Category Archives: France

Monaco – making a day of it

Recently I had a little time off in Nice on the Cote D’Azur in the south of France. While Nice is a beautiful town with lots to do, I was drawn away to explore Monaco the tiny country only a short bus ride away

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Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, only 2 square Km, ruled by the longest standing monarchal house in Europe, the Grimaldi family, and is home to some of the richest people in the world. It has an impressive residency policy, with applications costing $100 million US dollars, and the final vote coming direct from King Albert himself. Many celebs have tried and failed to gain citizenship including 1/2 of U2, Tina Turner and many more. Successful candidates included James Bond actor Roger Moore, British F1 driver Jenson Button (along with plenty other drivers) and various Tennis stars notably Rafael Nadal.

Getting to the country is as easy as going to the shops, simple hop on the train or the bus. The bus 100 heads all the way to Menton via Monaco, and is just 1.50EUR for a single ticket. Take the bus through Monaco, past all the sights until place de le Moulin (just remember where the castle stop is) and then you can head back through town to catch the bus back without doubling up.

IMG_20160620_161846564The city is not as expensive as is thought, it was only 1.20EUR for a croissant in the little bakery we found, and although there’s plenty of opportunities to spend, it’s easy enough to avoid. So grab a bite and wander along and down towards the sea. There’s a good few car showrooms around, so depending on your route you may find Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and more. At the bottom you’ll find the Grimaldi Forum, and next to it the Promenade of Champions, and the beautiful Japanese Gardens, along from here you can walk up to the famous Monte Carlo casino, or through the tunnel, well known to fans of the Formula 1. If you want to see both, it’s definitely better to go through the tunnel, then take the subway near the far end which has elevators up to the Casino above.

The square in front of the Casino is grand enough itself, with enough fancy cars and luxury suits to satisfy most playboy fantasies, but when you step inside the casino foyer itself you’ll understand what the fuss is all about. While it is banned for the citizens of Monaco (known as Monegasque) to gamble, the casino pulls in thousands of visitors a day, many of whom are the high rollers we all wish we were too. The country actually built much of its success on the strength of the casino, and it’s used to raise funds for the government in place of taxes. You can enter the lobby for free with no clothing restrictions, however if you wish to gamble, you’ll need a collared shirt and to pay the 10EUR entry. This is just the common people area though, and to get through to the real luxury you’ll need to be dolling out a lot of cash.

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There are a few shops nearby to nose through, all of the high end fashion labels, and a few high street stores have set up camp, but don’t worry about those, as the view as you continue along the main strip is far more impressive than any handbag. Overlooking the marina you can spot those poor people who can only afford a super yacht. These days mega (over 65m) and giga (over 100m) yachts are the real deal and have pride of place in the central port. Walking around the marina will lead you to the path up the hill to the palace, where you’ll find the traditional guard standing to attention and another epic view. Also at the top is the marine biology centre, which features an impressive public aquarium and the church where Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer III. It also happens to be where they are buried, and often mourned by the locals.

If you fancied extending your day, heading down the Menton, or jumping off at Eze en route would be good options. Otherwise, enjoy the oppulence and relax.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Tignes (again) with Wasteland Ski winter 15/16

So I was fortunate to get sent back over to Tignes this December to Head Rep for Wasteland Ski

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IMG_20151210_143850After 3 weeks in the resort last year, Tignes became one of my favourite resorts in Europe, I got to know the parks, the runs, the bars and even a couple of secret spots ‘off piste’, so when I got my request to work the resort for a week this winter I was very happy. I’ve got a lot less free time this year, so to be heading to one of the largest ski areas was something to look forward to.

It was also to be my first time as a proper Head Rep. I’d done it for SCUK (Snowboard Club UK) a group of 100+ adults or various ages, but they stayed in a nice hotel, and didn’t need supervision every night, so once they were all there, it was a very simple week indeed. I’d also been Zone Manager for BUSC Main Event in Tignes, but with so many support staff, I found the week pretty simple, and didn’t have too much hassle at all. So heading out with a good friend, and one of the great new BUSC team to be the ‘bosses’ for a team of 7 reps and about 250 students, I certainly anticipated a bit more of a challenge.

