April off piste skiing in Tignes

April Off piste skiing in Tignes may be considered too late in the season to offer quality and that is the reason that this period is considered low season. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you choose the right resort a late April ski break can bring some huge advantages. We were lucky enough to experience these on our end of season trip to Tignes and Val d’Isere (20th to 24th April 2014).

What are the advantages of Skiing in April?

So what are the perks of the late April ski trip? Well, as long as you don’t ski over Easter, April is not a peak time which means you’ll find fewer skiers on the slopes, shorter lift queues and so more skiing time, and most importantly, cheaper prices. Skiing in April is also easier on the wallet – the price of a lift pass can sometimes be reduced right at the end of the season and many chalet operators and hotels will have fantastic reduced rates or special deals to entice customers to book right up until the lifts close. As we found on our trip to Tignes and Val d’Isere the weather can often be perfect in April. Beautiful sunny days and longer lift opening times make for fantastic skiing conditions. While April snow quality may not be quite as good as mid-winter, big snowfalls in April are actually very common and especially with the higher resorts powder skiing is not uncommon with a whole winters worth of snowfall as a good base.

April Skiing in Tignes

John enjoying some carve turns in Tignes

The Alpine Answers Staff ski trip in April

At Alpine Answers our end of season trip is usually based in Val d’Isere although there are a good variety of other resorts that suit late April skiing such as Obergurgl in Austria, Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys and Zermatt in Switzerland along with a couple of smaller resorts. However, the Espace Killy ski area suits us perfectly as it has something for everyone from cruiser greens and blues to steep blacks and some serious off piste. There are also mountain restaurants and bars to suit all budgets, Tignes Quisine located in Tignes Le Lac is a personal favourite of mine serving really tasty wraps and noodles for prices even the most frugal skier would find exciting, to the more luxury and high budget L’Edelweiss located above the hamlet of Le Fornet serving savoyard specialities and plenty of alpine charm. The resort also stays open until early May so is definitely one of the safest bets for good snow late on in the season. The two resorts differ slightly as Val d’Isere benefits from plenty of north-facing slopes while Tignes has very high-altitude skiing on its Grande Motte glacier (3,400m) allowing it to remain open nine months of the year. The combined 300 kilometres of high-altitude slopes attracts everyone from families to free riders.

Some of the Alpine Answers team in Val d'Isere

Some of the Alpine Answers team in Val d’Isere

Before heading out to the Espace Killy on our trip some of the staff in the office were slightly worried that the weather forecast showed heavy snow every day over our 4 day trip. However, what actually happened couldn’t have been better. Every evening around 8pm just as we were sitting down for our evening meal, like clockwork the snow would start to fall and top up those powder supplies the resort needed. Then as morning came we were greeted with bright blue skies and clear sunshine. As most of us in the office love the white stuff we were out and about straight away after breakfast hunting for that late season snow. As you can imagine the slopes at this time of year can become a little icy early in the morning but they soon warm up to provide perfect corduroy runs to blast down with minimal people around to get in the way. After a couple of groomers to warm up, our next port of call would often be one of the Glaciers either in Tignes or in Val d’Isere. In my opinion the Tignes glacier is slightly better connected, a quick ride in the underground train then up Grande Motte Express and you are at 3,488m and so the snow is more quickly accessible, whereas in Val d’ Isere there is definitely some excellent skiing to be had but it just takes a little longer to get to it.

April Off piste skiing in Tignes

Frontflips just below Vanoise chair in Tignes

My favourite April off piste ski routes in Tignes

One of my favourite spots is a relatively un-skied section just underneath the Vanoise chairlift just below the Tignes Glacier. At around 3,000m the snow doesn’t turn to ice over night and after a couple of snowfalls we had about 40cm of fresh light powder just waiting to be skied. This amount of snow also provided a perfect landing pad for tackling some of the cliffs under the chairlift. When you have enough snow and a good base its one of my favourite things to do, there’s something about seeing the ground so far away from your feet that really keeps skiing exciting and bringing me back for more. From this section you can traverse over towards skiers left to tackle a narrow couloir which has a steep entrance and some exposure below, but soon opens up into a fantastic powder field and then joins back onto La Face piste back down to Tignes Val Claret, as you can see in the photos below highlighted in red.

