New ski lift in Zermatt

New ski lift in Zermatt replaces Hornli T-bar

After 50 years of service the old Hornli T-bar lift has been replaced by a new high speed six man chairlift. This new ski lift in Zermatt is the latest development in the recent multi million pound modernisation of one of the oldest lift served ski areas of the Alps. The new lift, called Hirli (go figure?), has a start point 255 vertical metres below the old start point of the T-bar lift it replaces and now crucially extends below the Stafelap restaurant. This new lift in Zermatt ends at the same location of the old T-bar giving a total ascent of 700 vertical metres further opening up the ski area of Schwarzee.

New ski lift in Zermatt - the Hirli chairlift

New ski lift in Zermatt – the Hirli chairlift

New ski lift in Zermatt – good news for the Stafelalp restaurant

The secret powder stashes that formerly could only be reached by a hike are now much more easily accessed which is both a positive and negative thing, depending on which way you look at it. However, the Stafelalp restaurant is now also more accessible which for the lunch mob is a fantastic thing. Before the new chairlift the bonne viveurs who had just enjoyed a long lunch on the restaurant’s terrace had to boot pack back up a short but steep climb to the bottom of the T-bar to make the return journey to Zermatt. Now the same long lunch can be appreciated and simply followed by an easy ski further down the piste to the bottom of the new six man chairlift to make the return journey.

New ski lift in Zermatt - good news for the Stafelalp restaurant

New ski lift in Zermatt – good news for the Stafelalp restaurant

Super snow-sure ski terrain, the best mountain restaurants in the world, an ultra modern and efficient lift system, and one of the most atmospheric resort towns in the Alps all adds up to making Zermatt a truly hot ticket among the World’s best ski destinations. We have a wide range of chalets in Zermatt and also hotels in Zermatt to choose from and would be delighted to arrange your next ski holiday to this iconic Swiss resort.

T: +44 20 7801 1080

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Best toboggan runs in the Alps

So which are the best toboggan runs in the Alps? There are literally hundreds of fantastic toboggan runs in the Alps ranging in length from a couple of kilometres to well over 10 kilometres and ranging in steepness from gentle, family friendly tracks to the quite plainly suicidal. We list the best toboggan runs in the Alps that we could find, so if you plan to visit one of the resorts below make sure you get sliding!

Whether it is on a French style plastic sit-in sled or on an old fashioned wooden Swiss toboggan, with steel clad runners, tobogganning is a hoot (especially at night with the heigtened sensation of speed) and within reason it’s suitable for all ages.

How to steer a toboggan

Most people think that you cannot steer a toboggan and are merely at the mercy of the path of least resistance which the toboggan will naturally take. However, if you control your speed and remain sensible, steering a toboggan is not actually that difficult.

If you are in one of those plastic ‘sit in’ sleds you may as well forget the stupid little steering handles as these don’t do much. The best option is to either brake by pressing a foot into the snow or drag a hand behind you. If you stick one of your right hand limbs into the snow (either foot or hand) the created ‘drag’ will turn the toboggan to the right. To go left either use your left foot or drag your left hand. For obvious reasons good strong shoes and gloves are recommded for this dragging/braking technique.

If you are sitting on an old fashioned Swiss style wooden toboggan with steel clad runners then you are into a whole different league of skills required to steer your craft. Firstly you will pick up a lot more speed on the older style toboggan so be prepared for that. However, once you have learned to steer one of these speed machines you can then really start to enjoy the ride. The best technique is to lean right back gripping the cord in both hands for support whilst hooking your left and right foot around the outside of the runner ends. By squeezing in against the runners with your calf muscles and pulling with your hand you can bend the runner out of shape allowing it to carve on an arc. Much like carving your skis on their edges, bending the runner allows the toboggan to change direction without losing any of its energy (or speed). And herein lies the main difference between the platic sled and the wooden toboggan – the former sliding its turns without much control and losing a lot of energy in the process, and the latter carving its turns with maximum efficiency and speed. However, it is our advice that which ever type of toboggan you are riding that you stay controlled at all times. If your speed increases too much no amount of steering technique will get you around a danergous corner. If you find yourself in the situation where you are going too fast our advice is to bail out before anyone gets hurt.

So, in the words of the Jamaican bobsled team, “Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time!” Here are our top 5 best toboggan rides in the Alps:

Val Thorens, France – the most snow-sure of toboggan runs in the Alps

Best toboggan runs in the Alps - Val Thorens

Best toboggan runs in the Alps – Val Thorens

Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe and now has one of the longest (6km) and certainly the most snow sure toboggan run in the Alps. Once you’re all set with your plastic tray and helmet, take the Gondola up to 3,000 metres to the start of the toboggan run. This 6km run drops 700 vertical metres during the course, so if you’ve got the confidence to take your foot off the breaks, you can gain some serious speed. The duration of the run will probably take amateurs 45 minutes to complete where as the dare devils amongst you will probably only take 10 minutes. If you’re up for giving tobogganing a go, regardless of your level, this is one you can’t beat. For an extra thrill try it in the dark during the evening sledding sessions.

Price: €18.00 or €12.00 with a lift pass!

St Moritz, Switzerland – one of the longest toboggan runs in the Alps

Best toboggan runs in the Alps - Preda to Bergun

Best toboggan runs in the Alps – Preda to Bergun

This is Switzerland’s first floodlit toboggan run extending from the village of Preda down to the village of Bergün, some 6 kilometres away. The start of the track is accessed by scenic mountain train from St. Moritz which leaves every half an hour and takes 20 minutes to reach Preda. The train journey is an adventure in itself, riding up the mountain side and crossing the 90 metre high Solis viaduct and passing through the helical tunnel of the Albula valley. Pick up your wooden toboggan at the Preda train station (altitude 1,789m) and ride the 400 vertical metres down to Bergün (alt. 1,386m). The floodlighting allows for the thrill seekers to enjoy this amazing toboggan run at night with the track staying open until 9.30pm. If you complete the run in daylight the Preda – Bergün toboggan ride is an incredible and fun way to experience the breathtaking views of the Swiss mountains. If you want to know more about this run please ask to speak to Simon (T: 020 7801 1080).

Price: Adult CHF 14.00. Child CHF 7.00

Ellmau (Skiwelt area), Austria – for tree-lined toboggan runs in the Alps

Best toboggan runs in the Alps - Ellmau-Going

Best toboggan runs in the Alps – Ellmau-Going

The Wilder Kaiser region is well known for its tobogganing with a total of 16 kilometres of runs. The Ellmau to Going toboggan run is one of these with a 4.5 km length and just over 550 metres of vertical drop along the way. The toboggan run can be accessed by the Astbergbahn Going which takes you to 1,258 metres altitude where the toboggan run starts. All the toboggan runs in the Wilder Kaiser region are floodlit so can be enjoyed as a fun evening activity.

Price: Adult Day single trip €11.50. Child €6.00

St Anton (Arlberg region), Austria – one the best apres ski toboggan runs in the Alps

Best toboggan runs in the Alps - St Anton

Best toboggan runs in the Alps – St Anton

St Anton is the capital of apres ski fun in the Alps. We don’t advise drinking and tobogganning but ‘when in Rome’ and all that. The St Anton toboggan run starts on the Gampen Mountain and is a 4 kilometre night-time illuminated course. This scenic run leads partly through the woods and takes on numerous tricky turns as it winds down the valley to reach the Rodelstall in Nasserein. The course has a vertical drop of 500 metres and has an estimated running time of 15 minutes depending on how many times you crash. This run also has the option of evening tobogganing – open on Tuesdays and Thursdays till 9.30 pm. Toboggan rental is available at most of the equipment rental shops in town.

Price: €9.00 (plus a €20.00 refundable deposit)

Morzine (Portes du Soleil region), France – one of the best family toboggan runs in the Alps

Best toboggan runs in the Alps - Morzine

Best toboggan runs in the Alps – Morzine

This is a unique way to experience the ski slopes at night. As night falls and skiers have left the slopes a team of professionals will guide you down the pistes towards the twinkling lights of Morzine village far below. The sessions are run with a minimum of 10 people in a group and so long as you have a valid lift pass you are provided with all the necessary equipment including a head torch free of charge! The duration of the sledging session is one hour.

