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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.


Arolles – Run Guide

Arolles – Run Guide

Part of the fun of skiing is testing yourself on a variety of different slopes. Some people prefer a cruisy blue, others might like the tranquillity of a green track through the woods while more advanced riders will love to pick up some speed and carve their way down an open red.

WP_20140115_010Given that the Three Valleys is the largest ski area in the world, skiing in La Tania and Meribel allows you to tackle all these types of runs and more. However rarely does just one piste offer such a variety of different sections. One of the exceptions that proves this rule is the Arolles piste in La Tania.

Thee beginnings of the run are not that promising. Arolles splits off from the Loze Est run a little way down from the top of the Bouc Blanc lift. While it offers fantastic views of both the Courchevel and La Tania slopes on a good day, this exposed plateau often catches the prevailing wind and is a bit flat, especially for boarders. But persevere…

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As you approach the top of the Plantrey lift take care to keep left as you can pick up speed quickly as the gradient gradually increases. as you round the small rise, suddenly a widen open blue opens up, allowing you to really put the wind in your hair by carving your way round this relatively steep section.

After a couple of hundred metres you come to a natural plateau, helping you to regulate your speed before you come over the next rise. From here the ground drops away again, with the top of the Forêt bubble ahead and the entire valley stretching out ahead, with Le Praz nestling at the foot of the mountain. This section is a best tackled at cruising speed to take in the views and watch out for riders congregating around the lift station.

As you pass by Forêt, you take a sharp left and find yourself underneath the bubble cables. At this point the wide piste has narrowed to a track with just a moderate gradient at what is arguably the most attractive section. Now down amongst the trees, the run winds to the edge of the Bouc Blanc red. This brisk cruisy track is especially good in the morning when the snow is fresh as it can occasionally become slightly slushy in the afternoon as heavy use can make it a victim of it’s own popularity.

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At this point you might be tempted to take the steep section of Bouc Blanc directly to the top of the La Tania bubble but I’d recommend keeping right round the sharp bend and seeing Arolles through to the end. The track continues through another mellow wooded section before a left turn takes you to the top of a short but steep bank. Boarders should take a tight line round the apex of this corner, allowing them to up the heart rate a little again, as well as to pick up enough speed to cross the mound around the La Tania bubble station. Skiers can afford to take it slightly wider if they wish as they way up continuing down Folyères for a well-earned drink in La Tania, or catching the Dou des Lanches or Bouc Blanc lifts to discover more of the 3 valleys.

Author – Rob Bartlett


Eating out in Méribel

Eating out in Méribel

  The French ski resort of Méribel draws people from across the globe keen to experience the resort’s spectacular slopes, lively nightlife, charm and character for themselves. But aside from the pristine pistes and varied après-ski on offer, there’s another major reason to pay the resort a visit; the food.

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Méribel is a mega-resort with a reputation for luxury, so you’d be forgiven for thinking dining options were restricted to expensive restaurants and Michelin-level fine dining, but this is simply not the case. Visitors to the resort can find everything from basic baguettes, burgers and pizzas all the way up to exquisite haute cuisine in five star surroundings. In short, there are eateries and restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes.

Budget

 At the lower end of the dining spectrum, Méribel offers a wealth of sandwicheries and burger bars perfect for picking up an inexpensive lunch in advance or taking the kids for a cheap treat. With baguettes freshly made each day and fresh produce throughout, these inexpensive eateries are the perfect option for the price-conscious.

Venues such as the ever popular Jack’s Bar plus other centrally located options like la Taverne and Scotty’s all offer broad menus of filling burgers, pizzas and the like and the value for money is good. Over in Méribel Village, the Lodge du Villagebar and restaurant has been a favourite for years and with good reason. Other cheap eats like hot dogs, wraps and nachos are also popular options for seasonnaires, parents and kids alike.

Mid range

 Méribel’s superb mid-range restaurants are notable for those ever popular Savoyarde specialities so many skiers know and love. Fondues, raclettes, hot stone pierrades and tartiflettes feature heavily and make for a wonderful change from the norm, though international cuisine is also popular.

 For a good quality meal out which won’t break the bank, Méribel offers myriad options. Highlights include Chez Kiki andAux Petits Onions up the hill in Mottaret, plus le Refuge and la Galette in the heart of town centre. These traditional and characterful French restaurants may enjoy a certain mark up on their meals, but the food is superb and you’ll leave feeling full so the value for money is pretty decent overall.

