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Ski Blog

A Change of Scenery — Italy

clock 30th September 2011 | comment0 Comments

Following on from last week's piece, A Change of Scenery — Austria, I've taken a look at the Italian resorts that offer something a little different to the usual top resorts us Brits tend to head to.

Italian skiing is renowned for its great value and relaxed pace, which almost feels ironic for an espresso-fuelled country, renowned for its sports cars and helmet-less, moped riding nutcases.

Selva

Selva is a truly beautiful resort that boasts amazing scenery — the Dolomites change colour throughout the day depending on the light. The ski area is ideal for beginners and intermediates, offering the perfect terrain to build confidence. Elisa Boccara, one of our longstanding sales consultants described the Selva as "the most beautiful ski resort I have ever been to."

For the more experienced skiers there is the whopping 1220 km of the Sella Ronda to explore and though the slopes are not the most challenging, the vast array of terrain and ability to ski in so many different resorts, including Arabba, Corvara and Canazei makes it worth the trip.

The resort itself offers a mix of Italian and Austrian food and culture, making for a quite an original experience and probably more akin to Switzerland, apart from the vast difference in prices! The après ski is more gentle than last week's Austrian resorts, but there is enough to have a good time. Whether on the mountain or in resort you'll find your euros going a lot further, as the typical prices of food and drink are much more reasonable than France or Austria.

Madonna di Campiglio

As one of the country's top resorts, Madonna di Campiglio's popularity with the local market and relatively small number of beds ensures its exclusive — to the British market at least — reputation.

Whereas Courchevel and Klosters are becoming synonymous with nouveau riche Russians, Madonna is better known for hosting Ferrari's pre-season party, thanks to the generous sponsors, which adds a little F1 style glamour. If you head into the resort in mid-January you can expect to see the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Stefano Domenicali, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jules Bianchi and even Michael Schumacher in town.

The resort is full of Milanese happy to parade the latest fashion every evening in the charming town square. Nearby boutiques, lively Italian bars and attractive cafes all add to the resort's character. Along with all of this there is also 150km of skiing in what is an intermediate skier's dream. It really is like a smaller Courchevel, minus the pretence.

Champoluc

One of Iglu's most renowned ski specialists highly recommends Champoluc, and Thomas Moulton doesn't hand out recommendations willy nilly, "A good skiing buddy of mine raves about the resort — vast empty pistes next to the Monte Rosa with flattering skiing, great Italian food and good accommodation. A West Country group of ours who book every year also expressed similar sentiments. It's well priced too."

Champoluc isn't as renowned as many of Europe's resorts, but for those tired of skiing in Val d'Isere, St. Anton and even Verbier, it offers superb touring skiing, whether hiking the Monta Rosa with a local guide or splashing out on some heliskiing in the nearby area. The resort itself offers great, confidence-building skiing, so for mixed ability groups looking for something a little different, with money to spend, and wanting to stay within a short flight from the UK, Champoluc is a great option.

As with many Italian resorts, Champoluc is quiet during the week, but picks up during the weekend when the Milanese and Turin crowds flock to the their weekend apartments and Italian run hotels. The Relais des Glaciers offer superb accommodation and remains family-run, adding to the charm.

Skiing and snowboarding shouldn't be about skiing the same runs and staying in the same hotels and chalets year-on-year, I am guilty of repeatedly visiting Meribel and Morzine, don't get me wrong, but we should all try and ski somewhere new once in a while. There are so many fantastic, though largely undiscovered resorts out there to experience, and on holiday it makes a nice change to be surrounded by locals, as opposed to bumping into your neighbours, someone off the PTA or the lads from the rugby club.



Chalets With A View

clock 31st August 2011 | comment0 Comments

Heading for a chalet holiday is about more than just the snow for some people, there are also the views, the food and the relaxed atmosphere to look forward to.

The best food is fairly easy to work out, if you are heading to a luxury chalet you are likely to get restaurant-quality cuisine and impeccable service, if you head to a 2* property you'll be getting a hearty meal and service from teenage chalet hosts. But which chalets have the best views?

Location, Location, Location

A great view is all about the location of the chalet, the direction it is facing and of course the use of huge picture windows and balconies. So, with this in mind what are the chalets with the best views on our site? This of course is subjective, but here are my favourites.

Chalet Grace, Zermatt

Chalet Grace in Zermatt offers phenomenal views, from the double-height floor to ceiling window views of the Klein Matterhorn in the dining room, to the stunning valley views. One of Europe's most famous and most recognisable mountains, the Matterhorn, can also be seen from the living room's picture windows, or the strategically-placed window in the dining room, which perfectly frames the mountain's peak. It doesn't stop there either, as well as beautiful views across Zermatt itself, you can pop out to the outdoor hot tub which, you guessed it, has views of the Matterhorn.

