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Switzerland Vs France: Battle of the Alps

clock 20th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

Last week we launched our World Cup blog series with two Southern Hemisphere resorts - Chile VS Australia. Chile came out top, beating Australia with its epic backcountry runs and reliable snow conditions.

This week we’re moving a little closer to home, with the battle of two European countries, Switzerland VS France. Both are big favourites for many skiers and snowboarders, but which one will be crowned King of the Alps? We compare the slopes, après and cuisine to find out.


Zermatt
Zermatt, Switzerland

Slopes

Switzerland
Most resorts in Switzerland are set at a high altitude, bringing guaranteed snow as well as glacier skiing and good conditions throughout the season. Many of the ski areas provide long runs and challenging pistes, making it particularly good for skiers at a more intermediate to advanced level. There are, however, still opportunities for beginners. The resort of Wengen has a ski school as well as a blue piste and a ‘slow speed zone’ for those just starting out.

From stunning scenery to plenty of pistes, backcountry runs and snowparks, Switzerland certainly has a lot of variety. The Graubunden ski area is Switzerland’s largest mountain area, offering a whapping 225km of skiable piste. Head to Verbier and you’ll find your ski area expanded to across the 4 valleys, which includes the neighbouring resorts of Nendaz and Les Collons.

If you visit Zermatt you’ll soon spot the famous Matterhorn peak, which is often featured in many photos of the resort. There are some great advanced runs here as well as the opportunity to do some heliskiing for those who are looking for a new challenge. It is also the highest altitude resort in the country sitting at a top height of 3900m. For the adventurous ones out there, Flims Laax is home to 4 snowparks (including Europe’s largest half pipe) and a glacier for spring and summer skiing.

 

France
Much like Switzerland, France also offers plenty of variation, from high altitude resorts to snowparks and glaciers. Snow reliability is high and the majority of resorts offer good snow conditions throughout the season. Les Deux Alps is the highest resort, standing at a top altitude of 3600m. The resort experiences long sunshine hours and boasts 220km of piste, a board park and a halfpipe.

There are plenty of linked ski areas such as the massive Three Valleys with its 600km of runs. Portes du Soleil is one of the largest linked ski areas in the world, with lots of ski-in ski-out accommodation which is ideal for families and kids. For your freestyle fix, the Paradiski area has four snowparks and two half-pipes.

France caters equally well for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Alpe d’Huez has lots of blue runs, beginners only areas and no abundance of ski schools. If you like backcountry skiing, Tignes has some fantastic off piste opportunities, as does Val d’Isere. There are also numerous glacier resorts in France, including Tignes, some of which offer skiing all year round.

Winner: France


Avoriaz
Avoriaz, France

Après

Switzerland
The après scene in Switzerland is a little on the small side, with not a great deal of après venues on offer. However, each of the bars makes up for it, with resorts such as Verbier known to have some fun and lively nightclubs. As well as nightclubs, expect to find discos, jazz bars and quiet pubs – something to cater for every taste.

 

France
France is home to some well-known après venues, like Rond Point in Meribel and the legendary La Folie Douce, which has bars in Val d’Isere, Meribel, Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez. Ibiza Rocks the Snow Festival is also held yearly in France, bringing some great partying and music to the mountains. All in all, expect some wild après, live bands every night and quieter venues where you can relax with a drink.

Winner: France


St Moritz
St Moritz, Switzerland

Food

Switzerland
Switzerland is the home of the delicious Fondue as well as a whole other collection of comforting mountain foods. Enjoy Käseschnitte (cheese on toast), Raclette (melted cheese scraped overmeat, bread and vegetables) or fried potato Rösti’s. To satisfy your sweet tooth, Switzerland is a great place to find Swiss Chocolate and no end of delicious cakes and pastries.

 

France
Most dishes found in the French mountains are cheese, potato or bread heavy. Traditional French dishes include Tartiflette (baked cheese, potatoes and meat), Beaufort Tart (a cheese and pastry tart), sweet crepes and pastries.

Winner: Switzerland


Les Deux Alpes
Les Deux Alpes, France

The Verdict

Winner: France

This one was a very close call – both countries have some excellent skiing, après and food and are both firm favourites for many snowsports enthusiasts. The winning streak came from France due to its ability to cater equally to beginner, intermediate and advanced abilities. It also knows how to throw a mean après party to end the day!



