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You can tell when summer has arrived at Iglu, as AJ puts down his sales head — giving the sales team some much deserved respite — and picks up his blogging pen. This week's gem is a guide on how to buy skis.
Buying skis has become a lot more popular in recent seasons. This is partly because ski rental prices are soaring in the Alps and partly because British skiers are getting better and want to advance further.
Having your own skis means you don’t have to spend time learning how to ski a new shape every time you go. You can buy much better skis than you can get as a rental and the bindings on rentals are very heavy because they have sliders to fit many boot sizes and must be heavy duty enough to be bashed around by punters every week of the season. No one respects a rental and if you see someone cruising through thin snow with rocks they are more than likely to be on rentals.
Look how pleased Scotty, one of our ski experts, is with his recent purchase — the K2 Kung Fujas
Is it cost effective?
Renting your skis costs between £60 & £120 depending on your level and on the resort. A good set of skis with bindings will set you back £300 to £450, but this can be halved if you buy at the right time, at the end of a season. Then there is ski carriage of £35+ for every time you go skiing.
So, the answer is that, it costs about the same if you use your new skis five times. However, your ski experience will be enhanced, and if you are like me, then there is no price on the love affair you will have with your shiny new kit. It will also increase your real skier cred in the airport queue, in the cable car, and at the après ski bar. So to sum up, you will look better, ski better, and have more friends!
There are so many more skiers taking their own kit that some smaller charter flights have had to limit the number of skis taken onboard. So make sure you book your ski carriage at the time of booking your holiday!
The average UK skier buys a set of skis after going skiing six times and boarders slightly earlier at four times. By this stage you should have a good idea of what kind of skier you are. Beginners, however, should not buy skis! I wouldn't’t recommend buying skis until you are comfortable on black runs and capable of basic off-piste.
I could go on at length about the technical side of ski design. Techies talk about side cut, turning radius, flexibility, camber, rockers, binding risers, bla bla bla. These are important but can be broken down into three very simple categories of ski. There aren’t really any bad skis made anymore, so it’s just a case of finding your preference.
I am going to leave out specialist competition mogul skis, racing GS skis or big mountain, fat heli-skis. If you are in the market for these then you sure don’t need my advice. Actually, maybe you can take me in your helicopter next time — please.
Piste Cruisers and Mogul Masters.
Not everyone wants to blast the frosty lip off a monster cornice and drop through the big blue into bottomless pow on a 50° couloir. Let’s face it, most people don’t do anything remotely like that.
If you’re keen to make nice edge turns, on piste, at high speed then then get yourself a good carver. I’ve always loved the feeling of compression and then spring back energy from the ski, when you are at warp speed and swinging from edge to edge. A carver has a middle width of around or less than 80mm, a nose of 115mm to 120mm and a tail of around 100mm to 110mm. This gives a nice big side cut for classic edging and still offers enough of a shovel at the front to get through any occasional powder or crud.
Get a length that comes up to the bottom of your nose. These shorter and more responsive skis are also the best to get amongst the moguls with. For carvers, you should stick with the established big brands to get a well-made ski that will last 10 years or more. Try Head, Rossignol, Atomic and Nordica. My favourite carvers are made by the best of the US ski makers, K2 — The Stinger 119/72/103 is fast and smooth and The Charger (122/74/106) is just a bit more advanced and capable of really high speed turns and a quite bit of off-piste fun. With this type of ski you may want to get a riser under your bindings to give you a greater angulation for sharper turns.
K2 Stringer. Photo: © K2 Skis
The All-Mountain, Off-piste Adventurer.
This sort of ski has become the most popular in this century. Modern ski manufacture has made skiing off-piste so much easier, that virtually everyone is getting involved. These skis are wider and longer than piste skis, so that they can float on powder and smooth out crud and rough terrain.
They still maintain some side cut, so that you can easily navigate the pistes but they tend to have a much longer turning radius. This means that when you roll over on your edges the turn takes longer to complete. If you want to make short turns it takes more skill to pivot rather than carve. For these skis you need to be fairly advanced to get the most out of them and you should get them at a length just taller than yourself.
There are so many skis in this range that I could fill several pages with reviews. Every manufacturer has at least three models in the all-mountain range. Before you buy a bigger ski, try out a variety of rentals. Most rental shops will offer a package where you can change skis for a little bit more money. If the chance arises then get yourself to a demo day — where plenty of ski makers will gladly give you a chance to ride their latest kit in the hope of making a sale.
