There is a chill in the air, there has been no indian summer and people have started to put the heating on all of which means that it’s time to look forward to the winter season. It won’t be long before we are packing our bags and heading back to the Three Valleys, opening up our chalets in Meribel and La Tania and making sure our guest have a great ski holiday.
It has been a great summer, full of sun, sea and fun leaving us very little time to miss the mountains. Now the cold wind is blowing and our mind has started to drift to our colder happy place… here are some of the things we are looking forward to this winter.
Of course! As soon as the temperature drops we start to think about clipping into our skis and hitting the mountains. Right now as I type I can feel the excitement of the first day on the slopes. You know that feeling, the one that makes you just want to run to the lift knowing that the wait is nearly over and how that energy will carry you through the day as you ski run after run with a stupid grin on your face.
Every year the resort works hard to make things better. This year there are no new lifts or runs to look forward too. However, there is something that we are quite excited about. In Meribel-Motteret they are introducing an indoor picnic spot, complete with sofas, kitchen, free WIFI and charging points. It sounds like the ultimate skiers common room. You can expect to find us hanging out with a Baguette at lunchtimes!
A new ski outfit
This year it is new outfit time which is very exciting. Once you have spent ages deciding what style and colour to go for the most exciting thing is then getting to discover all the different pockets and features that you didn’t even read about, like a whistle tucked into a hidden pocket in the collar!
It doesn’t matter if you’re a season worker or a holiday maker returning to a resort,is a joy when you meet up with people you know from past winters. It could be your favourite waiter, chalet host or ski instructor. They will be as pleased to see you as you will be to see them.
Early season snow
Last year the snow fell before the lifts weren’t even open yet. This didn’t stop us as we hiked out of Méribel up to the top of the Saluire to get some of the first tracks of the season. Check out the video below.
Breathing the Air
How can you not miss the cold, unpolluted, crisp air of the alps. We always look forward to walking out onto the chalet balcony, all wrapped up warm, probably with a glass of wine, to look at the stars and breath the cool night air.
Every year our executive chef dreams up a menu full of old favourites and new dishes and we love getting to eat every one of them. It also means a trip to our favourite butcher who always makes sure we get the best local meat and treats us to some his incredible pork chops (not pictured). We also get to sample all the wines that Tom picks to accompany your chalet dinner.
To be in the mountains is to feel humble and awestruck by the might of nature! Here are some photos to remind you of what it looks like.
The London Ski Show has been going for 43 years and last year it saw some massive changes as it moved to a new venue. The general feeling was that the show was much better with more to see and do and the outside space that hosted the big kicker (Mount Battersea) and aprés stage proving to be very popular. There is more good news as 2016 sees the price of tickets fall as much as £5. Also the date has changed and the show has been moved back to into the half term holiday week. Below is our guide to what to see and what is new…
Dates: Thursday 27th October to Sunday 30th October (times vary)
Location: Battersea Evolution in Battersea Park
Price: Early Bird – £15 Full £20 – Conssesions £10 – Children £8 – Under 11’s Free
Skiing and Snowboarding
There is more skiing and snowboarding to watch than ever before which is good as it is what the show is all about. Mount Battersea is back with it’s pro riders hitting a real snow kicker pulling off some massive tricks. Expect to see some of our Olympic star’s like Murray Buchan taking part in the pro rider demo alongside some emerging talent. New for this year is live rail jam sessions and the rail area will also be hosting the University tour – Downtown Throwdown finals. There are also some great talks in the Mountain T=theatre on Back Country Skiing and improving your technique from the likes of Warren Smith and John Godfrey.
As the show is held during half term this year there are more things for kids to get involved in which will make spending the day there more bearable for those with families. A New addition this year is the family tent where you the organisers promis games, magic shows and face painting. There is a chance for the children to get there Christmas fix win 2 months early as Santa is set to visit the show. For the slightly older children KidZania are setting up shop at the show, giving kids the chance to go on a role play adventure, maybe they will pretend to host Ski Sunday?
A returning addition is the Ice Rink, this time it is located outside and you will get a 15 minute session completely free and available to book in advance. The comedy tent is back with regular show attendees Marcus Brigstock and Andre Maxwell among some exciting cabaret acts. Boot fitting is back and is great fun if that is your idea of entertainment.
