Asia, Countries, Europe, Skiing

The Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier

OK I’ve made that up that the Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier but it is only to give the resort the prominence it deserves.

Verbier is celebrating and not just because at last we’re getting a ski season (my delayed start on the run will start in March, Dieu s’il vous plait).

The Swiss village in the Valais Canton,  the gateway to the 4 Vallées region, has been named World’s Best Ski Resort 2021 at the World Ski Awards.

It was a double celebration for the village with W Verbier collecting World’s Best Ski Hotel.

Chalet, allez, allez, allez

Chalet Zermatt Peak, sitting in the shadow of the Matterhorn, claimed World’s Best Ski Chalet.

Whilst Austria’s exquisite Aurelio Lech won World’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel.

Now proper skiers (moi? aspiring) will tell you rightly about the world beyond Switzerland and the Alps

And that is recognised in the awards.

With the latest arrival on Japan’s luxury ski hospitality scene, The Vale Rusutsu, taking World’s Best New Ski Hotel.

Dubai high

Ski Dubai, served by our old friends Attraction Tickets, boasts an impressive array of snow-based activities.

And that’s why it picked up World’s Best Indoor Ski Resort.

Meanwhile the understated opulence of Chalet Face à Face in Val d’Isère, was acknowledged.

With the newcomer accolade for World’s Best New Ski Chalet.

Murphski and I

Now if only I had a chalet trip to Val D’Isere set up for March.

And better still I only have an old friend and champion skier there with me.

The multi award-winning Catherine ‘Murphski’ Murphy on the party to pick me up when I’m down.

And I mean that quite literally.

Bravo

Bravo to all the winners and as they say in these quarters, a word from the sponsors.

Sion Rapson, Managing Director, World Ski Awards, said: ‘Our winners represent the very best of the global ski tourism sector and my congratulations to each of them.

‘The 9th annual World Ski Awards programme received a record number of votes from ski consumers across the world.

‘This shows that the appetite for ski tourism has never been stronger and bodes well as the global recovery gathers momentum.’

If I’d been there, of course, I’d have fed Sion the line The Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier.

 

Adventure, Deals, Europe, Skiing

Enfin la fin de ban

Enfin la fin de ban but there’s nothing fun or sing-song about the announcement of the reopening of French borders (when/if it comes) I should have been skiing en France but won’t be.

Thankfully due to travel providers par excellence Ski France it’s been rescheduled for March and I may still get on the white powder (steady) then.

Never one to look un cheval cadeau in the mouth but is there not a whiff of opportunism about the timing with the February mid-term holiday market there to be milked.

Follow our lead

Sign of the times: En route to Val d’Isere

The current regulations are for those enter France from the UK required to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours before departure.

They must also self-isolate for 48 hours after they arrive and then take another test.

With the UK easing its own travel restrictions last week it doesn’t just mean easier access but also saves families money.

People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to take a coronavirus test before they arrive in the UK.

And they can take a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test rather than a PCR after they arrive.

The changes save a family of four around £300.

Off-piste? On an adventure

We will, of course, wait to see what the French have up leurs manches…

Saturday is the projected day for the doors to reopen.

But in the meantime we share the sentiments of Kuoni CEO Derek Jones who tweeted…

‘Holidays saved as France set to reopen borders for British visitors. Finally its time to dig out your ski gear ⛷.’

Crystal clear

Bobbling along: And I’ll stick to the blue runs

With all things skiing the tried and trusted Travel provider is the one we tend to go back to.

As it’s Val d’Isere that’s on my ticket I checked it out with Crystal Holidays

Now we all draw the conclusions we want so I skimmed over the boast of challenging slopes (they all are to me).

And I zeroed in on their claim of the best apres (I’m better at that).

For the uninitiated, Val d’Isere is a 300km area, shared with neighbouring Tignes.

It is well served for long blues (mais oui) and reds.

And not-so-confident skiers can stick to the greens (phew).

Or head over to Tignes to find some easier blues to practise on.

Apres ever after

Apres days: I can rock them with the rest

I need few lessons in the post-ski party, having learned my trade at the Whisky Muhle in Soll with Topflight.

And I’m glad to see that in Val d’Isere it’s recommended to hit up La Folie Douce in your ski boots to apres-midi live entertainment.

So we’re advised to follow the après vibes to Cocorico at the bottom of the lifts.

And end the night with DJs and dancing in Dick’s Tea Bar.

Deal us in

Have skis will travel: I’ll be back

Crystal have seven nights from Saturday 29 January self-catering at the Residence La Daille, departing from London Stansted and going to Chambéry.

It comes in at £494pp which comes in at £988 which is a discount of £302pp.

You’ll be two minutes’ walk to the lift, have a mini-market and bakery nearby.

And you can treat yourself to some spa time at the neighbouring Hotel Samovar.

Now I’m all about the indulgence and when I do get out there in March, it’ll be the high-end chalet life for me.

So bravo as we say enfin la fin de ban.