I’ll readily admit to being a ski snob as I expect to outlay £500 to £600 for my skis, with good lightweight Marker bindings — go for the £200 in the sales as they'll cost you. But for that I will get the very best ski I can find, and it will last me at least 7/8 years. Mine are made by the best Swiss manufacturer, Stöckli, who are the last of the big manufacturers that hand-make their skis. They will last forever like a Rolls Royce. I can also highly recommend brands Völkl (those Germans make things to last), Scott, Armada, and K2. I love the K2 Kung Fujas (133/102/127) and they are the ones I’d buy right now. They are achingly cool and best in class.
Park Rats and Jibbers.
This is generally a younger crowd that, 10 years ago was only ever going to go boarding, but the new park skis mean you can do more in the park on skis than you ever could on a board.
Skis for the park can be pretty versatile, but your basic needs are twin tips for skiing and jumping, both forwards and switch (backwards). They need to be really flexible to give the most forgiving landing. As an example, I was filming one of our resident park loving sales team this season in the Val d’Isére Terrain park, when he pulled a back flip in the black section. He under-rotated and landed on the knuckle of the down-slope with his weight way over the front which would normally be terminal and painful (like my jumps). His soft park skis with central bindings were so forgiving that he somehow pulled off the landing. I was made to feel much better when he tried a barrel roll on the next jump and over-rotated and face planted. I got it on film and it still gives me a chuckle!
Freestyle skis tend to have wider, straight sided middle sections and spoon shaped shovels at both ends and have the bindings positioned more centrally. These skis will be flakey at high speed carving and too soft to take into the big mountain environment where precision can be the difference between going off a cliff by accident or making the vital stop. They are perfectly fine for normal piste skiing and powder work but they will not carve or float as well as skis designed for that purpose.
These skis are a bit more specialised and therefore you should look for brands that are at the cutting edge of technology. The best park ski out there at the moment is the Dynastar 6th Sense Distorter, with dimensions of 119/87/109. I also like the Scott Punisher Jib and the Armada T-Hall — named after freestyle Guru Tanner Hall. I see lots of jibbers on short skis for easier aerial work, but if you want a more versatile ski that can crank outside the park then get them at a length that comes up to your forehead.
Next time you go into a shop to look for a ski that suits you, think about the three main varieties. Are you the high speed piste blaster, the big air trickster and jibber, or the all-mountain off-pister? All skis can do all things and multi-task, but start with what you love and go from there. Your ski shop techie will love nothing more than to give you his advice. They are all ski-bums at heart and think about the snow all day long. Just don’t get railroaded into a sale.
It may take many visits to many ski stores, just like speed dating, to find your new love affair. And do NOT try to save money on the bindings! Get the very best they have available. They can save your life.
Today's blog is bought to you by AJ, Iglu's Head of Sales and keenest après ski participant.
We’re pretty keen on après ski action here at Iglu. So much so that it is one of the main factors that decides where we ski each season. We’ve even rated the best chalets for access to après ski. Some have great locations just a few stumbling steps from the best bars and some offer their own in-house bars that everyone else has to come to.
So, let’s start with the best located chalet in everyone’s favourite French resort, Val d’Isére.
The 5* Chalet Cherrier is slap bang in the middle of the action. I’ve stayed here and counted that it was only 16 paces from the front door to the Petit Danois bar. This is one of our early evening favourite bars with two pool tables and consistently hot Danish and Swedish bar staff. The rooms in the Cherrier are big and don’t suffer from noise after 9 pm.
If your budget is more Carlsberg and KP nuts than Krug Champagne and Beluga caviar then you might want to be above one of the most iconic bars in Val d’Isére, by staying at the Chalet Hotel Morris. This chalet hotel couldn't be more convenient, but if you choose one of the rooms at the front with the sunny balconies, you will hear some noise. At least no one will complain if you're a little noisy yourself.
The most famous après ski resort of them all is St Anton and this next chalet is right amongst the fun.
You can ski directly to this chalet from your après session in the Mooserwirt or the Krazy Kangaruh and you are only a few minutes from the main pedestrian area of central St Anton. The Chalet Alpenheim has a few convenient single rooms and if you have a group of four, than make sure you book the junior suite with two rooms and a kitchenette on the top floor! Here it is really worth paying the extra for a sunny balcony with lovely views.
Italian resorts are usually fairly laid back about après ski but there are exceptions. Cervinia, which links over to Zermatt, has a few lively bars and the liveliest of them all is in the Chalet Dragon right on the slopes as you come down at the end of the day. This place gives Cervinia its aprèsphere.
The rooms in the Chalet Dragon are sectioned off in a separate wing so you don’t get the noise of the bar. The chalet is also very well placed to appreciate all the other bars of Cervinia, being about 100m from the centre. The rooms in this chalet are large and this property was one of our biggest sellers last season, so get in early if you have a group.
The best party in Switzerland is undoubtedly in Verbier, and the Place Central is where it all happens.