IMG_20151215_130101And a challenge was an understatement! Within less than 12 hours we’d lost a rep and had to send him home, which meant all the preparations we’d done were for nothing as we rushed to prepare for arrivals. But prepared we were, and within 12 hours of the students arriving we had two more missing people, some minor injuries, a couple of rooms with no water and a handful of other complaints and issues. Certainly it looked like we wouldn’t be getting much sleep that week! I think the earliest night was 3am, and the latest lie-in 9am, although I blame myself for the early starts, most mornings anyway. I had come to the mountains to ride, and ride I would do.

IMG_20151215_130136Most days I’d complete a couple of laps before joining with the reps to explore the mountains, get the typical selfies and group photos. We even had a sprinkling of powder, so to make the most of that one of our crew let her snowboard lose, and we got to adventure into the unknown to find it. Some lovely slash turns and rock hopping and even a cheeky little cliff drop to get out of some tight spots made the riding varied and exciting. I got plenty of time to ride through both the Tignes and Val D’isere parks, both of which while incomplete were big enough for me. I certainly got more comfortable riding the mid-line and might have tidied my ugly 3’s up a little. Grab for the week was the Stalefish. I think what I really like about the rideable area in Tignes is the pure variety, and the options from every point on the piste map. There’s always a couple of choices if not more from the main chairs, and whether you want something fun and easy, or to beat your speed record there chance is right there.

Weather wise it felt more like spring riding than December, with warm days and blue skies for most of the week. A little cloud which brought us just enough snow to freshen the runs didn’t cause a white-out. Not great for the resort for the rest of the season, but for us there that week we couldn’t ask for better conditions.

IMG_20151216_111558The nightlife is still great fun, although a little limited for options compared to somewhere like Val Thorens. The usual favourite Saloon and old faithful Dropzone provide different vibes but good fun until it’s time to head to the clubs – which I find hard to differentiate really, it’s club tunes and house, it’s dark and a bit smelly but get the right group in and before you know it, you’re raving with a lot of semi-naked people.

The student groups, (with a couple exceptions) were great fun, and the committees certainly helped throughout the week, there’s plenty of opportunities for them to be a huge time sink for the head reps, but on the whole they were pretty chilled out and happy with the week. I’d be happy to work with them again, if they’d have me!

Benjamin Duff

@Versestravel

Tignes with Wasteland Ski and BUSC: Part 2

Continued from Part 1

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IMG_20150318_123120The bars in Le Lac were pretty limited to Loop bar, although I heard that there were also some great restaurants in the village. Val Claret dominated there, with Saloon and DropZone offering student friendly prices and plenty of others happy to host us for a few hours. Some dishing out the shooters and others providing some cringe-worthy karaoke opportunities. Every night ended of course in either Club Melting or Blue Girl, both fairly typical resort clubs, with cheesy house and sleazy guys, but a good atmosphere when packed out with young brits.

IMG_20150319_123059The RAU lot were pretty mellow, with a lot of them enjoying the slope-side restaurants more than the late night bars, these guys could afford to splash a bit of cash so weren’t put off drinking at the Folie, but there were only a few each night that made it past the bars and onto the clubs. Their fierce independance also made it tricky to keep a large group together, often leaving two half empty bars, rather than one nice busy one.

IMG_20150318_145036The BUSC warm up week was a little odd, with so many newbie reps in resort to train, and so much to prepare for the next week we had very sporadic work and very few actual customers to look after. It meant getting plenty of snow time in, although the weather started to close in which caused a couple of no ride days. It was nice to check out the various BRITS events going on as well, including the jam style Bangers and Cash rail comp, and there really were some bangers going down.

