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Ski Blog

Driving Miss Peisey

clock 21st March 2012 | comment0 Comments

Ever thought about driving to the Alps for your next ski trip, or are you a regular of the trip from Surrey to the Savoie?

If you are indeed planning a skiing road trip then it's definitely worth taking some time-out to make sure you are up to date with the latest local laws, to avoid an untimely fine on your way to the mountains. But how many of you are aware of the intricacies of French law while travelling along their toll booth-filled roads?


Photo: Evodriver.fr

To help you prepare for a week on the slopes and to ensure your spending money is reserved for lift passes, local cheese and an après ski beer or two — as opposed to lining the pockets of the French motorway police — here are a few things to make sure you pack:

Your Personal Breakdown Kit: You are probably already aware that driving regulations in France require every vehicle to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in case of an emergency. However daft you might feel getting your bright yellow jacket out on the hard shoulder, a fine will feel much worse.

Snow Chains: Again, this may seem obvious, but cars driving on snow-covered roads must have snow chains fitted where roads signs to such effect are in place. On busy transfer days in the snow, the police will often be sat at the bottom of mountain roads, from Avoriaz to Val d'Isere, making sure everyone has snow chains before letting you go any further. There is also a 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit when snow chains are in use — not that you'd want to drive any quicker then that with bits of metal wrapped around your tyres!

Breathalysers: Yes, breathalysers. As of 1st July 2012 all drivers of any motor vehicle will be required to carry a disposable breathalyser in their vehicle. Failure to do so will result in a fine. As you may need to use one, it's recommended to stick two of them in your glove box for safe keeping. The breathalyser has to be certified by the French authorities showing an 'NF' number and they usually last for 12 months before going out of date.

Radar & Speed Camera Detectors: Though radar detectors are still legal in the UK, as of 3rd January 2012 they have been outlawed in France. Anyone caught with a radar speed camera detector can be fined up to €1500 on the spot and their device will be taken away immediately — this includes satnavs that show the locations of speed cameras. According to the AA's guide on the matter, you should be able to disable this function from your device and if you contact the manufacturer there may be a software update that removes the locations of speed cameras in France. Either that, or leave the satnav at home and rely on your trusty old maps.

Speeding: Speed limits in France are affected by both where you are, what you are driving and the weather. Standard speed limits for cars are easily seen with road signs, but during high-winds, rain and snow these all drop. For example, the speed limit on the motorway is 130km/h, which is reduced to 110 km/h in the rain. Note: Holders of EU driving licence — if caught driving more than 40 km/h above the speed limit — will have their licence confiscated on the spot by the police. For more info on speed limits in France, take a look at the AA's France Touring Tips.

Tolls: As you are probably aware, the French motorways and duel-carriageways are all tolled in France. The advantage is no road tax, the disadvantage is the need to stop and pay the fees every so often. You can now purchase the Liber-t toll tag, which allows you to effectively jump the queue buy using the automated tolls, as opposed to paying each time. The set-up cost is around €40, of which €20 is a refundable deposit. If you are on a long journey, to say Val d'Isere, the €20 cost will easily be worth the savings in time and the possible fuel costs caused by sitting in queues when the traffic is busy. I know us Brits love to queue, but there nothing wrong with joining the quicker, more organised and efficient queue — in fact, that is the British way to queue. These can be purchased on the Sanef Tolling website, where more information on the costs and how they work can be found.

Driving to France can be a great way of travelling to your skiing holiday, whether on a cheeky weekend away or for a full-blown family holiday. Just make sure the experience makes your holiday easier, as opposed to a hassle. Remember, French police will take no encouraging to fine you, so be prepared.



Festival Season Hits the Slopes

clock 2nd March 2012 | comment1 Comments

If you have been fortunate to ski or board this season — lucky you! The snow conditions are still superb in both Europe and America, with plenty more powder to come. It is the time of year where we enter the ski festival season — here are just a few ideas for March & April

Firstly Austria, Mayrhofen from March 26-31 has the superb Altitude festival, if you fancy a bit of comedy on your ski trip with the likes of Jimmy Carr, Ed Byrne, Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges & Phil Jupitus on the guest list.

On the Music front for jazz fans in France, from March 18-25 in Avoriaz the Jazz Up Festival is kicking off, with Tigran Hamasyan who won 1st Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival recently.

Switzerland will offer the Caprices festival in Crans Montana, where amongst the acts performing here are are Charlie Winston, Sean Paul & The Earth Wind & Fire Experience from April 11-14.

These are just a few ideas — there is plenty of choice out there if you fancy a ski trip and want to enjoy a festival at the same time.

