Beware cheap imitations

With the ever growing use of the internet to conduct holiday research and holiday bookings we advise people to be vigilant and beware cheap imitations! There is virtually no barrier other than time and a bit of development cost to creating a half decent looking website that looks for all the world like it sells lovely holidays but which in fact is completely bogus. With clients quite happy to pay tens of thousands of pounds for a luxury ski chalet it would only take one unfortunate purchaser to fall into the bogus website trap for the criminals behind the fake website to turn a handsome profit from their endeavours.

You may think that these sites are not out there, or perhaps are so obviously fake that no one could fall for the trap. However, you would be surprised. About 12 months ago we were approached by a distressed man who had just discovered he had paid many thousands of pounds for a New Year ski holiday that did not actually exist.

Just last week our attention was brought to a website called, Ski Moar. This website looks real enough and the luxury chalets featured on it look lovely. The chalets are all renamed to throw the hapless booker off the scent as this site, according to the real chalet owners, is allegedly completely bogus. If this is the case any money you might pay to them would not be securing a holiday at all. Instead it would be going into the pockets of the Chinese gentlemen who built the site.

 

Ski Moar - real or bogus?

Ski Moar – real or bogus?

 

Of course it’s entirely possible that this site is the real deal in which I owe them a large apology. However, experience tells me otherwise. The tell tale signs of a fake:

1) Obvious spelling mistakes on the home page – “PREMIUM SKI ACCOMODATION” maybe what the site is selling but premium grammar it is not.

2) There are no travel industry affiliations – There are plenty of bona fide travel companies without official affiliations with ABTA, ATOL, ABTOT or AITO etc. However, a website without any obvious connections with an official travel organisation should be approached with caution.

3) The postal address – I am sure that Aultbea in the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands is a charming place (it looks it on Google ‘Street view’) but it is a strange place to find a specialist ski chalet agency.

4) The lack of a visible telephone number – Most real businesses would be delighted to hear from their clients so it’s strange not to be able to find one for Ski Moar.

5) Some quick research on the named principal directors of the business – This would reveal that they actually work for a ski company called, The Family Ski Company, based near Worcester. As you can imagine they are mighty annoyed that their names have been associated with Ski Moar.

 

Beware Cheap Imitations

We are all aware of the phrase, “caveat emptor” but this has never been more pertinent than in today’s internet world where a wolf can be dressed in sheep’s clothing.

The scary thing is that although we know there are fake websites out there hoping to get their greasy mitts on your money there is nothing the international law enforcement community can do about it until someone actually loses their money. Since holidays are booked and paid for usually two months before they take place the crime can go undetected for a considerable length of time. And by the time the crime is discovered (usually when the client arrives in resort) the perpetrators are long gone.

So in this season of festive good cheer and general ‘bonhomie’ please be aware that there are sadly plenty of unscrupulous people out there. Our advice is that you should always conduct a little bit of due diligence on the holiday company you are about to pay considerable sums of money to. As is so often the case it is better to be safe than sorry – beware cheap imitations – they are out there.

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Skiing in April – the best advice

Skiing in April can go one of two ways – you can have the trip of a lifetime or a slush ridden nightmare, it all comes down to a pinch of luck and a whole lot more preparation. However, there are some great pluses to skiing late in the ski season:

1. The days are longer so you have more time to ski and enjoy the fresh mountain air and enjoy a whole season’s worth of snow as a base to ski on.

2. For those that haven’t tried it yet skiing on ‘spring snow’ off piste is an absolute joy. If conditions are right and there have been several freeze thaw cycles the off-piste snow transforms into what is known as ‘corn snow’. Hit this at the right time of day (usually late morning) and you are in for a real armchair ride. The snow is like velvet and super easy to ski on.

3. The resorts are quieter, which means you have more space on the piste and less time spent waiting in lift queues. It also means that there are many great ski accommodation deals to be had as resorts look to sell their empty beds at low prices.

