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It's that time of year already, the winter is approaching and with Bestival only days away it's time to take a look as what our favourite freezing festivals will be offering this coming winter. Last winter the Relentless Freeze Festival kicked things off with some great riding and music, and Snowbombing finished things off with a bang.
The year looks the same, as the Relentless Freeze Festival is already gearing up for another fantastic pre-season bash and it won't be long until the likes of the Meribel's Little World Festival, the Altitude Festival and Snowbombing announce their plans. But to start the winter 2012 salivating, here's what the first big event of the winter has on offer.
The Relentless Freeze Festival
London's big winter Festival will be with us again this October and has announced a fantastic line-up of snowsports and music. This year's event has been cut down to two days from three, though this means we'll have Sunday to recover from all the excitement, the insane riding, the awesome music and of course, the Jaëgermeister Lorry.
Last year's event included an awesome line-up of local and international snowboarders and skiers, the Jeremy Jones Deeper premiere and Mark Ronson on stage. Jamie Nicholls and James Woods waved the flag for the Brits in front of a huge home crowd and world class athletes such as Seppe Smits, Seb Toutant and Jon Olsson all on show.
This year's event looks to continue in the same fashion. The FIS have announced that the huge 32m high Big Air jump will be a World Cup event, which should mean the likes of Seb Toutant, Janne Korpi and Jamie Nicholls will be wowing us with their huge double-cork variations and Xbox-esque tricks. There will also be the EU vs The World competition, which is a real crowd pleaser with two snowboarders and skiers from each continent going up against each other in an one-on-one competition with three disciplines to win: Best trick, Trick selector and the always popular Crow judge.
Last year we were treated to Mark Ronson, Roni Size and Pendulum and this year doesn't disappoint either. Friday night see's Dub Pistols, Beadryman, Azari & III and Zane Lowe, followed by the headline act, Groove Armada present Red Light. Saturday also have a cracking line-up on the stage with Spector, Rizzles Kicks, Summer Camp, The Joy Formidable and Everything Everything warming the Freeze Festival crowds, before The Streets close out the weekend.
Hopefully is will be as amazing as last October's event and there may even be some more treat announced closer to the time, such as last year's Deeper premiere.
You may not be able to get snowboard lessons until you are seven years old on snowboarding holidays in most European resorts, but snowboarding is definitely for kids.
Burton Snowboards, one of the founding fathers and major brands in the sport, have pioneered boards for years. From the early days of Terje Haakonsen to launching Shaun White's career, they are always at the top of the game, and now they plan to be there from the start.
The choice of kids boards seems to be growing from year to year, but the Burton Chopper and sister board the Burton Chicklet have to be among of the most innovative. Starting at an incredible 80cm in length and designed so nippers can jump on without any bindings, these boards are fantastic to get a feel for snowboarding. Designed with a child-friendly flex, but strong enough to terrify you as they go off the jumps and rails in the snowpark and for complete beginners it even comes with a Riglet accessory, that lets you pull the board along.
The Riglet leash is a great idea, as you can pull them up the hill in the local park, while they get their snowboard legs before that first holiday to the slopes, and you can even use it to slow them down while they link their first turns.
The guys from The House, a US based board shop, have come up with a great little video in regards to the tech behind the board:
Both these boards also come with a free lesson as part of Burton's Learn To Ride scheme, luckily this has been rolled out in both Europe and the USA, with top resorts. Top Swiss resorts include Verbier, Flims Laax and Klosters, along with the small resort of Morgins in the Portes Du Soleil, Saalbach and Hinterglemm in Austria are available to choose from, as are Passo Tonale and Livigno in Italy. So, you may not pick your holiday to a resort based on a free lesson for your kids, but if you are travelling to any of these resorts it's a freebie not to be missed!
Here's a clip of the Burton kids from the 2008 Warren Miller film, Playground.
As you can see, talented kids are getting signed up by teams at a pretty young age these days and it is quite terrifying seeing how good the groms are getting. Your offspring might not be doing back flips on these dinky boards, but what's to say they won't be the next Jamie Nicholls or Aimee Fuller, given the opportunity.
With more chalet hotels to choose from in the Alps then ever before, a few properties have re-branded in an attempt to stand out from the crowds. Here are a couple of my favourites, offering a similar name, but a very different experience. So, let's check out the lodges.
The Ski Lodges
The Ski Lodges to me are a great idea, the only problem being that when I hear the name Ski Lodge I think of a lively, British-run pub in the Three Valleys' resort of La Tania. These Ski Lodges however, offer a very different, and more relaxed experience.
The three ski lodges on offer are one new property, where the name has been taken from — The Lodge in Val d'Isere, and two very popular, former chalets hotels, the Aigle in Tignes and the Stoanerhof in Mayrhofen. The experience in many ways will resemble that of a chalet hotel — along the lines of chalet-style food and friendly service, but on a larger scale — with some subtle and major differences.
The Ski Lodge concept is to offer a more elegant, almost exclusive experience, but in a large chalet environment. The three Ski Lodges will all feature a dedicated Snow Concierge, to help with all things snow and a wellness area with hot tub, sauna or swimming pool (in the Aigle). The properties will also boast free Wi-Fi, heated boot racks, occasional English papers and a selection of ski magazines and DVDs in the lounge or bar area.
To me, this makes the whole chalet hotel thing more appealing. I love chalet food and hotel-style facilities, but I usually prefer accommodation for sole occupancy when skiing. With these properties you get the feeling that you can escape to your room or the wellness area, as you would in a hotel, for peace and quiet, but could also mingle with friends or new found acquaintances in the bar or lounge. The free Wi-Fi is a nice touch as are the English papers and magazines.
Another thing I like about these properties is the food, as I mentioned I love chalet food and as with a few properties of this ilk, you can enjoy a later breakfast until 10am and a choice menu each evening. The choice menu in this style of property is increasingly popular, with the menu usually put out at breakfast a choice of start, main and dessert — with fish and vegetarian options available.
The Riders' Lodge
The Riders' Lodge, as it sounds, is aimed at a younger crowd, with a real emphasis put on freestyle skiing and snowboarding. With similar names you wouldn't want to mix them up as relaxed conversations over a cheese board are replaced with tales of shredding the park and riding knarly lines, before hitting the resort bars until the early hours.
The Riders' Lodge is a great concept though. There is a whole crowd of skiers and snowboarders in their more youthful years looking for a less 'stuffy' environment, where they can hang out with their mates and meet new people to hit the hill and bars with. The two properties are based in high altitude and high octane resorts with the Riders' Lodge Tignes and Riders' Lodge Val Thorens and offer ski-themed artwork, big TV with Xbox 360 and in Tignes a table football and pool table.
The Riders' Lodge have their own answer to the Snow Concierge with their Snow Guru — an expert in all things snow and social in the resort. The Snow Guru will organise freestyle lessons, take you guiding on the mountain and show you how to party seasonaire-style.
These two very different concepts, targetting very different audiences, in my opinion are just what we needed. I love the idea of heading to The Lodge in Val d'Isere with my misses and the family, having a relaxed holiday, enjoying great food and elegant surroundings. I also love the idea of heading to the the Riders' Lodge in Val Thorens or Tignes with a few of the boys and enjoying long days on the hill, chilling with a few games on the Xbox before dinner, then heading out on one of the bar crawls or recharging ready for a freeride lesson the next day.
Every year the ski industry broadens its appeal, and to me this is part of the charm of working in it. There is something for everyone these days, no matter what your needs — you just need someone to point you in the right direction.
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