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With the kids going back to school today winter is going to be here before we know. With the Freeze Festival less than seven weeks away and the ski season officially arriving in under 100 days, here are five awesome films that are getting us excited about the coming winter.
Jeremy Jones' Further
Jeremy Jones' Further is this year's epic and follows on from Deeper — which was released in 2010. Deeper took us, well, deeper into the mountains and Further promises to, you guessed it, take us further into the mountains. Whether you ski or snowboard you will be able to appreciate the incredible riding and ground-breaking destinations, that Jeremy Jones will take you to, in this film.
Warren Miller's Flow State
Winter officially starts when the Warren Miller tour begins, so it would be rude not to mention this year's offering, Flow State. Flow State will no doubt be filled with incredible lines, inspiring destinations and their renowned thematic approach — this years seem to be about the outer body experience skiing brings for many of us. Polar bears, powder, parks, world class pros and terrifyingly good groms are all in store for you.
Absinthe Films have been making some of the most fun-filled snowboard films for years and Resonance looks like it will follow suit. They balance freeride and freestyle riding seamlessly. Watching Absinthe's films reminds me of days on the mountain with friends and always gets me hyped for my holidays — even if the riding surpasses my wildest dreams and capabilities. You can pretty much guarantee this film will be playing in my chalet the day we arrive!
The Dream Factory
The Dream Factory is another offering from TGR, who made the above Further as well as cracking ski films such as Light The Wick. The Dream Factory promises an atmospheric experience of Alaska's world renowned, filled with incredible lines from this past winter along with a little bit of history and clips from a trip back in '91. Alaska is the reason fat skis were invented and the mountains there never fail to captivate an audience.
If it wasn't for Jake Burton snowboarding would be nowhere near where it is today. The godfather of the sport who backed the likes of Terje and White and whose snowboards, films and riders have inspired generations of snowboarders in the sports short history. With this is mind, 13 has to be on your 2012 hit list.
If this doesn't get you in the mood for winter, well, I don't know what will.
Val Thorens' newest property, Hotel Altapura, is not only the resort's first five star hotel, but it is also the sister hotel to one of the most sought after properties in the Alps — Les Fermes de Marie in Megeve.
Les Fermes de Marie is the premier hotel in the exclusive resort of Megeve, and finding a room here can often be near on impossible. To put this into context, it's easier to find a hotel that will take a booking in Lech over Christmas, then Les Fermes des Marie for the whole season — and you pretty much only get a room in Lech over Christmas if your family have been staying there for 20 years, or if you own a Formula 1 team!
Though Val Thorens may lack the exclusivity of Megeve, it does boast the world's largest ski area and one of, if not the, best ski areas around. Generally a luxury trip to the Three Valleys would mean a trip to Courchevel 1850, and with the hotel chain cutting their mustard in Megeve and St. Tropez, that's where you would have expected them to go. So, why Val Thorens?
Val Thorens may not be the prettiest or most exclusive resort in Europe, but it is the highest and offers door step skiing. Also being the five star hotel in resort gives added exclusivity. There is also another unspoken advantage of Val Thorens, it lacks the recent Russian influx of Courchevel and the Surrey-on-Ski feel of Meribel — which can't be a bad a thing!
So, back to the hotel. Hotel Altapura will be a five star property from this coming winter, described as "the highest Skipalace" by the hoteliers themselves. The Nordic-influenced property may lack the picturesque, Alpine charm of Les Fermes des Marie, but the '50s Scandinavian-influenced building is more fitting with the stark, rocky backdrop that is Val Thorens.
The five star hotel boasts the renowned Les Enfants Terrible restaurant — which features in Megeve as well as a stand alone restaurant in Paris — and a 10,000 ft spa, to ensure every need of the luxury-seeking guests will be pampered for. The hotel's interior is filled with a wonderful combination of wood, stone and marble throughout, with the sun terrace enjoying wonderful views of the Caron peak. The hotel is based at the bottom of the resort opposite the Plain Sud chairlift in a ski in/out location, with the main village a short walk away — not that anyone staying on the Altapura will take any notice of the rest of the resort.
The Altapura boasts a great choice of dining options, with the hotel's half-board option including a sumptuous six course evening meal. The aforementioned Les Enfants Terrible is a highlight of Les Fermes des Marie. In the hotel's glamorous restaurant you expect cuisine of the highest order, with six a la carte courses as standard, and signature dishes the from Megeve and Paris venues on the menu. If that doesn't take your fancy Le 2.Mille.3 offers a traditional menu, with stunning views of the Caron from the terrace during lunch, or La Laiterie offers fine wine and cheese, and of course, a choice of raclette and fondues.
