The Three Valleys for the New Year

Serious skiers will tell you that there is nothing like the three valleys resorts in the early New Year, and newcomers to the sport will also get an immediate feeling that with good fresh snow and lots and lots of ski runs this famous area is all about fun.

The area of the Three Valleys or as it should be referred to Les Trois Vallées, high in the French Alps, is a truly magnificent ski area which boasts some of the best skiing in the world. With over 600 km of pistes and over 200 ski lifts, there is something that always attracts skiers as well as boarders no matter at what ability, but is linked in a manner which means that all resorts are accessible.

No matter what your standard of skiing ability is, you can cover a lot of ground during your winter ski week, and with good mountain restaurants offering a wide choice of menu, from simple raclette or soup and sandwich to excellent French cuisine you can enjoy a full day away from your home resort. The Three Valleys is easily accessible from many regional airports direct to international airports, including Geneva, Lyon and Chambery and it is accessible by car without too much difficulty.

There are no less than eight resorts in the Three Valleys ranging from exquisite Courcheval 1850, to modest accommodation in Val Thorens or lively chalet life in British favourite Meribel. All resorts differ, but they have one thing in common, they all share fantastic snow records and immaculately groomed wide open pistes.

The choice remains with you, a bustling lively resort or perhaps in a more tranquil, relaxing haven after a hard day’s ski.

Picture: Leo-seta

Planning a skiing holiday

Once you have decided to go on a skiing holiday you need to plan well to ensure you have an enjoyable time.

The following are some of the things to consider:

•    The people going.  This is among the first things to take into account.  Is this a trip for the whole family and are children going along?  This is important in order to factor in everyone’s needs for the trip.
•    The destination.  There are numerous skiing locations around the world each offering something unique. T he choice of destination is also dependant on the people going on the trip.   Do enough research and read reviews to find a location that best suits the needs of the entire travelling group.  When choosing your destination, remember that the skiing season varies according to the location.
•    Accommodation.  Decide early on where you want to stay.  There are many options to choose from including hotels, ski lodges, chalets, condos and self-catered apartments.  If you have children, try to get accommodation as close to the skiing resort as possible.  You also need to decide on what else a ski resort has to offer such as spas, shopping complexes, movie theatres and clubs.
•    Budget.  Decide how much money you are willing to spend on the trip.  Some ski resorts, especially those found in France and Switzerland, are usually more expensive than other destinations.  Remember to make your travel arrangements and booking for ski classes in advance as some places offer discounts during the off peak season.   Get a family pass to save some money.
•    Buy appropriate clothing.  Visit a winter sports clothing shop to buy ski clothing, goggles, gloves and hats.  Skiing equipments such as snowboards and skis can be hired at the resort.
•    Train and exercise your body.  Begin training your body at least three months in advance to ensure your muscles are strong and flexible enough for skiing.

Picture: ines saraiva

Skiing in Scotland

Many people travel far and wide in search of the ideal ski holiday, yet they have not experienced the joys of skiing in Scotland.  One of the hidden treasures of the UK is the huge range of winter ski slopes in the highlands of Scotland which can be enjoyed by Skiers of all ages and abilities.  Unlike the Alps or Rocky Mountains, where high levels of snowfall and huge scale resorts are common place, the Scottish highlands have an altogether more adventurous and personal feel to them, where large snowfalls lead to a surge of excited and enthusiastic individuals rushing up to the slopes to enjoy the skiing.  This makes it an ideal destination for those who are able to book at short notice when the ideal conditions arise.

Cairngorm is one of the most popular resorts in Scotland, with around 23 miles of runs and 11 lifts serving them.  The after-ski entertainment and hospitality in this region is famous for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, with plenty for all the family from relaxing spas and sports facilities to restaurants.  Glenshee is the largest of the Scottish resorts and it is ideally suited to families and newbie skiers as there are plenty of beginner and intermediate runs.  Many people choose to stay in local towns and villages and visit the resort during the day to hit the slopes.  Other superb resorts in Scotland include Glencoe, The Lecht, and Nevis Range.

Chamonix: a winter and summer wonderland

The picturesque mountain town of Chamonix in the French Alps, is near the borders of Italy and Switzerland.  Chamonix is positioned in the centre of a narrow valley, amidst the towering peaks. 

