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Working for a ski company does have its draw backs. Everybody wants free advice. The most common question I get asked is what is your favourite resort?
I hate that question!
It's an impossible question to answer because they all offer different experiences. If I'm with a group of my party friends then I much prefer the aprés ski action of Austria in places like St Anton or Mayrhofen. If I'm with some go hard ski fanatics then I'll head to one of the big high resorts of France like Val d'Isére or Chamonix to get the big cornice drops, couloirs, and endless backcountry. Then when my unfortunate friends with families ask me, I always send them towards Italy in resorts like Selva or Cervinia where the pistes are cruisy, the mountain restaurants cheap and filling and the locals are excessively child friendly (they still pinch cheeks) .
So it comes down to this, if I had one resort to ski for the rest of my life which one would I choose?
My answer - Whistler – Nobody does it better! (or maybe Val d'Isére or Jackson Hole)
Our group of ski sales experts couldn't agree either and they've all been seasonaires or instructors. Here's what they all offered up as their favourite resorts:
Verbier (Switzerland) - It offers skiing for all and it's in the most spectacular 4 valley setting, all in a pretty chocolate-box Swiss village. It gives every skier a very complete holiday experience. - Thomas
Aspen (Colorado) - Amazing Rocky Mountains dry powder with an authentic 19th century mining town that is not too big or too small. The bars are cool and full of celebrities who stay in the über-luxury accommodation. There is a mass of challenging skiing on Ajax and Highlands mountains and then there's the vast Snowmass round the corner if you want to just cruise about on wide corduroy pistes. - Scotty
Tignes (France) - It has all the great skiing of Val d 'Isére without the price tag or the pretentious crowds. The night life and 'aprésphere' is hugely understated and just as good as Val, thus keeping the drinks prices down and the fun factor up. It's not a pretty resort, but that works in its favour. People don't go to Tignes to be seen in the right place at the right time wearing the latest fashion gear; they go to Tignes to ski. To sum it all up, 'Go to Val to be seen but go to ski in Tignes'. - Ade
Whistler (Canada) - It has something for everyone! There's a warm Canadian welcome, great village, great food and two great big mountains! - Nick J
If there was a resort with no skiers then that would be my favourite, but if I had to make a choice it would be La Rosiere or St Foy because mass tourism hasn't hit them yet, so they are great value for money, have empty pistes, untracked off-piste for days after a snowfall and there are great views. - Nick HH
Courchevel 1850 (France) - Beautifully groomed pistes, beautiful mountain restaurants and beautiful people (like me). - Wade
Tignes (France) - A cracking resort with a unique feel. A bit more raw, young and exciting than its neighbour Val d'Isere. God I just love that place! - Tommy
St Johan in Tirol (Austria) - It has a massive skiable area if you include the surrounding resorts like Kitzbuhel and is really good for easy piste cruising bladers like me. - Adam Clark
Vail (Colorado) - Huge ski area with uncrowded slopes. It has steep tree skiing, nice groomers and empty powder-filled back bowls. Great nightlife if you are over 21! - August
Morzine (France) - Over 600km of piste, eight snow-parks, no lift queues, good bars and the least French resort in France! Need I say more? - Stephen Adam
Kitzbuhel (Austria) - Because it's the place of scenic beauty, fondues, the Londoner and Monkey Bar and there's always a chance to fall in love! - Steve Stead (Who met his wife there)
Jackson Hole (Wyoming) - Vast and very steep ski area. Some epic lines to hike like the head wall or Cody's Bowl and home town of Mr Backcountry Snowboarding, Travis Rice. An epic resort and a Mecca for extreme skiers and boarders from all over the world. - Dave
Saalbach (Austria) - Family-friendly with a great beginners' area. Pretty scenery and value for money make this a real Austrian gem. There's also a very active aprés ski scene with the usual Tyrolean flavour i.e. Europop, table dancing, Jaeger Bombs and massive beers delivered by dirndl dressed frauleins. - Boyd
Lake Louise (Alberta, Canada) - Some of the most spectacular scenery in the world with a lift and piste system that means beginners and experts can ride the same lift then take a different line down, that is as easy or as challenging as you could want. Some of the best value on-mountain dining anywhere! I guarantee that you will see wild animals like elk, deer, moose, mountain sheep/goats, eagles and if you go late in the season there's even a chance you'll see wolves or bears. - Tracy
Val d'Isere (France) - clichéd it may be, but I can genuinely say that I've never found anywhere else that can match the epic skiing for all conditions, paired with some of the most raucous nightlife & accommodation for all budgets. - Boxy
In conclusion, I found that most staff rated the skiing terrain in France or North America the best, but if you asked them where they had their best experience in skiing then most of them came up with Austria. It's just loads more fun! So early or late season, don't risk the snow - go to a French resort and stay in a Chalet. Mid-season - get yourself to a fun filled, dancing-on-the-table, aprés ski mad Austrian resort and stay in one of their brilliant Spa Hotels.
