Friday 09 November 2012
Austria's highest gondola opens
The new highest lift in Austria, which ascends to 3,440m, has just opened at Pitztal (00 43 5414 86999; pitztaler-gletscher.at). The Wildspitze gondola (above) takes skiers and boarders more than two kilometres in under six minutes up to the Hinterer Brunnenkogel, where Austria's highest café is located. From here there are also breathtaking views of the Wildspitze (at 3774m, Austria's second-highest mountain) and more than 50 other 3,000m-plus peaks. Pitztal itself has already been open for nearly two months for autumn glacier skiing, with more than 27km of piste available. Around 60cm of fresh snow arrived at the start of the month.
Wear a helmet or you're not covered
Although the move towards legislation to force skiers and boarders to wear helmets on the slopes appears to have slowed (children aged under 14 must wear helmets in Italy; those under 13 must wear them in Norway and Slovenia), travel insurance company Essential Travel (0845 803 5434; essential travel.co.uk) reports that 77 per cent of their customers now wear helmets – a 15 per cent increase since 2010, when the company's "Use Your Head" campaign was launched. Essential Travel surveyed customers and found 73 per cent felt they should be rewarded for their decision to protect themselves by paying lower travel insurance premiums. The company cut premiums by 15 per cent on 1 November, but say it is a policy requirement to wear a helmet and "skiers who do not wear a helmet will risk invalidating their policy".
Erna Low turns 80
The UK's original ski tour operator, Erna Low (0844 879 2903; ernalow.co.uk), turns 80 this winter. Miss Low herself died in 2002 but her company is still going strong and to celebrate, there's a book, video and – in keeping with her reputation for innovation – a new website. Aiming High: The Life of Ski and Travel Pioneer Erna Low by ski journalist Mark Frary is available to pre-order (publication 1 January, 2013), priced £16 via ernalow.co.uk/80. The site also has links to vintage film of early British ski holidaymakers. The book's pre-order price is £1 more than the then 23-year-old Viennese graduate's first holiday, advertised in the Morning Post in 1932. That £15 package included a fortnight in Solden, Austria with hotel accommodation and 20 years later, Miss Low pioneered the chalet holiday. Meanwhile, skiapartments.co.uk from Erna Low provides a choice of thousands of apartments from 80 resorts.
Easier rail access to Three Valleys
Reaching the world's largest ski area, the Three Valleys in France (above), will be easier from London via Eurostar this winter. A new shared minibus transfer service launches on 5 January, 2013 and is bookable through 3vt.co.uk. Skiers arriving on the daytime Eurostar Ski Train at 6.13pm can use the service to the door of their accommodation anywhere in the Méribel valley for a fixed €20 per person, compared to €65 for a private taxi for the 20-minute journey. "Last season, bizarrely, the last public transport Saturday bus would depart for Méribel 13 minutes before the Eurostar Ski Train arrived. This meant the only choice was a taxi," said Daniel Elkan, co-founder of rail-ski website snowcarbon.co.uk, part of the group behind the new service.
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