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Ski Blog

Warren Miller's Wintervention

clock 29th November 2010 | comment0 Comments

Warren Miller's 61st annual nationwide ski and snowboard film tour is currently underway in cinemas across the UK. The tour offers fans the chance of seeing the latest film in HD a full season before it hits the shops, and if you're a fan of ski and snowboard films this year's tour is a must see.

Warren Miller's Wintervention is another of this winter's offerings that push the boundaries of snowsports, with incredible locations, skiing and stories making up this year's film. The film starts with some pretty funny adverts from the Ski Club and Columbia, though I'm pretty sure only the latter is intentional! With the so-called skier-snowboarder divide almost non-existent these days the film combines both sports, with skiing making up about 70% of the film, but the snowboarding sections were more than a mere a gap filler including big names like Torstein Horgmo & Haldor Helgasson. Throughout the film the crowd in Shepherd's Bush Vue ooh'd, ah'd and ouch'd to big lines, stylish tricks and inevitable stacks and crashes.

This year's film is pretty high-octane from the start. The standout sections of the film are the trip to the Antarctic, heli-skiing in interior British Columbia, the trip to Georgia and the Arctic circle skiing in Spitzbergen. There is also a great section where Sun Peaks' locals Reggie & Zach Crist drive out to Utah's back country with big-mountain newbie Lexi Dupont to fuel their skiing addiction. The section includes some particularly amusing moments, from Lexi's comment "These guys... they’ve got a problem. Wife and kid at home, and they are out here in their airstream skiing", to the cheeky comments from Crist's wife back in the family home.

The trips to Antarctica & Spitzbergen, though opposite ends of the planet, offered some truly awe-inspiring moments. Some of the steepest lines I've seen, bar maybe the Arctic section in Deeper, and set in an immense backdrop. The Antarctica section includes some good natured fun with a sketch including a screen full of penguins and finishing off with skiing off an iceberg. The section in Spitzbergen shows our threesome of ski addicts from the earlier Utah section hiking incredible lines, camping and of course watching the locals (Polar bears) from a safe distance.

Wintervention also has a short tribute to back country legend Arne Backstom, who passed away in a skiing accident in Peru during the summer. The section shows him skiing some of his favourite lines in Heavenly and showed us why he will be missed by the skiing community as a whole.

My favourite section of Wintervention was the trip to Columbia Mountains, interior British Columbia. The section starts with an introduction to the heli-skiing area in the Bugaboo Mountains that had been discovered by Austrian skier Hans Gromer back in the '60s, the guide also enjoys pointing out that the ski area they use is 60 times larger than every ski resort in North America combined! There is steep, deep powder, high speed tree-lined runs and the amazing scenery, the Bugaboos are skiing heaven and the film portrays this superbly. By the end of this section half the crowd was salivating at the thought of being there.

The evening as a whole was good fun, and half way through the film there was a short, but fun interval. Jim from Black Diamond turned up with some prizes from the sponsors including some skis from Rossignol and a couple of jackets from Columbia.

All in all it was a great evening and another great must see film. For those not lucky enough to have seen Warren Miller's 'Wintervention' yet, the tour runs until the 14th Jan so get yourself to your local viewing or get the 2011 release on pre-order as soon as possible!



William & Kate's Winter Wonderland

clock 17th November 2010 | comment0 Comments

So far this week has proven to be an interesting one, the skiing romance that is Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement and Pope Benedict XVI blessed our favourite sport.

The Pope has been quoted saying "Skiing makes us feel small and returns us to our true dimension as creatures... It makes us capable of asking ourselves about the meaning of creation, of looking above, of opening ourselves to the Creator. By contemplating creation, man recognizes the greatness of God". However the real news is all about Prince William and Kate Middleton. Rumour has it the royal couple's relationship blossomed in the romantic, luxury resort of Klosters in Switzerland.

With this in mind that sent me to thinking where would be the best ski resorts to head to for a honeymoon. From the über-resorts of Klosters, Lech and Courchevel 1850 (popular with the rich & famous and the Royal Family), to the intimate resorts of Kitzbuhel, St. Martin & Wengen.

Honeymoon Locations for William & Kate

Skiing has played its part with the Royal Family over the years with Diana Spencer, Sarah Ferguson and now Kate Middleton invited on the family ski trips before their respective weddings. Prince Charles remains a keen skier and William and Harry are known to be fans of both Klosters and Verbier. So with a possible spring wedding where would William and Kate go if they were to head for a skiing honeymoon?

Klosters - You would have to say that the Swiss Resort of Klosters would be their most likely destination. A luxury resort, superb skiing and the location of many a picture of the pair skiing together. They have stayed in 5* hotels and in private chalets in the resorts. With accommodation on offer for the über-rich and years of Royal connections the resort definitely has a head start.

Verbier - Not as romantic a resort as Klosters but again a luxury resort with world class skiing and world class private chalets on offer. Home to The Lodge, Richard Branson's über-luxury property, as well as a host of other high end accommodation, they would be well looked after.

Courchevel 1850 - France & Russia's favourite exclusive resort, Courchevel 1850, would also be an ideal location. Already a firm favourite among the Royals and a regular haunt of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. The combination of exclusive hotels, chalets, clubs and restaurants, coupled with one of the world's premier ski areas make Courchevel an attractive destination.