Top end

 With stories of seafood being flown in directly to slope-side restaurants in time for the luncheon rush and cellars full of the finest vintage wines, the top-end restaurants in the Alps take their service very seriously and Meribel is no exception. The resort has a long history of haute cuisine and boasts some of the finest restaurants of any resort in Europe.

 For discerning diners looking for something truly special Meribel offers a few highlights, both on and off the mountain. Up on the slopes, establishments such as les Allodis offer the ideal location for a terrace lunch in the sun. Les Allodis sits opposite the mid-station of the Rhodos cable car with spectacular views and a menu to dine for. Other highlights include theGrand Coeur in town centre, a traditional restaurant with tip top service and superb food, and le Blanchot up near the Altiport, which is undoubtedly one of the very finest restaurants in the Meribel valley.

By – Liz  Camperhand 


Our new chalet – 2013

Our new chalet

There are thousands of chalets in Meribel and almost as many chalet companies. This makes the acquisition of a new property for our portfolio quite exciting.  This winter we will be offering the wonderful chalet Chez Menor. We have been in the chalet business for quite some time now, twenty years in fact. Over those years we have learnt that there are many factors that need to be considered when taking on a new chalet and that any old chalet just won’t do.

When we take on a new chalet we consider the following things…

1.       Quality of the chalet

2.       Location of the chalet to the slopes

3.       Size of the chalet

4.       Location of the chalet to the centre of Meribel

5.       Layout of the chalet

6.       Comfort of the chalet

7.       View

8.       How it can be improved

9.       Would we like to stay there

10.   Is it as good as the rest of our portfolio?

Meribel view

If a chalet ticks all these boxes then we start to become interested. As we said in Meribel there are thousands of chalets, new ones are built each year and existing ones become available all the time. With all that choice you can see why we don’t just snap up any old chalet. We know what you expect when you stay with us and we will only choose a chalet that we know you will love.

Once we have taken on a chalet we move in and get started making it so it fits with the rest of the Alpine Action family. Over the summer our new chalet, Chez Menor will be getting the Alpine Action treatment. We will be going in and getting dirty with the decorating. We will be furnishing and accessorising too.

Like all our chalets it will have what we call ‘essential additions’, such as a log fire to cuddle up in front of after a hard day out in the cold. There will  be boot warmers so you can slip on warm dry boots every morning. There will be a great selection of entertainment in the form of Freeview TV channels, DVD player, CD player, an iPod docking station and a selection games for all the family to play with. We will also be installing internet access for you to log onto our WiFi with your laptop, tablet or phone.

The natural lay out of Meribel means that not ever chalet can be close to everything. One of the things we won’t be able to get done this summer is relocating the chalet. So instead of that we will be providing a complementary mini bus service during the winter. This will help you get to and from the slopes, however you can access the mountain on foot as the nearest slope is less than a thousand metres away and the town is only a ten minute walk away.

Some of you may have stayed in the Chez Menor before, as it has been used for ski holidays for many years. And now that we have got our hands on it, it will be even better than before.

Take a look at the Chez Menor page on our website to see all the stats and facts about it. We would also like to know what you would like to see added to our new chalet to make it even better. Let us know by adding your comments below or by posting to us on Facebook or Twitter.


How to recreate a chalet holiday at home

How to recreate a chalet holiday at home

For most of us our next ski holiday is at least six months away.  Which is a long time! To help you cope with this long gap we have created a guide on how to create that chalet feeling at home.

Morning

Waking up and checking the weather is one of the excitements of a ski holiday. We all love a blue bird day so plan ahead and make sure it is going to be a sunny day. Put some polystyrene balls or cotton wool on your windowsill to give it that fresh dusting feel. If you like a white out then you can just spray your whole window with snow from a can.

Breakfast

Fill your table with cereals, fresh fruit, croissant, pain au chocolate, boiled eggs, porridge, yogurt  a selection of fruit juices, ham, cheese and tea or coffee. Eat as much as you like, you’re going to work hard today. Also cook your self some bacon and eggs. When sitting down to eat, make sure you are wearing your thermals. For a that authentic experience tune into a French radio station, or you could log on to a resort radio station such as R’ Meribel. Spend 10 minutes looking at a map.

Get Dressed

Get your ski outfit on. Don’t be shy, go for hats and goggles as well. Make sure you put sun cream on, you may burn. Putting on ski boots will help to make it feel realistic, but this may be going too far. Don’t forget to pack a ration pack in the form of some chocolate and a piece of fruit. Now leave the house and return five minutes later to pick up your imaginary lift pass that you forgot.