IMG_20150327_152441The final week was the Main Event, big ticketed parties every night and lots of competitions each day. Unfortunately the weather didn’t improve much, so a lot of the comps were cancelled, but all of the evening plans went ahead, including a party on the glacier, a forest rave and the Wet Mess pool party. These were sandwiched between the opening and closing ceremonies, the former a chilled event out in the snow, and the latter a huge club built inside the sports centre with big name DJs. With transfers, acts, security and so much more to organise the BUSC guys did an amazing job to keep everything going, with all the evening event going off with barely a hitch (a few delays never hurt anyone) Certainly the reaction from each event was very positive and it was great to be a part of it all.

I’d be happy to recommend Tignes as a resort, and Main Event as a package to any student, and while VC might not suit everyone, Le Lac has great facilities for families as well. Overall a pretty awesome place for a week long party.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Tignes with Wasteland Ski and BUSC: Part 1

So my last trip out to France for the season was to Tignes for three weeks. The first week was with WastelandSki and Ciren Snow, part of the RAUSS. The last two week were with BUSC for their Main Event.

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Tignes itself is split into a few villages spreading up the valley. The main is Le Lac, but the nightlife is a little further up in Val Claret, which is where we were based for our time. Val Claret has the usual affair of Sherpas, rental shops and restaurants, but it is also host to most of the English speaking late night bars and both of the resorts nightclubs. This perhaps makes it a little less suitable for families, but certainly suits the students.

IMG_20150323_120939The skiable area is pretty impressive, with plenty of runs and lifts all throughout the Tignes valley, and it’s only a single lift over into the Val D’isere area if you have the extended Espace Killy pass. It’s worth getting, if only to save you the bus fare home if you take a wrong turning out of the Folie. It is possible to get back home again if you do decide on some apres though, just make sure you make it for the last chair back over! From Val Claret it’s easy to get up to the glacier thanks to the funicular that runs through the middle of the mountain, to the park via two short chairs, and down the valley to the rest of the Tignes area, either via the free buss or the more adventurous route over the hills. There’s a good mix of runs, although the best of the beginners areas is from Le Lac, so a few groups were getting the shuttle down for the start of their lessons, which is a little impractical for newbies in ski boots.

IMG_20150313_093117Both the Tignes and Val park are accessible on the Tignes pass, although it’s rather a long lap for the Val park. The main park certainly does the job however, with a good range of features for all ranges of abilities. With the BRITS competition during the second week and the Main Event competitions going on through the last getting some park time was a little tricky, but well worth it for the adrenalin rush. Closer to the town was the half-pipe which was a staggering 22′ superpipe while we were there. This is thanks to various international events throughout February that pushed it up from the usual 18′ pipe. Still we gave it a go, and felt the rush from that as well.

IMG_20150319_201625During our stay, as well as the various events that we were working with were a couple of open professional events that really added some spectacle to the stay. One of the best things of being in a resort with high standard features is that these events can surprise you whilst on holiday, as we found after leaving our mountain meal only to find the ‘Air Ladies‘ event in full flow giving us a chance to check out some incredible tricks in the pipe, flood lit and soundtracked by the resort.

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Continued in the next blog

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Les Arcs with Wasteland Ski – Part 2

Continued from here

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IMG_20150117_201414The Vanoise Express takes you across to the far left side of the La Plagne ski area, so it’s a couple of lifts up before you even reach the first of the main La Plagne bowls. Each has it’s own character, similar to Les Arcs, but with much less in the way of tree runs. A few notable points include the park, the glacier, ‘Death Valley’ and a secret bit of powder on the far side.

IMG_20150121_100413The glacier is a long ride to get to, and having to take a gondola down a slope always feels a bit wrong, but once you’re up it’s worth it. There’s only a couple of chairs, and the main runs are awfully moguled, but head off-piste and you should be able to find something worth the effort. The transverse chair was my favourite, although the top section was nasty, it was possible to sneak around the side of the bowl and hit some fresh snow which made the whole trip worthwhile.