Perdrix Blanche, Courchevel

The chalet Perdrix Blanche is situated in a quaint corner of Courchevel, down in Courchevel 1550, but it offers stunning views along Bozel Valley and the famous Tarantaise Valley. From the living rooms windows to some of the bedrooms, you have this incredible scenery dropping down the valley toward Brides les Bains and back up the valley to the unspoiled mountains on the opposite side. From the other side of the chalet you can take in the views toward Courchevel 1650 and the national park and, of course, there is the imposing Courchevel 1850 located at the top of the piste.

Chalet Hotel Montpelier, Verbier

Okay, so technically this is a chalet hotel, but as it is essentially just a really big chalet and it has incredible views, it is worth a mention. The hotel pool and sundeck has one of the most incredible indoor views you'll find in the Alps — straight out of the floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows you have an undisturbed, panoramic view of the region. With Mont Fort and Mont Gele both visible from the chalet, this property offers truly stunning views across and around Verbier.

Chalet Haute Cimes, Nendaz

Now, the Chalet Hautes Cimes is a risky one, as the images we currently have been given are artist's impressions and 'what you can expect' pictures from the tour operator, but if they live up the their promise, it will have been worth the risk.

Mira Belum, Meribel

The Mira Belum has a great location with views across the Meribel valley. You can see along the ridge line toward the Olympic Express chairlift, which takes you to St. Martin, and down the valley toward the quaint village of Les Allues. The views give you a real feel for the shape of the Three Valleys and why mother nature's layout makes it one of the best ski areas in the world. If you strain your neck, on a good day you can just about make out the top of the valley and where Meribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens meet.

From beautiful vistas and panoramic mountain views, to deep valleys and national parks, the views on your chalet holiday don't have to be just those of high rise apartment blocks. The Alps have some of the most inspiring and even frightening mountains out there, so why not sit back with a vin chaud and take it all in after a day on the slopes.



The Cheap Ski Deals Guide

clock 23rd May 2011 | comment0 Comments

Cheap ski deals are a bit of a misdemeanour as skiing is never cheap. By the time you have added your travel, accommodation, lift pass, ski hire/carriage, lessons (if needed) and food & drinks in resort, you are often lucky to get away with spending less than £1000. That's not to say that with good planning, realistic expectations and a bit of luck you can of course get a great deal, saving a small fortune.

People often flock toward the likes of Bulgaria and Andorra for a cheap ski break, but the realism is they are catching up with the rest of Europe year-on-year for price, yet the ski areas are not always as snow-sure or as challenging as the more renowned resorts. Andorra's lift pass prices are catching those of France, at £180, and the airfares to Bulgaria mean it often costs more than a cheeky week to a more renowned resort with a shorter flight.

Having taken into consideration the resort costs, including lift pass & ski hire, the holiday costs and the ski areas, I have put together an indication of where the best value cheap ski deals currently lie. There are a couple of self catered apartments, some value chalets and an all inclusive package, to give you a good indication of what to expect and where to look. Bargain hunting for cheap ski holidays starts as soon as the winter is over, so you now don't need to hold on in hope of getting a last minute deal.

To keep things fair and comparable I have looked at mid January, traditionally the cheapest time of the season where the resorts are fully open and for arguments sake have kept to London(ish) airports.

Cheap Self Catered Ski Holidays

Self catered holidays can be a false economy due to the cost of food in resort, though sneaking some dry foods and packet mixes into your suitcase can help with this — student-style skiing! But if you are there for the skiing and/or the nightlife, accommodation is often at the bottom of the list, therefore squeezing into a 20m2 apartment with three friends won't bother you in the slightest. 

Having kept to the dates mentioned before, you might be surprised to hear that the resorts of Avoriaz and Alpe d'Huez topped the list for accommodation costs and reasonable lift pass prices. Okay so €5 or so a pint may be the main downfall here, but there are some great value places to eat in both these ski areas. Pizza Roll in Alpe d'Huez is well used buy the underpaid resort staff and at €3 a pizza who can blame them. In Avoriaz ski down the Les Marmottes restaurant in the Lindarets valley for some great value mountain food — which will be much appreciated if a diet of pasta and sauce is on the menu in the evenings!

The Balcons du Soleil apartments in Avoriaz often offer great value, whether getting an early summer deal or a last minute cheap trip you can find prices here for sub £300 per person. The lift pass is around £196 (for 650km of piste!) and ski hire is around £90 for skis & boots and ski carriage is £51. The best price at the moment is from Luton airport on the 7th January for as little as £282 per person, based on four sharing a four person studio apartment — offering cosy but low cost accommodation.

  • Accommodation, flights & transfers: £282
  • Lift pass: £196
  • Ski carriage: £51
  • Ski hire: £90
  • Total (inc ski hire): £568

Alpe d'Huez offers 260km of great skiing, a glacier, Europe's longest black run — the 16km La Sarenne — the infamous Le Tunnel's moguls and the great value Les Horizons d'Huez apartments. The lift pass is little more expensive here at £204, but includes use of the both the heated outdoor pool (budgie smugglers required), the indoor pool & sports centre and the resort bus, the ski & boot hire is again £90, ski carriage is £51. The cheapest ski deal here is again on the 7th January on a flight from Luton airport at £236 per person, based on four people sharing — the cheapest deal, but slightly higher resort costs.