A favourite April off piste ski route down to Tignes

The off piste route down from the Grande Motte to Tignes

 

off piste in Tignes

Another view of the off piste route down from the Grande Motte

My favourite April off piste ski route in Val d’Isere

Another route which is particularly enjoyable late on in the season, when lots of other routes are tracked out is the Pisteur’s Couloir in Val d’Isere. This long narrow couloir is accessed from the top of the Grand Pre chair; from here it is a 20 minute hike up, round and along the ridge. The coulouir looks incredibly challenging from a distance but although it is narrow, steep and dangerous, especially the first 50 meters where a fall could be potentially deadly, it is not actually as bad as it looks. It’s a lovely hike with fantastic views over both the Solaise ski area and Val d’Isere itself, and with good snow the couloir can be a truly exhilarating experience. If you are not sure whether you’re ready to ski this one, you can always change your mind when you get to the top and ski down the other side of the ridge which is a lot milder and brings you back down just below the Grand Pre chair.

A favourite off piste ski route in val d'Isere - Pisteur's Couloir

Pisteur’s Couloir in Val d’Isere

Even if there is a lack of snow in April, it’s still a great time of year to get your skis on. You will get a tan, enjoy empty slopes and you will most probably save yourself some money compared to ski holidays taken earlier in the season. If you would like any advice on which ski resort to go to, or which ski chalet to stay in or simply to discuss the best off piste routes then please do give me a call on 020 7801 1080. I would be more than happy to help you find something that is right for you.

A video of April off piste skiing in Tignes and Val d’Isere featuring myself, John Fish.

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Early Booking Ski Deals

Another ski season is in the books and a long barren summer awaits snow addicts unless a far flung adventure to Chile or Argentina is on the cards.  What better time, however, to begin looking to the 2014/15 season then!?  With plenty of early booking ski deals on offer it makes sense to explore the options.

As ski operators release their prices for next season there is no better time to begin looking to your holiday for next year.  Groups, families and bargain hunters alike can all benefit from planning in advance.  Large groups will always face the uphill battle of finding a chalet that is completely available, as companies sell off single rooms, but booking in the summer means this is much less likely to happen.

Peak season dates are going fast:

The past season saw an unprecedented number or early bookings for school holidays, driven on by the most recent roll of pecuniary penalties facing parents who wish to take their children away during term time.  This coming season is proving that this is looking to become the rule rather than the exception, February half term and New Year options have been booking up solidly since early February!  Families who know their children’s school term dates are encouraged to look at getting their deposits down now or face missing out on the best chalets!

There are opportunities for families to secure the perfect chalet and snap up a great ski deal at the same time.  Book your family into the Chalet Face for the perfect Christmas week and receive a free 6 day Espace Killy lifts pass, a £225 pound per person saving!

Early Booking Ski Deals - Chalet Face

The hot tub at Chalet Face – Val d’Isere

 January offers some great early booking ski deals:

As January is preceded by the two most expensive weeks of the season January is often undersold.  Because of this many chalet companies offer early booking discounts and deals for January weeks and this is such a great time to take advantage of the offers.

Savvy guests can save £200 per head by booking a trip to the Danielle in Val d’Isere for the week of January 10th; the whole package with flights and transfers is available from £699 per person in one of the most snow-sure weeks of the season (hot tub and sauna included)!

Early Booking Ski Deals - Chalet Danielle

Chalet Danielle’s spacious lounge, perfect for families!

Guests booking into the fantastic Chalet Paloma will receive a FREE 6-day Three Valley lift pass for everyone in the group for any date in January!

 Book over the summer for the best early booking ski deals:

Many chalet operators also offer early booking discounts for group booking in May and June.

Book into the Gertrud Gabl in St Anton before the end of May and you only pay £100 for an Arlberg Lift pass which would otherwise cost £230! What better way to enjoy all the Arlberg has to offer than for less than half price!  The chalet is a unique find in St Anton, with a hot tub and sauna for guests use at great prices.

Early Booking Ski Deals - Gertrud Gabl

Gertrud Gabl offers great access to the slopes of St Anton!