IMG_20150121_120946The park was much more regimented than the one in Les Arcs, just straight runs of either kickers or rails with no way to switch it up mid line. The baby kickers were very small and didn’t offer much while the mid kickers were a challenge to hit without knuckling, there just wasn’t enough run-up to them. Death Valley certainly had a charm to it. An area which was mined in WW2 meaning there’s some very big dips and holes to get stuck in. There’s a well tracked bit of off-piste leading through, and I recommend sticking to it as we found digging your way out of a 15ft hole is not much fun. Lower down the slope you can access the valley a little easier which leads into a very tight and steep natural curving half-pipe. Great fun, and challenging to ride through, it’s amazing the height of the carves you’ll end up doing in order to quell the speed along the bumpy bottom, and it’s not exactly straight either.

IMG_20150118_105756Finally my secret powder stash, on the far right of the piste map is a chair which accesses the slalom course, from the top of this, take the drag up and along the ridge, from here, around the back of the peak, then drop in to the bowl wherever you want, but be sure to stay left as you approach the exit. From this little outcrop there’s a few drops, but head left even further and there’s a couple little chutes that were untouched both times I dropped in. The fresh stuff may not last more than 30 seconds, but the whole run is good fun so well worth it. If for some reason the drag is closed, hike it, you’ll find you’re the only ones up there, with a gorgeous view both sides and a sweet bowl all to yourself.

IMG_20150121_170528The nightlife on the Vallandry-Peisey side was pretty limited, with one French bar, Mojo, on the Vallandry half, English Bar Mont Blanc between the two and La Vache on the Peisey side. The rest were rather fancy restaurants, not so suited to students, but went down quite nicely with the SCUK crew. Bar Mont Blanc is where we spent most of the evening, partly because they hosted our welcome drinks, but also our meal deals were from here. The bar worked well, and the events they put on got the party going well, although with no other option some folk were a little tired of it by the end.

IMG_20150118_105819Over in Arc 1800 the nightlife was much better, with several bars happy to accommodate a huge amount of students. While the amount we had meant splitting them between bars on some nights, Red Hot Saloon did well to cater for as many as they did almost every night, although they did share the load with my favourite, Bar King Mad. The two clubs in town Club 73 and Le Carre (previously Apocalypse) hosted some of the best late parties of the season. The mostly English bars helped the students to spend, while the worst drink in existence was consumed in high volume thanks to the bar staff in Red Hot. A Glass Case (Cage?) consists of Gin and red wine served like a Jagerbomb, resulting in some very messy nights.

IMG_20150126_131641On the last days in resort, the snow really came in, laying down over 2ft the first day, and even more the next. Unfortunately sore legs and awful visibility meant days spent in bed and doing a selection of other jobs for the bosses. While it was nice to be heading home (even if it was by coach) it was heart wrenching to leave the resort with so much fresh snow to enjoy.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Les Arcs with Wasteland Ski – Part 1

I was very fortunate to spend two weeks in Les Arcs, first with Snowboard Club UK, and the second looking after Bath Uni.