Surrounded by glaciers, large mountains and snow, the Chamonix valley is a favourite destination for paragliders and hang gliders.  During the summer months, there is a wonderfully colourful display of paragliders climbing and swirling in the sky.  Summer is also the perfect time for climbing or walking the glaciers.  In Chamonix, there are numerous popular hiking trails at varied elevations.  Some of the trails start at the valley floor and climb all the way up to 9,000 feet.  The trails at Chamonix are some of the most spectacular in the Alps. 

The views of Mount Blanc from Chamonix are simply amazing.  Europe’s highest mountain is even more spectacular during the early mornings and late evenings.  There are various winter activities in Chamonix, and visitors have been flocking to this winter wonderland because of its 12 mile Vallee Blanche run, which is known by skiing enthusiasts as being one of Europe’s best and longest ski runs.

Choosing French Ski Holidays

The many ski resorts located in France offer a fun alpine experience for skiers and snowboarders of all ages. Because the country is easily accessible to UK residents via low cost airlines and the Channel Tunnel, it is a convenient option for skiing holidays. Many of the resorts cater to an international customer base; so British travellers will have a comfortable holiday experience. You can expect to find courteous, English-speaking staff members who are willing to help you with all aspects of your holiday. Most of the best resorts are located in the Alps, although you will also find great resorts in the Pyrenees.

Advantages of the ski resorts

One of the best things about patronising established ski resorts is that they offer an all-inclusive experience. In many cases, your lodgings will be literally located just steps from a slope or lift. You can choose from trails that are ideal for all experience levels, from beginners to Olympic-quality trails. Other options include trails for snowboarders, and others that are used for toboggans. Because the resorts offer excellent places to stay, you can enjoy plenty of relaxation during your holiday. The suites or apartments at the ski resorts offer typical home comforts, with plenty of space for larger families enjoying a holiday together.

Some popular amenities

Many of the rooms in these resorts are decorated in an attractive lodge style that is very inviting. Working fireplaces help keep the rooms quite cosy. You can enjoy stunning views of the local mountains and forests. In addition to spacious living areas and bedrooms, these resorts may also feature spa-style baths. Restaurants and full-service spas are generally offered. Heated indoor pools provide a good place to relax after a busy day of skiing, and typically have their own Jacuzzis. Other advantages that these resorts offer include underground, heated parking for your car.

What to Expect From 2012 Skiing Holidays

For ski holidays, 2012 promises to be an action packed year with limitless possibilities. Resorts will be going all out to ensure that you have the experience of a lifetime. With many offering cheap ski deals and all-inclusive packages, it will not be hard to find the right location no matter what your requirements.

With the official start to ski season just a few short months away there is no better time to start planning your trip and looking for a cheap ski deal.

If you are a die hard snow junkie and can not wait, then you can head to Argentina, Chile, Australia or New Zealand where the southern hemisphere season is in full swing. Snow will be fresh and powdery from now up until November. 

For some rewarding glacier skiing in November look to France, Austria and Switzerland. Glacier skiing comes with the promise of long slopes and powder. The outlook for pre-season snow conditions this year is good. 

The season officially starts in December and you can add the lower resorts in Italy, Finland, Czech Republic, USA and Canada to that list.

So if you’re looking at ski holidays 2012 and, depending on where you go, 2011 holds endless possibilities regardless of your schedule, location and budget. Booking early is always the best way to ensure that you will secure your place on the slopes and avoid disappointment. 

Skiing in North America

Canada: Lake Louise, Alberta
Lake Louise is situated at the core of the impressive national park of Banff. This is in the Canadian Rockies in the North American Rocky Mountains range. Across the lake, there are views of the Victoria Glacier, which provides a wonderful backdrop when skiing.

USA: Breckenridge, Colorado

In Breckenridge, Colorado, which is among America’s most popular resorts, there is easy access to a peak of 3,915 metres via a lift ride. New guests looking for ski deals in ‘Breck’ will be thrilled by the options available to families as well as individuals and other groups. More experienced, returning visitors will also be delighted by the new attractions at the resort.

These include One Ski Hill Place, a sophisticated resort situated at Peak 8’s base and providing winter access to four chairlifts; in the summer this helps visitors get to the Peak 8 Fun Park. In addition to the sophisticated suites and inspiring views of One Ski Hill Place, the facilities include a bowling alley, an aquatics centre, a games room and a lounge where films are screened.

Canada: Big White, British Columbia

This popular ski resort offers self-catering chalets complete with a Jacuzzi, welcoming hotels and cosy apartments. Ski deals offer an opportunity to explore the snow covered terrain via snowmobile, visit the wide open rural spaces on cross-country ski trips and even take a sleigh ride through the backcountry behind husky dogs. This is a great family destination, providing lots of enjoyable events and activities.

Luxury Ski Holidays – finding the best deals

For those that like that little bit extra when they head to the mountain, there is no shortage of ski deals that make even the most indulgent of stays affordable. If you have never experienced the benefits of high end skiing, perhaps now is the time to spend that little bit more for a whole lot more. With increased competition between resorts it is no longer as expensive as you might think.

Here are a few of the benefits of going for the luxury chalet option:
•    Relaxation: most luxury chalets have hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. Nothing is better after a cold day out on the slopes. Personal gyms, mobile massage service and home cinemas will also help you relax.
•    Aesthetics: nothing makes you feel more like royalty than designer furnishings and king sized beds.
•    Childcare: most chalets will come with a nanny if required.
•    Hospitality: most resorts manage to make your stay an enjoyable when you stay in regular accommodation, but they go that extra mile when you are a premium guest.
•    Gastronomy: most luxury chalets come with a chef to cook to your taste. There are no menus; you just order whatever you like.
•    Wines: you can be sure to find a very well stocked cellar in your chalet.

It will cost you more but, if you can afford it, it is worth making luxury a priority when looking for your next ski deal.

Types of Skiing

There are so many variations of skiing that is useful to get yourself acquainted with them before taking advantage of one of the cheap ski deals that are out there. You probably won’t be able to try all of them, but once you know what you like you can start incorporating any of these into your plans.

Some of the variations of skiing are:
•    Alpine Skiing: this is the skiing that we all know and love. It involves skiing down long steep slopes that are only really accessible from a ski lift.
•    Backcountry Skiing: this is probably the most rewarding form of the sport. It is all about getting out of the resorts and finding your own slopes in the wild.
•    Cross-country Skiing: this is essentially hiking on skis. It is a great way to explore the outdoors in winter.
•    Extreme Skiing: this is for the pros only – a lot of jumps, aerial manoeuvres and flips.
•    Freeskiing: this is for the adrenalin junkies. Similar to extreme skiing but a bit more technical, with moves being categorised according to degree of difficulty.
•    Heliskiing: this is Alpine Skiing without the ski lift. Instead a helicopter is used get to the top of the mountain.
•    Ski Mountaineering: this combines mountaineering and skiing to allow you get to those otherwise inaccessible parts of a mountain.
•    Telemark Skiing: this is all about getting onto a mountain and descending in long arching curves.

Whatever your preference there are lots of cheap ski deals out there for you. Try to get exposed to as many forms of skiing as possible to find the one that works best for you.

Catered Chalet Skiing Holidays

A very popular accommodation type for cheap ski holidays is a catered chalet.  They tend to be one of the cheaper options and they can feel very homely, without the stress of having to cook or clean.

For group skiing holidays they can be an excellent idea.  You and your friends can book one chalet to share together or you can book a number of rooms, depending on the size of your group.  Certain chalets are specifically designed to cater for families.  Many offer childcare on site or close by.  This kind of accommodation is perfect for parents who want to minimise any stress.  It is also possible to opt for smoke free chalets.

Your stay and comfort is taken care of by your ski chalet host.  If you have any questions or queries concerning the resort or the region, they should be able to provide you with all the information and advice you need.  Occasionally, they might even go out skiing with you.

Generally, ‘catered’ in this context means breakfast in the morning, an afternoon tea and then a three course meal served with wine for the evening, all of which is organised by your ski chalet host.  A group or family is able to sit comfortably together.

If you are interested in a ski holiday in France, there is a wide range of resorts to choose from whether you want family focused accommodation or something more luxurious.  Popular destinations include Tignes, Meribel, Courchevel and Val D’Isere.