The truth is that the show wouldn’t exist without the “trade show” element and for many people the chance to shop for all things ski related in one place is the reason they attend. This year there are some more focused areas, France have a whole pavilion dedicated to tempting you to ski in French resorts as do the Americans. As well as that you can expect the usual mix of small and large tour operators, retailers such as Ellis Brigham and Finches Emporium, gap year opportunities like our friends Basecamp ski instructor courses, representatives from ski areas like the Three Valleys, Clothing and Equipment as well as the obligatory novelty helmet stand.
Last year the food on offer was mountains better than in previous years with some of the street food being surprisingly tasty and at quite reasonable prices. It could be your first chance of the winter to get some tartiflette.
On top of all the free pens, lanyards, sweets and stickers you can get a free pass to the Hemel Hempstead indoor ski slope, which if you claim it and use it makes the entry price to the show good value for money.
Naturally there will be beer and wine and probably a Jager bomb too but this year the Aprés ski has been toned down after last year there were less that 5 people watching Hot Chip and Norman Jay MBE. Friday night is your best bet for a party fix as the show is open until 10pm and the party will be going on on the EIS HAUS Lounge. If you want to be a bit colder you can book to go into the EIS HAUS Experience a frozen bar with ice cold drinks.
Before even going skiing nearly 70% of skiers reported that they feel very satisfied after they have booked a ski holiday, with only 2% not getting any satisfaction from booking the annual trip.
The other 50% were all satisfied if they got out for the first lift however, there was a small percentage that weren’t. We can only assume that the unsatisfied 8% were more keen to a lie-in.
Ride, Eat, Party
We asked everyone how satisfied they felt after half a days riding, a long lunch, one more run and some Aprés? There was nearly a 30/70 split with the majority feeling pretty pleased with this approach to skiing.
Dump of snow
Unsurprisingly waking up to a fresh dump of snow was the most satisfying with 93% of skiers feeling satisfied/quite satisfied or very satisfied. There was a small group that weren’t very happy about this. We suspect that these are the same ones that were planning on a lie-in.
Becoming a ski instructor
We wondered how satisfying it would you be if everyone who had been skiing followed their dream and became a ski instructor? 31% claimed it would not be satisfying at all but on the positive end of the scale 42% of skiers would be very happy to end up working as a instructor.
Hiking and getting fresh lines
The results were pretty clear for the question “How satisfied do you feel after a day hiking and making fresh tracks?”. With the majority claiming that hiking was high on the agenda when looking for thrills on the mountain.
How satisfied to you feel at the end of the trip? On the whole most people felt satisfied at the end of a weeks skiing with a massive 52% being very satisfied. Not surprisingly there was an 18% who craved more mountain time which is why they should consider working a ski season.
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.
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%.
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 .
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s one of the busiest weeks of the season in Meribel, half term! The slopes are full of snaking lines of ski schools and the pubs are a lot quieter (not a bad thing!). However we have found lovely empty runs coming down from the Tougnette 2, the amount of choice up there means if you go for the furthermost runs, Cretes and Blaireau in particular, you can really enjoy the amazing snow we have had over the last couple of weeks.
Weather The clouds have finally broken and the sun is shining through! For the last two weeks in Meribel and La Tania we have been under a blanket of thick cloud, snow and rain but the weather is on the move and pockets of blue sky are starting to appear! The rest of this week is looking promising with light snowy showers and sunny spells, perfect half term weather. The temperatures are set to get milder towards the weekend and the skies are going to clear completely.
The snow in the three valleys is in amazing shape! The snow pack is 2 metres at the top of the lifts and 1 metre at the bottom. The snow itself is soft and light with some icy patches as you head back into resort. Our advice would be to stick to the higher runs to get the best snow and avoid the busy lift areas and tracked out runs back into resort, and when you do descend if things are looking a bit busy consider skiing down into a quieter area such as Morel or Meribel Village and use the free bus service to get you home.
Believe it or not we are over halfway through the season, after a shaky start snow-wise it has turned out to be a great season. Fantastic snow, the sun is coming out and we have good few weeks of great skiing ahead of us!