All posts by Jim Duncombe

My failed winter.

I failed on the slopes again

Yep that’s right I failed again. But I fail in the same way every year and each year I promise to learn from my mistakes.

Each year I book my ski holiday or holidays if I am lucky and each time I promise myself that it is time to improve. This is the year I will get better at skiing. For too many years my ability to ski has remained the same and probably if I plotted it on a graph from year to to year we would have seen it plateau for a while. The reason lies in that ski life mirrored real life as once I was old enough to leave ski school I did and I have never been back.

This means that I have never improved and have a technique so full of flaws that I now fear a ski lesson as much as a trip to the dentist.  Which is why I have failed again this year.

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Despite promising that I would have some lessons. I didn’t. I also made other “ski resolutions” which I failed to keep.  I said to myself that this year I would hire a guide and hit the backcountry for a day. I did come close to achieving this if you count looking at the Méribel Guides website before I went on holiday.

I failed in my attempt to try the park out and see what I was missing out on. When I was younger I loved to hit the snow park. Now I stop at the the top of the park remember the thrill of “getting air” and the think about the pain it might result in. Then after those thoughts leave me, I start to pressure myself into proving that I still can do it. Psyched up I ski off towards the green kicker, I panic, swerve and ski off out of the park making out that I intended to do that all along.

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I also failed in my promise to avoid aprés ski, chalet wine and general excursions to the pub. My failure to do this probably contributed heavily to my failure all round.

But do you know what. I had a good time it was probably one of the best ski holidays I have had.

There is always next years ski holiday.


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The best ski and snowboard movies to stream

It’s a fact that we spend more time thinking about skiing or boarding than we actually spend on the snow doing it. Some of us are happy just dreaming of being on the mountain but occasionally we need a reminder of what we are missing. The other day we found ourselves sat on the sofa trawling the internet for ski movies to get us through the summer. We found some new, some old and some very boring movies to watch and after we had quenched our frozen water thirst we thought we would share what is out there with you so you could hydrate yourself.

Watching a snow movie reminds you how much fun you can have out it the mountains.

Below is a selection of ski and snowboard movies and TV shows that are available on the internet with subscription services like Netflix and Amazon, as well as free services such as Red Bull TV and YouTube.

Netflix

Steep

Steep was filmed in 2007 and looks at the history of extreme skiing, it starts by looking back at the 1979’s when a skier called Bill Briggs who was a pioneer of Big Mountain Riding skied down the Teton Mountain in Jackson Hole. The history of the sport is told with the help of ski legend such as Shane McConkey, Chris Davenport and Ingrid Backstrom. The motto of the film and the people featured in it is “ski where the sport of skiing is still an adventure” and this is what the film is about too.

Deeper – Further – Higher

This trilogy of snowboarding films starring Jeremy Jones isn’t all about tricks and montages, it truly is about the adventure of free-riding and searching for the ultimate line in some of the worlds most extreme places. Jones and his crew don’t just rely on heli drops they believe that mountaineering is part of the experience of big mountain riding. These films follow Jeremy and the team who film him as they go deeper into the back country. These aren’t films about goofy snowboard dudes these are documentary’s about pioneers and explores who respect their environment who just happen to have the best way of getting down a snowy mountain.

Jeremy Jones’ Deeper Trailer – A Snowboard Film from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo.

Chalet Girl

I went to the Cinema to watch this when it came out and spent the time scoffing at the unrealistic depiction of chalet staff, later on I reflected on this thought and realised that being realistic would have made a pretty boring film. The movie is loosely based on the story of Olympic Bronze Medallist Jenny Jones and her life as a seaonnaire. While the actual ski and snowboarding content is limited, in an odd way, you might find this film inspires you to get back on the snow or even apply for a job as a chalet host.

Chalet Girl Trailer from Transmission Films on Vimeo.

Also on Netfilx is My Side of the sky a TV docudrama about Windells Academy a school for snowboarders.

Amazon

Going Downhill Fast

If you are a fan of science movies that you were shown in school in the 90’s and made in the 80’s then this is the ski movie for you and it is also Amazons only ski offering. The documentary talks about going fast on skis and has interviews with experts who talk about snow in terms of penetrating particles and freezing points. Watch this if you want to learn something, not if you want arty shots of powder runs and big air.
Going Downhill fast

Red Bull TV

Art Of Flight

If I owned a company that made too much money, I like to think that, like Red Bull, I would just keep ploughing the money into doing cool stuff to promote my company! Despite the fact that The Art Of Flight is a feature length advert, but then aren’t most ski films, this is one of the best and possibly the most beautiful winter sports film ever made. The film starring Travis Rice documents what its like to challenge yourself in a dangerous environment and challenges what you may think about riders who put are searching constantly and pushing the boundaries.