 Go skiing

You have a few options here. You could actually go to a dry ski slope or indoor ski centre if there is one close by. If there isn’t then first go and get on a public bus with your ski equipment, then catch it back to your chalet, (this is actually your house). When back at home put on an episode of Ski Sunday. Once it is over, go and sit in your garden for 40 min, with your goggles on, so you can work on your tan line. You want your mates to know that you have been on a fake ski holiday. After 40 minutes go back inside a watch some clips of other peoples ski holidays on youtube, then go back out to the garden. Repeat this process until lunch time. Heat up some wine in the microwave and drink it from a glass mug. Cook some chips, then wait until they are cold and eat with mustard mayonnaise. Give £10 to your next door neighbour. Now watch an extreme ski or snowboard movie then go and sit in garden again. You can now either repeat the last step or make yourself a hot chocolate make sure you add a shot of that random spirit you bought on your last holiday.

Après Ski

It is now nearly 4pm, head to your local pub. Make sure you are still in your ski clothing. Order half’s of lager and have a shot of vodka or maybe a Jagerbomb. At about 5pm you should be ready to dance. Head to the juke box and put a selection of rock tunes on. If you are planning Austrian après, then you may need to take your own music.  At 6.30pm you should decide to head home. Take ages finding your clothes that are now in various areas of the bar. Head out side and have a panic attack that your skis are not there. Remember that you left them round the corner.

Dinner

Get home and have a shower then put on your favorite jumper. Sit in your lounge, with the fire on, if you have one. Get a glass of wine and some nibbles. If you want to go all out you should make some canapés, if you don’t have the time some twiglets and hummus will suffice. Have a look at a map of where you have been today. Maybe start a game of Jenga. Now serve you and your mates a three course meal. Feel free to invite some strangers too. During dinner drink more wine than normal, this is a holiday. Make a pact with the other dinners to get up early to do it all again. Drink some more wine.

Bed

This is personal choice time. You can either go to bed early. Or sit up in your lounge drinking whatever wine you can find, then go to bed when you can find no more. Or you could go out to your local pub again, then possibly move on to a night club.

If you really want to make this a true ski holiday you can perform this every day for a week. You could bookend it with a coach journey!

Alternatively you could just wait until next winter. 


Tip of the week #2

When at the mountain restaurants, you will see locals and the instructors ordering and enjoying the “Plat du Jour” or the special dish of the day. It is often the best value and the freshest food on sale.We would recommend trying it yourself.

Warning: Andouillette or diots au vin blanc, (tripe sausages) this is not recommended as this is an acquired taste.

 Plat du Jour

 

 


The Day in the life of a La Tania Navette

The Day in the life of a La Tania Navette

My job is often the most overlooked in resort. I don’t hold the glamour of a télécabine or a téléphérique. I do like to think though,  that we are more popular than the button lifts. I am a Navette or free bus to you British people. I work in the resort of Courchevel and this is my day.

I start early, my first pick up is in Le Praz at 7.05am. I don’t get many skiers this early, most of my passengers are ski instructors, lift workers or chalet staff. They tend to live in the lower villages as it is not as expensive as the main resort. The journey only takes me 25 minutes. If I am lucky when I get back to Le Praz my pal will be waiting with passengers from the village of Bozel.  Bozel is way down in the valley, where my home is.

 

I leave Le Praz at about 8.05am for the second time. It is now that I get more skiers onboard, these ones are eager to get into the main resort early. This is so that they are ready for the lifts to open and they will get to ride the pistes that have been freshly groomed by my piste basher mates.

There are other buses on the same route as me.  We always flash or toot to say hello when we pass in the middle. Sometimes if the snow is heavy we stop and pass on information about the conditions to keep our passengers safe. After 8.30 it gets busy and there are more of us buses to make sure we can move everyone to where they want to go.

I am lucky as I always get the La Tania run. I arrive there at about 9.10am there are always lots of people waiting for me there.  I find this funny because I think La Tania is a wonderful place to stay. They are generally wanting a lift to Courchevel Moriond. This was called 1650, but they changed it. I wish they hadn’t as it confuses a lot of people and they end up getting off at the wrong place or sometimes not at all. I get the La Tania run all day. I leave La Tania at ten past the hour every hour until midnight.

After the morning rush it gets quieter and I only carry a few lazy people who got out of bed late. It gets busier at lunch time. I guess La Tania is great place to lunch, not for me as they have no petrol station. But it is always sunny and I am always dropping people off there to meet their friends for lunch.

