Monthly Archives: December 2014

Val Thorens with Wasteland Ski – Part 1

So my first trip out to the Alps in nearly 5 years was as a rep for Wasteland Ski. A company that specialises in student group snow tours, and a company I had been a customer of several times.

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IMG_20141211_084237I was flown from Gatwick to Geneva (my first time in Switzerland) to meet the transfer up to Val Thorens. I met several other reps on the flight and as like minded people enthused about a week on the snow we all chatted and got along pretty well, after only a few minutes. I already knew Andy from Pre-Fit and had communicated with other via the various social media networks and the training weekend.

On arrival in resort we were allocated rooms, mostly with reps we had only just met and told to await instruction. This led to a couple days of exploring and adventuring in the town, as well as a little work and a bit of play. The bars in Val T are much like many others in the alps, playing a variety of euro-house or commercial pop and serving expensive drinks in impractical glasses. The staff are friendly and fun though, often not French which can be confusing at first but easy to work out, often encouraging the reps or dishing out shooters to be delivered to the students.

IMG_20141214_001954On arrivals day it’s all hands on deck to get everyone into resort and geared up before the first day on the snow. With over 1500 arriving in one day, and so much for them to collect and sort out it was quite a mission. Even with Pre-fit we still had queues outside the rental stores as people picked up their hire gear, although the midnight waits in the snow are a thing of the past now. We also had some fun with coaches arriving early, so room keys were not yet ready. But with crowd management and some smart ideas the day went smoothly. I was posted at the coach arrival park, telling drivers where to go in the town and where to park up for the week. It was a long day out in the cold, but everything went well enough.

IMG_20141214_162231That night was the first of our room rounds; knocking on the doors of customers to let them know all the things they need to know about that evening, and the next days’ events. It was nice to get to know the people over the course of the week, and they were friendly folks. Thankfully mostly quite tame as far as the parties went, which meant I didn’t have to nag them to keep clean or tidy throughout the week. Some free food also went down very nicely.

Day 1 of the actual trip meant taking beginners to lessons and sorting out problems with rental gear. After eventually getting (nearly) everyone off with their lessons in the right groups and helping those with problematic rental gear we were allowed to pick up our own rentals and hit the hill.

I was originally given a 161cm Saloman board, which while in reasonable condition was much longer than I like and a very plain board, classic camber and edges de-tuned to make it an easy beginner board. I swapped this later the same day to a brand new 151cm Yes board with a nice amount of flex and a much lighter construction. While this was shorter than I’d usually ride it felt very nice on my feet. Much more responsive and although it was naff in the more powdery stuff it was a great fun board to mess around on. Lots of flex made butters super easy while it still had enough pop to bounce off the odd kicker or rock.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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The Best Snow Apps – Weather, grabs, and more – Blog for Prefitdelivery.com

 

SNOW APPSWHAT DO YOU WANT, WHAT DO YOUThese days we never ride without our phones. With improved signal and cheaper rates we can now actually use our mobiles while abroad, there’s even Wi-Fi in some of the mountain bars so you can check it and upload those selfies, but more usefully, we can check out the action and news with a huge range of snow apps. But which ones are worth the download, we’re here to find out!

onthesnow

OnTheSnow – For android and iPhone, this is a nice little app with all the info for nearly all the resorts (certainly most of the ones you’ll be off to!) They provide pictures, piste maps, and more data about your chosen mountain, along with weather forecasts and powder reports. It works well, and doesn’t eat up the data too quick, or nail the battery. The pictures and most relevant snow reports are user uploaded though, so some are a little low quality or irrelevant, but mostly you’ll be looking at the blue bird skies or 3ft visibility, depending on how many other people read the weather report.

trace

Trace Snow [iPhone – Android] – Linked up with the usual social media culprits, Trace Snow tracks your movements around the resort using GPS and at the end of the day gives you a little report of what you’ve been up to. Recording vertical drop, horizontal distance, speeds and stops, even counting your jumps and air time. It has a few leaderboards for all these stats, but without any friends (you’ll need to search them out yourself even though it links through Facebook) it only has global stats, which are rather tricky to beat.

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Trick Bag – As always, available on both platforms (we don’t count Windows Phones…) The principle here is that you’ve got a huge library of ‘how to’s at your fingertips, split into levels of difficulty with short instructional videos showing you how it’s supposed to be done. While the tutorial section isn’t exactly informative, a writen explaintion would be nice. But if you’re looking for inspiration of what to try next, or simply trying to build up your bag of tricks this can really help you out. Be aware that downloading the videos will rack up the data charges though.

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SnoCru – This is a social network style app designed to let you add your riding buddies and shred friends so you can always find some people to hang out with. Popular in the States, it hasn’t taken off so huge in Europe yet, but if you want to to know who’s in the same resort as you (especially if you’ve got a load of seasonairre pals) it can be a wonderful tool.

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Ski and Snow Report iPhone Android Not one we’re recommending, it’s telling us there’s no snow in the resort we’re in, while it’s snowing!

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Snowboard Trick List iPhone Android Pretty much the same as the Trick Bag app, but you have to pay for this one. It’ll probably have ironed out the odd creases that Trick Bag has, but whether it’s worth the money is up to you. For us, while it is nicer than the competition, we’d rather save the money for socks.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Queenstown, my home away from home

Nzone Skydive

 

This article is written for a friend of mine, who is studying tourism, or something. It’s basically about how and why Queenstown became a home to me for so long, and why that was such a great thing.

AJHL310170063746Queenstown is a highlight on everyones trip to New Zealand, it’s a town cram packed full of awesome adventure activities, luxury hotels, fancy restaurants and burger bars, some of the best bars in the country and some epic landscapes as well. It’s got a little of something for everyone, and a lot for a lot of people. In winter it’s a haven for snow lovers from around the world, while summer is just as popular with those enjoying the longer days and warmer nights. It’s (allegedly) got more bars per person than any other town in the world, which is believable when you consider how focused on tourism this town is.

DCIM100GOPROAnd it’s this that makes Queenstown such fun to live in, the constant ebb and flow of backpackers, holiday makers and tour buses through the town mean each night is totally different, and always a party. With so many coming through, and so many wanting to stay the lucky ones that find work are truly grateful and it means everyone is happy to be there. The atmosphere in the streets is one of positivity and enjoyment as even a short stroll through the streets offers magnificent views of either the gorgeous lake or the stunning mountains (including the mountains of Mordor)

2013-07-11 12.15.06I was fortunate to be offered a job working for Peterpans, the company I had worked for in Australia, while I was still traveling in South East Asia. A couple of flights after cutting my trip just a little shorter and I was coming into Queenstown to work a job I already knew I loved. But the attitude of the other residents be they British, German, Canadian or actual Kiwis was so welcoming and friendly I soon met people who I now consider some of my best friends. Working and living in a town as small as Queenstown (and it is a lot smaller than you’d think) mean you soon get to know the barstaff and waiters, receptionists, managers, and all the rest of pretty much any business you go into regularly. Within only a couple months it was possible to walk into almost any bar in town, get a cheeky discount drink and a decent chat with the staff. Or if it was busy, just the cheeky drink, making you look like a big shot in front of todays load of fresh backpackers.

DSCF0058There was a carefree attitude towards what people were up to, and gossip was less prevalent than other places, mostly because folk weren’t bored enough to spread rumours or anything like that, we were all too busy enjoying ourselves. Thinking on my time there now, I really wish I could go back. Back to days where walking down the street might take half an hour, because you’d bump into so many others you’d know, and no one worried if you were late, so you’d catch up quickly, sharing the latest adventure either on or off the mountains. It rare to feel so welcome in a foreign country, but in Queenstown I felt more at home than I ever did in the UK, and cold bleak place by comparison, filled with moaning people who don’t even know enough to wish they could live like those in NZ.

Not to mention I got a crazy amount of freebies through work that it was rarely more than a couple weeks between bungys, swings, biking, snowboarding or something equally exciting.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

All the gear, no idea? – What you actually need, what you don’t – Blog for Prefitdelivery.com

ALL THE GEAR- NO IDEA-

So the world of Snowsports has thousands of different bits of kit and snow gear that someone will insist you can’t be without – here’s a little list of technical gear we think you actually need. (There’s a list of everything you’ll need for your uni trip here, for those who are going the first time)

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  • Skis/Snowboard – Yeah, you’ll need this one,pretty essential snow gear, we’ve got you covered here
  • Boots – Perfect fit, before you get to the resort, that’s why we’re here
  • Poles – Only for the skiers, and we’ll get you sorted as well
  • Socks – Your feet are where the action happens, and where the pressure is so you need good socks to protect your tootsies. Football and rugby socks really won’t cut it, and wearing two pairs is just going to be blister city. Get some decent ski socks and they’ll keep your feet toasty and free of blisters, and we have plenty for you to buy
  • Helmet – Long gone are the days of yore, when helmets were for Groms and Gapers, these days we all wear them, all the time and we don’t like people who don’t. We’re not wasting time making friends with suicidal people. Hire and helmet, save a life. 100% essential snow gear.
  • Jacket and Pants – We’ve got these for you as well, and it’ll do you fine. You don’t need a £200 jacket if you’ll just be hitting the greens and blues, but don’t go buying the cheapest jacket you can find, it probably won’t do so well. Please buy something though, your leather jacket might look cool on the streets, but on the slopes you’ll look rather special.
  • Gloves – Again snow specific gloves are essential, but the cheapest will tear within days. If you want the cheap option without the tears, hire them from us with the premium clothing rental package.
  • Goggles – there’s a lot of variation here, but if you’re only out for a week a year, you probably don’t need a pair of low lights, mid lights and blue bird goggles. Stick with something in the middle and you’ll be grand.

IMG_20141127_153829There’s a lot of cheap gear out there, and eBay can be very good at tempting you with stuff you don’t need. Be wary of deals that sound to good to be true, they often are.

Keep an eye out for keen salesmen as well, we’ve seen people wearing fluffy socks that the ‘guy in the shop’ swore were professional riding socks, and wooly gloves with the same recommendation.Full NinjaCheck the brand is something you’ve heard of before, or take a buddy who’s got some experience so you don’t get a bad deal. Decathlon don’t seem to have much clue about snowsports, while Snow + Rock will be pushing the expensive stuff in our experience.

But even easier than all that, just get the clothing rental packages from us and we’ll supply good quality gear for a budget price. If you like it enough, you can buy it from us and it’ll cost you less than the full RRP!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

P.s. If you like the look of that onsie, get it online at mojosclothing.com