Price: Adult €24.00. Child (8 years old +) €13.00

If you fancy giving one of these great toboggan runs a go visit the Alpine Answers website to find a great chalet or hotel in your chosen resort. If you do take on one of the best toboggan runs in the Alps then we would be delighted to hear about your experience.

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New catered chalets in Avoriaz

Avoriaz was built in the mid 60’s by three young dynamic architects who were at the forefront of building design. Their high rise architecture (12-16 storeys) made more than a passing reference to the fashionable building style of Le Corbusier but instead of exposing harsh concrete (as in Flaine) the exteriors of all the buildings in Avoriaz were clad in red cedar, so that when seen from afar Avoriaz really does blend into its landscape. Gerard Bremont, the son of a leading French industrialist, was one of the earliest and largest investors in the building projects and within a few years Avoriaz, and especially the Hotel Dromont and its restaurant and Discothèque, was proclaimed the “Saint Tropez de Neige” – the centre of jet-set skiing. For 20 years from 1973 until 1993 Avoriaz was the host of “Festival international du film fantastique d’Avoriaz” – a film festival mainly devoted to science fiction and horror movies. Steven Spielberg’s debut, Duel, was the first prizewinner of the festival. From the early 70’s to the mid 80’s Avoriaz was fashionable and hip – celebreties went there to see and be seen. As a ski resort it was vibrant and ‘on the map’. After the closing of the film industry Avoriaz became more mainstream – the celebreties moved to other resorts and Avoriaz lost its shine and glitz.

New catered chalets in Avoriaz - the pedestrian and horse only centre

New catered chalets in Avoriaz – the pedestrian and horse only centre

Avoriaz now tends to be one of those ski resorts that is all too easy to overlook. It’s a name that we are all familiar with but people tend to think of it as a rather tired and down at heal apartment style resort that has long since had its heyday. Going back 5 years perhaps there was some truth in that sentiment – the resort was made up by serried ranks of high rise apartment blocks and the one hotel in Avoriaz promised much but sadly failed to deliver compared to other hotels of a similar price in neighbouring resorts. We all knew that Avoriaz was a high ski resort which offered genuinely snow-sure ski conditions for a long winter season. We also knew that it was within easy reach of Geneva airport with only a 1.5 hour transfer time (compare that to the 3 hour run to the Three Valleys or Val d’Isere/Tignes ski areas.) and that it offered the perfect gateway to the mighty Portes du Soleil ski area with its many interlinked resorts and 650km of piste. However, despite the promise of snow, the short transfer and the large ski area we didn’t really give Avoriaz a second thought.

Five years is a long time and much has happened in Avoriaz during that time. We think it now deserves more recognition and with a growing number of new catered chalets in Avoriaz it’s high time we sat up and took notice.

New Catered chalets in Avoriaz – VIP Ski

You might assume that VIP refers to ‘very important person’ but in VIP Ski’s case it in fact refers to ‘Val d’Isere Properties’ and long before that (and I am going back to the late 1980’s) the business went under its original acronym of APS (Alpine Property Services) and was based in the Portes du Soleil. Can you see where this is going now? So, VIP Ski are heading back to their Avoriaz and Morzine roots and now offer some great new chalets in Avoriaz. Chalet Poudreuse (sleeping 12 guests) is a prime example and very quickly it has become one of their most popular chalets and sells out early. Right now there are only 5 weeks of the 2015-2016 season left to sell!

New catered chalets in Avoriaz - Chalet Poudreuse

New catered chalets in Avoriaz – Chalet Poudreuse

With its great position beside the nursery slopes and near the resort centre it’s not difficult to understand why this chalet is so popular. Factor in the great value price for this chalet, the huge ski area and short transfer from Geneva and you start to see why chalets like this in Avoriaz really deserves your attention.

To view all the best new catered chalets in Avoriaz simply use this link. To get one of them booked up couldn’t be easier. Simply call 020 7801 1080 and speak to one of our super friendly and helpful sales team. Your dream Portes du Soleil ski holiday is just moments away.

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Why book with one of the small ski chalet operators?

