots will be much easier.

There is also the advantage for when you are skiing as a family, as you often have to carry more than one pair of skis. This makes it much more simple, as all you need to do is hold onto the handle, as opposed to balancing them over your shoulders in one hand, while keeping hold of your children in the other. Also, once the little mites are strong enough to hold onto their own skis, with their limited, child orientated common sense, they will find them much easier to carry the usual tangle of crossed skis, poles, hats, and goggles that you would usually encounter.

Now these two products may seem incredibly simple, but that's because they are. It's the simplicity that makes them such good ideas. Just think, the next time you are skiing with your three year old, you can walk to the slopes, carrying two sets of skis in one hand, a bit like carrying your shopping, with your little 'un essentially on a lead in the other hand. You get to the slopes, pocket the Ski-Walker, put your skis on, grab the reins and off you go again. As the old phrase goes, Keep It Simple Stupid, and a kiss is better than a smack in the mouth from a flailing ski!

NippedGrip are currently offering Iglu customers 20% discount as they liked the blog so much, all you need to do is quote IGLU1112.



Freeze Festival — Britain's Got Talent

clock 1st November 2011 | comment0 Comments

This weekend saw Britain's largest UK snowsports event and the first FIS Big Air competition of the season, with the Freeze Festival at Battersea power station, London. Not only did the weekend showcase some of Britain's best skiers and snowboarders in Friday's Battle of Britain competitions, but two of our 2014 Winter Olympic medal hopes made it into the final, narrowly missing out on the podium.

Battle of Britain

The weekend got underway with the Battle of Britain ski competition, followed shortly by the snowboard competition. This is the largest event in the UK and gives us a sneak peak of who to watch out for at the Brits, in Flims Laax, come March.

In the skiing competition James Woods proved to be a class above everyone, just check out the clip below, and it was a real shame that he didn't make it into the afternoon's International Freestyle Ski Big Air, as I'm sure he would have turned a few heads.

James Woods showing how far British freestyle skiing has come in recent years.

The snowboarding competition looked to be a closer contest, even if Jamie Nicholls' sponsor(s) had asked him to sit it out. Last year's winner, Billy Morgan, was up against experienced pro, Dom Harrington, and Brit regulars, Mike Austin, Ian Ashmore and Andy Nudds. Dom Harrington laid down a respectful run to gain second place and youngster, Lewis Courtier Jones, showed himself to be another one-to-watch, but the plaudits were out for last year's winner once again. Billy Morgan's fearless style and huge corked 1080 bought him a second BoB title in two years, and he is fast becoming a Brit favourite.

Billy Morgan again proving that he prefers to be inverted in mid-air, as opposed to on snow, while snowboarding!

International Freestyle Ski Big Air

Though the likes of James Woods and James Machon wouldn't have looked out of place in the International Freestyle Ski Big Air, the overall standards of the day rose pretty quickly once the competition got under way. With the line-up including Kiwi skier Jossi Wells, the eventual winner, and Swedish skiing sensation Jon Olsson, the skiing was incredible to watch, and that's coming from a snowboarder.

Snowboard FIS World Cup Big Air

Saturday was the day everyone was waiting for and the big event of the weekend, the Snowboard FIS World Cup Big Air. This event has brought big names to London over the past few seasons with the likes of Danny Kass, Stefan Gimpl, Seb Toots and Torstein Horgmo in attendance. And this year's riders didn't disappoint, with last year's top three of Marko Grilc, Seppe Smitts and Staale Sandbech joined by Janne Korpi, Jamie Nicholls and Petja Piiroinen — the younger brother of TTR world champion Peetu.

This year's qualifying offered runs that would have made it into last year's final, with many riders having to pull out their big tricks just to make the top 12. Having seen a few big names looking nervous, it was both exciting and a relief to see Brits Jamie Nicholls and Ben Kilner make it into the final. With a fast run-in and what looked like an even faster landing, the final made for some entertaining riding, though Janne Korpi and Seppe Smits were a class above the rest. It soon turned into the battle of the double cork vs the 1260 and with at least half the riders not landing one of their first two tricks the final round of jumps was tense. By this point Ben Kilner was already out of the running and it was looking tight for Nicholls, who'd dropped one of his landings.

With Korpi and Smits both posted scores of 90+ in one of their two first runs (the score is made up of the best of the first two runs and the score of the final run), the race for third place was between Holland's Joris Ouwerkerk, Nicholls, last year's runner up Staale Sandbech and Torgeir Bergrem, who had also posted a score of over 90. With the final round of jumps Bergrem mistimed his landing, dropping him down to 6th, with Sandbech throwing a disappointing, by his standards, score of 70. Jamie Nicholls had looked good to podium with his first score of 80.8, but the judges didn't like his final 1080 and he finished in fourth place, though still his highest finish at the competition.

Janne Korpi's styled out 1260.

With the final run approaching Korpi held a slim lead over Smits, 93 to 92, so it was down to the last trick. The rules stipulate that the two tricks must differ, so it was the battle of the 1260 and 1080 cork combos. Seppe Smits stepped up with a huge 90.2 score, but soon after Janne Korpi landed his 1260 and Christian Stevenson, the competition's MC, declared it as the winning trick, before the judges even finished the scoring. Stevenson was right that his 91.0 score meant he'd picked up the win by 1.8 points!

The Best Of The Rest

The Big Air events may have offered the crowd pleasers, but in between their show stopping antics and once the slopes were closed for the day, there was plenty more entertainment on offer. Friday night's headline act on the main stage was Groove Armada, presenting their latest album, with Saturday night being the other end of the spectrum, with The Streets playing their last ever live show.

For me the highlight was the après ski tent, complete with filled ski racks and live DJs. There seemed to be a serious lack of Jägermeister on offer, so it was down to the French resort favourite, Desperados tequila beer, to lubricate the crowds. As you would expect there was dancing, drinking and silly hats galore and the post Big Air final set from A. Skillz kept the crowds entertained until the evening came to a close.

The shopping village offered people the chance to check out new kit, get a massage and to visit the Big Snow Festival bar, with live DJs, more Despies and a very friendly Yeti. There was also some great food on offer, including the Jumping Bean burrito stand, where the staff danced away to Drum & Bass and Hip Hop day and night, while fuelling the masses with their Mexican fare.

As always the Freeze Festival was a great weekend to get into the winter mood and has me counting down the days until my first trip to the snow, though I'll be sticking to the après ski as opposed to the 60 foot jumps!

All photos © Igluski



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