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Not Everyone likes the hustle and bustle of resorts like Val d'Isere, Meribel or St. Anton, some people prefer a more relaxed affair yet still want great skiing, so where to go?
With this is mind I had a word with a few of Igluski's resort experts to get the lowdown on how to avoid queues, packed out restaurants and crowded pistes. The team appear to have skied every major resort and many hidden gems, so after banging some heads together here are our Top Resorts To Avoid the Queues.
The French Resistance
France is by far the most popular destination for British skiers, with the big three ski areas — the Espace Killy, Three Valleys and Paradiski accounting for 41%* of British ski holidays. That at least gives us a starting point: for world class, vibrant resorts that cater for everyone then head to the Espace Killy, Three Valleys or Paradiski, but for a more relaxed, less hectic week on the slopes where jumps to mind?
Back in the '60s Megève was the height of chic winter holiday destinations, with a stunning village and a boutique feel. Today it still offers a fantastic ambience and great skiing and the crowds have moved on to the trendier Tarantaise resorts. So for chic, boutique elegance head to Megève.
Montgenèvre is a picturesque alpine village that sits on the French-Italian border. Accessing the Milky Way it offers a huge ski area, yet being among the southern French resorts it has become a forgotten gem. Think families, cheese and vin chaud on a calm sun terrace after a great day on the mountain.
Italy has long been home to some of the best value skiing in Europe, both the Milky Way and the Super Dolomiti ski domains offer huge ski areas, Cervinia is linked with the ever popular Zermatt and from La Thuile you can ski over to La Rosiere in France's Tarantaise Valley. But these resorts, are, well, very popular and therefore not what you are after.
There are some hidden gems in the Dolomites but if you head to the lesser known resorts of Gressoney & Champoluc you can enjoy the flattering skiing underneath Europe's second largest mountain, Monte Rosé. The resorts are in the beautiful Gressoney Valley and the former hot-spots now offer a more serene family experience than the espresso-fuelled fun of Passo Tonale.
The Jung Swiss
Switzerland is renowned for beautiful, charming, chocolate box resorts. It is known for great skiing, glaciers, cheese and chocolate. It is also offers some of the world's most exclusive and famous resorts, just think of St. Moritz, Davos, Klosters and Zermatt. But Switzerland also offers some stunning, quiet resorts with incredible skiing and minimal crowds.
The Jungfrau region must be one of the most stunning ski-able valleys in the world. From the resorts of Mürren & Grindelwald you can enjoy one of the most picturesque train rides to resort, taking in the Eiger, Mönch and the Jungfrau. Mürren is know for its steeps and the legendary 'Inferno' run, whereas Grindelwald offers great cruising and awe-inspiring views.
Austria is a place of split personality, on the one hand you have the famous raucous après ski — from St. Anton's Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh, to the champagne bars of Ischgl & Lech, on the other hand you have the great family skiing on offer in Zell am See, Kaprun and Kitzbühel. Both these personalities offer great holidays, depending on your taste, though they are not far enough from the beaten track for some.
One of Austria's most enchanting resorts, Alpbach, is often forgotten, due to it's smaller ski area, but shouldn't be discounted. The beautiful, traditional village has 52km of piste with 1500m of vertical drop and there are plenty of resorts with less vertical, less pistes and are far less attractive that we visit each year (think Bulgarian resorts for a start). Alpbach offers a charming village, perfect for families on their first trip together or those who enjoy skiing in a more intimate resort.
Now Obergurgl may not be the most attractive of Austria's resorts, but the purpose built village sits at the bottom of a glacier and the combination of great intermediate skiing and a limited amount of accommodation means less lift queues than its surrounding resorts. Linked to Hochgurgl it offers a decent sized ski area and a calm family atmosphere.
Well technically it's British Columbia, but the Canadian province offers some of the finest powder and most famous resorts in the world. You could head to Whistler for the holiday of a lifetime, but being one of the top resorts in the world draws in the crowds.
Head a little further north into Interior B.C. and visit the powder haven of Big White. The name says it all really, the resort regularly receives somewhere around 9m of snow a season, so powder skiing is part of everyday life there. The resort boasts (quietly of course) one of Canada's largest ski areas, fluffy, dry, powder and saloon-style, wooden-clad, gold-rush charm.
Heading inland toward Banff National Park you stumble across the resort of Revelstoke. This is one of Canada's newer resorts, where huge investment has been put into the area in recent years. Revelstoke boasts the status of being the only resort that offers piste, cat and heli-skiing all under one umbrella. This may be an escape for the more advanced skiers and snowboarders among us, but it oozes mountain charm without the queues — especially when you're being taken from spot-to-spot on the back of a snowcat.
The American Mid-West is home to some of the United States' finest skiing, from the world class resorts of Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail to the deep, dry powder, and perfect pistes, parks & lifts. The celebrity filled resorts come at a price and are very popular, yet there are again some forgotten gems to discover.
Beaver Creek is the luxury resort on offer, much like Megève it offers a stunning setting, great hotels and a real feel of elegance. The resort could happily compete with its busier neighbours but chooses not to. This calmer mountain and luxury accommodation are the perfect escape for those looking for a great holiday away from the crowds and are happy to pay the price.
