Tag Archives: val thorens

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel