Ski train holidays to the Alps

Our website features an ever increasing number of independently run catered chalets. We like the personal service these companies provide. Another advantage is the freedom they give us to organise your travel separately to fit in with your preferences, be that driving, flying from your local airport or taking the ski train.

Ski train to the Alps

Ski train arriving in the Alps

With Eurostar tickets for the forthcoming ski season now on sale, it seems a good time to review the various rail travel options for your journey to and from the Alps. There are now three different routes giving access to a bigger range of resorts than ever before.

The first of these is the direct ski train from London St Pancras to the French Alps, which stops at Moûtiers, Aime La Plagne and Bourg Saint-Maurice. This provides convenient access to resorts such as Courchevel, Meribel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Val d’Isere and Tignes. As well as the daytime train each Saturday there is also an overnight train on Fridays, which returns the following Saturday night and allows for eight full days’ skiing.

The second option this winter is a new direct Eurostar train running from London to Lyon every Saturday in just over four and a half hours. This route will provide easy access to the Southern French Alps, in particular Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes.

If you are looking to travel to the Northern French or Swiss Alps, Eurostar has also introduced a service to Geneva with one easy change at Lille, a journey of just over six hours. Many resorts are easily reached from Geneva, including Chamonix, Morzine and Verbier. Tickets for this route go on sale on 15 October.

Just as with flying, booking early can ensure you get the best prices on tickets. A return to the French Alps costs from £149, with fares to Geneva from £127 return and those to Lyon starting at £89 return. There are no additional costs for luggage and ski carriage is also free.

So if you don’t like flying, hanging around in queues at airports, or long airport transfers, the various train services to the Alps provide some credible alternatives to consider.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Dreaming of a white Christmas

A question I often get asked is “what do you do all summer?” well the simple answer is that I put my feet up, play lots of golf and tennis and generally have a jolly good time…Oh if only that was the case. The end of one season means a new one is just around the corner and although the pace in the office is not as hectic during the summer months, there are plenty of things going on behind the scenes that need to be implemented as we head into another busy booking period.

The Boss hard at work

The Boss hard at work

We have installed a new phone system; we have added lots of new and exciting chalets to the website; we have started recruiting new staff; we have put in place a marketing strategy for the next few months. All this as well as dealing with our larger groups who tend to book early to get exactly what they want for their next winter ski holiday.

As we head into our twenty third year as a specialist ski travel agency , the question I have often ask myself is how do we differentiate ourselves from other brokers or so called agents. When I started in the ski holiday industry there were probably four maybe five specialists. Today with the internet having taken over the way people research their holidays there must be over thirty agents all purporting to be the number one agent!

Alpine Answers are certainly not the largest agent by any means, however by employing great staff all of whom have worked seasons in the Alps and have demonstrated a passion for skiing, by training our staff in the art of customer service (friendly knowledgeable service with a smile), by making sure our chalet portfolio is diverse yet constant in terms of the standard we know our clients expect, keeps us ahead of the game. I really believe that by keeping standards high and our team a manageable size allows us to oversee a successful business. “Bums on seats” is not a winning philosophy with regards to the market we work in.

We are here to help you get the most out of your ski holiday, so whether it’s going back to an old stomping ground like Val d’Isere, or you want to try something new get in touch as we would love to hear from you.

Happy skiing from Earl Knudsen, Partner

 

MY TIPS FOR THE 2015/16 SEASON

If you want to ski in early to mid December don’t book now, wait and see what the snow is doing.

Christmas will be a cheap week to go. The slopes are always empty until the 26th December.

If you want to go for New Year or Half term– Don’t delay as these weeks will be sold out soon.

Try a ski weekend – you get all the fun and don’t have to take so many days off work.

Try a new resort. These are some of my favourites – St Martin De Belleville, Serre Chevalier, Gressoney, Madonna di Campiglio, Engelberg, Andermatt, Saalbach.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged | Leave a comment

Smart skiers book their ski holiday for winter 2015/16 now….Why?

Gosh, we are in the middle of the current ski season and I find myself writing this blog encouraging you to consider booking for next season already – are we bonkers? Well not really, we have been selling ski holidays for over 23 years now and there are too many compelling reasons why you should be considering booking for next season now!

Luxury Chalet Marco Polo, Val d'Isere

The heated chalet dining area over looking the resort

CHOICE – no need to compromise, as we will be able to book something to fit your exact requirements. So whether you are after luxury with a ski-in ski-out location, an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and gourmet food, or a large chalet for 2 to 50 people to celebrate the New Year now is the time to start looking. Our tailor-made approach means no stone is left un-turned and we can accommodate pretty much any request whether it’s a standard 7 day itinerary, a short break, a European or North American ski holiday we have the answers.

PEAK DATES – every winter is the same; Christmas, New Year, February half term and the Easter weeks sell out faster than you think. By getting in early you will guarantee the best choice of accommodation to suit your budget and requirements. Let’s be honest there are few things in life that beat the excitement, exhilaration, and sheer joy of spending time in the Alps. We say don’t delay! Round up your friends and book a chalet for New Year and you could be sitting in a hot tub on the deck, with a glass of champagne while watching a spectacular fireworks display while the snow comes down, it does not get better than that.

Skiing in the Italian Dolomites

Skiing in the Italian Dolomites

DEALS, DEALS, DEALS…..yes its true there are some great deals to be had by booking early, so as my title suggests early birds do catch the worm. Groups can get as much as one in five people going free; couples can save £120 for a week in the Alps; there are plenty of “buy one get one free” on lift passes as well as up to 50% off ski hire. These types of early booking incentives don’t last forever so hurry and get you next ski holiday booked up and have something special to look forward to.

Ski holiday in Breckenridge Colorado USA

Ski holiday in Breckenridge Colorado USA

As the UK’s foremost ski holiday broker we deal with 100’s of operators who all offer incentives, the only problem is they don’t offer the same incentives, so to help you decipher who offers what,

please feel free to call us and one of dedicated members of staff will be able to find you the best deals the market has to offer.

 

Posted in Ski holidays | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment