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July 2018

HOW TO BUILD AN IGLOO

  Caught out in a blizzard? Here’s how to stay alive (provided you remembered to bring along your shovel and snow saw…) By Alf Alderson 1 Choosing a site First choose a site that has deep enough snow (at least a metre, preferably more), with enough space and not prone to natural hazards such as avalanches. An igloo big enough for two/three people should have a diameter of about 130cm – you can measure this accurately if you plant a ski pole in what will be the middle of your igloo, place the wrist strap of your other pole over it and use it to mark out an accurate circle in the snow. IGLOO FACT – the word igloo is…

INTO THE FREEZER

Snow conditions a bit dodgy? Head underwater... By Alf Alderson I’m in the French ski resort of Tignes where snow is falling heavily as I squeeze into a dry suit and prepare to dive beneath the surface of the frozen Lac de Tignes – I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of ice diving beneath, and this is the perfect chance to try it. A select few French ski resorts (including Val Thorens and Morzine as well as Tignes) offer ice diving for beginners, and improbable as it seems you don’t actually need any diving experience to give it a go. Ice diving is, admittedly, a pretty niche activity, but for major ski resorts like Tignes it’s no…

STAYING SAFE IN THE BACKCOUNTRY

Heading off-piste? Then you should seriously consider signing up for an 'ISTA' avalanche safety course. By Alf Alderson There’s a sprinkling of fresh powder across the peaks and the sun shines bright from a dazzling blue sky as my breath bursts into the sub-zero air like a steam train; I’m in Verbier to take part in the International Snow Training Academy’s ‘Discovery’ avalanche safety course, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised to find that it involves a good deal of skiing rather than just tramping around with transceivers and digging in the snow. The reason I’m doing the course is because 90 per cent of avalanches affecting skiers are triggered by the skiers themselves; in other…

OFF THE RADAR

Le Grand-Bornand – now I’m not saying you’ve never heard of it (although have you?) but as a ski area this pretty French resort and its neighbour Le Clusaz ain’t exactly up there with the likes of Val d’Isere, Meribel and Les Arcs in terms of world fame. They should be though… For a start these two year-round mountain towns are far more attractive than their purpose-built counterparts, and when it comes to the actual skiing they offer – well, they punch well above their weight, with a longer season than many better-known ski areas in France and some 220km of pistes between them, alongside some truly epic off-piste terrain - you can check out a bit of…

KICKING ASS

Is this the best ski lift in Canada? We think it may well be... By Alf Alderson The Golden Eagle Express gondola is the only means of accessing the steep bowls and fluffy powder for which Kicking Horse is rightly renowned, so everyone here is, like you, going to be doing laps. This is a good thing. It means you pretty much get to know the collection of mainly Aussie and Canuck lifties personally, and like everyone else here they’re a friendly bunch. And the chances are you’ll be sharing the gondola with the same riders at least once during the day, so why not engage them in conversation? You’ll encounter dudes and dudesses from Canada, the States,…

Kitzbühel Commits to 200 Day Ski Season

One of the lowest altitude major ski areas in the Alps, Kitzbühel, has now committed to a 200+ day ski season, from October to May, in its advertising. Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tirol was once the subject of media attention when a major UN report on climate change more than a decade ago said that low altitude ski areas in the Alps would be the first to suffer the effects of average temperature warming. The resort subsequently published season by season snowfall data going back many decades which appeared to confirm climate change predictions with less snowfall in the autumn and spring but more intense snowfall in the main season. Despite the predictions and the apparent reality with temperatures often too…

THE LOST RESORT

Few people outside of France have heard of Les Sybelles, but it's a big ski area with some big skiing. By Alf Alderson France and skiing – think Three Valleys, Espace Killy, Paradiski and any number of other huge, interlinked ski areas. Or maybe not… Maybe think Les Sybelles instead. Heard of it? Not many skiers from outside France have, yet it’s one of the biggest ski areas in a nation with some ski resorts that are the size of small countries (I kid you not – were the Three Valleys a country it would be bigger than at least two of the planet’s smaller nations). ‘Les Sybelles’ consists of six linked ski resorts in the Maurienne massif;…

THE REAL WILD WEST – JUST ASK HOLLYWOOD

Alf Alderson discovers the real wild west in Telluride, Colorado Driving down Telluride’s wide main strip, otherwise known as Colorado Avenue, is quite an experience; authentic western-style hotels, bars and restaurants line the street, the snow draped ridges and peaks of the San Juan Mountains line the horizon and the steep ski runs of the town’s high altitude ski resort snake down to the edge of town – throw in a Hollywood star lounging about on the corner of Colorado and Aspen and it all becomes slightly surreal. “Look, look, it’s Samuel L. Jackson!” I cry to my buddy Tom. “Nah, it can’t be…” “You didn’t see, you’re driving…let’s turn back and check”. After all, it’s…

ELECTRIC FAT BIKING IN LES DEUX ALPES

I’m standing at the bottom of the Vallée Blanche chairlift at 1600-metres in Les Deux Alpes; fresh snow lies all around but despite my ski wear I’m not going skiing. Today I’m mountain biking on the snow instead; and I’m doing it the easy way, with an electric fat bike. Huge balloon tyres ensure a good grip on the snow and, best of all, the Bafang 8Fun motor ensures the hills are conquered with ease. I’m riding with Sylvain Marulaz, an ‘Accompagnateur en Montagne’ who, after guiding mountain bikers around the superb range of trails at Les Deux Alpes in summers decided to combine the upsurge in popularity in fat bikes and electric bikes to offer a winter…

THE END OF THE ROAD

As a ski resort Bonneval-sur-Arc is technically quite wee, with just 25km of pistes and 1200m of vertical; but let’s stop there. A ‘mere’ 1200m of vertical has its advantages when the resort in question sits at 1800 metres and its slopes are north facing, and you’re not likely to be driving all the way to the Bonneval just to skoot around on 25km of pistes. Because it is a long drive to get here, up into the Vanoise National Park from Modane, past Val Cenis and snaking along a high mountain road to get, eventually, to this little village at the end of the road to nowhere. I was here to have a poke around the freeride…