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Adventures

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,…

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…

SKIING WITH SHARKS…

Heliskiing in Iceland is a unique experience  By Alf Alderson When a man tells you his family have lived in the same valley since God was a lad you can understand how it is that he knows the area so well – indeed, ski guide Jökull Bergmann’s ancestors settled in northern Iceland before God even existed as far as they were concerned. His Viking forbears were still worshipping Thor when they rolled ashore on the Troll Peninsula in their longboats in the 9th century; more than a thousand years later their great, great, great (etc.) grandson, universally known as ‘JB’, travels around the area by helicopter as the head guide with Arctic Heliskiing, Iceland’s only heliski operation. And…

SAIL AND SKI

Ski touring by boat along Iceland’s north coast By Alf Alderson It’s possible that the hardest thing about sailing and skiing along the north coast of Iceland isn’t the logistics, the navigating of rocky shorelines, the beach landings in choppy seas and the long climbs to the summits of various sub-Arctic peaks, but pronouncing the place names. For instance, on the second day of my adventure here our schooner ‘Hildur’ anchored in Rauðavík Bay before we took the tender ashore to climb a 1129-metre mountain that goes by the entirely unpronounceable name of Skálavíkurhnjúhur. Getting to the top of Skálavíkurhnjúhur is no less demanding than trying to pronounce it, for although there’s no real climbing involved, it’s a…

WHY YOU, TOO, SHOULD GO HELISKIING…

If the thought of paying for a heliski trip makes your palms sweat, that’s fair enough – but it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, and you don’t need to be a pro-level rider either. Here’s why you should consider give it a go. All images courtesy of Last Frontier Heliskiing www.lastfrontierheli.com   By Alf Alderson I’m standing on the summit of 3040-metre Pizzo Zembranka on the border of Italy’s Stelvio National Park with four other skiers and a guide. I got here by helicopter in order to deal with the little matter of a 2090-metre descent down wide open, humanity free powder fields… And to do so I had to shell out just 180…

SKIING IN THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE

Kamchatka is one of the most active volcanic regions on Earth, an integral link in the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire. It’s not a place you’d immediately think of for a ski trip, and indeed you need a helicopter to make the most of the slopes here, but if you do have access to one, you’ll encounter some of the most spectacular skiing on Earth. As it happens I did; well, not me personally, but I was part of a group of 11 Brit, Russian and Dutch skiers (along with two professional ski guides – vital ‘accessories’ on a trip like this) who recently explored the region’s volcanic peaks in an ex-Russian military Mi8 helicopter. One of the…

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Alf Alderson finds himself ‘accidentally’ taking part in a ski touring race in Switzerland The summit of 2,833-metre Oberalstock in the Bernese Oberland is the kind of place where it’s worth hanging about on a sunny spring day; the views encompass a magnificent glaciated panorama and when I was there we even had the obligatory sea of cloud rolling and tumbling beneath us. But if you’ve inadvertently got yourself mixed up in a ski touring race to the top of said peak you can’t really hang about too long… I was part of a two-man team that had stumbled upon the Susten Derby almost by accident, thanks to an e mail from contacts in the local tourism office…