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Thursday
Sep112014

WHERE TO SKI AND SNOWBOARD ANNIVERSARY ALPINE AWARDS


World’s leading winter sports resort guidebook presents Awards to four resorts that have improved the most over the 20 years since the book was first published

Where to Ski was first published in 1994. At the launch party for its 20th anniversary edition in September, it presented Anniversary Alpine Awards to the resorts in the main alpine countries that had improved the most in the 20 years since the first edition.

And the winners were:

AUSTRIA: Kitzbühel

In 1994 that the resort suffered from shockingly bad peak-season queues, especially for the Hahnenkamm cable car out of the town, which had an hourly capacity of just 380 people. Now the resort has one of the best lift systems in the Alps, including the Hahnenkamm gondola from town with a capacity of 2000 people an hour and the groundbreaking 3-S gondola carrying 30 people in each cabin that linked the main ski area to the Wurzhöhe area across the valley from 2004.

FRANCE: Tignes

20 years ago, the first edition of the book said Tignes was a great place to ski with good slopes for all standards and reliably good snow but was ‘one of the ugliest resorts in the Alps’. It is now a much more pleasant place to stay. Tignes-le-Lac in particular has been smartened up by some of its original eyesore buildings being revamped in chalet style and the road through to Val Claret being buried in a tunnel.

ITALY: Val Gardena

Since 1994 the main Val Gardena resorts of Selva, Santa Cristina and Ortisei have become much more polished resorts with attractive places to stay and serious lift systems with gondolas from the valley and lots of high-speed chairlifts above them. But the most impressive thing now is the snowmaking, which covers 95% of the slopes and guarantees good skiing all season whatever the weather – the scenery here is spectacular, so this is one of the few resorts where we pray for sun, not snow.

SWITZERLAND: Verbier

In its first edition in 1994, Where to Ski carried a special feature box criticising Verbier for its dreadful lift system, serious lift queues, overcrowded pistes, appalling piste map and signposting, poor snowmaking and shortage of easy pistes. 20 years later most of these things have been significantly improved and last year’s gondola link to Brusson has improved things further.

Tuesday
Sep092014

Booking Secrets From Those In the Know – Team Ski Safari 

Approaching 20 years in the industry, Ski Safari has perfected the art of finding the absolute best value for money for its clients.

The passionate team of experienced skiers and snowboarders don’t just recommend a resort or hotel based on what everyone else knows, but share their first-hand knowledge and wealth of understanding, acquired through years of travel and experience. Revealing their very own booking secrets, four members of the team disclose their insider knowledge to help you get the best from your skiing holiday for 2014-15.

Rupert Hatfield 

Who?  Canada and North American expert Rupert Hatfield has notched up over 10 years at Ski Safari and still manages to get over 30 days a season on snow….he’s in the right job!

Booking Secret: Rupert says, “Don’t shun late season snow! So many people are wary of committing to skiing or boarding late season, however taking Whistler as an example last April and May the resort received 88cm of snowfall to top up the whopping 508cm that fell in February and March. Speaking from experience, having travelled in April for the past 11 seasons all over North America, I have not been disappointed with the snow once. Some of my best snow days have been late season, with many memorable moments from skiing some of the deepest powder ever in Snowbird in April to closing day at Kicking horse, with full snow cover on the slopes and not a bare patch in sight. Naturally, we can never guarantee the snow but consistent strong late season conditions in North American resorts mean I never worry about recommending travelling late season”

James Rivers
Who?
 North American whizz, James Rivers, has skied most of the US and Canadian resorts and tested all the Ski Safaris in the programme (at least once!!)