Chalet Hotel De Verbier is so popular it’s usually sold out for peak dates long before the season starts. It is directly opposite the best that Verbier has to offer and one the all-time classic après ski bars, the Farinet. Live music, potent shakers, a buzzing dance floor and a sliding roof that opens to let the steam out every couple of hours, come together to provide the ultimate Swiss après ski experience.
Courchevel is the famous name in the world’s biggest ski area, but most people are put off by the prices of the extortionately flashy resort at 1850. To avoid the Ruskies and the €40 fondues, the UK market prefers to head to it's little brother just down the road in Courchevel 1650. The prices are better and the après is more convivial. This part of Les Trois Vallées is the most sun-facing and has the prettiest tree runs. Several of our most popular properties are in this resort like the Chalet Cascades and the Chalet Hotel Les Avals.
The Chalet Hotel Les Avals sleeps 70, so it’s already got a ready-made party on most weeks. The chalet hotel also hosts the best après ski bar in resort, Rocky’s. There is a live band on during après a couple of nights a week and it is well setup with TVs for any UK sport you may want to catch. Handy in February and March for the Six Nations rugby. It also does well priced snacks and lots of daily deals on shooters, shots, bombs and beers — as well as serving the legendary après ski beer, Mützig.
If you are looking for a bargain — with all the ingredients for a riotous week of partying — then look no further than the Club Hotel Les Airelles in Les Deux Alpes.
This property is cheap and cheerful so don’t expect The Ritz. This club hotel has hosted the Iglu April ski trip for the last three years and has never failed to deliver a good time. Our crew are mostly mid-twenties ex-seasonaires that like a party almost as much as deep powder.
Les Deux Alpes attracts a young crowd and is heavily favoured by boarders who appreciate the excellent terrain park. We love the super short transfer from Grenoble, the access to La Grave over the top of the glacier, the cheap bars, the €60 helicopter day trip to Alpe d’Huez, and the reliable snow above 2500m.
And finally, here’s a property that is the best placed in the Ibiza of the Pyrenees, Pas de la Casa.
Llac Negre is right in the centre of the main drag of Pas de la Casa. The town rocks all night and has plenty of great bars including the one in this hotel. The prices are great due to Andorra being a tax free principality. The resort is also at 2000m making it one of the highest in Europe. There has been lots of investment in the lift system of the Granvalira ski area and it now compares favourably with the big French resorts of the Tarantaise Vallée.
This is only a short list of some of our favourites but we have loads more to recommend for après ski action.
April may be the end of the season to most, but for Iglu it's a chance for most of the team to enjoy some hard earned slope time, even if it was the third or fourth trip of the season for some of them! AJ, our fearless Head of Sales, takes you through what the guys got up to last week in the snow.
I love April Skiing!
Spring snow madness hit the mountains yet again this season. Reports of the death of the season of 2011/12 after the warmth of March were greatly exaggerated. As usual there is more snow falling in April than March and we love it. This would be the fifth year straight that my ski week in April has been better than my week in March.
Chamonix on arrival.
Iglu had big end of season parties in three resorts for Easter last week.
My team were in Chamonix, the legendary home of Alpinism. There’s no better way to start a holiday then to have snow hitting your ChamExpress transfer vehicle on the way from the airport. We knew that meant powder from the very first day of skiing and despite the mind numbing tiredness that comes with a 4am start, we were grinning.
Monday was sunny, powdery and perfect as we hit the top of Grand Montets, in Argentière, for thigh-burning long powder runs. Tuesday was good but it was getting leg wearyingly slushy down lower. Good thing then that it puked down on Tuesday night, with around 25cm of fresh falling. It also got a little colder and the snow held for the next two days when we explored the Brévent/Flégère areas.
Top of the Grand Montets.
There was one final treat left though — Thursday night brought another big fluffy dump and Friday was the best day of the week. The sun peaked out and there was 25cm of powder all the way to the valley floor so we got to hit the trees of the Grand Montets. We did some GoPro filming and I hadn’t realised just how big my smile is when I’m bouncing in powder. My scurrilous ski buddies called it my pow-pout but I’ll take that kind of ribbing if I’m doing deep and steep powder tree runs, on Friday the 13th April 2012!
Iglu had another crew in St Anton for the week. Here’s a quote from JT on 12th April: Having an amazing time here, it's dumping down with snow at the moment, so tomorrow is gonna be insanely epic. Can we move Iglu to St Anton please? Ha ha.
Chamonix after some fresh snow.
And the response from Christian and the crazy crew in Les Deux Alpes was pretty similar: Same in Deux Alpes... had a solid thirty or more up high, fifty in the wind blown. Great end season conditions... love from Les Airelles!
The snow is still falling and we have reports coming in from Chamonix today that the higher areas are still pow-ticularly good.
See you on the slopes in April next year. AJ.
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