Lech - Lech is often seen as the Courchevel 1850 of Austria. Lech is renowned for über luxury 5* hotels, exclusive bars, restaurants and night clubs and are among the 'it' resorts during New Year. With many an F1 team owner and the truly super-rich heading to Lech you would have to say it is Austria's most likely option. Throw in the awesome Arlberg ski area, linked with St. Anton and St. Christoph and you have a perfect location.

Romantic Get-Away Skiing for Mortals

Now where as we may all aspire to staying in £1000 per night accommodation, while rubbing our shoulders with industrial powerhouses and film stars, most of us have more modest budgets and desires for a romantic skiing trip with the other half. Whether on a honeymoon or a romantic week on the slopes there are some fantastic resorts with stunning views, intimate alpine restaurants and affordable bubbly on offer. For those who are looking for a special escape without the celebrity spotting and the prices it brings here are some great resorts.

Kitzbuhel - The quaint resort of Kitzbuhel is often described as the prettiest town in the Alps. The skiing is picturesgue and the hotels range from 5* luxury to family run affairs. Throw in a great mix of night-life from the Michelin star Neuwirt restaurant in the Hotel Schwarzer Adler to the typically entertaining & beef-fuelled Austrian apres-ski.

St. Martin - The hidden gem of the Three Valleys in France, St. Martin de Belleville is a small village at the bottom of the Belleville valley. Offering attractive Savoyard charm, intimate little bars and restaurants and 'the world's largest ski area', on a romantic week for two, do you need anymore?

Grindelwald - The Swiss resort of Grindelwald is one of the country's stunning and stereotypical chocolate box resorts. Set in a picturesque alpine location offering romantic hotels and the superb skiing of the Jungfrau region, with the beautiful resorts of Wengen and Murren included in the lift pass. Grindelwald offers a perfect romantic escape from the hustle and bustle of Europe's major resorts.

These are my thoughts, but where would you go? Comment below or drop us a message on our Twitter or Facebook pages.

 

 



Winter Sports Insurance, Are You Covered?

clock 9th November 2010 | comment0 Comments

With the snow falling and the winter season approaching fast one question that should be on all of our minds is: 'Are you covered'? I'm referring to winter sports travel insurance of course.

Now there will be some of us covered by our banks, others will have year round policies and of course there are always those who will be booking theirs online the night before the flight. First of all everyone who goes skiing or snowboarding needs winter sports cover on their travel insurance and second of all we need to know for what we are covered.

Over the next few months there will be articles in the papers, on the news and in travel blogs about accidents in the Alps, and those where people don't have the appropriate cover are always the ones to make the headlines. Now, of course there are accidents that are unforeseeable, and often where blame is a very grey area. With mother nature involved we participate in an unpredictable environment that needs to be respected.

In years gone by I have used specialist action sports travel insurance, I've used the company recommended on Iglu extras and I've used my bank, luckily to minimal use. I've also had friends forget to take out a policy or forget to add their winter sports cover thinking they can get away with it and ending up with hefty medical bills and only a credit card to pay for it with no chance of ever seeing that money again.

At the moment there is a story in the press about a group of skiers who are thought to have caused an avalanche in the Swiss resorts of Anzère. The people in question are facing a possible court case that could result in charges, fines and having to pay the costs of the rescue operation deemed to be around 100,000 CHF (£64,000). Though it is a contentious issue to whether they are at fault this does highlight another side of winter sports insurance. Not only do you need to understand the cover for your own injuries, lost, stolen or damaged property etc you also need to understand the level of cover if you cause an accident.

Now I don't pretend to be an expert and the intricacies of law and insurance are outside of my knowledge base but there are definitely certain aspects of each insurance plan you should check. Again this is personal preference, whether it be level of cover or cost. Not everyone needs the highest level of off-piste insurance and not all of us will be upside down in the snow parks.

These are recommendations of what to look for and not what you as an individual should purchase.

What Cover Do I Need?

There are various parts to travel insurance, that when taking a ski holiday, are overlooked. There are the usual suspects that need to be covered; medical cover, repatriation, delays, cancellations, luggage, theft, damage etc.

When it comes to Winter Sports cover there are a few more aspects that need to be considered:

  • Off Piste - There are various levels with a large number of policies covering 'only when accompanied by a qualified instructor' and some policies exclude certain off piste just using the vague wording 'unnecessary risk' without an explanation.
  • Snow Park - Read the small print, if you enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the park make sure you are covered and some insurance, like off-piste, counts the park as an 'unnecessary risk'.
  • Legal Cover - As with the story mentioned above, if you set off an avalanche or wipe out an angry ski instructor you may find that this part of your insurance keeps you out of serious trouble.
  • Public Liability - Again I'm not sure of the exact legalities of this but skiing and snowboarding are fun sports in potentially hazardous surroundings so make sure you are covered.
  • Ski & Snowboard Carriage - If you have the latest kit make sure the covered allowance is is enough, if your skis cost you £600 and your insurance only covers £400 you need to know.
  • Medical Care - I mentioned this before but some policies will pay those horrible hospital bills for you, others will want you to claim back any incurred costs, check the emergency procedures and costs.
  • Ski Packs - Some insurance cover will include your lift pass, hired ski equipment and ski lessons for a variety of closure, cancellation and damage scenarios.

So take a look at the various types of policy available and though we live in a price conscious world, you may find the cover you want or need is only a little bit more than the cheapest options. How much would you pay for piece of mind?



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