Heading a little further west into Utah is Park City, famous for the Sundance Film Festival and boasts three mountains — including the skier only Deer Valley. The resort has a real American-West feel to it, Park City also boasts its own distillery (which will banish those no alcohol rumours) and some superb skiing.
We all love something different about skiing, I swear by Meribel and Morzine, our Sales Manager is St. Anton through and through and of course there are the Val d'Isere, Whistler and Les Arcs fans among us. The great thing about skiing is there is a mountain, resort or even hotel/chalet to suit all of us. I love chalets, big mountains, fun atmosphere and après ski, others prefer charming villages, family run hotels and understated elegance. They key is to find your own spiritual home in the mountains.
* Stats taken from Igluski 2010/11 bookings
Now we've all heard of the Green Cross Code and most of us grew up walking to school with lolly pop ladies keeping us safe from speeding cars, but did you know there is a code of conduct for the mountains?
There have been more and more cases of piste-rage hitting the press over the last few seasons, including a story on PlanetSki where an adult had to be restrained for hitting a 15 year old girl! With this in mind I thought I would share the F.I.S. Code of Conduct with you, so you can go on holiday with the peace of mind that you are skiing responsibly.
F.I.S. Code of Conduct
The code of conduct is really common sense and has been devised so we can all enjoy the mountain and ensure that accidents, which do happen, are dealt with safely and swiftly. Hopefully the only concerns will be skiing safely and respecting others, which includes not skiing over their equipment in lift queues. The mountains are there to be enjoyed.
This week has been a mixed bag for British skiers and snowboarders. Resorts are enjoying incredible December conditions and holiday prices over the Christmas period are being slashed, which is the good news. The bad news for our professional athletes is UK Sport has cut all funding for skiing and snowboarding. This means the likes of Chemmy Alcott and Jamie Nicholls will have to find another way of funding the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The last few weeks have been a real disappointment for Chemmy, she started the season well with her new sponsors Atomic on board and some decent results. Hoping to build on a positive 2009/10 season Chemmy looked in good shape. Then it all went wrong... she broke her leg training with the Canadian ski team in Lake Louise and her funding took a hit.
Jamie Nicholls has made a superb start to the winter. So far he has enjoyed top ten finishes in two TTR events, the Burton NZ Open and the Freeze Festival. His sponsors, Nike, look to be pushing him after a good showing at the D-Pad sessions. If Sochi 2014 are to add slopestyle to the program surely Jamie Nicholls has the potential to win medals.
Last night a few of our top winter sports athletes were interviewed by Chappers on 5 Live including Chemmy, Amy Williams, Jenny Jones and Dan Wakeham. Graham Bell was also on the show to add his two pennies worth, and to remind us he apparently skied back in 85. The show, for those who missed it, was very interesting and hearing how the sports rely on the funding from UK Sport was an eye opener.
As you would expect from Ski Sunday presenter and former British number one skier, Graham Bell definitely wanted to voice his opinion. As he put it the way the funding cuts have been made and how the money has been pushed into other sports (namely curling, skeleton and London 2012) UK Sports have decided to take the easy option. To be a successful World Cup, TTR and Olympic skier or snowboarder takes a huge amount of talent and an incredible level of dedication. What Graham argues is that UK Sport has decided to support sports that would be easier to win medals in, opposed to prestigious sports where the talent is there, it just needs support and nurturing.
No one can disagree that after her Olympic Gold Amy Williams deserves support and she has definitely raised the profile of Skeleton. As Amy pointed out last night, there is no commercial sponsorship in her specialty and neither her or the team benefit from financial backing from commercial backing the way other athletes do - though she did thank BMW for kindly giving her a car. Where I support helping our proven winners develop the rise in funding of £1.3 million seems steep, especially when skiing and snowboarding only previously received £620,000 between them. How can we ignore the talent we have on the slopes then up Women's Bob sleigh from £500,000 to £2.4m?
Okay so I have to admit I am a little biased, but as Chemmy put it skiing is 'an exciting sport, it's a blue ribbon event' and according to NBC Shaun White was the most watched individual in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Ski Sunday has been around for 32 years because skiing and snowboarding are entertaining, the boarder-cross and skier-cross in last years games were a hug hit, yet Zoe Gillings (who finished 8th) now has to rely on her one finance and sponsors to compete. Britain has always loved an underdog but how can we expect athletes who have the talent (Zoe, Jamie and Chemmy) to win the medals we crave without support and how can we expect other younger skiers and snowboarders to come through the ranks.
Thanks to the success of riders like Jenny Jones and Tyler Chorlton there is money from sponsors to help these kids make a living, but in the end sponsors are paying them to do a job for them, and will only support select riders that suit there image. Chemmy, our number one skier has to train with Canada's ski team and is barley surviving after her crash, when Snowsports GB went under last year it cost her £20,000.
Yes support the winners we have but also support our elite athletes and those with the potential to rival the Lindsay Vonns and Shaun Whites of this world and don't expect someone else to do it. There is more chance of Jenny Jones winning a medal than the England football team at the moment!
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