James Day examines some of the quality European ski resorts in the Alps and Russia, along with some more accessible options closer to home for groups constrained by price and time
Group ski trips are very popular with schools and university societies, with the resorts on offer providing all the facilities which visitors are likely to need. Visitors can spend the maximum amount of time on the slopes, never needing to leave the resort for their accommodation, to dine or for an exciting night life. The most obvious place to travel for a skiing trip is the Alps, whether your resort of choice is in France, Switzerland or Austria. However there are plenty of alternatives in Scandinavia, Russia or even Scotland. Of course, skiing and snowboarding are not for the faint hearted and if I have any advice to offer from my own experiences, it is not to skip safety equipment or insurance. Trying to save money by not using a helmet for my snowboarding trip resulted in four stitches in my head, and the insurance which I almost didn’t purchase saved me over£500.
LES ARCS PARADISKI, FRANCE
French Ski resort Les Arcs Paradiski has five sites to choose from, depending on which experiences visitors are looking for. The area boasts 425km of pistes, 132 ski lifts and an altitude range of 1,200 – 3,250m. Arc 2000, the ‘athletes headquarters,’ is the ultimate high mountain site, with direct access to the slopes and the Aiguille Rouge massif peaking at 3,226m. It is historically linked with the emergence of new snow related sports. Arc 1950, ‘the magic village,’ is focused on luxury, with five-star apartment hotels facing Mont-Blanc. The resort village does not compromise on skiing experience though, with visitors still able to ski-in, ski-out. Arc 1800 is ‘the meeting place for riders,’ made up of four pedestrian villages including a number of bars, shops and nightclubs. It is described as the trendy place if one wants to be permeated with the festive spirit of Les Arcs. Arc 1600, ‘the pioneer,’ is described as the family’s favourite place,’ and perhaps the best location for beginners and young groups. It is easier to reach than other areas of the resort, seven minutes via funicular (cable railway) from Bourg Saint Maurice high-speed railway station, which links to several major European capitals. The town of Bourg Saint Maurice is a site itself, thanks to the close links with Les Arcs skiable area. It is also a short distance from Italy should the group wish to explore across the border.
Set in the stunning Zillertal Valley, Mayrhofen has a well-deserved reputation among British skiers and boarders for its immense, well connected 671km ski area, which includes the snowsure Hintertux glacier, and lively après-ski scene. For freestyle skiers and snowboarders there’s the second largest terrain park in Europe. The resort is also perfect for beginners. The large, traditional-looking resort centre offers excellent shopping and a great choice of restaurants, bars and clubs that really liven up in the evenings.
SOCHI, RUSSIAThe area which hosted this year’s Winter Olympics is sure to have drawn some attention. Sochi is known for consistent snowfall, which is similar to North American resorts. It also has a variety of different slopes suitable for different experience levels. The resort of Rosa Khutor has been completed, which now offers one of the largest ski areas out of the choice in Sochi. Gasprom Ski Resort has a luxury hotel at its base and a large ski area accessed by a nearby gondola. Each of the resorts is unfortunately on a different pass, however. Sochi is not the best location for beginners. Although the training schools are very good, trainers tend to have poor English skills. Gasprom has the most beginner appropriate terrain on offer. However, both resorts are excellent for intermediate and advanced skiers. Rosa Khutor is the better for those with a large amount of experience, with some particularly long and steep black runs. Aside from the slopes, the resorts have a fairly quiet nightlife, with a small number of hotels open. Most have bars which stay open late. There are several activities on offer such as jeeping, snowmobiling, spas and Russian baths, and a good choice of restaurants.
Bookings can be made through www.crystalski.co.uk
XSCAPE SNOZONE, MILTON KEYNES
Of course, you don’t have to travel to the mountains to go skiing or snowboarding. Milton Keynes offers an excellent indoor 170m ski slope, covered with 1,700 tonnes of fresh snow. It’s an excellent choice for groups on a lower budget, or with less time to spare, to still enjoy snowsports on real snow. It’s also one of the best venues for lessons ahead of a trip abroad. The venue is very welcoming towards groups and corporate events, offering a number of private hire options.
Groups can discuss their requirements by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0871 222 5673
Swiss snow until May
In defi ance of the mild European winter this year, Andermatt in the heart of the Swiss Alps is expecting snow to last until early May. Across Europe, snow was very thin on the ground this year and travellers were left disappointed by unopened chair lifts. Although temperatures in the lowlands are nearly reaching the 20-degree mark, there are some places where winter sports continue unimpeded. In Andermatt, snow is still plentiful and up to 20 inches of new snow fell daily throughout March. The ski area Andermatt-Sedrun includes the nearly 3,000 -meter-high Gemstock, which is currently covered in over four metres of snow. Also open for business are the areas Nätschen-Gütsch and Milez-Oberalp. Anyone heading out to Andermatt will have access to 120 kilometres of slopes, combining all altitudes and levels of diffi culty. Beginners can discover the gentle slopes of the Nätschen while experienced skiers can take on the mighty Olympic gold medallist Bernhard Russi black runs. For those who like to ski off-piste, the countless, powder slopes on Gemstock attract freeriders from all over Europe. Downhill legend Bernhard Russi said “Due to its location in the heart of the Central Alps, snow falls in Andermatt in almost any weather conditions, earning it the title of the snowiest resort in the Alps. There are ski runs available for skiers of any level and the freeriding is some of the best in the world. The region has seen heavy investment lately, beginning with the opening of the new fi ve-star deluxe hotel, The Chedi Andermatt. We’re currently working on an exciting new project to build new lifts and create new runs meaning Andermatt will soon be the largest ski resort in central Switzerland.” The Andermatt region will not only prove attractive to avid skiers seeking snow. In addition to the new hotels, 42 apartment buildings with 490 apartments and 25 exclusive chalets are being built. Andermatt is a year-round destination in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Andermatt Swiss Alps resort is currently being developed in Andermatt. The complete resort will include six 4- or 5-star hotels, 490 apartments in 42 buildings, about 25 chalets, convention facilities as well as an indoor pool and an 18-hole golf course. In addition, the Andermatt and Sedrun ski areas are being merged into the attractive Andermatt- Sedrun ski destination.
More information is available under www.andermatt-swissalps.ch