This season has surpassed all expectations, so what are you waiting for come and join the party!



Skiing In The School Holidays — Get In Early

clock 24th February 2012 | comment0 Comments

Half term has only just passed, Easter is yet to arrive and there is still around eight weeks of the season left to play with, yet next winter's school holidays are already a hot topic in the office. And with the amazing snow we've had this season, I can see why.

Christmas, New Year and February half term remain the three most popular weeks of the season to ski. Kids and teachers are off from school, New Year's week typically involves less holiday time off work, typically only using three days of holiday, and the snow is usually pretty good. The result — the best chalets and hotels in the most popular resorts are gone before the summer begins.

This season there was a small amount of nervousness as the early snow started to dry up, then from mid-December onwards the snow arrived in dump-after-dump, week-after-week. Christmas and New Year in the Alps was a romantic winter wonderland, with roof tops, trees and even street lights covered in a layer of snow. The slopes were deep in thick white snow, with so much falling, corduroy was impossible and powder skiing was plentiful.

Roll on a few weeks and to February. As snow continued to fall throughout January, with light snowfall in early Feb, skiers were happy to see the sunshine come out for half term. Over the last few years the slopes haven't been at their best in the school holidays, but with most resorts boasting upwards of two metres of snow on the upper slopes and with Siberian levels of cold arriving, the pistes were in perfect condition. Half term involved wrapping up warm, slapping on the sun block and cruising along perfect corduroy runs, followed by leisurely lunches on sun terraces (though preferably one's with heaters).

So, having enjoyed the peak weeks this season due to amazing conditions, from power turns to piste cruising, the skiing bug appears to be well and truly spreading again. It's like a healthy (apart from the cheese and wine), but expensive, pandemic.

Mid season usually marks the early releases of the following winter's prices, and this year is no different. The pre-brochure deals are already arriving on the site and, from someone who likes to book early, the deals on offer now are almost guaranteed to be the best price you will get a peak season holiday for. Once the brochures arrive after Easter the prices will rise, and though the summer offers are good, if you know exactly where you want to go and when to go, now really is the time to book for school holidays.

Every year, and this year has been no different, the peak and popular week enquiries start to gather pace once half term has passed. Every year the same story of people holding out for 'a better deal', either end up paying more, losing out on the property they want or having to compromise. Now, I'm not saying last minute deals aren't great, or that you won't find a fantastic holiday come September. But if you want the best chalets, or hotels, in the most popular resorts, get in early.

Also, in a financially aware climate, booking early has other benefits. You only have to pay a deposit — typically between £130pp and 25% of the total price — and then you have until 12 weeks before departure to pay the rest. So, if like me you work in a job for love as opposed to money, booking for New Year before the winter is out, means you have another 5/6 months to save up the rest of the holiday. For half term you have another 9 months to save. When booking a peak season, peak price holiday, the early savings and additional time to pay the bill offers you that extra piece of mind — which has to be a bonus!

With this in mind and properties opening up for next years bookings, here are a few snippets of what we have on offer for 2012/13 already.

Family Chalets: Family specialist chalets, offering in-house child care, dedicated kid's ski school and family-friendly meal times, sell out for peak dates so, so quickly. The large chalet hotels, such as the Ducs de Savoie and the Des Deux Domains, sell the best rooms before you know it, but the main problem is, the child care places are filled long before the summer holidays arrive. The smaller 8-10 person chalets also go quickly, as family groups looking for chalets that fit their needs and offer childcare don't waste their time booking. Just try and find a small chalet for Feb half term in, say, Meribel, with child care by mid-summer.

Luxury Chalets: Here's the serious stuff. Our selection of luxury chalets vary from 5* affordable luxury to a chalet that Roman Abrimovic once tried to buy and über luxury properties, with Michelin starred-style cuisine and champagne on tap. These chalets vary in price, but the one thing you can guarantee, the most luxurious, best located and most unique chalets go early.

Club Med: Club Med have become one of our most popular products over the past couple of years because of their fantastic value. Whether going away on a romantic skiing trip for two, with a group of friends or taking the extended family, they have properties to suit all. Also, when the price includes all of your meals, not just breakfast, cake and dinner, your weekly bar bill, your lift pass and ski school, you have to be on to a winner. To whet your appetite Club Med's 2013 ski deals already include a selection of their most popular hotels, offering fantastic pre-brochure prices (due to increase mid-March) as well as up to £180pp discount, including peak dates!

Oh, and one last thing, after a couple of years of juggling departure dates around the December holiday season, Christmas and New Year dates are back to normal. Which means weekend departures and getting home from a New Year ski holiday before the kids go back to school.



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