The value of taking advantage of such early booking deals is exemplified by a week’s stay at the Grand Planica, in La Rosiere.  La Rosiere offers snow-sure (town at 1850 metres) and family friendly (ice rink, easy access and lovely pisted trails) skiing with links to Italy in La Thuile.  The chalet is on currently available at a £75 per person early booking discount, although this will expire in June.  What better place to enjoy a family holiday, with a swimming pool, sauna, hammam and spa pool in the complex?

Early Booking Ski Deals - Chalet Grand Planica

Chalet Grand Planica’s pool is a great place to relax after a hard day skiing

Early booking ski deals are available for luxury properties as well:

Some chalet companies are looking ahead next spring and there are deals available almost a year ahead!

The Mont Tremblant in Meribel, a truly luxurious property, can be snapped with reductions of up to 30% off in April 2015 when booked before the end of May.

Early Booking Ski Deals - Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant offers true luxury in Meribel

Booking your ski trip during this summer has benefits for everyone; families not wanting to miss out on peak dates, large groups who really want the perfect fit or for those looking to scoop up an early season bargain!

Please do get in contact this summer and one of our expert consultants will be happy to guide you through the process and recommend options that are just right for you, finding you the ultimate early season deal!  Here at Alpine Answers we are making the deal even sweeter; party leaders booking a group of 8 or more will get an extra FREE LIFT PASS or cash equivalent,  when your group books before the end of June 2014!  Combined with the plethora of early booking ski deals available it’s an offer too good to pass up!

 

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Skiing in April

Have you ever considered skiing in April? Are you like me and fancy one last trip to the Alps before the end of the season? With warm temperatures, sunny skies and catered chalets for April skiing at increasingly low prices it really is a fantastic time of year to hit the slopes. This April is even more appealing than ever, with the Easter week falling so late this year it means schools will be breaking up later and early April will be sure to offer temptingly quiet slopes and lower prices in many of the chalets we offer across Europe. So the main question everyone wants to know when looking at chalets for skiing in April is where should I go to get the best chance of having guaranteed snow? Of course, if a serious snowstorm arrives, more or less any resort offers excellent April skiing. But assuming you are booking a couple of weeks ahead, the main thing you are looking for is a decent resort altitude. This ensures that there will still be good snow cover on the ground ensuring that the rocks are not starting to appear from underneath.

When I’m off to the Alps in April I will usually have a leisurely lie in to avoid the hard packed ice on the slopes in the early morning and make the most of being on holiday! Once the sun has risen and has had a chance to warm up and soften the slopes it’s time to go. The slopes will normally be groomed to perfection at this time of year. This is especially true in some of the bigger resorts such as Tignes and Courchevel where the piste bashing team spend all night perfecting the slopes for your enjoyment. In fact these resorts are home to my two favourite runs to ski early morning in April.

Firstly we have Saulire in Courchevel. This is a classic red run which starts at the very top of the Saulire cable car. After a steep pitch at the top near the Vizelle gondola the run opens out into a huge motorway cruiser where you can really let your skis run and settle into some long carving arc turns. Towards the bottom of the run there are some large rollers which are always fun to launch off when the run is quiet. Once you have done this a couple of times a great place to stop is the Panoramique restaurant, although the coffee prices can be sky high, so is the outdoor deck. Located right next to the Saulire cable car you have fantastic views to both Meribel and Courchevel and it’s a great place to soak up the sun, although don’t forget your sunscreen.

Skiing in April - Saulire, Courchevel

Skiing in April – Saulire, Courchevel

Secondly we have the famous ‘Face’ run which links into the ‘Descent’, a steep black at the very top of the glacier in Tignes. When these runs are combined it really is a fantastically long run. Starting at 3,656m altitude and descending to 2,100m it offers over 1,500 vertical metres of thigh burning descent!

Skiing in April - Face and Descent, Tignes

Skiing in April – Face and Descent, Tignes

When looking for your perfect chalets for skiing in April most people want some good après ski to be easily accessible so you can party after skiing late into the afternoon. One place that knows après ski better than most is the Folie Douce. Originally started in Val d’Isere this restaurant / bar / ultimate party venue has received somewhat of a cult following in recent years. This has resulted in the same classic formula of loud house music, reasonable drinks and slope side positions being extended to Meribel, Alp d’Huez and Val Thorens all of which are great ski resorts for skiing in April. Après ski at this time of year is particularly enjoyable not only because the weather is normally beautiful and warm but you can really let loose and party knowing that you don’t have to be up early the next day.