4. You can enjoy lovely warm lunches outside – nothing is finer than taking a delicious mountain lunch on a sunny day whilst admiring an amazing view.

However, the warmer days of April mean snow is much less likely to stick around so it is important to head for altitude, the higher the better. Some resorts have glaciers on top of high altitude locations – Zermatt, Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Les Deux Alpes are all going to have snow right through to May!

Skiing in April – al fresco lunches

Lunch is an important aspect of April skiing, and Zermatt offers some of the world’s best on-piste dining along with 365 days a year skiing! The resorts high altitude, 1,620 – 3,899 metres, and glacier make it a safe bet for fantastic conditions and the slopes offer sunshine whether you are enjoying the run down the Klein Matterhorn or relaxing at the EisBar with a cold beer. A visit to Chez Vrony for a plate of local charcuterie taken on their famous sundeck is a must for anyone visiting in the late season months!

Skiing in April – apres ski party

For anyone looking for a fun end of season ‘party atmosphere’, compete with outdoor bars and the Ibiza-esque atmosphere then the Folie Douce in Val d’Isere is the place to be. The resort fulfils all the criteria for late season skiing – an elevation of 1,850m in the village alone; links to the Grande Motte glacier (3,400m) and a plethora of bars and clubs – Val d’Isere is a mecca for late season revellers. Head to La Frutiere and book a late lunch, you can relax in the sun and watch the performers at the Folie Douce while sitting in luxury before joining in with the party.

Skiing in April - Folie Douce

Skiing in April – Folie Douce

Verbier is also a great snow sure option for those who want to avoid longer transfers (the resort is less than 2 hours from Geneva.). Verbier’s peak skiing is at 3,300 metres and the prevalence for partying is spurred on by like minded holiday makers and seasonaires. The Farinet is a top après spot (complete with its sundeck) and the Pub Montfort puts on great spring BBQ’s.

Skiing in April – for a family ski holiday

For families looking to enjoy late season skiing, Courchevel 1850 is hard to beat. The resort’s elevation means that it retains its fantastic accessibility from piste to village and there are enough gentle, family friendly runs to keep the whole family happy. Home to some of the Trois Vallee’s finest chalets and hotels, Couchevel 1850’s reputation as ‘world class’ is not unfounded. The efficient lift system links to Reberty, Meribel and Val Thorens making Courchevel a great destination for even the most adventurous skiers. The relatively short transfer time from Chambery Airport makes it an ideal resort for families with small children, or anyone wanting to avoid a long journey to resort.

Skiing in April – for good value ski holidays

Les Arcs is linked to La Plagne under the Paradiski lift pass and is made up of several ‘village’ style bases with altitudes of 1,600m, 1,800m, 2,000m and the excellent ‘Le Village’ at 1950m. The ski area reaches 3,200m in altitude with most of the pistes being well above 2000m providing good high altitude spring skiing conditions. There are quite a few catered chalet apartments in the Les Arcs (and La Plagne) areas and these can quite often be reduced in price for some fantastic end of season ski holiday deals.

Skiing in April – how to get the best from the conditions

April skiing is a different kettle of fish to mid-season – temperatures can fluctuate, the pistes can begin the day in a temperamental manner and lunchtimes must be adjusted accordingly.

There are two different schools of thought when it comes to early morning spring skiing – those that love it and those that do not get out of bed before 10. The warm afternoons followed by cold nights mean that the pistes freeze overnight often resulting in ‘rock solid’ corduroy persisting right through to late morning if the air temperatures are cold. Unless you enjoy icy conditions (read, FAST) and pay good attention to your edges a 9am start to the day may not be for you. The trick is to follow the sun on the slopes. First thing head for the east facing slopes that catch the morning sun full on and then move on to the south facing slopes and then later in the day the west facing. North facing slopes should be avoided if the preceding night was clear. They probably froze overnight and would be unlikely to thaw without any direct sunlight on them.

April skiing in Tignes

Enough powder in late April to land this one safely – John Fish April 2014.

April skiing really comes into its own between 11am and 2pm, so it would be advisable to postpone that lunch reservation for as long as possible. Once you do make it to your late lunch it is perfectly acceptable to sit out on the sun deck and take your time enjoying the weather for as long as you like!

The temperature disparity means that layering is a key ingredient to April skiing – you do not want to be stuck in a huge down jacket when the locals are out in t-shirts! It is advisable to take a back pack so that you can remove layers as the day warms up.

April weather also makes for fantastic conditions for anyone wanting to follow in the footsteps of Jenny Jones, James Woods and the rest of Team GB’s ‘slope-style’ athletes and hit the snowpark.

Tignes, Val d’Isere, Zermatt, Les Deux Alpes and Val Thorens all use the spring season to expand the burgeoning aspect of everyone’s favourite mountain sports. It is now par for the course for resorts to have ‘beginner’ lines as well as 50 metre jumps, so if you fancy emulating our Olympic heroes then there will be plenty of boxes/rails/jibs and jumps to suit the timid to the fearless.

Skiing in April – the Alpine Answers end of season ski trip

Some of the Alpine Answers team in Val d'Isere

Some of the Alpine Answers team in Val d’Isere April 24th 2014

Every year we head to Val d’Isere for the end of season office ski trip. This is taken sometime between the 20th and 30th April each winter so it’s fair to say that we know a thing or two about skiing in April. In each of the twenty five years that we have been running the trip we have always been able to ski to the bottom of the resort, and more often than not we get to enjoy a fresh fall of snow and some excellent powder skiing. Skiing in April is a fantastic experience and one that we would be delighted to advise you on – get it right and you can enjoy the very best ski holiday!

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New chalets in Val d’Isere this winter

Finding new chalets in Val d’Isere is always a pleasure – the Espace Killy has been our biggest selling ski area for the last 20 years so we are always on the lookout for new properties here which are available to book for a fantastic winter holiday. We have added 11 new chalets in Val d’Isere for the winter 2014/15 taking our total to 183 separate chalet properties here. We look at four of these below but of course are always here to discuss any of the chalets we feature to that we can find the best for your holiday needs.

Chalet Husky – one of the new chalets in Val d’Isere with Scott Dunn

This luxury hotel and chalet operator have always had a strong presence in Val d’Isere but have added no less than five new chalets to their programme for the winter 2014/15. Chalet Husky is a fabulous 6 star chalet which is part of the Le Petit Alaska development and is situated just off the Route de la Balme (the ‘back road’ in Val d’Isere). The chalet has been built to impress with a lot of use of glass, steel, stone and locally sourced wood panelling. The central atrium opens to the massive upper floor living and dining area with its glass walkway, huge squishy sofas and feature dining table with artistic lighting.

Chalet Husky - the glass walkway and atrium below

Chalet Husky – the glass walkway and atrium below

Chalet Papillon – another new chalet with Scott Dunn

This chalet is one of a trio of new chalets to be built by the celebrated developer, Mon. Coveral, and is located just one minute’s walk from the main lifts in Val d’Isere. This lovely chalet exhibits the new trend in chalet building that we are seeing in the Alps this winter. The chalet is spread over four floors – the top one is given over to a large open-plan sitting and dining room with large floor to ceiling windows and a wide balcony giving fantastic elevated views. The two floors below are dedicated to the five principal guest bedrooms (all with en-suite shower and wc) and a hot tub on the terrace. The basement level houses the indoor spa area with indoor swimming pool and steam room. Also on this lowest level is a garage for guest parking. An added benefit of the Chalet Papillon for this winter season is that the chalet hostess is my step daughter, Izzy. She will brighten up even the cloudiest of days.

Chalet Papillon - one of the new chalets in Val d'Isere

Chalet Papillon – one of the new chalets in Val d’Isere

Chalet Ibex – the newest chalet from Cimalpes

We have been working with the French based property agency, Cimalpes, for a number of seasons and are happy to add their latest chalet to our property portfolio. Chalet Ibex has been built towards the end of the Route de la Legettaz and so offers truly ski-in and ski-out convenience (the ski and boot room opens onto the piste!) as well as fantastic elevated views over the resort and up Le Manchet valley. The chalet has a lovely sitting room with open log fireplace and lots of comfortable sofas as well as an indoor swimming pool. The master bedroom also has a charming open plan corner bath with dual aspect views.

Chalet Ibex - a new chalet in Val d'Isere

Chalet Ibex – a new chalet in Val d’Isere

Chalet La Petite Ferme – a new chalet built in the ‘old centre’ of Val d’Isere

VIP Ski are one of the largest chalet tour operators in Val d’Isere on the UK market and are already well known for their comfortable Bellevarde Lodges (in Legettaz) and their Aspen Lodge apartments which are situated right on the main street of the resort. The Petite Ferme is the latest chalet to be added to their programme and is one of the new chalets in Val d’Isere to be built in the old centre of the resort. The old cobbled streets around the church are rather charming and there is the added bonus that the main lifts, ski school meeting points, and the shops and bars are all very close to hand. The chalet has been converted from an old traditional building and many of the original features such as the large open fireplace have been retained. This is an exceptionally cosy and welcoming chalet sleeping 6 – 8 guests.

New chalets in Val d'Isere - La Petite Ferme

New chalets in Val d’Isere – La Petite Ferme

Val d’Isere as a ski resort continues to deliver. The skiing is as good as it always has been and offers a genuine mix of interesting ski terrain that suits all different standards. Many view this resort as only being suitable for good skiers and boarders but beginners will also enjoy Val d’Isere. There are not many resorts with fantastic nursery slopes at village height and once up on the Bellevarde plateau first week skiers can enjoy the wide and flattering skiing on high altitude, good quality snow. With a buzzing resort town, good on-mountain eating and a range of chalet and hotels which cater for all budgets it’s not hard to see why this resort has just about everything you could want in a ski resort.

To discuss any of the new chalets in Val d’Isere (or any of the older ones) please do not hesitate to contact our team here at Alpine Answers (T: +44 (0)20 7801 1080). We would be delighted to help you choose the best for your needs.

 

 

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What you should be doing this winter

Having had a look at the many web cams that are now available to view, early conditions are looking very promising, so much so that many of the higher resorts will open this weekend (22nd Nov) for business. This is an exciting time for one and all in the ski industry and for our many clients who will be heading out to the Alps in the next few months. The following list are some ideas you may want to bolt onto your trip if you have already booked or if you have not why not consider trying one or two.

HIRE A PRIVATE INSTRUCTOR OR GUIDE

To really get the most out of your skiing, whether on piste or off! The advantages will far outstrip the cost as you will see immediate improvements. For off-piste skiers having a guide means you will not only be safer you will ski untracked powder all day. Besides, you will not have to wait in any lift queues and finding the best places to have a good lunch wont be a problem either.

For help in booking a private instructor or guide, just give us a call.

Children's Ski School

Children’s Ski School

GET YOUR KIDS ON THE SLOPES

Skiing with your children is one of life’s real treats. Often we get asked what age should my child start skiing, well we say 3 ½ is probably the earliest. The progression is amazingly quick when children start early. There are many excellent ski schools in resorts which are child friendly, so again just call us and we can point you in the right direction.