Booking Secret: James says, “Don’t delay, get in early! Playing the waiting game to seek out the best ski deals doesn’t work anymore, especially with North America. With the majority of airline flight sales, accommodation offers and lift pass incentives ending any time between 31st August and 15th November, the earlier you book, the better the savings. Telluride has one of the best all-round offers on at the moment for travel between 5th January to 7th February 2015. If you book by 15th October, you can benefit from 2 free nights’ accommodation (buy 5, stay 7) and from 2 free ski days on the lift pass (buy 4, ski 6). And just to reinforce the message that it doesn’t make sense to wait, there’s also flight sale savings of up to £200 per person with United until 23rd September.”  

 Andrea Selig

Who? Strapped on to her Dad’s backpack and against all health and safety rules, Andrea Selig started skiing as a baby and it didn’t put her off! Born in Japan, Andrea looks after the Swiss, Japan, and the new South Korea product for Ski Safari.

Booking Secret: Andrea says, “Skiing in Japan should be on every skier and snowboarder’s bucket list, but what lots of people don’t realise is that the season there can actually be quite short, and there is a finite window to catch the powder conditions. The season starts at the middle of December, and it probably won’t stop snowing until the middle of March, but after that, you can expect spring conditions and cherry blossoms! There are also key dates to avoid such as New Year and the Chinese New Year, where resorts are inundated with visitors from China, Singapore and Hong Kong. The best time to visit Japan in 2015 is after the 24th January, when the Australian schools have returned after their long summer break, and before 14th February, as Chinese New Year is celebrated on 19th February. Another date period that works well in 2015 is from 22nd February to 15th March.”

 Andy Hemingway

Who? Skier Andy Hemingway has been with Ski Safari for 2 years and heads up the Scandinavia product. Having done 5 seasons out there and being a Scandinavian Product Manager for 12 years, he knows what he is talking about!

Booking Secret: Andy says, “It’s no secret that local demand drives up accommodation prices, so if you are looking for the most competitive prices around, work out when the locals take their own holidays. It’s worth knowing that in Scandinavia families tend to spend Christmas at home, therefore prices are much more favourable at Christmas than at New Year or during the February half-term. At Easter, Scandinavian school children tend to get just one week holiday from school; as UK schools close for two weeks, it pays to pick the opposite week and the prices will work in your favour.”

Tuesday
Sep092014

Round-up of the latest Ski Safari news ahead of Winter 2014-15

Lift attendant Yongpyong Resort

As the 2014-15 ski season beckons, Ski Safari lines up another packed winter programme full of inspirational trips and some new incredible adventures.

The big news for Ski Safari is the launch of South Korea, as a standalone destination or as part of a unique multi-centre ‘Ski Asia Safari’, combining skiing in South Korea with Niseko in Japan.

On the other side of the pond, up there as one of the most amazing heli-ski destinations is Alaska, and this season sees the introduction of the resort of Alyeska with access to some awesome possibilities.

The Canadian resort of Sun Peaks is expanding its terrain and upgrading accommodation to become the second largest ski area in the country for winter 2014/15.

Closer to home the Scandinavian programme has been enhanced with the introduction of 4 new city stopovers and a new hotel in Åre, arguably located in the most prominent ski-in ski-out position.

Sun Peaks Expansion

The Canadian resort of Sun Peaks becomes the second largest ski area in the country for winter 2014/15. The British Columbia resort is adding 522 acres of terrain which will put it ahead of Banff and behind Whistler. It will have 4,200 acres for the 2014/15 season. There will be 110 acres of trails on West Morrisey and 412 acres of runs on the current back-country area of Gil's, atop Mt. Tod. The current domain of 3,678 acres will be augmented as well as increasing the current vertical.

Sun Peaks has seen real development in the last year or two and has earned the nickname 'little Whistler' - the village certainly has a similar flavour. The excellent accommodation in Sun Peaks - in particular, the Sun Peaks Grand, previously known as the Delta Sun Peaks Resort, now completely refurbished means that you can stay in very high quality accommodation, not often found outside Whistler.
Call Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com.

Introducing Alaska

With the introduction of Alaska, Ski Safari has lined up some incredible tours from the resort of Alyeska. Nestled in the Chugach Mountains in the heart of a glacier carved valley, Alyeska sits in the heart of Girdwood, surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery. Boasting 54 feet of snow annually and known for its deep snow pack, the resort also offers heli and cat-skiing, making it ideal for any dare devil seeking blissful fresh powder (heading over in February means you’ll be there for prime heli ski season). By twinning the Alyeska tour with a week-long stint in either Whistler or Mammoth and a night in the bustling cities of either Seattle or Los Angeles respectively, there will be thousands of acres of skiable terrain to explore, creating the ultimate winter getaway for winter sports enthusiasts.
Call Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com.

Scandinavia Stopovers and New Åre Hotel

Ski Safari first introduced Scandinavia to its programme in 2012-13 and in two years has become the UK’s biggest ski tour operator offering ski holidays to Norway and Sweden. There are now a total of five ski resorts in Norway, including Geilo, Beitostølen, Hemsedal, Norefjell, Trysil and Voss and three resorts in Sweden, including Åre, Björkliden and Riksgränsen, as well as two Ski Safaris, the Åre and the Arctic in Sweden and Fjords and Mountains in Norway.

For 2014-15, Ski Safari will introduce four new city stopovers in Scandinavia, which are popular tourist destinations in their own right and worthy of a visit rather than being used as a gateway through to the ski resort. The cities include the beautiful historic city of Bergen in Norway, which inspired this year’s Disney blockbuster Frozen with its old Hanseatic wharf as well as the historic city of Trondheim and Norway’s capital Oslo. In Sweden, you can overnight in the cool capital of Stockholm.

Situated in one of the best ski-in ski-out locations in the entire resort, the 4* Hotel Fjällgården in Åre is a true skier’s hotel, with a six-seater chairlift on the doorstep and makes a welcome addition to the Ski Safari programme.
Call Ski Safari on 01273 224 068 or visit www.skisafari.com

Red Mountain Resort Expansion (Again!)

Last season Ski Safari introduced the new Red Mountain and Whitewater safari, set deep within British Columbia, offering some of the most compelling steep slopes, deep powder and diverse terrain in the world. Last year the big news was the Red expansion, adding a further 997 acres on Grey Mountain and increasing the total lift serviced area to 2,787 acres. This year the development continues at a significant pace with the addition of nearly 200 acres of cat skiing on Mt. Kirkup. Access to the terrain will operate as a cat shuttle from Grey Mountain on a first come, first served basis and costing a mere $10, if purchased with a lift ticket. This new terrain will access nearly 200 acres of gladed tree skiing, with an additional three newly cut runs on the south side of Mt Kirkup and has 1,600 feet of vertical drop, previously only accessible by hiking and ski touring. This latest development solidifies Red’s reputation, offering that deep powder experience and world class adventure.
Call Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com.

Easy connections to US Resorts

From this season getting to the resorts of Crested Butte, Steamboat and Jackson Hole will be made a whole lot easier by the introduction of more one stop flights into regional airports. By flying with United into Gunnison via Chicago for Crested Butte and Hayden for Steamboat will effectively save up to 4 hours travel to these resorts and ultimately cut down on the cost of getting there too. A new evening flight from Chicago to Jackson Hole connects perfectly with the London to Chicago route, now making the journey less than 12 hours travel time each way.

South Korea and Ski Asia Safari

Full detailed information about the launch of South Korea to the Ski Safari programme was sent earlier this month and can be viewed on the attached pdf. In brief, Ski Safari has introduced South Korea, host to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018, to this winter’s programme. Ski Safari will feature the resorts of Yongpyong and Phoenix Park with skiing also available at the resort of Alpensia, which is not available through any other ski tour operator in the UK. For the ultimate winter adventure the Ski Asia Safari combines skiing in both South Korea and Japan with a city stay in Seoul.