Written by Adam Johnson
The winter is now well and truly over for most of us. If you're not fortunate enough to have planned some summer skiing to the Southern Hemisphere the next six months will be all about next winter. Where to go, who to go with, and how many times can I get my snow fix in during to 2010/2011. Some of us addicted to waste deep powder, others prefer spending their days inverted in the half pipe and some people are all about the apres ski and party scene.
To aid my fellow snow addicts through another British summer I will be pre-viewing and updating information on the big events, festivals and parties to hit the slopes next winter.
For now I have compiled a list of what we can expect this winter with dates, line-ups and news to follow.
To kick off the winter the London Freeze has been announced for the weekend of the 29th-31st October 2010. The Freeze will play host to both FIS Ski and Snowboard competitions where big names such as Stefan Gimpl and Danny Kass have competed recently and line ups that have included Cypress Hill and Eagle's of Death Metal.
The early season snow and parties usually starts at the Ischgl Opening Party. Last year the conditions were great and Katie Perry headlined the piste side stage.
New Year is a huge party across the Alps, Tignes has a huge stage by the Aeroski and Courchevel 1850 has a massive party by the Crozets. Every bar is packed and the atmosphere from Morzine to Meribel is rocking.
January offers up a few competitions where the skiing and riding will be awesome and the celebration parties, no doubt, will be big. Laax plays home to the Burton European Open, where Brit Jenny Jones has shown success the last couple of seasons. Aspen usually hosts the Winter X-games, one of the biggest competitions in snowsports, expect to see everyone from Shaun White and Tanner Hall to Torah Bright and Jenny Jones fighting for the podium. The party atmosphere is huge with flood-lit competitions, big crowds and DJ sets to keep you warm.
February, being the school holidays and peak holiday season, is a little more chilled. If you need an adrenaline rush though head to Innsbruck, Austria and the Bergisel Stadium for the Billabong Air & Style. This event is home to Dave Benedict's original double cork and Travis Rice's double rodeo. Expect large crowds following the huge dare-devil stunts in the snow filled stadium.
March is a major month for parties, festivals and competitions There is something here for everyone. You can check out everything from the Avoriaz Jazz Festival or Meribel's Altitude Festival to the hedonistic Snowbombing in Mayrhofen. For some serious freestyle skiing and boarding we are hoping to see a return of last years European X-Games held in Tignes as well the Burton US Open in Stratton Mountain, Vermont. There is also The Brits in Laax and BUSC (British Uni champs) in Alpe d'Huez for a more home from home vibe. The Big Snow Festival in Arinsal brings Ibiza to the slopes. For the seasonaires and locals there is the inter-resort competition held in Chamonix, Boss de Bosses.
Finally we head back to Ischgl for the Closing Party in May where you can expect another big name act, spring snow and champagne in every direction.
With all this and plenty more to be announced and confirmed, the slopes are not just for skiing. There are some world class parties and must be seen to be believed events to come this winter. So get yourself out there and enjoy everything the mountains have to offer. If we have missed out any festivals or events that are worth a mention tweet us the info for the next update.