Children's ski kindergarten

Children’s ski kindergarten

STAY IN A LUXURY CHALET

Having developed a website totally dedicated to the top end of the chalet market, choosing a luxury chalet in your favourite resort could not be easier.  Whether you want a private hot tub, swimming pool, chauffeur, chef, butler, heli-pad, ski guide…, it’s all possible! Simply go to www.alpineluxurychalets.com

Luxury chalet Amazon Creek, Chamonix

Luxury chalet Amazon Creek, Chamonix

STAY IN A BOUTIQUE HOTEL

It is quite staggering the rate at which many hotels have reinvented themselves. Most resorts now have such amazing hotels from the small and luxury, yet traditional style hotel to the modern chic minimalistic, let’s say more urban in style for the young and hip. We have our favourites to suit all styles so why not tap into our knowledge before you next book your Alpine hotel.

DV Chalet Hotel, Madonna di Campiglio

Standard room at the DV Boutique Hotel

TRY A SKI WEEKEND

You can’t beat the Buzz of a quick fix in the Alps. We have been organising ski weekends for over 20 years now and know all the short cuts to finding something quickly and easily for you. Not all resorts are suitable but there are many little gems that we know of that work well. Call us if you are thinking of a ski weekend.

SKI IN THE FOLLOWING RESORTS

Most of our clients like the big ski resorts which tick every possible box, so no surprises there,  however, if you have not tried these resorts we recommend you do –

ITALY – Ski in any of the resorts in the Sella Ronda, we also recommend Madonna di Campiglio.

SWITZERLAND – Engelberg, Laax, Lenzerheide, Grimentz and Zinal.

AUSTRIA – Lech and  Kitzbuhel

FRANCE – St Martin de Belleville, Serre Chevalier, Ste Foy and Valmorel.

 

GRAB YOURSELF A LATE DEAL

If you are looking to book something last minute we have the best search engine on the planet. In fact booking a last minute catered chalet package holiday could not be easier and we guarantee huge savings to some fabulous chalets in some of the best resorts in the world. Simply keep an eye on our “CHALET DEALS” tab. Deals start to roll in about 4 weeks before you want to travel.

Powder skiing in Aspen

Aspen powder skiing

 

So as we look forward to another fun filled ski season we are on hand to find you some exciting ski ideas for your next ski holiday. Simply call us, as we do love to chat all things ski or simply send us an enquiry.

Happy skiing from all of us at Alpine Answers

 

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Free case of champagne in Maria Alm

Maria Alm, Austria’s hidden gem, is only one hour’s drive from Salzburg airport and is part of the Ski Armade – a domain that encompasses no less than 28 ski areas and villages that together make up one of the largest ski areas in the Alps (670km of slopes).

The Chalet Panorama, run by an English family business, is situated in the lovely resort of Maria Alm which has immediate access to the skiing of the Hochkonig area which is suitable for all levels of skier or boarder. The chalet comfortably sleeps 14 – 19 guests in seven bedrooms.

Chalet Panorama in Maria Alm

Chalet Panorama in Maria Alm

This luxury chalet is just 300 metres from the village slopes and comes with your own personal chalet chef and chalet hosts. The chalet has a comfortable sitting room with open fireplace of course and also a great spa complete with relax area, hammam (steam room) and sauna. All the bedrooms have balconies with great views over the resort and each comes with an LCD TV, Wi-Fi and en-suite bathroom. The penthouse apartment has the advantage of its own large terrace and private sitting room.

Sittingroom and fireplace in Chalet Panorama

Sittingroom and fireplace in Chalet Panorama

Maria Alm has so much to offer – great skiing, a short airport transfer, bags of charm and lots to do for non skiers also. There are horse drawn sleigh rides and toboganning which all ages will really enjoy.

If you are not already tempted to book your next ski holiday in Maria Alm here is a further incentive…

Maria Alm in Austria

Maria Alm in Austria

Free case of champagne in Maria Alm

Simply book the Chalet Panorama before the end of October for any available week in the 2014/15 season and you will receive a free case (6 x 75cl bottles) of Laurent Perrier champagne. Why not enjoy a sparkling aperitif with friends and family in front of the roaring log fire before dinner?

To learn more about Maria Alm and the chalets we have there please call. T: +44 (0)20 7801 1080 and speak to Simon.

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