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IMG_20150122_094003The resort area is actually split between about 5 smaller towns and villages that make up Les Arcs. Each town has it’s own character and clientele, appealing in different ways to the various stereotypes that populate the slopes. Arc 2000 and 1950 are for the richer folks, more family orientated and little more luxurious. It tends to be a little more French orientated as well. Arc 1600 is a bit cheaper, just a standard resort town but without a huge draw. Arc 1800 is where Bath Uni were based and has a larger English presence, especially in the bars. The larger hotels can cater for groups and budgets more suited to students. Vallandry and Peisey are both smaller and more family friendly, while offering a range of nicer hotels and catered chalets, this is where the SCUK crew were located. IMG_20150118_105819Over in Arc 1800 the nightlife was much better, with several bars happy to accommodate a huge amount of students. While the amount we had meant splitting them between bars on some nights, Red Hot Saloon did well to cater for as many as they did almost every night, although they did share the load with my favourite, Bar King Mad. The two clubs in town Club 73 and Le Carre (previously Apocalypse) hosted some of the best late parties of the season. The mostly English bars helped the students to spend, while the worst drink in existence was consumed in high volume thanks to the bar staff in Red Hot. A Glass Case (Cage?) consists of Gin and red wine served like a Jagerbomb, resulting in some very messy nights.
IMG_20150127_120900So the first week in Peisey continued with the lack of snow, a light dusting here and there didn’t do much to improve the riding, although pistes were mostly open and well covered. The snow also brought the temperature down, and for the first time during the season I felt the need to wrap up a little more. Clear skies later in week meant some great photo ops, and the old snow meant park laps were frequent and popular. Peisey is well placed for the Vanoise Express, a huge double-decker gondola that takes pass holders across to La Plagne. This opens up another resort of equal size, making the total skiable area massive.
IMG_20150122_125308Les Arcs ski area is easily split into three main sections; The glacier and the Arc 2000 bowl, Arc 1800 with the snowpark and the Vallandry side, with tree runs galore. The glacier and the 2000 bowl offer some great runs, the main bowl is mostly open blues, but for the more adventurous there’s plenty of ‘Natur’ un-pisted black and red runs to explore. There’s some long runs down into Villaroger, although the slow chairs back out make this a long detour. In good conditions the amount of off-piste available in this bowl is impressive, although finding some fresh lines will be very tricky as the accessibility of it all means the locals will be building moguls before you can even strap in.
IMG_20150121_101550Arc 1800 again offers plenty of blues but dotted with reds. There’s a couple blacks to hit, but it’s mostly on the easier side while the blues are mostly just access routes across the hill. This was the first park that felt finished, even though the pro-line was still under construction. Rather than conforming to the straight line set up of most parks this was more open, with jumps and rails offset against each other, allowing riders to change up their lines and hit a greater variety of features in a single run. Also offering some excellent mid difficulty hits that would not normally be found in the mid park a lot of fun to be had in this park. Arc 1800 is also home to the new ‘Mille 8‘ area, a short gondola ride up through the trees to a floodlit green run, with alongside boarder-cross and tobogan track.
IMG_20150127_160422Finally, the Vallandry side has straight reds between big patches of forest, with winding blues linking each run to the next. The forest areas are perfect for tree runs, with a bit of fresh powder these offer some excellent fun for those willing to risk their limbs (and base). The reds are basic motorway pistes, wide and fast, while the blues offer some peaceful, picturesque and easy runs for beginners, just be aware at junctions.
Continued here

Benjamin Duff
@versestravel

Val D’Isere With Wasteland Ski

Val D’Isere has quite a reputation for being one of the nicest, and fanciest (by which I mean poshest) resorts in the alps. Which is why I was amazed to be heading there with 350 students from Oxford Brookes.

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IMG_20150111_132422At this point I had been transferred across from Alpe D’Huez in preparation for arrivals day. The usual brief explore around the town, followed by some lovely admin work got us ready for the masses to turn up. I was thankfully on Coach Driver duty, meaning I spent the day sat in a warm van ferrying drivers to their hotels. Certainly a step up from the freezing duty I had in VT, and really quite a pleasant day really. All of the students were in hotels within the same small area, along with the reps who were distributed between the various buildings.

IMG_20150112_121902The towns nightlife is quite impressive, much more suited to the amount of students we had than some resorts (but I’ll get to that in Les Arcs) Plenty of English staffed bars with plenty of space meant we had a nice choice of locations throughout the week and didn’t need to double up too often. Saloon, the sister of the VT bar was good fun, and really suited the group. Morris Pub was great for an afternoon of Apres with loads of space although the usual clientele seemed a little shocked to have their bar invaded by ski boot wearing teenagers. The clubs also offered just what we needed, The Bunker (under the famous Dicks Tea Bar) offered classic alpine club life, while Graal allowed us to take over the entire joint and have exclusive Brookes parties.

IMG_20150113_124251Snow conditions hadn’t improved much from ADH but there was fresh snow on the way in and some good spots if you were lucky enough to find them. Day one was incredibly windy, which put a lot of people off, but after rolling up to a little chair, to find it they were just about to open meant we were first in line to hit a fresh run. Only a green waited for us at the top, and a closed blue. We took the blue and found out why it was closed. The run was in desperate need of grooming, but we had a lot of fun with it, the moguls at the top had collected the fresh snow in the hollows making a sea of powder with deadly islands of ice poking up. Further down were wind-lips and as the piste flattened out the moguls disappeared. Near the bottom was a perfect rock drop that we ended up seshing a few times, even hiking up to finally ride it out.

IMG_20150115_190713The lower slopes of the resort were mostly an awful mix of ice and dirt but when there’s a run it’s hard to make the decision to take the gondola back down. Many complaints during the week about the icy conditions, but it was possible to avoid these runs if you stuck to one area in the mountain. The skiable area spreads over to Tignes, which opened up plenty more riding without any major icy patches. The Tignes side had a similar ridable area making the total size pretty massive, but it also offered a snow park that was actually built. Nicely shaped kickers and a few rails made the riding fun and with enough options to keep a park rat happy for a day or two. The pro-line wasn’t open, but for me that’s not a problem, the mid-line kickers are plenty big enough to give me a fright. With the small line being right next to an easy piste it was very easy for beginners to access and attempt, which is both good and bad. I’m not against new people trying to learn park, but when there are skiers hitting jumps while snow-plowing it’s clear they need to build up their ability on the pistes before causing problems going too slowly through the park.

IMG_20150114_144605One day later in the week was a complete white-out with high winds, so instead of risking our wrists on the ice we decided to build a little kicker on the slope around the back of our hotel. In hindsight we built it in the wrong place, with an awkward tree-hugging run up and a steep landing, but it was still great fun to sesh on a hang-over day. I managed to get my confidence with wild-cats, a trick similar to a backflip but over the tail end of the board.

The night of the week we hosted a slalom race and kicker jam for the uni. It was amazing to watch how quickly the piste-basher could build a kicker out of nowhere. The racing went well, with plenty of silly costumes and free wine and the competition was hotly contested. I can see this becoming a regular feature for a lot of unis.

The week was great fun, and Val is good resort (if a little expensive) I just hope we behaved well enough to get back next year.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Alpe D’Huez with Wasteland Ski

Second week out with Wasteland ski, and we had Glasgow, Cambridge (or one college) and Plymouth in Alpe D’Huez.

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I was one of the Plymouth coach reps, which meant a wonderful long trip out across the UK, over on the ferry and southwards through France. The journey isn’t half as bad as you might think, with people getting to know each other, making new friends and playing a few games along the way. It’s easy to sit down the front miserable and bored, but if you make a bit of effort (and sit nearer the back) it’s really not so hard to while away the hours with stories of freshers weeks and some sneaky drinking games.

IMG_20150106_151541The resort itself is mostly compacted into a central triangle, with a few odd areas a little walk away. Plymouth were over in Les Bergers, one of the offshoots which meant a mission over to the bars on the far side of town. The main bar area is just a stair set away from the main high street, and hosts a couple of great bars and two clubs. The access is a little tricky especially for drunk students late at night, or with any amount of snowfall, but thankfully no stair related injuries throughout the week. Some of the bars in resort are English run, Smithys was a favourite, which meant no hassles from either side of the bar after another order gets mixed up, and the bouncers are a little more manageable when it comes to unruly behaviour. Mostly they know what to expect when 250 students get booked in for the night. That said, the French run bars were very pleasant as well, one even giving our poor night-duty reps some hot chocolate to lift temperatures and spirits. The only troubles we had were in the late night clubs; usually unbearably expensive and filled with only the drunkest of student, the often moody staff and even moodier bouncers are something to be wary of.

The mountain itself was suffering from a lack of snowfall so there wasn’t any powder or off-piste to speak of, and the park was disappointingly small. A few rails and boxes and three small kickers were all we had to play on. The rideable area is a good size though, a little larger than most, but with no extendable lift-pass options (although a day pass to Les 2 Alpes is included in most passes over 5 days this isn’t accessible by skiing) it’s easy to explore the entire area within a week. The pistes are well varied and the lift network is easy to navigate, so long as you didn’t hit the bar too hard the night before.

