Snow Fun: The Top 10 Cool Ideas
There's more to do on the slopes than simply point your skis downhill. Susannah Osborne offers some suggestions
Sunday 04 February 2007
1 . Make your own action movie
Anyone who is anyone in the world of professional skiing and snowboarding has a chapter in a ski or board movie. This season's snow biggies are Long Story Short, starring the legendary Steele Spence, and Anomaly from the Teton Gravity Research boys. And now, thanks to Rip Curl's Third Eye, you can document your own vertical ride on the piste to upload on YouTube on your return. The Third Eye is a minicam embedded in your ski goggles. So, say goodbye to the home movie with too much camera-shake and say hello to a more professional-looking flick. Recording your crew's off-piste jibbing (jumping) and park sessions becomes easy when you don't have to lug heavy kit all over the mountain - the 8cm by 2cm camera weighs 60g and feeds into the analogue input of a camcorder, which you can carry in your backpack. Hollywood awaits!
Further information: Third Eye Goggle Camera by Rip Curl (0871-277 8008; ripcurl.com) costs £340.
2 . Head for Iceland and fly a kite
If conventional skiing is starting to lose its edge, why not add a kite to the equation? Snowkiting is increasingly popular in the hills of Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. In the latter, a favourite destination is the Langjökull Glacier, the second largest icecap in Iceland, which offers 950sqkm of pristine powder to glide across without a piste-basher in sight. Snowkiter.co.uk organises bespoke, seven-day adventure tours into the prehistoric Icelandic wilderness. Flying across the snow, covering up to 100km a day, you'll come to rest each evening in a remote, geo-thermal-hot-tub-enabled log cabin, where, with your compatriots, you can cook up some well-earned nosh.
Further information: Snowkiter (0845-652 0850; snowkiter.co.uk) offers a seven-day adventure-tour from £495 per person, including transfers from Reykjavik, self-catering accommodation and guiding, but excluding return flights and equipment. Trips are available for all abilities from May to July with courses starting on Fridays. Equipment is available to hire from £200 per week. Iceland Air (0870-787 4020; icelandair.co.uk) offers return flights from London Heathrow to Reykjavik from £99 in May.
3 . Chill out with the heli-gang
Revelstoke doesn't quite trip off the tongue as the place to see and be seen in British Colombia. Well, not just yet. The town, in BC's Interior, is already a heli-ski hangout, but it's set to become a one-stop cat, heli and lift ski destination, having taken over a local heli-ski and a cat operation (for the latter, your mode of transport is the snowcat, known in Europe as the piste-basher). With $22m (£11m) being spent on gondola and chairlift improvements, by 2008 Revelstoke also aims to have a 1,830m skiable descent - the longest in North America. Now is the time to take to the sky and land in the powder, before the mass invasion.
Further Information: Frontier Ski (020-8776 8709; frontier-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night luxury heli-ski package in Revelstoke with Mica heli-ski, from £4,625 per person, based on two sharing, including Air Canada return flights from London Heathrow to Kelowna, British Columbia, transfers, full-board accommodation in a remote ski lodge, and ski hire but not boot hire.
4 . Ready, steady ... get racing
If you can't quite get your speed up to start downhill racing, there is another, more serene way to go head-to-head in the snow. The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse is an overnight back-country ski race which follows the postal routes that once connected the Colorado towns of Crested Butte and Aspen. At the stroke of midnight on 30 March around 250 racers head into the darkness in an attempt to complete the 40-mile route in the shortest time possible (the record is under 8 hours 30 minutes). If you'd prefer to watch others push themselves through the pain barrier, simply hole yourself up in a plush resort in Aspen and catch them at the finishing line.
Further information: Crystal Ski (0870-160 6040; crystalski.co.uk) offers seven nights' b&b at the Hotel Aspen Meadows Resort from £790 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights and transfers, departing 28 March. Details of the race can be found at elkmountaintraverse.org
5 . Take a leap into the unknown
Like many North American resorts, Jackson Hole is enjoying a bumper season with nearly half a metre of powder having already fallen in the Wyoming resort. The superb conditions mean that the infamous Corbet's Couloir is open for business. So now is your chance to brave the vertical drop into the hole and make that crucial turn. The couloir, the entry point to an off-piste run, was recently voted number four in a list of things to do before you die by the US-based Skiing Magazine. It was named after Jackson Hole ski patroller, Barry Corbet. Such is the legend of the 40m-wide chute that a DVD, Someday Somebody Will Ski That, has been made by Peter Pilafian (of renowned skate movie Dogtown and Z-Boys fame), featuring the legendary skier Doug Coombs.
Further Information: Inghams (020-8780 4433; inghams.co.uk) offers seven nights at the four-star Inn at Jackson Hole in Teton Village from £539 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights, transfers and room-only accommodation.
6 . Learn the tricks of the trade
If you are so over snaking down the piste behind an instructor with 14 others in tow and you fancy breaking free of the ski-school mould, try a performance ski camp. Basecamp group offers a range of courses from freestyle camps to improvers' camps and powder camps. The freestyle camps give 35 hours of tuition from skiing and snowboarding professionals, who will pass on their tips, tricks and techniques to turn you from piste-basher to jibber extraordinaire. The freestyle camps feature park and pipe manoeuvres, and by the end of the week you can hope to be grabbing, flipping and rotating your skis without hurting yourself - safety is a major feature and there is an emphasis on staying injury-free all week. Once you have perfected your take-offs and landings in the park, the camp heads out to backcountry to practise in not-so-perfect settings. Based in Val d'Isère, where two snow parks provide a half pipe, big air jumps, rails, table tops and a border cross track (where you race over jumps and around bends), you're unlikely to get bored. And to top it all, you even come away with a free hoody.
Further Information: Basecamp Group (020-7243 6222; basecampgroup.com) offers a seven-night freestyle camp in Val d'Isère from 31 March to 7 April from £445 per person, based on four sharing, including half-board, lift pass and tuition. Flights, transfers and equipment hire cost extra. EasyJet (0905-821 0905) offers return flights from London Heathrow to Geneva from £184. Transfers cost £100. Basecamp can arrange equipment hire from £60.
7 . Plunge into an ice hole
Now here's one for the brave-hearted. Ski down to Tignes Le Lac, in France's Espace Killy ski area, strip off and, following 20 minutes of instruction, jump through an ice hole and discover the world below. Attached by rope to a qualified instructor and tethered to the surface of the ice, over the course of five short dives you can explore the ice formations below the surface where the waters are crystal clear. Ice diving takes place day and night and, at a maximum depth of three metres, no previous diving experience is necessary.
Further Information: Neilson (0870-060 0114; neilson.com) offers seven nights' half-board at the three-star Hotel Le Gentiana, Tignes Le Lac, for £689 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from London Gatwick and transfers. White Tracks (00 33 621 45 08 90; whitetracks.co.uk) offers ice diving at Tignes Le Lac from €80 (£53) during the day and €90 during the night.
8 . Seek out the Northern Lights
What could be more satisfying than leading a team of husky dogs through Swedish Lapland's pristine forests, in search of true serenity and the Northern Lights? Sweden's only pure-bred Siberian husky team will be yours to care for and command as you journey from cabin to cabin.
And if your search for the extraordinary natural light is successful, you can expect to see bands of blues, pinks and greens shimmering in the night sky. To make this trip even more special, the fourth and final night is spent in the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, 200km from the Arctic Circle. Here, you can chill out with the aid of a swift vodka or two. To keep you warm, you can spend the night snuggling up on a reindeer skin.
Further Information: Original Travel (020-7978 7333; original travel.co.uk) offers a four-night dog-sledding adventure from £960 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, two nights' full board and two nights' b&b.
9. The best for the in-crowd
Ischgl's reputation as Austria's Ibiza in the snow is growing. They might be carved out of snow, but Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford are part of Ischgl's 14th Shapes in White exhibition. Real-life celebs such as Bob Dylan and Beyoncé are due to perform.
Further Information: Ski Solutions (020-7471 7777; skisolutions.com) offers seven nights' half board at the four-star Hotel Family Resort Seiblishof, from £934 per person, based on two sharing. Ischgl information: ischgl.com.
10. The best way to telemark
Telemarking was once the preserve of hardcore mountain men, now it's officially a cool thing to do. Despite the initial feeling of bending in all the wrong places, telemarking is probably the most graceful way to descend the mountain.Further Information: Telemasters (01908 237012; tele-masters.co.uk) offers introductory one-hour Tele-Early-Turner courses at Xscape Milton Keynes and Xscape Castleford from £30 per hour. A seven-night Introduction to Telemarking course in Champéry, in France, costs from £675 per person based on two sharing.
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