Val Thorens has slowly been dipping its toes into the VIP market over the past few years. The lifts are being upgraded left, right and centre, the family-run four star hotels are impossible to book in peak season, and the arrival of the of Val d'Isere's most renowned après ski bar, the Folie Douce — with its champagne flowing VIP section — have all been welcome additions.
Les Fermes des Marie may be the epitome of luxury and exclusivity, and hopefully the Altapura can offer the impeccable standards, incredible cuisine, but in a more accessible hotel and, of course, in the world's number one ski area. In summary, it's hoorays all round for this stunning hotel.
Photos © www.altapura.fr
In part two of Tessera Swallow's guest blog, she shares her advice on skiing with children. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation.
In my opinion the earliest a child should start skiing is five years old. This means the child is old enough to listen and take instruction. Because the child will have started school at home they understand the concept of listening to a teacher. The child will also be physically strong enough and have the co ordination to make the movements for skiing.
Another factor is vocabulary, I was once teaching a three year old and was telling her to open her heels to make a pizza shape. After a while of no success I asked her to point to her heel, she thought about it and then with conviction pointed to her head!
A winter ski resort is a very alien place for children and the little ones can easily get scared if you add in the fact that their parents have left them and they don’t know when they are coming back. The last thing you want to do is put your child off skiing for life!
If you really want your child to start as young as possible then you will have to pay for private lessons as teaching your own children is a bad idea. You should never ski with your children in between your legs! If they cannot ski the slope they should not be there. I have seen too many children have broken bones from their parents falling on them. Leave the ski lessons to the experts.
I recommend a child under five years old should do not longer than a one hour lesson. It can be very cold, and a private lesson is pretty intense.
Obviously all children are different and it is personal choice when you start your child skiing but I would just like to leave you with one thing. Take two five year olds. Child ‘A’ has been skiing since aged 2.5 years old, every year for a week and can make therefore make snowplough turns. Child ‘B’ has never skied before. Within one to two mornings of group lessons they will almost certainly be exactly the same level.
Most ski schools will accept children in group lessons from five years old. You can get private lessons for younger children but this is obviously more expensive and a school will normally do a minimum of two hours for a private lesson.
Generally group lessons run either in the morning 9 – 12 or afternoons 2 – 5. Some ski schools offer a lunch club, which is a great service meaning you can drop the children off at 9am and have a good long morning skiing before collecting them at 2pm after they have eaten.
I would recommend you try to keep your children in ski school for as long as possible. Once they get older there are some great products for teenagers, which will teach them off piste, snow park tricks and racing all in a safe environment.
You get loads of fresh air, learn something new in an incredible environment and there's a range of activities to do in the village beyond skiing .
If your whole family are beginners book morning group lessons for everyone (with the same school, so the timings all work), then meet up again for lunch. Depending on how you all feel you could either carry on or you could spend the afternoons doing something else – ice skating, looking round the village, snow mobiling, husky sledging or bum boarding! Alternatively you could spend your afternoons in front of a roaring fire reading your book. You really can do as much or as little as you like.
If you are a housewife or househusband, a holiday can often feel like you are doing the same job just in a more challenging environment! To ensure this doesn’t happen a catered chalet holiday will make sure everyone feels pampered. As standard you will have breakfast prepared for you, afternoon tea for when you come off the slopes and a 3-course meal including wine! Perfect.
If possible it is always more relaxing if you can book out the whole chalet, it can often be stressful sharing with people you don’t know. Remember you have to eat dinner with these people every night of your holiday!
The recommended amount you should drink at sea level is two litres per day — at altitude (2000m) it is double at four litres per day. Make sure you and your children drink plenty of water.
The sun is extremely powerful — even when cloudy in January you must apply sun cream to the whole family.
Your heart works 30% harder at altitude than at sea level, this means everything is more effort and therefore more tiring, try and include some quiet time each day to avoid getting over tired.
Enjoy the environment, but remember, the weather can change extremely quickly; it is no fun being caught in the clouds not knowing where you are. Always stick to the pistes unless you are with a ski instructor or mountain guide.
Learn and teach your children the ski way code. This is printed on all piste maps in every resort so there is no excuse not knowing it.
Check out our ski schools guide or the ski school Tess taught at, Ski New Gen, to make sure you book the right lessons for your family ski holiday.
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