The afternoon is full of people that have eaten to much at lunch and are sneaking back to their accommodation for a siesta. My busiest time is once the lifts shut. There are always queues of people trying to get back to the correct village. I would like to blame this on the name changes, but it has always been the case. Sometimes we don’t have a space for everyone, and they may have to wait for the next one.

After 6pm is the most interesting time. It is the end of après hour and we see some funny things, like people trying to ski down roads. We also get lots of singing especially from the English. Despite not releasing  a decent song for 10 years, Oasis is the most popular band I hear on my seats. The busiest we get during the après time is the 7.10 from La Tania. Judging by how happy people are when I pick them up at this time I would say that the Ski Lodge is the best place to go for Apres. I once transported the band  ‘Bring Your Sisters’, and all their kit, they always play in the Lodge. Maybe they play a lot of Oasis, I’ll ask next time I see them.

The worst thing about being a bus in a ski resort is the long hours. We work until midnight. Sometimes people are so tired that they fall asleep on the way down the hill.  Sometimes it can be hard work and as we are free, people don’t respect us. Especially at rush hour when I get hit by all those skis and trampled on by ski boots. Still, it could be worse I could be in Marseille shuttling football fans around.

Click here for the La Tania bus times

 


Teaching a loved one to ski – Part one

Teaching a loved one to ski – Part one

When you put “keen skier” on your dating profile, the chances you will get one of the UK’s estimated 1 million active skiers is slim.  There is slightly more chance of finding someone who has been skiing, once.  But I doubt it is a deciding factor when weighing up the options for a marriage proposal.  The chances are that you will end up with a non skier.

Skiing is often something you learn when you are young. For most of us we had ski lessons when we went on a family holiday or school trip. Learning young makes it easier when we are older. It also makes us more determined to fit in a ski holiday no matter what.

So what happens when you fall in love with a non-skier and finally pop the question; “Will you go on a ski holiday with me”? Let’s hope the answered was a yes, and delirious with joy,you book your holiday.

As the dedicated and experienced skier what you are imagining is this… Hooning down the fresh powder, fast groomed pistes and steep challenging runs. All the while your non skiing partner is in ski school until they are good enough to keep up with you. What they are imagining is blue skys, snuggles on chairlift, skiing down empty runs hand in hand, with rainbows and romantic music playing in the background.

 What will actually happen is that you will say, “You should go into ski school”.
“But I don’t want to. It’s our holiday and I want to spend it with you. Couldn’t you teach me?”
You think about the potential skiing that you will miss out on, but take your loved ones feelings into consideration. You look at the cost of ski lessons and think “bugger that, I’ll teach them myself”.

You arrive in resort, the snow has just stopped after 3 days of dumping, The forecast for the week is sun. It is now day one. You are stood on the baby slope with the person you love. They are stood there in ill-fitting, borrowed ski clothes, with their bronze ski hire. You look at the mountain and sigh, you turn to the most important person in your life and say “first we need to learn to snowplough”. By mid morning you have covered the nursery slope 3 times, you partner is happy with the progress, however, you look up to see the powder fields slowly getting tracked out.  After lunch you move on to turning. It’s not going as well as you hoped.

On day two you wake up hopeful that your lover wakes up to say how much they ache and maybe they would like a day not skiing? No such luck, they have the skiing bug. This should please you and you should consider the long term implications of this, more ski holidays. But no, you are disappointed, especially as your attempt to palm them off onto someone else staying in your chalet failed last night. You carry both your sets of skis to the beginner area, today we are going to try and learn parallel turning. An edge is caught, there are tears and an extended lunch break. Little progress is made in the afternoon as it is just a confidence building exercise.

On day three you consider leaving your skis in the chalet. You say “don’t feel like you have to ski all day. You can have a rest in the afternoon if you like”. Somehow this backfires and you are rewarded with kisses for being thoughtful, but your offer is declined.  You choose a gentle slope to “session” for the day. You know it would normally take you 5 minutes at the most to ski this slope. The First time today it takes nearly two hours. The second time it takes half an hour less. Your legs are cramping up, and you are cold from waiting around so much. “I’m just going to ski down and catch the lift back up, I will catch you up.” The thrill of skiing lasts less than a minute before you reach the lift. From the lift you see your pupil and spouse lying on the slope with two skis located uphill from her. They are moving, phew. You don’t wave. Maybe this will put them off for the day. When you ski back down you can’t find them. Your phone rings. They have had a tumble and gone back to the chalet. “You go and have a ski without me”. You know you shouldn’t, but you do. A frosty reception awaits you at the chalet, but you have had a great afternoon skiing. Chalet wine will sort this out.

Click here to find out how the rest of the Holiday goes.


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