Organising a ski holiday can be very stressful and most of us simply gravitate towards picking up the brochure of a large holiday company to see what is on offer. The large selection of resorts and chalet properties might at first seem endless but quickly you get the feeling that you can’t find exactly what you are looking for. Perhaps you might pick up one or two other ski holiday brochures from other large companies. And then perhaps you get to thinking…. just how many individual ski chalet holiday companies are there? The average ‘once a year’ skier might be doing well to think of ten companies. There are Inghams, Skiworld, Ski Total, Crystal, Ski Esprit, Mark Warner, Neilsons, Thomson, Scott Dunn and Le Ski. Can you think of any others? Perhaps you can name another five ski chalet companies at a push. However, if you checked out the brochures and websites for 15 different ski companies then you would be spending hours and hours trawling through pages and pages of information, most of which would be irrelevant.

What if we told you that we work with over 150 different ski chalet holiday companies. And what if we told you that by spending 5 minutes using our on-line chalet search engine you could check the availability of holidays from all 150+ companies? That might be a neat thing, right? But it gets better than that. In fact it gets much better. You can find the ski chalets that are the right size, in your preferred resort, in your budget range and that have the right features you are looking for (hot tub, sauna, childcare, fireplace, or proximity to the lifts or the centre of resort). Once you have found your list of chalet properties you can then sort them by price, or size, or resort, or by whatever order is useful to you. In just 5 minutes you can have a list of say 10 ski chalet properties that would be absolutely ideal for your holiday needs. Sure – some of these chalets might be the same ones that are featured in the brochures of large holiday companies but the chances are that your ideal chalet list will contain many more properties that are offered by small ski chalet operators, ones that you have never heard of.

Alpine Answers provides an un-biased chalet broker service that points you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the right ski chalet. And more often than not that direction will be towards a small ski chalet operator. Our years of experience have taught us the value of using these small operators and the major benefits they offer our clients. Talking from firsthand experience of working for a small chalet operator based in only one resort, I’m going to outline the benefits of booking your next ski holiday with a small ski chalet operator!

Use small ski chalet operators and your travel prayers are answered

Your prayers have been answered – you no longer have to get up at an ungodly hour to make your flight. Single resort and small chalet operators have huge flexibility when it comes to travel and can arrange flights times to suit their customers. The holiday company that I worked for also changed their transfer days from a Saturday, to a Sunday. This meant their clients would avoid the hassle of gridlocked Saturday roads and also enjoy skiing on the empty pistes for the last day of their holiday. Single resort operators have a very close line of communication between one UK team and one resort team meaning the running and arrangement of bookings and travel plans is effortless.

Small ski chalet operators - flexible travel

Small ski chalet operators – flexible travel

Book with small ski chalet operators and feel the passion

One resort = one passion. Sticking with one resort clearly displays the passion small operators have for their chosen home and is definitely one of their main selling points. A benefit of this is often reflected by local outlet partnerships and the great discounts clients can receive from ski hire shops and ski schools. Operators that keep their company small allow the owners to care passionately about wholly managing the business, providing top quality service, and producing consistently high food and wine selected from local regions.

Book with small ski chalet operators and receive better food and service

Their own worst critique! Small operators based in a single resort have time to apply a more personal take on all their chalets. The chalets are often trialled and tested by the owners and their families themselves to be their biggest critique and produce the perfect chalets (certainly true for my company whose co-founder was out 3 times during the season checking each chalet individually). Being a smaller operator also means they can be very particular about recruiting exactly the right staff to suit the chalets and clientele. This way the owners get to know their staff on an individual level, creating an amazing atmosphere to work for, much better than just making up the staff numbers as the large multi-resort tour operators do.

The chalet cuisine is also something smaller ski chalet operators in a single resort do exceptionally well. They have the time and space to accommodate long pre-season training courses, with some master chef judging to ensure every chalet chef is outstanding. These kinds of operators also attract a lot of professional chefs who are looking to show off their own unique flair in the kitchen and not be constrained to the pre-set weekly menus that larger holiday companies use.

Small ski chalet operators - quality chalet cooking

Small ski chalet operators – quality chalet cooking

Book with small ski chalet operators for peace of mind

Can you think of many chalet operators where the Managing Director is in resort 24/7? This was definitely the case with the operator I worked for, available day or night so any problem could be sorted immediately by the owner himself. Single resort operators often have decades’ worth of experience so you can rest aside – no problem is too big or unheard of that cannot be quickly solved. This is why small ski chalet operators have half of their clients as returning customers – testament to the great levels service and attention to detail that they provide.