 

Red Bull TV has plenty to keep any winter sport fan entertained for hours with shows such as Keep Your Tips Up a documentary about a group of riders making a movie, a film about Lindsay Vonn’s comeback and one about Mike Shaw a pro skier who was told he may never walk again.

You Tube

Apocalypse Snow

There are 4 of these movies that have been since 1983, originally a promo video for Les Arcs these films have turned into a cult classic. This isn’t your usual ski movie and don’t let what I am about to tell you put you off. Firstly there is a plot that revolves around the snowboard legend Régis Rolland on his swallow tail board as he is chased around the mountain by evil mono skiers trying to capture the secret of skiing. The music is incredible the stunts amazing and the ski outfits are some of the best you will ever see. Still not convinced.. I have put the first instalment below. Trust me you will be hooked.

Few Words

Also on YouTube is the movie a Few Words which is a documentary by Quicksilver about one of the worlds most accomplished skier, Candide Thovex. One reviewer describe its as “A great overview of the life of this incredible skier…. great cinematography as well as music and the skiing out of this world 10/10; this is one ski film worth buying and keeping.”. Which obviously you don’t have to as they have uploaded it to Youtube. It is a high quality movie that will make you consider the possibilities of what is possible with a pair of skis, before you realise that remembering which pocket you put your lift pass in is hard enough.

And if that isn’t enough you can always search YouTube for epic ski fails!


The future of skiing and life after Brexit

Brexit was voted for and we will have to wait to see what the exit of Britain from Europe will look like. One thing the referendum has done is make us think about the future and how skiing and snowboarding might change over the next 50 years.

Snow and Climate Change

There is a big move for ski resorts to become more responsible for sourcing their energy as it is an industry that feel the affects of climate change directly. One example is our winter home of Méribel where all the energy that powers the lifts and snow cannons are powered by hydroelectricity. Other resorts are installing wind turbines and solar powered technology. You can expect most ski resorts to be self sufficient and 100% powered by renewable energy in the near future.

Find out how green Méribel actually is.

With climate change we may well see less snow and a shift in the seasons so we predict a huge rise in snow making. All the big resorts are investing in snowmaking equipment some are even making it part of their marketing. For example the 3 Valleys is boasting about the 2189 cannons it has covering 50% of its ski area. Maybe one day it will be 100%.

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Cost

Since the the UK voted in the referendum the pound has dropped meaning that we currently get less euros to the pound. To help put into perspective the lowest cost of a € during the following winter seasons looked like this: 2013 – £1.14 : 2014 – £1.18 : 2015 – £1.26 .

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We haven’t heard of a single tour operator currently looking to increase the cost of their ski holidays based on the referendum results and as you pay in sterling your holiday won’t cost any more.

However the cost of a lift pass is likely to creep up every year as the cost of maintaining and improving ski areas becomes more costly. But there is some good news as a handful of experts believe that the cost new chairlifts are coming down so maybe the yearly lift pass price hike won’t be as much in the future.

Tech

One thing that is sure to change is ski and snowboard technology. The fundamental design of skis probably won’t change very much so it is likely that it will be the boot that sees the biggest changes with fully mouldable outers and inners. According to Mike Hatrrtup from K2 we will probably also see a change in bindings with a move to magnetic systems in a bid to save weight.

The hoverboard could ruin everything if its is invented as that is because if they did create Back to the Future type hoverboard technology it would be like cruising down a powder field!

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Quieter slopes

Currently the number of people skiing globally are decreasing and many in the industry are saying that the uptake of the younger generation is much lower and few people take it up later on in life. This could mean that ski resorts are quieter in 50 years time which is great news for people taking the sport up now.

Don’t worry about the future if going skiing or snowboarding makes you happy go to the mountains and enjoy yourself.

Check out our ski chalets in the 3 Valleys 


5 things to do if you lose your friends while skiing

It has happens to us all at some point when skiing. Of course it is much easier to deal with now that most of us e have mobile phones and you can now use them at no extra cost when you are out in the Alps. But sometimes you forget your phone.

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If you are looking for a good place to loose your friends then maybe you should consider a ski trip to Méribel.


The Meribel Bucket list

If you are planning a trip to Méribel then make sure you tick these things off your to do list.

Ski all 8 villages

If you are in the world’s biggest ski area you really should explore. One way to do that is to ski into every village in the 3 Valleys. You can do it in a day if you are quick enough! Try it in this order – Méribel, La Tania, Courchevel, Brides-les-Bains, Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, and Orelle.

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Aprés ski in La Folie Douce and the Ronnie

There are two great places to Aprés in Méribel and the best thing is that you don’t have to choose between them as you can do both. First ski to the Folie Douce and enjoy the mountain, beer, music and atmosphere. Then when it is time to leave you can ski straight down to the Ronnie for a more British aprés ski experience with some of the best covers bands in the Alps. An added bonus is that if you’re in a chalet with a driver service they will pick you up from just outside.

apres

Eat fondue

Only a fool or a person with lactose intolerance goes to the Alps and doesn’t have fondue. For the best melting pot of cheese in town we recommend that you go to La Fromagerie.

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Go to Courchevel and look at the house prices

A must on everyone’s list should be to ski over to Courchevel and look in an estate agent’s window and involuntarily shout “how much?”. If only you had followed up on that dream of owning a chalet in the Alps back in the 90’s!

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Ski the Bartevalle runs

Don’t be put of by the fact that Roc de Tougne is a drag lift like many other people do. The drag lift means that the Bartevalle runs are often quiet and always great fun. This is also our go to spot on a powder day (shhhhh).

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Grand Couloir

If you are going to ski in the Three Valleys then the GC is the thing you have to attempt. We know it is in Courchevel but it’s worth it. It isn’t as scary as it sounds in fact getting to it is probably the scary bit.


Have a burger

No Méribel bucket list would be complete if you didn’t tick off eating the Montagne Burger in Mottaret. This can be found next to the supermarket in the centre of Méribel Mottaret. The burger is so big you may need to bring a friend. Oh and it is only €7.50!

P1020523 (1024x576)Snow Park

Méribel has 2 serious snow parks, the Moon Park and the DC park they both cater for pros and amateurs. Even if you don’t feel that you can attempt the baby jumps it is still worth riding over to watch the locals hit the big stuff.

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End of the day

Unlike many resort the last run of the day in Méribel isn’t a nightmare. Skiing down from the top of the Saulire you will find that most of the runs are in as good shape as they would have been if you had caught first lifts. We recommend a long thy burner down to Méribel Village for a pint in Lodge du Village.

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Click here for more information on ski holidays to Méribel, La Tania or The Three Valleys.


4 things that we have learned about the 3 Valleys this winter

The snow making is amazing

Way back in December 2015 there wasn’t much snow. Many resorts postponed their opening dates leaving quite a few sad skiers. However, this didn’t happen in the 3 Valleys. Of course the snowfall in Méribel wasn’t any different to anywhere else in the Alps but we did benefit from the incredible investment in snow making the Three Valleys has made. Of the other European resorts that were open most were only able to open around 50% of their runs, while Méribel was boasting 76% and the runs down to 1350m in La Tania we in perfect condition. With all the great skiing to be had, despite the lack of snow, it meant that we had very happy customers and that even included a group of travel agents that we invited out at the beginning of the season before the snow arrived in time for Christmas.

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Spring skiing is outstanding again

It was as if the 2015/16 winter was reversed as heavy snow fell throughout April meaning that there was endless powder days accompanied by warm temperatures and blue skies. Much to the disappointment of many the snow even continued to fall after the lifts had shut, which wasn’t a problem for our resort director as he loves a hike. This late snowfall is something we have noticed in recent years and makes us wonder if it the amazing spring conditions are becoming a trend. Could April be the new December?

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Méribel is as popular as ever

If you read any article on top ski resorts, Méribel or the Three Valleys will feature in most. This is unsurprising as, in our biased opinion, it does have everything from amazing aprés ski to the world biggest ski area all in one of Frances prettiest resorts. Did you know that you get about 2.1km of piste per €1 spent on your lift pass in Méribel for comparison you only 1.2km per € in Val d’Isere.  It isn’t just us and the ski press that love Méribel, you do too. The resort has sat in the top 10 destination for British skiers for many years and this year Méribel was a respectable 6th.

The sleeper train is no more

One of my favourite ways to arrive in Alps is by sleeper train. Alighting in Moutiers early in the morning feeling smug that I had an extra day to ski than those who chose to fly. Of course I never remember the hassle of dragging skis through central London on a Friday night, the stressful dash across Paris and the irritating kids playing  GameBoy all night as I try to sleep in a half upright position but smug is how I still felt. No longer is this option open to me as the SNCF has decided to cancel the service due to cost.

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What does the end of the ski season mean to the staff in the ski resorts?

What does the end of the ski season mean to the staff in the ski resorts? 

Spring is in the mountains and that means many things. Things such as drink the bar dry nights, increased sightings of marmots, stones appearing on the piste, increased worry about getting your deposit back on your hire skis and of course the end of the winter ski season. But what does the end of the ski season mean to the staff in the ski resorts?

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Our staff will be starting to realise what this means very soon. To them it will seem a distant memory when they filled out their application form and then came and had an interview for a ski job with us. Since then, the potential we spotted in them will have been realised and they will now be developed professional caterers. Never, during playground chat, will they have thought that making a bed and cleaning bathrooms would be a path they would take and they definitely wouldn’t have considered the rewards it would also lead to.