Chile VS Australia: Battle of the Southern Hemisphere Resorts

clock 13th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

Today marks the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and many of the countries fighting it out to be the winner of the World Cup are also some of the finest countries in the world to ski in, so in true Iglu Ski style we have been pondering which countries would win in a battle of the best ski resorts.

First up is Group B teams Chile VS Australia with a clash to find the best of the southern hemisphere resorts. We will look at the 3 top factors of a leading ski resort (the slopes, the après and the cuisine) in an endeavour to crown the winner of Chile VS Australia.


Perisher, Australia

The Slopes

Chile
Skiing in Chile is often regarded as a once in a lifetime opportunity due to its location in South America and the legendary off piste. The country offers 20 ski resorts which are located in the south with ski lifts peaking at 3500m. The Andes provide the perfect playground for adrenaline seekers and adventurers wanting to heli-ski with its 1 million acres of untouched powder. The Andes is the second highest mountain range in the world with the summit of Aconcagua sitting at 6950m. One of the best reasons to visit Chile is for guaranteed snow due to the high altitude.

The resort of Portillo averages 24ft of snow as well as plenty of sunshine similar to spring skiing in the Alps. Resorts in Chile are smaller than its European counterparts and lifts can be quite dated but slopes are quiet and Portillo even limits tickets sold so there is never a busy day on the mountain. Valle Nevado is situated in the heart of the largest ski area in the southern hemisphere and snow is guaranteed by the height and the considerable size of the terrain. This season, Valle Nevado opened 2 weeks early, on Friday 13th June, due to fantastic early snowfall.

Ski Pucon is situated on a volcano and is popular with freestylers due to the natural half pipes formed by lava. Chile famously featured in the Art of Flight with Travis Rice and Scotty Lago sending it off a 12ft kicker in the pristine South American backcountry. This put Chile on the map for many snowboard enthusiasts, including myself!

Australia
With winter kicking off down under this month, many ski resorts in the Southern hemisphere are starting to open… with or without snow! Unfortunately it hasn’t been the best start of the season in Australia and many resorts are still looking green on opening weekends. Resorts have to rely on snow guns to get some snow on the slopes, but with temperatures gradually dropping, it is expected to dump very soon.

Australia is famously known for its sun, sea and surf, but it is also a ski lovers paradise. Most ski resorts are found in the two states of New South Wales and Victoria. Perisher is the largest ski area in Australia, located in the picturesque Kosciuszko National Park neighbouring Thredbo just up the road. Mt Perisher peaks at 2054m, with the highest chair lift reaching 2034m.

One of the most visited Australian resorts is Thredbo, the resort has the steepest terrain in Australia and also the longest runs including the 5.9km Super Trail. Further South sits Mt. Hotham and Falls Creek which are linked by a helicopter ride. Falls Creek freestyle park and pipe consistently wins awards as well as playing host to many high profile snowboard events throughout the winter. Cross country skiing is available in most resorts where visitors can take advantage of the long groomed trails through the forest.

Winner: Chile



Portillo, Chile

The Après


Chile
Due to the small villages nightlife is limited in many resorts. Valle Nevado has the largest concentration of restaurants and bars and Portillo offers live music in a local bar and an all-night disco

Australia
Most of the resorts in Australia are well developed with large villages. Some tourists even come mainly to party with may be some skiing thrown in on the odd day. With 4 villages, Perisher is known for bars and restaurants becoming very active in the evening once the lifts have closed. Falls Creek has 28 bars and restaurants but if you are looking for a quiet evening there are spa options or places to sit in front of an open fire.

Winner: Austalia


Mt. Buller, Australia

The Cuisine

Chile
Traditional Chilen food may be hard to find in ski resorts. In large hotels you will probably encounter high quality international food and in budget accommodation you will find simple foods. Chile produces a bounty of fine fruit and vegetables which are easily found around resorts. Typical Chilan food is normally meat heavy with plenty of slabs of meat and fish in restaurants, where breakfast is more of a sweet affair with biscuits, cakes and tarts.

Australia
As Australian resorts aren’t very high and villages are easily accessible the food is general to what you find all over Australia. Many villages have a range of restaurants from fine dining to better value options. A traditional lunch on the mountain would be a burger/hot dog and chips but many resorts are starting to extend their ranges to include healthier options. If you are able to travel just outside the ski area to sub-alpine villages in Victoria, you can treat yourself to a feast of flavours including local beers and fresh produce

Winner: Chile


Chile

The Verdict

Winner: Chile

We love snow and the more snow the better. The Australian ski season can be variable with bad years having barely any snowfall. Australia does have many great resorts and features to make a fantastic week on the slopes, but Chile has it in the ‘back of the net’ with its epic backcountry and snow sure resorts.


By Krystelle



Top 5 Green Ski Resorts

clock 10th June 2014 | comment0 Comments

The Best Eco Friendly Ski Holidays

Ski holidays don’t have the greenest of reputations, but many resorts across the world are making efforts to be more eco-friendly and conscious of the environment.

We all love escaping the bustling cities for the serene mountains during the season that fuels our passions. Even though we feel closer to nature, ski resorts use a lot of energy all over the mountain and villages. To prevent climate change and preserve our mountains so that generations can ski for years to come, we need to act now. All over the world there are already signs of what global warming is doing to our ski areas, therefore over the past few years ski resorts have begun to combat this and starting to be more environmentally responsible.

As well as ski areas enforcing eco-friendly processes, there are many organisations getting involved with the fight against climate change. If you are interested in further information on this subject I recommend you take a look at the Protect Our Winters (POW) campaign which was started by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Here are 5 resorts that are changing the future of ski holidays:

 

5. Kaprun

Austria remains popular due to the lack of purpose built ski areas, and alternatively each beautiful alpine village has been carefully developed over time to benefit the environment.

One of the largest energy uses in a ski resort is operating gondolas and chair lifts. Kaprun has led the way by becoming the first in Austria to be ISO-certified and receives 5 star ratings across the board when it comes to green valuations. The Kitzsteinhorn lifts uses renewable energy to operate all systems, including solar power.

There is a comprehensive free bus network that operates across the resort and to Zell am See. Additional, trees are planted using eco-friendly techniques and there is a 11km sewage pipe system in place to prevent pollution on the mountain and glacier.

 

4. Anzère

This maybe just a small Swiss village, but Anzère prides itself in doing its part to keep the alpine air clean by implementing Europe’s largest eco-friendly heating system. It is saving 1.5 million litres of oil a year and provides energy for 600 apartments, 2 hotels, a new outdoor pool and spa.

With only 50km of piste, Anzère will never rival its resort neighbours Verbier or Zermatt, but it is becoming more popular with the likes of families and ecologists, especially with the upgrades in lifts and its amenities.

 

3. Avoriaz

Avoriaz won the Environmental Award for Ecological Developments at the recent World Snow Awards in London. Since opening in 1966 it is the only resort in France to be pedestrianised since its beginning. It is also the first ski resort to design holiday accommodation with features such as insulation, balconies with thermal break and roofs built to hold snow for further insulation.

Construction of a dual-energy central heating plant provides 11 holiday residences and the new Aquariaz water park, with heating and hot water. Plus snow production is sourced from the natural environment and the production is optimised to use as little water as possible.Additional there are actions in place to reduce, sort and process waste and special care to protect plants and wildlife.

 

2. Jackson Hole

In 2011 Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence, which is one of the greatest honours in the world for green ski resorts. JHMR has a number of resort wide environment pledges to combat climate change, with hopes to reduce all carbon emissions, domestic water consumption and waste by 10% by 2015.

The resort has heavily invested in upgrading its facilities including converting energy resources so that now Jackson Hole is one of the only ski areas to be 100% wind powered. More efficient skimobiles have replaced the traditional models creating less pollution, plus JHMR features eco-friendly ski chalets that combine luxury with an environmentally friendly function.

 

1. Saas Fee

The ‘Pearl of the Alps’ is often regarded as one of the greenest resorts in the world as it is famous for being car-free. They are committed to being sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism.

Saas Fee has been awarded ‘Energy Town’ status with its leading example of how collective efforts of the community can both improve the quality of life and help protect the climate. With considerable investments in sustainability, the town aims to play a pioneering role in ecological alpine tourism and in the long term hopes to attain carbon neutrality.

With a large scale installation of particle filters in wood burning heating systems, Saas Fee is preventing the battle with soot particles and is well on the way to become the first fine dust-free community in the European Alps


By Krystelle

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