  • Accommodation, flights & transfers: £236
  • Lift pass: £204
  • Ski carriage: £51
  • Ski hire: £90
  • Total (inc ski hire): £530

Cheap Chalet Ski Deals

Chalet holidays can actually offer better value than staying in an apartment, due to the fact most of your catering is covered (the staff have one night off during your stay). You are usually given a hearty breakfast, afternoon tea and a three course evening meal with wine. If you have good chalet hosts you can usually have a large breakfast with cereals, a cooked option and some fruit, then make yourself a cheese, ham or jam sandwich for lunch (though do this quietly as you are not supposed to) and ski back for tea, coffee and cake at 4pm and still have time for an aprés ski beer.

Based on out-and-out price, the Chalet Anemones in Les Deux Alpes offers fantastic value. Again using a Luton flight the price for two people in a twin room is only £416 per person on either the 7th or 14th January. So the difference in cost to have two full meals and afternoon tea, with only one evening not catered, offers great value. Les Deux Alpes is a student favourite, offering good nightlife, glacier skiing and reasonable resort prices — the lift pass is only £184 and ski & hire is again around £90 and ski carriage is £51.

  • Accommodation, chalet board, flights & transfers: £416
  • Lift pass: £184
  • Ski carriage: £51
  • Ski hire: £90
  • Total (inc ski hire): £690

For a great overall deal, great value on the mountain and the chance to ski two countries in one holiday, then the Chalet Choucas in La Rosiere offers fantastic value. At the moment, though subject to change, the chalet is offering buy-one-get-one-free lift passes for the area, and at £155 for two people that is a bargain. The ski area sits toward the end of the Tarantaise Valley, opposite Les Arcs and bordering Italy. Skiing down to La Thuile you can enjoy fantastic mountain food at great, Italian prices, giving great savings throughout the week. This time based on a flight into Gatwick and with two people sharing a twin room the price stands at £541 per person — at only £77.50 for your lift pass with ski hire from as little as £72 (or ski carriage for £30) you are looking at £690 for a week with everything bar lunch and one evening meal paid for!

  • Accommodation, chalet board, flights & transfers: £541
  • Lift pass: £155 (Currently 2-4-1)
  • Ski carriage: £30
  • Ski hire: £72
  • Total (inc ski hire): £678.50

All-Inclusive Cheap Ski Deals

Again sticking with Les Deux Alpes, there are some ridiculously good value all inclusive deals with the Club Med Les Deux Alpes, though if you fancy a different resort the Club Med Arcs Extreme and Club Med Aime La Plagne are often comparable in price. Club Med offer something different to the typical British ski holiday, first of all they are French run, owned and styled hotels, though they have english speaking staff. If you are here for the skiing and not the resort nightlife the hotels have everything you need. The price include accommodation, transport, all inclusive meals and drinks (apart from champagne etc), lift pass, ski school and on charter flights ski carriage. You can ski back to the hotel for lunch, a beer or a snack, the bar is open until early until the early hours and there is entertainment for all ages. If you head out on the 15th or 22nd January you are only paying £843 per person, based on two sharing — this means if you have your own skis you don't have to spend another penny (apart from travel insurance) and if you don't ski hire starts at only £99 pp. If five days skiing is enough for you, you can get all this for only £763 on the 9th January for six nights!

  • All-inclisive accommodation, flights & transfers: £843
  • Lift pass: £0
  • Ski carriage: £0
  • Ski hire: £99
  • Total (inc ski hire): £942

In a quick and almost lazy round-up here are the overall price comparisons for the best value self catered, chalet and all inclusive for seven nights:

  • Les Horizons d'Huez including lift pass and ski carriage is £491 pp and with ski hire is £530 pp.
  • The Chalet Choucas including, chalet meals, lift pass and ski carriage is £648.50 pp and with ski hire is £690.50 pp.
  • The Club Med Les Deux Alpes including ski carriage and all-inclusive is £843 pp and with ski hire is £942 pp.

So depending on how much you expect to spend on meals both in your accommodation and on the mountain, whether you are heading out into resort to party, fancy a glass of wine over dinner, or want the freedom to enjoy a drink whenever you fancy, depends on what works out best for you. Self catered are cosy, but low cost, chalets are comfortable, yet good value and Club Med include everything you need for a great price. All-in-all it's your choice and before you add in ski lessons and lunches Club Med is only £200 more than a chalet (lessons can cost up to £150 these days), and before you add in meals, tea and wine chalets are only £150 more than self catered. Do the maths and choose the best ski deal for you — I know what I'd go for!

* The prices in this article were correct at time of publish, though are subject to change at anytime.



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