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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.
SwitzerlandMost 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
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, Switzerland
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, France
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!
There’s one thing both skiers and snowboarders can agree to hate. Summer. We all love a blue bird day on the hill, but once the days start getting longer, our snow starts fading away and our favourite season melts away for another 6 months. Now we’ve had the hottest day of the year, how are we going to make it through the rest of summer when all we can think about is our next snow fix? Do you keep making excuses to avoid packing your skis away? Do you reach for your ski coat at the smallest breeze? Can you not stop watching snowboard films even though it’s over 20 degrees outside? You my friend have the highly contagious seasonitis. The only cure is winter, but after years of practise trying to settle that itch here are my top tips to help any ski or snowboarder get through these summer months.
Wherever you are in the world, whether you live in the city, the countryside or lucky enough to be by the beach, you can pick up a board sport anywhere. Surfing, skateboarding or wakeboarding are some of the top activities that’ll give you that familiar adrenaline rush you long for. Embrace nature, visit exciting new places and have fun adventures this summer with another board sport. If you’re not sure where to start, look up your local skate park or centre for camps over the summer and hang out with likeminded people or venture to the beach and get a surf lesson.
The one place you can get that proper snow fix on UK soil is at one of the indoor snow domes. Whether you’re a season pro or looking for some extra lessons after your first ski holiday, the snow domes have a huge, varied list of snow activities to keep you keen till the mountains open again. From lessons for all ages, to freestyle nights, to ski cross camps to testing next seasons equipment at demo days. Follow your local snow dome on Facebook to keep up to date with events over the summer or head to Go Ski Go Board for information and advice on your nearest snow sports venue.
Bring the party of the mountains into the city, the only difference is you will not being able to knock off the hangover with some fresh alpine air in the morning. Enjoy the exhilarating sub-zero temperatures of the Icebar while sipping a tasty cocktail from your own ice glass. Be transported to an Austrian style alpine lodge at Bodo Schloss and indulge in the delicious traditional Austrian cuisine while drinking a ski boot cocktail. Or experience an authentic german bar at the Bavarian Beerhouse, serving ice cold beers in huge stein glasses and offering ‘oompah-tainment.’ Prost!
While it’s summer in Europe, it is winter in the southern hemisphere. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a long haul flight then go chase winter and head to Australia, New Zealand, Chile or Argentina to take advantage of the ski season down under. If you have ever considered doing an instructor course or you are thinking about working as a ski instructor on your gap year, we work with the International Academy that is one of the first British companies to specialise in providing courses leading to ski and snowboard instructor qualifications. The academy offers a range of courses at guaranteed unbeatable prices; some courses also have guaranteed work afterwards for successful students. If you don’t fancy doing the full instructor course, there are dedicated improver courses available in Canada and France. For more information call us on 020 8544 6006 If you are craving the mountains, but want to stay closer to home, many European glacier resorts stay open over the summer. Slopes may only be open for a few hours a day, but many sports camps, instructor courses and adrenaline seekers take advantage of the quiet pistes during the warmer season to ski a few runs in the morning, then mountain bike during the afternoon. Read our top 5 glacier resorts for freeride and summer skiing
This may be my favourite option! Invite all your ski friends over and have an alpine themed dinner complete with tartiflette, fondue, cured meats and germknodel, you can even put a summer twist with a bbq full of the finest frankfurters and bratwurst. Put on your ski holiday edit in the background and look back at the amazing winter you’ve just had and start planning for an even better one next season
Christmas is over, you’ve eaten your bodyweight in turkey (not to mention all those Mince Pies!) and now your jeans are feeling a little too tight. Now, you’ve got a ski holiday booked and you’re worried about all that indulgent mountain food – Tartiflette, Raclette, Fondue. ‘How am I ever going to get in to shape again?’, I hear you cry. Well, never fear, all that skiing or boarding you’re about to do may just allow you to eat whatever you want without having to worry…
Snowsports are an excellent form of cardio as well as a great way to tone and strengthen leg, core and arm muscles. Both skiing and snowboarding are particularly good for strengthening the ankles, lower legs, quadriceps and glutes, as you engage these muscles to control your board or skis. Both activities require good balance, which work your core muscles, pulling in your abs and helping to align your spine. As you balance, you use your arm muscles to help steady yourself, working to firm them up, particularly in the upper arms and shoulders.
When your muscles are strong, the body works harder to use them, therefore burning more calories. This, plus being in a cold environment (where your body burns calories just to keep warm) is great news for your metabolism! On top of all these great health benefits, skiing and boarding also release adrenaline and endorphins which lift your mood and make you feel more alert, awake and happy.
So how many calories does skiing / snowboarding burn?
Skiing or boarding for 6 hours can burn a whopping 2000 - 3000 calories, depending on your age, weight and height. With that in mind, it may take a lot less time than you think just to burn off that mulled wine and 3 Wiener Schnitzels you had for lunch…
Here are a few examples of some popular, hearty ski foods and drinks with an estimate of how long it takes to burn off each one (each food portion is based on a 300g serving).
Health Tips for Skiing & Snowboarding
The amount of calories burned while out on the slopes are immense and give you reason to feel less guilty about what you consume après ski. A day in the mountains can be exhausting and you will find yourself needing to consume more food in order to feel energised. If you want to know about the best foods to eat in order to keep you powering through, we’ve created a little guide below.
Feeling in the mood for a ski trip now? Check out our Last Minute Ski Holidays 2014.
Happy skiing, snowboarding and eating, everyone!
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