But as I’ve been here before from Africa, to Europe, to America all in the last 18 months.

I’m fervently praying to Le Dieu.

Countries, Europe, Skiing

Italian winter ski insurance

Bonnets off to miei amici and a Holidos and don’ts shout-out to Italian winter ski insurance… and a pioneering first.

Because gli italiani have become the first to insist on Italian winter ski insurance to stay on the slopes.

Which they are backing up by setting a £100-£150 fine for failure to have the right insurance.

And the withdrawal of your ski pass.

A word on Aussie rules

For vax sake Novak: Just get the jab

No, not quite Aussie rules and while I want to know what Novak Djokovic has to hide, am I alone in thinking PM Scott Morrison is grandstanding?

Insurance, and more importantly full targeted insurance, should be a no-brainer, for your ski holiday.

And the Ski Club of Great Britain lead the way on this too.

Swiss Florence Nightingale

Get black, back, do it again: With the Scary One in Switzerland

Insurance, of course, has always been an extra which some weigh up when working out their holiday budget.

But a salutary tale here of an old friend from Ireland, Ed, who broke his leg on the slopes in Switzerland.

He was though looked after royally by his Swiss hosts.

And as is his way (and mine too tbh) he dined out on his cast for months after his return.

Have skis, will travel: On the slopes

Now we can’t promise you the Swiss Florence Nightingale here, Sara, who looked after him in skiing Nirvana Switzerland.

I am glad to hear though that Sara, who is fronting up the Swiss mission in Japan now, is welcoming the first snows of the year there.

And particularly as she has written warmly and poignantly about her own past challenges with severe Covid.

A bientot France

Couple of swells: Rosie, my France host, and Pippa

As my own ski trip to France has now been put off until March while notre amis catch up with travel changes elsewhere a silver lining.

There’s more time to get into practise on the dry slopes here.

And should you be planning a trip to Italy, or indeed anywhere, to put some money aside as a failsafe for your Italian winter ski insurance.

And should you do so, I’d expect you’re checking out our go-to providers Topflight.

 

Africa, Countries, Skiing

Snow in Africa this Christmastime

Sorry, Midge Ure, I love your humanitarianism and New Wave/electro-sound but there will be snow in Africa this Christmastime.

Yes, I know I’m coming over all Self-Righteous Brother, but Paul Whitehouse makes a good point about Africa’s diversity.

I know from experience about the Atlas Mountains where Moroccans and Morocannophile skiers go to fly down the mountains

It wasn’t snow though that was coming down the Atlas Mountains when I visited but the mud from the sides of the slopes.

Rocky road to the Sahara

 

It was Ramadan and our driver was bravely skirting the narrow cliffside roads to get us to the Sahara Desert.

In truth, that was the least of my problems as a tajin did for me and I ended up being sick in the sand.

And had to retrace our steps the next day to the rendezvous point, on my camel Larsson.

Abdullah, to be fair, did his best around the roads the next day with me dry heaving at every corner.

Enough already, you want to know more about the skiing.

And I do too, like when are the French borders reopening? I only have a well-deserved trip to Val d’Isere with Ski France waiting on me.

Morocco on the slopes

Camel ye faithful: Back on the camel in Jordan

My passport is jumping up and down in my drawer because of the lack of love I’ve shown her this year.

Yes, I personalise my passport, and its holder, particularly as it was given to me by my old friends Hayes & Jarvis during my time in Ireland

H&J are your go-to people for just the thing in Morocco.

They have a seven-day £2,199pp Luxury Sahara Desert Tour from Marrakech.

But H&J are all about the bespoke so contact them and they’ll look into a package for you.

While My Chalet Finder have the skinny on everything you need to know on the Moroccan mountains.

Riad R&R

Moroccan life: A rich culture

The resort of Oukaimeden, 65km south of Marrakesh, is Morocco’s best ski resort and is home to Africa’s highest ski lift at 3258m and second highest peak, Jebel Toubkal at 4167m, after Kilimanjaro.

There is a large variety of accommodation to choose from in and around Marrakech from 5-star beach hotels, mountain hotels, B&Bs and camping to the traditional riads, ranging from budget to boutique luxury. 

Keep your feet: In Morocco

Most people who go skiing in Morocco either stay in Marrakech and make the short journey to the base lift (around an hour’s drive) or split their holiday spending some of the time in Marrakech and the rest in the ski resort of Oukaimeden.

Yes there is Snow in Africa this Christmastime.

 

Countries, Europe, Skiing

Brexit et La Ban est merde

Mais oui… Brexit et La Ban est merde.

But did we really imagine the French would just continue to shrug their shoulders at our insults and go… ooh, la, la?

When the UK has been poking le stick at Les Francais these past seven years (and longer, centuries really) over.

And Priti Patel petulantly refusing to even meet them.

Vive Les Remainers

It’s all downhill: But I’d be up for it

It would be wrong, of course, to imagine that all Britons are the same.

And the group I travelled to the Eiger in Switzerland with post-referendum needed some warming up.