Small ski chalet operators - the Alpine Answers team

Small ski chalet operators – the Alpine Answers team

Why not speak to one of our experts at Alpine Answers? We can advise you on the best chalet holiday run by one of the small ski chalet operators. The difference in your holiday experience compared to that with a large company will be like night and day. In fact you might never pick up a large holiday brochure again! And wouldn’t that be a relief.

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Skiing with Children – the perfect family ski holiday

Skiing with children and the thought of planning a family ski holiday can bring many parents out in a cold sweat. Cue images of temper tantrums, long transfers and lost gloves. But it needn’t be that way. Taking children skiing can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences. You just need to plan ahead and ensure that you pick a family friendly break, that all the family can enjoy.

Skiing with children

Skiing with children – don’t leave things to chance. Book ski school at the same time as booking your holiday

Skiing with children starts with choosing a family friendly ski resort

First off you need to consider the resort to choose. This is the most important choice, and one that will make or break your holiday! Important things to consider when choosing the best resort to ski with your family:

  •  How long is the transfer time from the airport? The shorter the better to avoid over tired tots and frazzled parents.
  • What level of skiers does the resort cater for? Are there sufficient beginner slopes if your children are starting out? Ideally with a magic carpet or at least an area away from heavy traffic with skiers returning to resort.
  • What ski schools operate in the resort? Ensuring they have the best first experience on skis is crucial to the future of your family ski holidays.
  • If required, are there creche or childcare options that suit your needs?
  • Are there many après ski activities which are family friendly? Sledging, carousels, soft play areas, bowling, swimming and ice skating options are available in many resorts, but it’s worth checking before you book.
Skiing with children

Skiing with children – there is nothing like a ski holiday to make your children happy and smiling

Choosing the best time for a family ski holiday

The second most important decision to decide early on is when to ski. With children you will most probably be restricted to the key holiday weeks. Half term is the obvious choice for many with the best chance of good snow. But the price generally reflects this and it’s often one of the busiest weeks of the year on the slopes. Likewise New Year can be pricey and busy as holidaymakers come out in force. This leaves Christmas and Easter as two of the best options.

If you’ve never spent Christmas in resort then you’re missing out! The lights and decorations give an instant festive feel and most of the chalets and hotels will inject some Christmas magic, without you being stuck in the kitchen all day. So you can enjoy the week with the family without the stress which often accompanies this time of year. And despite the poor press, snow conditions are generally good by Christmas week and the prices are much lower so you can grab yourself a bargain.

Last but not least is Easter. Think long days and sunshine and it’s easy to see the appeal. Yes, leaving it a little later can bring some risk to the snow conditions but the price reflects this risk and you have the added bonus of warm temperatures, great for little children who get cold quickly.

Choosing the best ski school is vital when skiing with children

To ensure their first time is not their last it is important to think ahead with regards to ski school options. Especially during peak weeks when things book up fast. Aside from booking your holiday, this should be one of the first things you arrange to ensure availability and avoid disappointment. When choosing the ski school to entrust with this all important first experience it’s worth considering the following:

  • How big are their group sizes? Large groups will limit their learning and also possibly their enjoyment so aim for groups with a maximum of 8 children.
  • Are their lessons taught in English? Unless your children are proficient in a second language it’s worth checking that their instructors speak fluent English and that the lessons are taught in English to ensure your child can understand the instructions and can socialise the others in the class.
  • Are their instructors fully qualified and experienced? Don’t be afraid to ask this question of any possible schools.
  • Do they put an emphasis on fun? Do they organise any activities or games throughout the week or on the last day which will leave your children grinning from ear to ear?
  • And what sort of client feedback do they get? Many schools work with independent feedback systems such as Feefo, so you can see how past clients rate their services.
Skiing with children

Skiing with children – choosing the right ski school is so important. Get that right and the rest is easy

Resort chosen. Holiday booked. Ski School arranged. Who said going skiing with children is something to worry about? Now all you need to worry about is how you’ll find space in your bags for all their Christmas pressies and whether that well used onesie you wore as a child might also fit in.

Written by Sara Fernie-Jones, New Generation Ski & Snowboard School

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