Written by Stephen Adam
Every year Igluski takes a team of ski travel experts away for a week of skiing in Val d'Isére in mid-April, as a reward for their efforts during the long winter of busy sales. Val d'Isére has never failed to provide powder in April in the last 5 years I have done this. This year was busier and better for Igluski than ever before, so not only did I take the largest group away ever, I also secured seven rooms in the 5 Trident Club Med Village of Val d'Isere for seven nights from 11th April 2010 for the top sellers and managers . The other 25 of our group were spread between the superbly located 5* Chalet Cherrier and the very basic but lovable 2* Vieux Village, both run by well-known chalet package operators that provided flights, transfers and catered accommodation.
The only catch for those of us in Club Med was that we had to travel independently, as they ran out of UK flights. No sweat, we're travel experts, right?
Towards the end of our amazing week cocooned in the all-inclusive luxury bubble of Club Med, the word started to spread about some troublesome Volcano way off in Iceland blowing its top and spewing out ash and bad attitude. Did we care? Of course not! It was several thousand miles away and we were having the time of our lives, hunting powder stashes in the bright sunshine and enjoying long lunches with wine at either our hotel or at the brilliant Club Med Tignes, which has an excellent sun terrace for watching the beautiful people, or laughing at the kids ski school right in front. Those tiny kids with their big helmets and miniature skis are hilarious.
Our interest in this distant and insignificant Volcano was peaked when a rumour spread like wildfire through the resort that for some unfathomable reason the airspace around the UK was being closed. Surely this was being excessively Safety Sam and our Swiss airline would be back in the air within a few hours. That evening the seven of us independent travellers gathered around a TV to watch CNN deliver the news that not only was the UK airspace not opening but two thirds of western Europe's airports were also closing. Uh oh!
The next morning, the 25 of our crew that were on packages were getting loaded onto coaches, while we were frantically searching for ways back on our laptop (Club Med has Wi-Fi). Their tour operators had acted swiftly to secure coaches and ferry slots to make sure their guests were back on the day expected, even if they were a little weary after 22 hours on a Coach.
None of us stranded 'Volcano 7' had brought our full car licenses to hire a car, and even if we had, the prices being quoted for a seven-seater were somewhat shocking for a one way trip to London and we couldn't get a ferry space at any major port. Club Med had also gotten all the guests who had booked travel through them onto coaches to get home but we independent travellers were stuck. Club Med understood our predicament and promised to look after us until we found a way home and we were very grateful to have a roof over our heads as we could not find a train and bus seat anywhere online or by phone.
We gave up trying to get home Monday and had a lovely blue bird powder day after the Sunday snowshowers, with a nice Raclette meal back at the hotel. I know that all sounds great but we were feeling the stress of missing work. Eventually, after many hours on the laptops and phones, on Tuesday we secured some individual Eurostar seats. It was time to say a tearful goodbye to Val d'Isere for another year.
Myself and three others of the Volcano 7 finally got moving and we caught a taxi to Bourg St Maurice, a slow train to Chambery, a fast TGV train to Paris, spent a night in a 1 star Fawlty Towers-like special and a sunny lunching day in Montmartre near Gare du Nord, before finally catching the 20.53 Eurostar back to London. It had been a fun trip but this was a very, very expensive Volcano rescue.
The other three of the Volcano 7 couldn't get Eurostar tickets so they caught a transfer to Geneva, an overnight slow train via Basel to Amsterdam, spent a hazy night in the Flying Pig hostel, caught a train to Rotterdam and then an overnight ferry to Harwich and a train down London. Their trip was slightly cheaper but they lost an extra day (and several billion brain cells) by not getting back until Thursday night.
You never never know when the next Force Majeure, act of God or Casus Fortuitus is going to strike. In the last few years I've heard so much about how the travel insurance companies just don't have to pay for things, which seem to be getting more regular like Tsunamis, Earthquakes, and now Volcanoes.
Thank you Eyjafjallajökull for an eventful week but my feelings towards insurance companies has taken a nose dive from deplorable to an unprintable level.
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