IMG_20150106_141947Over the main ridge are some excellent long runs down to the lower villages which offer less ridden snow and less people on the hill. Both Vaujany and Oz have nice options for food and drink, although not to much to party, so great to visit in the day time, but be aware of the last chair, as a bus ride back is a lame way to end your day. Auris is even quieter, mostly due to the awkward way to get across. The most famous runs of the resort however; the ‘Tunnel’ a run which leads around the back of the highest peak and then right through the ridge before heading down a steep black. This was closed the whole week I was there this year but from memory of past trips the run down was full of moguls and has a nasty flat/uphill right before it joins the main runs again. It would be magical to get first tracks down there, but otherwise it’s skier territory, and even then you’ve got to know your lumps. The ‘Sarenne‘ is a rather different affair, and is one of ADHs’ main boasting points. It’s a crazy long (16km and the longest in Europe) black run from the top of the glacier right down to the valley below the town. It has hugely mixed reviews and is notoriously flat in places, although if you’re a confident rider there’s no reason it can’t be hit. Just try to do it in less than 20mins so the locals don’t sneer to much.

One day was spent over in Les Deux Alpes, which is included in the lift pass. Again, a great little resort and one that feels a lot more boarder friendly. The town has a more laid back and steezy vibe, rather than the pretentious stuck-up vibe you can find in some resorts. While the snow wasn’t good enough for provide runs back to resort, the snow on top was plentiful and good to ride. The park here is huge, with plenty of variety even in the smaller parks. The smaller riding area felt a bit restricted, although there is more accessable if you’re willing to put the effort in. Awesome for park people and true snow homies, although not so much for the families and larger groups looking for a little more variety.

The resort has great bars for the students, and given the unfortunate snow conditions around the alps, this resort did a great job hosting so many, and without Glasgow hogging up all the central hotel space, the town would have been ideal. I’d love to return when the snow has improved, and I hope I will be back soon with Wasteland.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Val Thorens with Wasteland Ski Part 2

Part 1 is here

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Val T has some great runs, and while not all of it was open for the season just yet the snow had covered most of the runs very nicely. Heading over the ridges toward Orelle was a treat, with a lovely couple runs straight down into the valley. The blue run Gentianes which criss-crosses a red run down was especially fun. While the red powers straight down the fastest route the blue meanders through some more interesting terrain meaning lots of little jibs and hits alongside the piste.
Be careful heading back into resort though, a lot of the runs from the right side (of the piste map) lead back through the flat of doom, just past the excellent apres bar/festival venue 360 is a gentle slope down to a nice long flat. Most people stall here, including the skiers so be sure to go the high side if you can, or straight line it as long as you dare. Having to unstrap just ain’t fun.

IMG_20141215_165528We didn’t have time to explore the full 3 Valleys which we had included on our pass, but the size of Val T kept us happy for the week, although that did include a day off due to bad weather, and quite a few days taking it easy after/before a heavy night.
Each night I completed my room rounds and participated in the evenings festivities, which mostly included drinking and dressing up. I didn’t dress up so much as I had to wear the all-powerful rep jacket, but I still got involved and made sure everyone had a good night. I also had a night duty shift which means staying sober (no issue for me) and taking care of the drunken students on the way home. Mostly this meant telling people to be quiet, but on some weeks night duty reps have been involved in breaking up fights and escorting super drunk folk home. Thankfully none of that for my first week.

IMG_20141217_171801The other points to note were the Valley Rally, an infamous and mostly banned day of dares and challenges that usually lead to nudity and drunkeness. This concluded at the 360 bar, and lead into the mountain meal. The meal was a meat fondue with copious amounts of wine and then the dreaded ski down in the dark. Everything went surprisingly well and apart from a few skis left behind most people had their own skis on at the end of the night.

I loved the week in Val T, and even the coach home seemed to fly by. I can’t wait for the next one in just a few days, and I recommend anyone at uni to get involved in their tour. If you’re not at uni anymore, there are a few small group options you can book onto through wasteland, which are cheap and just as awesome. There’s also snowboard club UK which runs trips through Wasteland each year.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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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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