Now as the last few weeks of guest arrive and depart and the chalets are prepared for a lonely summer, our chalet host will be starting to have one of two feelings. For some it will be Joy, for others it will be dread and some it will be both.

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The feeling of joy will come from the feeling of relief that they did it. It is hard to underestimate the pressure a chalet host is under. Many people take the job with mixed emotions of trepidation and excitement because is it far outside their comfort zone.  So to have completed a winter season in a ski chalet having cooked and cleaned for 200 people 6 nights a week is a massive achievement, especially when you have got consistently good reviews as our staff have done this season.

Joy will also be because they are looking forward to going home, for quite a few of our chalet host this will have been the first time that they have left everyone behind. When they do return they may have not seen their parents or partners for 6 months.

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But there is that feeling of dread too. In some jobs you work, then you go home, then you have a weekend and then you go on holiday. Working and living in a ski resort as a chalet host is all of those things in a day, every day, twice. It is a completely absorbing environment to be in. For many it will be the most intense few months of their lives. In some cases it is addictive and can lead to a whole life in the mountains.

When we reflect on the friend we have made and how far they will be away when we return home. When we consider the epic days we have had in the hills and how suddenly we won’t be skiing fresh tracks 30 minutes after getting that cake out of the oven. We will even reflect back at the great guests we have had, from the party animals to the clean freaks, and how we have enjoyed having them all to stay. When you consider all this you start to get a feeling of dread. Suddenly it will all be gone.

Still there is always next season…

Find out what its like to work for us.

Working for Alpine Action from Alpine Action on Vimeo.


Countdown to the Start of the Méribel Ski Season 16/17

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Minority Sport

I thought the hardest thing about trying mono-skiing was going to be finding a mono-ski and then I clipped my boots in and discovered that actually skiing on one ski with my feet next to each other was actually harder.

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After having the idea of giving this minority sport a go I set about looking for some kit. I started my quest at the usual ski hire shop. My question was met with silence and then laughter, they didn’t have one. After trying my luck at a few other shops where I was met with similar reactions I was told to try a hire shop that I had never noticed in resort before. I found it in a big apartment block located between some sort of office and a restaurant. Just by looking at you knew that it had never experienced the British onslaught of boot fitting and bad ski carrying techniques only seen on a transfer day.

Inside the shop there was a good selection of skis, certainly no snowboards, cross country equipment, snowshoe kit and two mono-skis of questionable quality. I arranged with the owner a day to hire them, filled in the paperwork and left a deposit. Next I went to inform my accomplice in this adventure who seemed surprised and mildly concerned.

Monoski

It may be worth you knowing the level of our skiing. I was average at best, having learnt skiing at a young age then abandoned it for snowboarding, something I have later come to regret not least on the upcoming “mono-ski” day. My buddy was a better skier than me however, his distinct Dad style gave away the many floors in his technique which would also hinder his mono début.

The day arrived and lucky for us it was a pleasant spring day on the mountain. In a vain attempt to distract anyone from our lack of ability, we decided to dress-up as we assumed a mono skier would dress. Our outfits involved headbands and day-glow clothing, a look that seems to repeat itself on the slopes regularly as part of a decade long fashion cycle.

I went for the turquoise and pink mono-ski the other one was purple and yellow this seemed to reinforcing our choice of attire. We headed for the lifts. Rather predictably we opted for the British approach to taking on something new which is to muddle through, invent and learn in the field. Our first challenge was the chairlift. I won’t waste your time with faux suspense at the outcome. Let us just say there were people sat on a stationary lift for some time.
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Finally we were clipped in, we stood up and pushed off. We weren’t expecting immediate success nor were we expecting it take 2 hours to get down a slope that would normally take us 5 minutes to ride down. There isn’t the forgivness on a mono that you get on two skis and the motion of planting poles is crucial to success leaving me endlessly muddled in my attempt and on the floor after most turns. My biggest mistake was trying to use my poles to push off to make the turns. This did aide my speed down the hill however, that was with my back lying on the ski, feet still clipped in, head pointing down, with poles and head gear liberally distributed down the slope.

My second mistake was telling people we were going to attempt this and choosing a run than pretty much had a lift running over it the whole length. Normally I am the one sat on a chairlift laughing at the misfortune of others, today I was being laughed at, commented on and on occasions applauded but with irony. My friend fared no better than me I am pleased to report. Possibly my third mistake was not giving up after the first run, through the course of the day my technique didn’t really improve and my biggest success was probably linking 10 turns before confusion ultimately got the better of me.

At the end of the day we felt a bit sore, quite demoralised and no better at mono-skiing. I can thoroughly recommend this as a minority sport that you don’t need to try.


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