Monday
Sep082014

VERBIER SKI AREA REUNITED! 

The 4 Vallées ski area will remain intact following further negotiations and a renewed 18 year agreement.

The 4 Vallées ski area that includes the neighbouring Swiss resorts of Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon will continue to be covered by one area lift pass for winter 2014/15.

Aware of the importance of finding a solution for the 2014/15 winter season talks and negotiations between the four participating lift companies, Téléverbier, Télé-Nendaz, Téléveysonnaz and Télé- Thyon were conducted by State Councillor Jacques Melly. These further negotiations have resulted in the extension of the 4 Vallées agreement for a period of 18 years. An agreement has been signed and the partners have also committed to strengthening their collaboration. Discussions will continue in the coming months for this purpose.

Pierre-Andre Gremaud, Director at Verbier/Val de Bagnes – La Tzoumaz Promotion SA said; "We

Welcome this positive outcome as this is great news for skiers holidaying in the Verbier 4 Vallées area. We are looking forward to welcoming all our British guests this winter to experience the vast ski domain”

Monday
Sep082014

PLAN YOUR PERFECT HOLIDAY WITH GUIDE'S ALL-NEW RESORT PRICE INDEX

IT’S that time of year again: the skier’s bible, Where to Ski and Snowboard, publishes its annual Resort Price Index survey results on 8 September, allowing ski and snowboard aficionados to plan their snowsports holiday to perfection. Now in its fifth year, the Resort Price Index survey, an integral part of Where to Ski and Snowboard 2015, is the best and most comprehensive way to make sure a chosen resort meets the budget. 

In Where to Ski and Snowboard 2015, findings show that the cheapest resorts in the main Alpine countries remain constant, with Passo Tonale in Italy and Val Cenis in France still at the forefront as best value for money. Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia remain the countries with the cheapest resorts, while Italy, Austria and France offer a broad selection of resorts in cheaper category ranges too. 

Switzerland and North America remain the most costly ski and snowboard destinations, with exclusive resorts such as Zermatt, St Moritz and Aspen among the priciest. They are joined at the top end of the price range by two resorts in France popular with British skiers – Courchevel and Méribel – plus Austria’s chicest resorts, Lech and Zürs. 

Figures show that the costlier resorts come in at more than double the price of the cheapest. A week in Aspen, for example, could cost you over £1,000 in extras a week, while many Italian and Austrian resorts, such as Selva, Ellmau or Mayrhofen, could cost under £500. The guide’s figures cover modest consumption of food and drink and the costs of lift passes, ski hire and lessons – each component is costed out and then combined into an overall index. 

In terms of food and drink, Where to Ski and Snowboard found that Swiss resorts charge the most – you have to allow £30 to £40 per day for a modest lunch and a few drinks (and excluding dinner).  But expect bills upwards of £100 per day for more realistic consumption. North American and Canadian resorts are also comparatively expensive. 

Although France doesn’t appear particularly expensive from the overall RPI figures, compared with Austria and Italy, it is far costlier in terms of food and drink. Many French resorts cost around £25 a day for modest consumption (and some of those most popular with British skiers such as Courchevel and Méribel more like £30 a day). This compares with less than £20 a day for most Italian and many Austrian resorts. 

Co-editor Chris Gill offers a few wise words when it comes to reducing holiday costs, especially the cost of eating and drinking.

“A good way of avoiding the full impact of high resort restaurant prices is to go on a catered chalet holiday. You get afternoon tea as part of the deal, so your lunchtime needs can be minimized; some tour ops offer ‘piste picnic’ packed lunches at low cost; crucially, you get wine included with dinner – and you can organize your own aperitifs, or buy beer and mixers in the chalet at modest cost. 

And, of course, there is self-catering, a fantastic way to control the cost of your snowsport holiday. Many apartments are now kitted out to such a high standard – with luxury kitchens and dishwashers – that preparing meals is not the hardship it once was”.