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Last week Iglu's Sales Manager, AJ, was out in Tignes enjoying spring's finest sunshine and snow.
I love spring skiing!
All season I've been reading in the media about poor snow in the Alps. I knew from reports from mates still doing seasons that this media ranting was pretty wide of the mark and pretty irresponsible. I had to get out there to see the snow conditions for myself.
I stayed in the well facilitated Chalet Arktic, with its outdoor hot tub & sauna, in Tignes Le Lac for the week starting 20th March 2011. My first impression when the transfer bus turned into the Vallée de la Tarentaise was a little worrying. The lower areas of the valley as we drove passed the Trois Vallées on the left, and the Paradiski on our right, looked like they were a little low on snow. However, in March anywhere below 1800m is susceptible to freeze/thaw conditions.
The conditions started to look a lot better as we climbed higher towards the Espace Killy and drove passed Tignes Les Brévières. I could see there was plenty of snow as far down as 1550m. As we approached Tignes Le Lac at 2100m I could see that the north facing side of the Tovière was covered in fresh powder tracks and there was plenty more to raid, the moment I could get my Stöckli Corall Snakes on (I'm still in the honeymoon period with my beloved skis).
On our first day we went high to see if there were any powder trails left for us latecomers. Up and up we went to the highest cable car in the region, Le Téléphérique de la Grande Motte, on a blue bird day. From the top we took the first piste on the left and cut high back under the cable car to find ourselves in thigh deep pow. My ski buddy and I exchanged a quick grin before the inevitable race for first tracks commenced. There are no friends on a powder day — fact!
We were enjoying the snow so much we nearly fell into the trap that deep powder causes. As we sprayed our rooster tails left and right we almost missed the last chance to turn off for the lifts. We nearly ended up flying down a valley that had no lifts and no way back to resort, apart from a long hike in four foot of powder. That's a workout I could do without on my first day. After the powder morning we had, we needed a good nosh up. We headed over towards the Folie Douce, where I like to spend my sunny afternoons in the Espace Killy. However, I don't usually eat at the Folie Douce, as the prices at the famous Fruitière restaurant are enough to make even an Oligarch choke on their cuisses de grenouilles. Instead I like to head down towards La Daille, where just off the red piste you will find a little gem called Le Trifollet. This place has the best Tartiflette on the slopes and a charming wind protected deck.
Due to the lovely sunny days we had all week, the snow below 2200m did get a little slushy in the afternoons. Higher we were finding little pockets of powder right up to the time we left, along with fantastic piste conditions. The conditions were even good enough to do the 'out of bounds' tour from the top of the Grand Prix chair down into the Vallée du Manchet. That's a great run that can also be reached by doing a high traverse from the top of the Borsat chair. These are tours that I have not done in the past due to the snow but last week it was fine and Tignes just got hit by another 30cm this week.
So much for this lack of snow malarkey the UK media keep harping on about. There's plenty of skiing left in this season but make sure you go to a resort with lots of pistes above 2500m.
Spring had a terrible reputation for poor snow and crowded glaciers, but spring can be the best time of year to ski if you plan your trip well. The blue skies, quieter slopes and, if chosen well, the fresh snow make for a great end of season break.
Most people will head straight for the glaciers and high resorts, and if you need to book early this is always the safest route to a good week on the slopes. Glaciers hold the snow well and are a little colder in the blistering sunshine, but they can be busy during the Easter holidays.
If you are a late booker, or looking for a second trip of the winter to finish off the season there are some great tools out there to give you a good idea of where to head. For example right now Saas Fee, Zermatt and Cervinia are being covered in about 20cm of snow with nearly 30cm more due this week, and yesterday La Plagne received 10cm of fresh snow. If you are in need of a quick look the snow overview page is a great start. It shows where the latest and next snow is falling, offers changing webcams showing off the best conditions and links to a whole host of useful pages.
If you can make the time there are some in-depth tools out there that will help you make an educated choice on where to head. You can check out the snow history of previous seasons, where the latest snow has fallen and where the next dump is due. Though the Iglu team will look after you, it is always worth doing a little research yourself. You may be surprised to discover that St. Anton boasted conditions similar to Val d'Isere last year with snow depths of 146cm in March and 103cm in April, which were also the two highest figures of the season for the resort.
A great place to start is with the snow history section. Here you can check out the details of our most popular resorts, snow records in resorts on a month by month basis or even by country.
You may or may not be surprised to discover in April last season Squaw Valley in California boasted snow depths of 4m and Passo Tonale in Italy was looking at 222cm on their upper slopes, where as Val Thorens - the highest resort in Europe - by comparison was down to snow depths of 142cm.
For the really late bookers using snow forecast page can offer a really valuable resource for where the snow is looking good. As you would expect the snow forecast tool gives a glance of where all the next snowfall is due. You can use the comparison tool at the bottom of the page, or you can go into the resorts and take a full look at snowfall and weather on a daily basis.
The snow reports page offers a break down of the snow depths for the upper and lower slopes in resorts, giving a reasonably accurate representation of the current conditions. There are country specific pages, full of helpful information and the comparison table at the bottom of the pages where you can again search via a variety of options.
With all the data that is now available you can avoid the typically busy resorts and find yourself a real gem. You may discover a favourite of yours is having an off season, or that an unexpected favourite is expecting fresh powder and blue bird skies.
This spring there are some superb late deals out there to be enjoyed and there is still availability during the Easter Holidays, so get yourself online, check out the details of where the snow is and get yourself a real last minute bargain. Given half a chance I'd be off to Saas Fee at the weekend!
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.
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