Skiing in April - Folie Douce

Skiing in April – Folie Douce

To give you an idea of some of the options out there below are a number of catered chalets for skiing in April. These all come highly recommended and are located in resorts that hold their snow well late into the season. The prices in the following recommendations for skiing in April are per person and based on two people sharing a double / twin room for seven nights, on a catered basis and include return flights and airport transfers.

Skiing in April – Ischgl, Austria

For skiers aiming to travel to Austria who don’t want to hit the more commercialised ski resorts of the Arlberg area (St Anton, Lech and Zurs) then Ischgl is a great option. The main slopes are high above the village, with the major lift base at 2,250m, peaking at 2,900m. The extensive slopes, shared with Samnaun in Switzerland, offer something for all abilities. The traditional Alpine village centre is car-free and boasts a famously lively après-ski scene.

Package: Chalet-hotel Abendrot from £699 (chalet board). Departs March 30th 2014.

Skiing in April – Obergurgl, Austria

Obergurgl can’t match Ischgl for extent and variety of skiing but its slopes are very high and so it is even better for catching some snow really late on in the season. It even holds the title of Austria’s highest resort and from experience I can tell you the town has some of the friendliest locals that I have ever met in a ski resort. The highest skiing of the resort is over 3,000m and you ski mostly above 2,150m.

Package: Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl * * * * from £857 (half board). Departs March 29th 2014.

Skiing in April – Tignes, France

You cannot ignore the huge Espace Killy ski area, shared by the neighbouring ski resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isère. Tignes has the stronger case as a spring base, being higher (villager height 2,100m) and better situated for the key Grande Motte glacier area, which offers high altitude ski runs (3,455m) and long reds and blues back to the village. Piste conditions are excellent, particularly following early March snowfalls.

Package: Chalet Hotel Aiguille Percee from £999 (chalet board). Departs 13th April 2014

Skiing in April - Chalet Hotel Aiguille Percee, Tignes

Skiing in April – Chalet Hotel Aiguille Percee, Tignes

Skiing in April – Val Thorens, France

Europe’s highest ski resort (with a village altitude of 2,300m) has to be on your shortlist of suitable resorts for skiing in April. If you’re lucky, you may be able to explore large parts of the huge Three Valleys ski domain but there’s plenty to amuse skiers of all levels on the many local slopes that go up to 3,200m in altitude. All runs are currently open and well covered. As far as purpose-built resorts go, Val Thorens is quite stylish and well laid out.

Package: Club Med Val Thorens from £1,092 (full board and includes lift pass). Departs 13th April 2014

Skiing in April – Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt claims some of the highest ski slopes in Europe on its glacier but these are too gentle to be of much interest. The real appeal lies lower down, around Trockener Steg (between 3,300m and 2,400m), and in the slightly lower slopes of the separate Gornergrat ski sector. Conditions are still good now but warm afternoons will lead to heavy snow low-down. If you enjoy leisurely gourmet lunches taken on panoramic mountain view terraces, and a car-free, traditional village, then Zermatt is the place for you.

Package: Chalet Evie from £699 (chalet board). Departs 6th April 2014

Whether you want ultimate luxury, affordability, child friendly slopes or a serious party scene we have chalets for skiing in April to suit every taste. So please do get in contact and one of our expert consultants will be happy to guide you through the process and recommend options that are just right for your group. However, don’t forget the golden rule of skiing in April – use plenty of sunscreen!

Tel: +44 (0)20 7801 1080

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Should you trust Skypark?

Should you trust Skypark? Skypark are one of the various airport car parking firms that operate in the UK and like most they also offer a ‘meet and greet’ service. Simply drive to the airport terminal in your own car and hand it over to a designated Skypark driver who will then take it away to be parked at a cheaper rate in an off-site, secure long term car park. When you return from holiday all you have to do is call Skypark when you land back in the UK and by the time you have cleared customs and picked up luggage your car will be waiting just outside the terminal building ready for you to drive home. On the face of it this seems an excellent service. The cost is reasonable, and your time and hassle are both saved. However, have you stopped to consider what happens to your car once you have handed it over to Skypark’s personnel?

