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So far this week has proven to be an interesting one, the skiing romance that is Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement and Pope Benedict XVI blessed our favourite sport.
The Pope has been quoted saying "Skiing makes us feel small and returns us to our true dimension as creatures... It makes us capable of asking ourselves about the meaning of creation, of looking above, of opening ourselves to the Creator. By contemplating creation, man recognizes the greatness of God". However the real news is all about Prince William and Kate Middleton. Rumour has it the royal couple's relationship blossomed in the romantic, luxury resort of Klosters in Switzerland.
With this in mind that sent me to thinking where would be the best ski resorts to head to for a honeymoon. From the über-resorts of Klosters, Lech and Courchevel 1850 (popular with the rich & famous and the Royal Family), to the intimate resorts of Kitzbuhel, St. Martin & Wengen.
Skiing has played its part with the Royal Family over the years with Diana Spencer, Sarah Ferguson and now Kate Middleton invited on the family ski trips before their respective weddings. Prince Charles remains a keen skier and William and Harry are known to be fans of both Klosters and Verbier. So with a possible spring wedding where would William and Kate go if they were to head for a skiing honeymoon?
Klosters - You would have to say that the Swiss Resort of Klosters would be their most likely destination. A luxury resort, superb skiing and the location of many a picture of the pair skiing together. They have stayed in 5* hotels and in private chalets in the resorts. With accommodation on offer for the über-rich and years of Royal connections the resort definitely has a head start.
Verbier - Not as romantic a resort as Klosters but again a luxury resort with world class skiing and world class private chalets on offer. Home to The Lodge, Richard Branson's über-luxury property, as well as a host of other high end accommodation, they would be well looked after.
Courchevel 1850 - France & Russia's favourite exclusive resort, Courchevel 1850, would also be an ideal location. Already a firm favourite among the Royals and a regular haunt of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. The combination of exclusive hotels, chalets, clubs and restaurants, coupled with one of the world's premier ski areas make Courchevel an attractive destination.
Lech - Lech is often seen as the Courchevel 1850 of Austria. Lech is renowned for über luxury 5* hotels, exclusive bars, restaurants and night clubs and are among the 'it' resorts during New Year. With many an F1 team owner and the truly super-rich heading to Lech you would have to say it is Austria's most likely option. Throw in the awesome Arlberg ski area, linked with St. Anton and St. Christoph and you have a perfect location.
Now where as we may all aspire to staying in £1000 per night accommodation, while rubbing our shoulders with industrial powerhouses and film stars, most of us have more modest budgets and desires for a romantic skiing trip with the other half. Whether on a honeymoon or a romantic week on the slopes there are some fantastic resorts with stunning views, intimate alpine restaurants and affordable bubbly on offer. For those who are looking for a special escape without the celebrity spotting and the prices it brings here are some great resorts.
Kitzbuhel - The quaint resort of Kitzbuhel is often described as the prettiest town in the Alps. The skiing is picturesgue and the hotels range from 5* luxury to family run affairs. Throw in a great mix of night-life from the Michelin star Neuwirt restaurant in the Hotel Schwarzer Adler to the typically entertaining & beef-fuelled Austrian apres-ski.
St. Martin - The hidden gem of the Three Valleys in France, St. Martin de Belleville is a small village at the bottom of the Belleville valley. Offering attractive Savoyard charm, intimate little bars and restaurants and 'the world's largest ski area', on a romantic week for two, do you need anymore?
Grindelwald - The Swiss resort of Grindelwald is one of the country's stunning and stereotypical chocolate box resorts. Set in a picturesque alpine location offering romantic hotels and the superb skiing of the Jungfrau region, with the beautiful resorts of Wengen and Murren included in the lift pass. Grindelwald offers a perfect romantic escape from the hustle and bustle of Europe's major resorts.
These are my thoughts, but where would you go? Comment below or drop us a message on our Twitter or Facebook pages.
With the snow falling and the winter season approaching fast one question that should be on all of our minds is: 'Are you covered'? I'm referring to winter sports travel insurance of course.
Now there will be some of us covered by our banks, others will have year round policies and of course there are always those who will be booking theirs online the night before the flight. First of all everyone who goes skiing or snowboarding needs winter sports cover on their travel insurance and second of all we need to know for what we are covered.
Over the next few months there will be articles in the papers, on the news and in travel blogs about accidents in the Alps, and those where people don't have the appropriate cover are always the ones to make the headlines. Now, of course there are accidents that are unforeseeable, and often where blame is a very grey area. With mother nature involved we participate in an unpredictable environment that needs to be respected.