And not just with gluehwein because of the cold but because they were white as sheets from the shock of Britain’s decision to leave Europe.

Well les poulet are coming home to roost now.

And as ever it is our holiday providers and holidaymakers who are suffering.

With one travel professional on a message board summing up what many of us are feeling…”that’s Disney and skiing screwed.”

The horse has bolted

Slipping up: But get back in the gondola

Of course our dream makers (holiday providers) will not give up as easily as the French government.

They are clearly are in denial about Omicron already being in their country.

What is the French for le cheval s’est enfui?

All of which is very much on my radar with my Ski France trip with mon ami Rosie to Val D’Isere hoving into view.

And my old pal and multi-award winning ski correspondent Catherine ‘Murphski’ Murphy putting up enticing pics of how skiing has been looking in the Alps.

Le Ban, as I’m very imaginatively calling it, has come at the worst possible time.

And needless to say, or in fact very needful to say our travel agents, the lifeblood of our industry, are fizzing.

Travel agents hit back

The avalanche: It’s enough to make you scream

Our friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association nailed it when they used winter words to describe what it means for holidays.

Mike Tibbert, vice president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association spoke out.

He said: ‘It’s like watching an approaching avalanche and being unable to outrun it.

‘The announcements about travel restrictions for UK travellers to France come in the same week as the regulations around the pass sanitaire.

‘The French equivalent of the vaccine passport – changing meaning it has to be used on ski lifts and in resort too.

“Although the French government has indicated that only those with a ‘compelling reason’ for entry to France will be permitted to travel..

‘This does appear to include visiting family, but not for those travelling for tourism. 

Emigrees

Bravo: On World Cup final day at the French Embassy in Dublin

And he also flagged up our emigrees from Scotland to France. 

‘Many Scots have homes in France, and it appears they will need evidence of residency to travel to these for Christmas.

‘At this time of year, those mostly affected by the announcements will be those visiting France to spend Christmas with friends and those who have skiiing breaks booked.

‘Each year 1.5million UK residents go on at least one international ski holiday with 5% of them going over Christmas.

‘That equates to around 75,000 skiers.

‘It’s another hammer blow for the travel sector, as this is the third season in a row to be disrupted.

‘With one and a half seasons not taking place at all.

“There’s no end date to this restriction from the French government, so the wider main ski season period may be affected.

‘It’s estimated that 40% of UK skiers who take an overseas holiday – 600,000 of them – do so in season but outside the school holidays.

‘Confidence is rock bottom for the Scottish travellers. 

‘What little confidence there has been is shattered at the speed of these changes. 

‘On this occasion they are announced out of the blue on Thursday morning and come into force on Saturday at midnight.’

A hundred years of history 

Skis ready: And I’m ready when you are

And why do the SPAA carry such weight, way beyond the borders of this small tip of an island in the north of Europe?

Well, only because it is the oldest organisation in the world representing travel agents and boasts 120 member companies.

‘All their associated agencies across the country including many home workers.

And 92 associate members across the travel and transport industry.

This year should have been the cause of celebration to mark its centenary.

But because of this latest blow and much more Grinch has come again.

And that and much more is why Brexit et Le Ban est merde.

 



Countries, Europe, Skiing

Take to the French hills

The moronic variant makes you want to just get away from it all… and take to the French hills.

Which is what I intend to do in Val D’Isere next month.

But should you need to get the hell out of Dodge now a Joyeux Noel is waiting for you this season in France.

And you will be treated as a Very Important Person (as it should be) with VIP Ski.

What we all want to know (more the authorities to be fair) is how do we leave the variant in the slipstream?

The answer in a word is lodge.

Arc 1950 de Triomphe

Cold outside: Take a hot dip after the skiing

No, not that one. This is the 1950m (ah, that’s why) high Arc resort.

And they do love this styling of resorts as I found in the highest restaurant in Europe, Le 2,877 restaurant in the Pic du Midi in the Hautees-Pyrenees

Of course there’s the skiing here in but there’s loads more winter sports activities too.

You’ll love the sled dog outings and the visits to the Igloo Village.

As well as the free daily entertainment or descents on the Rodeo Luge toboggan run.

Childcare is also available with VIP SKI to that you can get some grown-up time too.

Je suis un lodger

You’ll be staying in Bear Lodge which puts the friendly in family-friendly.

With rooms or adjoining rooms for mum, dad and teenagers.

This 30-bedroom hotel includes a proper sized pool you can swim in.

There’s also a spa with plenty of steam, piste-side kid’s’ space, gym and cinema.

Your own mini-resort then.

Grand, grand, grand, grand, grand Christmas

Rest the weary legs: After a day on  slopes

So a seven-night stay, from 22 December 2021, costs from £5,297 for a family of four in a family suite with twin beds and a bunk bed den.

You’ll get cooked breakfast and dinner with choice of menu on seven days and return transfers .

Childcare from £279 for five and a half days childcare.

So if you want to get away from it all this Christmas why not take to the French hills.

You’ll be treated like a VIP