Tag Archives: snow

Bled, Slovenia

IMG_20160525_135358522Why Bled?

A little pre-season time off gave me a chance to explore one of the new East Loop daystops, something I’m very glad to have done.

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Staying with Jani and his family at Jazz Bled Hostel is an absolute pleasure, they are so welcoming and friendly it makes you feel right at home from the moment you arrive. The hostel is clean and tidy with an excellent kitchen and even a playstation if the weather turns sour. Luckily for me though, we had gorgeous sun for the whole of the trip.

IMG_20160524_120839125The first day we took a trip over to Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful canyon cut through the hills by centuries of water flowing from the Julian alps. It’s only 4EUR entry, and it’s easy to get a shuttle from the town, so well worth the trip. The path winds through the gorge on wooden walkways, which don’t spoil the view at all, in fact they provide some pretty cool photo opportunities, there’s chances to get down to water level as well, and taste the fresh mountain water. The river itself is a series of pools, waterfalls and rapids, each turn providing a fresh view, and another unmissable snap. On the way back you can head through the gorge again, or venture along some of the lesser tracked paths through the triglav national park. Navigation isn’t so simple, but all paths lead back home

Back in Bled the lake has plenty to explore, you can take a boat over to the church on the island for 14EUR per person. This is no motor boat, but one of the locals rowing the traditional boats across, which is quite a distance depending which end you jump on at. The church is an extra 6EUR to enter, but isn’t that special, however the bell tower is included in the price, and the views from the top are pretty spectacular. Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t climb it though, the view from the island in every direction is awesome.

IMG_20160524_175213186_HDRLastly we chose to climb up to the castle, a good uphill walk of about 15-20mins depending on how fit you are. The views from inside are again great, but if you want avoid the 10EUR charge (the castle itself won’t blow your mind – but the view from the cafe might) head around to the right of the building. There’s an iron fence here that you can follow until you see a path on your left – climbing this will give you the best views that I found of the lake and the island. If you climb a little higher you’ll find the old secret entrance, although these days it’s locked tight – no sneaking in. You must be careful if you do decide to try this out though, once you leave the iron fence there’s no protection so watch your footing.

Day two we decided to explore the rest of the Triglav National Park – the 3glav Adventures tour wasn’t running, but we used their itinerary and built our own trip – although to add canyoning and rafting into our day would have really made it incredible.

IMG_20160525_111841305_HDRStarting the day we drove around to the north side of the park, entering from Kranjska Gora and starting the winding road up to the pass. Soon after was the first stop Jasna lake, not huge, but the calm water meant you could get an excellent photo with a reflection of the snow capped mountains in the distance.IMG_20160525_115412501From here the road winds alpine style up the pass, and with each corner another jaw dropping view. Stop 2 had a little more history, a wooden church built in a russian style – dedicated to the Russian prisoners of war who built the road, and died in the process. While it’s only small, it’s a poignant reminder of how the road came to be, and the life style of the people in the region before they were connected. On the way up there are plenty more places to stop and take a photo, or have some lunch, little restaurants are dotted about, or you can take a picnic. If you’re doing it with 3glav, then lunch is sorted for you.

IMG_20160525_142200704The top of the Vrsic pass offers even more views, down into the valley on both side of the saddle. and from there it’s back to the alpine road, hairpin corners and all. The next and possibly my favourite stop was nearing the bottom of the valley, the source of the Soca river. it’s a 15min rocky climb up to the waterfall which is pretty impressive by itself, but dare to climb the via ferata (be careful if you do), you will be rewarded with where the river simply appears from under a rock. A sheer rock face, with a glowing green pool at the bottom, which quickly flows down to the waterfall just below. The water here is sweet with minerals, and having a taste is a must, but really all you’ll want to do (once you’ve got your snaps) is just sit on the side and relax, marvelling at how awesome nature can be.

IMG_20160525_153847477_HDRFrom here the road chills out a bit, running along the bottom of the valley, next to the turquoise grey Soca river, there’s still plenty of chances for pics here especially at the Boka falls – another short rocky climb up the side of the valley, this time however it’s not possible to get close to the source as this waterfall is over 100m high, coming from an underground network and straight out of the side of a cliff. The viewing platform is enough however, providing a wonderful view of the intense waterfall.

IMG_20160525_170039578Our penultimate stop is another contender for my favourite, the Kozjak Waterfall is an easy and relatively flat walk, about 20mins from the carpark. There are sections of walkway that have been built to provide access to the final grotto, a dark and brooding place filled with the spray coming off the powerful falls. It is here I decided that going for a swim would be a good idea… after wading through the river to the pool my feet were already numb with cold and I was shivering, but after some ‘encouragement’ from my fellow travellers I had the quickest dip of my life. My breath was short, my muscles tense and every part of my brain was telling that this was a bad idea. Thankfully the warm slovenia sun soon dried me off and warmed me up. I’d recommend it only to the brave (or stupid).

IMG_20160525_164614955_HDRThe last stop of the day was another lake; Bohinj. Larger than Bled, and equally as pleasant to the eye, the town has plenty to do, but we stuck with dinner, enjoying some proper Slovenia schnitzel and chevapchichi before heading home to get a well earned rest.

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Busabout

Well I’ve been rather busy lately.

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I decided a while ago to apply for a few positions as a guide as I wasn’t overly satisfied with my work at Flight Centre. I wanted to get back to the source of the travel, to be truly involved in making peoples holidays, talking to the people having fun, not just booking their flights. Of all of the positions I applied for, it was Busabout that I wanted most (although a position in Africa was pretty tempting as well). The Hop-on Hop-off style is how I would want to travel Europe, with a guide to help out, but no restrictions time wise. With so many cities visited in so many countries, it allows you see the best of Europe, and gives you the tools to see the rest of it as well. Plus the coach gives people a chance to meet new friends, much more sociable than the trains.

I got through the interview process with a hastily written presentation on Barcelona FC, and wowed them with my one on one, which meant I got invited to join the 7 week training trip – visiting every city on their loops, through 14 countries in Europe. So I handed in my notice, packed up all my things and hit the road again.

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It was a gruelling 7 weeks of coaches almost every day, rushing around cities to find out as much as we could, bike tours, pub crawls, cooking classes, boat trips and much much more. There were some late nights, some stressful situations but I felt it was all manageable, they tested me, but I never felt like I would fail. Once I got into a routine of having everything prepared a day before, I could hop up and give a talk on cities and countries I’d never even been to. It was a lot of fun in fact, meeting so many like minded people, learning huge amounts about European history and every city on our network. Now I’m sure all my friends will complain about the constant barrage of facts.

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Then as the end was in sight, they told me I’d be flying off to Greece for an extra 10 days of training on the Greek Island Hopper adventure product. While I was craving some rest, I jumped at the chance to educate myself in Greek gods, mythology, and how to avoid sun burn when it’s 40+ everyday. As we experienced the product I learnt how much fun it would be, parties every other night and some beautiful islands to explore.

I am now happy to say that I am employed by Busabout as a European Guide, and have started with my first sector just two days ago – Munich to Paris with just 10 passengers. Tomorrow I will be hitting the road with many more, heading to Amsterdam. Time to brush up on my Dutch history.

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I have to thank all of the trainers who helped me prepare for this, pushing me to my limits, making sure I’m ready for silly questions, difficult questions, and everything else they can throw at me. Here’s to a wonderful summer in Europe.

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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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