In years gone by I have used specialist action sports travel insurance, I've used the company recommended on Iglu extras and I've used my bank, luckily to minimal use. I've also had friends forget to take out a policy or forget to add their winter sports cover thinking they can get away with it and ending up with hefty medical bills and only a credit card to pay for it with no chance of ever seeing that money again.
At the moment there is a story in the press about a group of skiers who are thought to have caused an avalanche in the Swiss resorts of Anzère. The people in question are facing a possible court case that could result in charges, fines and having to pay the costs of the rescue operation deemed to be around 100,000 CHF (£64,000). Though it is a contentious issue to whether they are at fault this does highlight another side of winter sports insurance. Not only do you need to understand the cover for your own injuries, lost, stolen or damaged property etc you also need to understand the level of cover if you cause an accident.
Now I don't pretend to be an expert and the intricacies of law and insurance are outside of my knowledge base but there are definitely certain aspects of each insurance plan you should check. Again this is personal preference, whether it be level of cover or cost. Not everyone needs the highest level of off-piste insurance and not all of us will be upside down in the snow parks.
These are recommendations of what to look for and not what you as an individual should purchase.
What Cover Do I Need?
There are various parts to travel insurance, that when taking a ski holiday, are overlooked. There are the usual suspects that need to be covered; medical cover, repatriation, delays, cancellations, luggage, theft, damage etc.
When it comes to Winter Sports cover there are a few more aspects that need to be considered:
So take a look at the various types of policy available and though we live in a price conscious world, you may find the cover you want or need is only a little bit more than the cheapest options. How much would you pay for piece of mind?
The evening entertainment at the Freeze Festival offered me the chance to be among the first to see the ground breaking film from O'Neill and Teton Gravity Research.
The new film from Jeremy Jones may not have had the budget of Travis Rice's hit - That's It, That's All - but has to be the biggest film since. With most films these days centred on a variety of perfectly executed tricks, whether in the back-country, the park or using urban rails, a film based deep into the mountains had the feel of an '80s film with 2010 technology.
The film takes you back to the bare bones of snowboarding and opposed to the using helicopters and snowmobiles the riders hike deep into the mountains, whether in Alaska, Antarctica or Chamonix. The line-up is also incredible with Travis Rice, Josh Dirksen, Xavier De La Rue, Jonaven Moore and Johan Olofsson.
The most incredible section of the film involves them 60 miles into some of Alaska's most daunting mountains and being stuck in a snow storm for 12 days. The team have ten days of food with them, their tents are under a foot of fresh powder and all they have for entertainment is building snow caves, playing cards and sleeping. British photographer, Dan Milner, adds some good humour to the situation with some choice comments. Ten days in the guys are on rations and on day 12 the sun comes out. Now most people after 12 days of sun, minimal food and being stuck in a tent miles from civilisation would go home, but not these guys, new supplies are flown out to them and the next few days the team hike and ride some of the most incredible lines you have ever seen.
Another stand out section is where Jeremy heads to Xavier De LA Rue's home resort of Chamonix and they take out a local guide to some of the craziest terrain I've ever seen. Having hiked deep into the Mount Blanc's surrounding mountains the team have to camp overnight and find themselves in a mountain hut that is literally hanging precariously on the side of a massive cliff face. The following day the team are hiking into their line and are underneath some of the scariest looking avalanche conditions ever seen on film. After a few loose pieces of snow the guys are spooked and head back, once off the mountain Jones points out the biggest goal of back country riding is 'to make it home alive'.
Whether a skier, snowboarder or surfer you can appreciate the incredible snowboarding in this film.
After the film we were treated to a few drinks by the sponsors and had time to chat to one of snowboarding's legends Josh Dirksen and one of the UK's stalwarts and the weekend's MC, Tim Warwood. Dirksen, as he usually known, is a very welcoming guy who is still excited about snowboarding for a living after nearly two decades of professional snowboarding. After a few drinks we had a great conversation about how crazy the film was to make and how Travis Rice is the future of snowboarding. I was also given a few tips on how to convince my girlfriend a week's off-piste snowboarding in Chamonix will be good for me. Dirksen may by 34 (which in professional snowboarding years is usually well into retirement) but he still has a huge passion for snowboarding and snowboarders, he happily chatted to everyone at the show and showed how real passion for snow doesn't die.
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