We recently had a client who travelled from Gatwick Airport to go skiing. As the company they normally used for their ‘meet and greet’ service was already full for the week they wished to travel they found an alternative provider of the same service. This alternative provider was Skypark.

Can you spot the differences in the two photos below?

The first allegedly shows the car the day before they left on holiday. The second (again allegedly) shows the car as it was delivered back to them by Skypark’s driver on the day they returned. Their beautifully clean twin turbo BMW X5 came back with an extra 40 miles on the clock and looking like it had been rallied around a wet and muddy field.

Should you trust Skypark? Car before it was given to Skypark

Car before it was given to Skypark

Should you trust Skypark? Car as it was returned

Car as it was delivered back from Skypark

So, the next time you are considering using a ‘meet and greet’ airport car park service please do consider carefully which firm you should use.

 

 

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All Inclusive Ski Holidays

Each winter thousands of British ski enthusiasts head out to the mountains for a week’s stay in the snow. Some like to do it themselves, driving out to the Alps and booking directly into a little known resort and hotel. However, others like travelling out to the Alps in the knowledge that anything and everything has already been organised for them. All inclusive ski holidays are a fantastic way in which to diminish all potential threats of stress that you can incur from your normal ski holiday.

All inclusive ski holidays have come a long way over the last few years. A huge focus on the standard of the accommodation and in particular the quality of the food and service you can receive has lead to more and more people trying out an all inclusive ski holiday, similarly, the percentage of people returning to these style of holidays has risen too. Club Med are the market leaders in this field and offer all inclusive packages like no other.

An all inclusive ski holiday with them includes a delicious and varied breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. You also benefit from unlimited drinks during your stay as well as lift passes, tuition for all levels of skiing proficiency and plenty of evening entertainment. With a normal package ski holiday that includes catering (either chalet or half board in a hotel) you will still need to allow for the following weekly costs: lift pass (£200+), lunches on the mountain (£120+), instruction (£150+) and drinks in the evening (£150+). So at least £600 of extras that are already included with an all inclusive ski holiday with Club Med.

If you consider a Club Med holiday in mid March (2014) currently costs approximately £1,250 per person then to compare prices with other half board or chalet board package operators (holidays with flights) you need to take away the £600 of all inclusive benefits listed above. Taking away these benefits one can quickly work out that the basic Club Med package cost (flights and accommodation) is approximately £650 per person. And that my friends is an absolute bargain!

Below are some examples of prices for all inclusive ski holidays for the Easter holidays departing 06th April 2014.

All inclusive ski holidays – Club Med Aime La Plagne

All inclusive ski holidays - Aime La Plagne

All inclusive ski holidays – Aime La Plagne

All inclusive price = £1,140 pp

Approx. basic holiday cost (flights, transfers and half board accommodation) = £540 pp

This property is an office favourite for a family-friendly village. This ‘4 trident’ hotel has fantastic ski in and ski out access, a full programme of childcare and a vast ski area to explore. You can expect extravagant cabaret style evening shows with your children taking to the stage and playing their very own parts. Sports and creative activities are also held across the evening for teenagers that would rather not be seen partying with their parents!

All inclusive ski holidays – Club Med Val Thorens

All inclusive ski holidays - Val Thorens

All inclusive ski holidays – Val Thorens

All inclusive price = £1,224 pp

Approx. basic holiday cost (flights, transfers and half board accommodation) = £625 pp

Set at the foot of the Cairn Gondola, Club Med Val Thorens could not be better located. While some people enjoy the evening shows that Club Med ski holidays offer, the Val Thorens option is a great opportunity for those seeking a little more relaxation. An adult only village in the highest ski resort in Europe. Top up your tan on the terrace overlooking the pristine peaks or take a session with a personal trainer in the weights room if you’re feeling extra fit.

An all-inclusive ski holiday is an experience like no other and certainly should be considered if you’re looking for something slightly different this winter. Club Med can also organise short breaks too.

Call the Alpine Answers team and we will be able to talk you through what all inclusive ski holidays are all about. Tel: +44 (0)20 7801 1080 www.alpineanswers.co.uk

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