Tag Archives: alps

48 Hours in… Grunau

Grunau, Austria; a tiny but incredibly picturesque village hidden away in the Austrian alps, surrounded by mountains, lakes, lakes and mountains. Now that might not be enough to make you want to visit, but perhaps we can persuade you…

IMG_20161028_152753.jpg

The Accommodation:

IMG_20161029_105423Probably one of the best reasons to visit is the wonderfully Austrian and uniquely Busabout Treehouse. Run by an ex-chef and his family this ramshackle traditional old house really feels like a home. There have many people to the comforts of the bedrooms, the glorious surroundings and the pure sincerity of the welcome they receive from Gerhard and Co.

The dogs run freely through the garden, down to the river and into the neighbouring fields without a worry, and you can too. Those that only stop for lunch (and we’ll come to the food next) often find themselves wandering a little far from house as they follow the river, or meander through the woods.

The Food:

IMG_20161029_112313As mentioned, Gerhard, the owner/manager/dad was a professional chef, so you can imagine the food he cooks up is a little special. But he doesn’t bother with fancy flourishes of parsley or drizzles of balsamic vinegar. He makes good hearty home cooked food, the kind of thing that’ll have you craving mums cooking, then scratch that itch with the first bite. His legendary lasagne is a must-try while everything else on the menu is just a delight. Forget the diet though, he doesn’t mess around when it comes to portions that’s for sure. You’ll end up sitting around the dinner table together, laughing and joking like you’ve all known each other for years.

The Countryside:

IMG_20161029_133730Yes, the mountains, lakes, lakes and mountains of course are a huge part of what makes Grunau so incredible. For your window every morning you’ll have to collect your jaw as you stare out and the awe inspiring Austrian Alps, still snow capped from winter. It’s these behemoths that channel the water down into rapid rivers that and just so instagrammable you’ll be flicking through your photo albums for days. Follow these along though and you’ll get to the epic lakes that are dotted along the valleys. A personal favourite is the Almsee, a nice bike ride along from the Treehouse (yes you can rent them there). This lake spreads out across the valley floor and offers amazing opportunities to spot wildlife, take in the amazing views reflected off the lakes surface, or if you’re the romantic type, woe that special someone in your life. You may fancy a dip, which is highly recommended, it’ll certainly leave you feeling fresh as the water is all glacier-melt (AKA ice!) and not much above freezing temperature. Just take a towel and sunbake yourself dry again. If that doesn’t warm you up, there are numerous hikes, easy and challenging up the sides of the valleys, and for the very adventurous, to the very peaks of some of the nearby mountains.

The Activities:

IMG_20161029_111705If all that wasn’t enough, there’s a few special activities offered by the guys at the Treehouse. After taking the bikes for a spin through the valleys, horse riding is the most popular choice. With treks designed for all abilities, from beginner up to fully competent riders, there’s something for all. Beginners will get a chance to enjoy the natural surroundings from horseback (no need to pedal) while more advanced riders can let loose and feel the wind in their hair as they follow the experienced guides through the various terrains. Finally, if all that isn’t enough to can take a try at archery, heading into a secluded section of the woods to ping some arrows into various targets and trees (please no animals though!)

There’s never been a passenger who stayed in Grunau that didn’t wish they could stay longer, and plenty more who wish they hadn’t skipped it. Don’t make the same mistake and make sure you add Grunau to your Busabout adventure.

Written for the Busabout Blog

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

 

Tignes with Wasteland Ski and BUSC: Part 2

Continued from Part 1

IMG_20150316_151348

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.

IMG_20150323_121435

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.

IMG_20150323_121435

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.

PANO_20150318_135734

Continued in the next blog

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

IMG_20150316_140419

Where am I?

So a little personal update for you all.

I’m currently in London visiting friends and exploring a little more, I will soon be heading up North to Leeds for a week with Pre-Fit, then down to Bath/Bristol to see friends, then another week of fittings. After that, I’ll visit Cardif and Bristol again before I fly off to Tignes in the French Alps with Wasteland. I should be out there for at least three weeks hopefully four, before returning back to the UK.

I’m hoping to relocate more permanently to London, finding somewhere of my own to live and finding some kind of job to keep me in the black. I’m planning to save as much as I can, in order to travel some more soon, so first off I’ll be looking for bar work. But looking a little more long term it’ll be work within the Tourism industry, hopefully for cool independent company, but anywhere with a good attitude towards youth and adventure tourism will work well.

Eventually, I would like to start my own company ideally in South Africa, doing a similar thing to the company I worked for in Australia and New Zealand, however, until I save a lot of money, or find a very generous investor, that’ll be on the back-burner.

For now though, just happy to be able to keep travelling, and get some more snow time in

Benjamin Duff

@Versestravel

Snow Stereotypes

Here’s a short list of who you’ll be seeing on the mountain, where they reside and how to identify them

1) The Aspen Skier

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.56.23

Usually found in the nicer resorts, Meribel and Val D’Isere these are hardcore fairweather piste skiers. They’ll be on the blues and reds, competently winding their way down to the next over-priced hot chocolate. They will be wearing mostly black (Men) or white (Women) with plenty of fur, leather and frills, perfect hair and make-up (both genders). No helmets because they never go fast enough to crash, although do will occasionally collide upon which insurance details will appear immediately. Never seen out at night because they’ll be drinking nice win in their chalet. Thankfully easy to avoid as they’re more likely to be talking stocks than skis.

2) The Skiers’ Boyfriend

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.56.37

Either skier or boarder, this guy has come on his first trip with his skier girlfriend and is not happy. Carrying her skies for her everywhere just to make her move that bit faster, then lapping the blues all day because she’s not up for the reds ‘yet’. It’s a good thing she’s gorgeous because without the sex this guy would be out of there. You might see them out one night, having a good time until her headache kicks in and it’s another early night. Next year he’s going with the boys.

3) The Park Rat

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.56.56

Filthy, hairy and smelling of Jager, this guy will have the longest hoody known to man and shred absolute. No waterproof clothes, no helmet, because this guy never stacks it (until he makes the obituary page of the local shred rag) He doesn’t talk on the mountain, at least not to anyone who’s not a homie and thanks to the bandana he’s totally unrecognisable in the bars. Likely to be one of the seasonaires hitting on your mates, then bitching about tourists in the queue at the bar.

4) The Back Country King

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.57.04

Mostly you’ll see this guy speeding along the reds and blues at the end of the day. Amazing gear, ABS backpack, picks, shovels, everything you’d need to make a home in an avalanche for a few days. He hits bits of the mountain most people don’t know existed, but occasionally you’ll see him hiking/rock climbing up to some drop (which no-one will see him do) His Go-Pro footage is so good you’d swear you’ve seen it somewhere before. Not in the bar much, conserving energy to hike Mont Blanc tomorrow.

5) The Park Chick

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.57.15

Always gorgeous, even when you can’t see their face, this girl shreds so much bigger than you’re both hugely impressed and slightly turned on. Wearing super cool gear (mostly got for free from various sponsors/guys that fancy her) and a board about 8 years old. Her helmet with have a tonne of stickers, but in great condition, as she actually buys a new one after each bail. She’ll be surrounded by all those park rats at the bar trying to have a good night without getting too much drool on her fresh stash.

6) The Clueless Idiot

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.57.26

First week on the snow and they used to roller-blade (or skateboard) so this will be easy, right? Mostly seen falling off drag lifts, or chair lifts, sometimes seen falling up stairs or out of gondolas. Definitely keen on the apres ski, although it then takes them two hours to get home (that one short blue run). Mostly dressed in recycled stuff from the parents loft and bargains from TK Maxx don’t be surprised to see them wearing swimming goggles a santa hat and a hilarious retro/animal onsie. Often seen being obnoxious at the bar after way too much pre-drinking, arguing over the price of everything. Steer clear of this guy at all times, he’s a danger on the slopes and a nightmare in the bar.

7) The Tech Guy

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.57.42

Everything he owns is this seasons newest and most technically advanced, it’s a shame he doesn’t ride well enough to make it worth while. Usually mid-forties, successful and single, this is his mid-life crisis. Those goggles with the heads-up display are constantly telling him he’s going about 30kph and the clip in ski pole/glove combo is too necessary when you never crash hard enough to drop them. This guy knows all the stats about the mountain, including the gradient of that black he’s too scared to drop.

8) Everybody Else

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.57.53

Decent riders, happy wearing newish stash on newish gear. Will drop most things for a challenge and happy in the park for a couple laps. Nothing crazy, but happy to get their round-in!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Artwork by Kay Kim – veryverykaytv.tumblr.com/

Les Arcs with Wasteland Ski – Part 2

Continued from here

IMG_20150128_122638

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.

IMG_20150118_102038

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.

IMG_20150115_103736

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

IMG_20150115_161921

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.

IMG_20150106_125125

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

IMG_20150106_151601

Val Thorens with Wasteland Ski Part 2

Part 1 is here

IMG_20141215_135451

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

IMG_20141219_103037