From Park and Powder to Pampering, in the Alps and Beyond

 

The winter 2019/20 ski season is now on sale, and early-bird skiers and snowboarders keen to save money on their bookings could be in luck. It’s usually big groups looking for exclusive use of a chalet who are keenest to book ahead, in order to secure their first-choice accommodation in their top alpine destination. But the question is, what resorts to focus on?

In this blog, we’re looking through the eyes of three very different groups of visitors to the Alps; freestylers keen to hit the terrain parks and half-pipes, freeriders looking for deep powder turns in the alpine back-country, and those keen to enjoy a little rest and relaxation away from the slopes, when the ski day comes to an end.

Hardcore freestylers

Big air kickers, monster half pipes the size of double-decker buses, boxes, rainbow rails, grinds... these are the draw for skiers and snowboarders with a passion for the park. Snow-parks are hugely popular these days, as evidenced by their popularity in the Winter Olympics’ programmes, and a couple of resorts have really thrown their weight behind their parks.

Set in the heart of the Three Valleys, Méribel is home to two brilliant terrain parks, with a range of kickers, rails and pipes to suit budding freestylers and seasons park-rats alike. The Elements Park offers 25 acres of boxes, rails and boardercross runs alongside a range of kickers for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. There’s also a junior boarder-cross track with banked turns for high speed thrills. DC Area 43 in the Plattières sector is Meribel’s second park, which offers a further selection of challenging hits. Serviced by separate lifts and with ten shapers in place to keep it pristine, DC Area 43 offers over 200 metres of rails – with airbag and video system to record your air time.
 

A snowboarder enjoying huge air off a kicker in the Alps


For youngsters looking to master the basics in the park, Avoriaz is a great place to try. It sits in the Portes du Soleil, with an outstanding selection of kickers, rails and rollers to sharpen your skills on the slopes. But most notably, Avoriaz has worked hard to introduce freestyle skiing to the younger generations. Child-friendly snow parks in Avoriaz include the Kids’ Parkway – a miniature terrain park – and the Lil’ Stash, where young freestylers can get used to their air-time before transferring up into the bigger terrain parks around the valley.

Mayrhofen is an Austrian resort in the Tyrol region. Located about an hour from Innsbruck, it sits amidst the Ahorn and Penken mountains close to the Hintertux glacier, and boasts year-round skiing. The resort offers one of Europe’s very finest terrain parks, the infamous Penken Park, and is hugely popular.

The park takes up the entire side of the mountain, with six different areas including an advanced and pro section – but it’s also well balanced, offering areas for intermediates and children too. It gets completely re-shaped each year by the dedicated team of professional shapers, so you can’t get bored if it. The Penken Park is now firmly established as a freestyle haven for professional riders so it’s the perfect place to come to catch sight of the industry’s true professionals.

Bouncing through fresh back-country powder

For skiers and boarders of a certain level there are few greater joys than carving deep turns though light, fresh snow, and certain resorts just offer better off piste potential than others.

Chamonix is a French resort with an unrivalled pedigree for back-country skiers. The Vallee Blanche sees skiers taking the cable car to eye watering altitude before traversing a thin ridge, strapping in and heading off into the wilderness with their mountain guides leading the way past crevasses, slides and other potential hazards. And although this is perhaps the most challenging and best known back country route in the area, it is by far not the only one! In the right conditions Chamonix is one of the best resorts in the world for off-piste skiing, and alongside these impressive back-country trails Chamonix also offers a wonderful range of off-piste ski options.
 

Steep turns in deep powder draw skiers from across the world to the Alps


The resort of Jackson Hole is also another popular destination for off-piste skiers, but is not for the faint of heart. Jackson Hole sits in the state of Wyoming in northern America, not far from the Idaho border. Unlike Europe where the snow contains a higher percentage of water, the snow in the US falls dryer, fluffier and lighter so it rarely feels fully tracked out. For advanced skiers keen to spend the entire time carving through thigh-deep powder this is one of the best places to be, and although accommodation options are slightly limited the advanced off-piste skiing here is truly impressive.

Rest and relaxation away from the pistes

Not everybody goes to the mountains just for the skiing, and these days many resorts offer a wonderful array of spas, saunas, massage treatments, therapies and various other forms of relaxing pampering perfect for those keen to take a day off the hill for a little ‘me’ time.

The Austrian resort of St Anton boasts one of the most modern and impressive wellness centres in Europe, and the facilities are lovely. The gym offers modern weight machines and they run fitness courses too, but for something less strenuous tired skiers can while away a few blissful hours in the facility’s pools, saunas and steam rooms, and leave feeling completely invigorated and relaxed. Tired skiers can while away a few blissful hours in the facility’s pools and saunas.

The thermal spa town of Brides les Bains sits in the valley floor below Meribel in France, and offers a wonderful range of sauna and relaxation centres. You can pre-book your treatments on line before arrival, choosing from beauty treatments, sports massages, a wide range of different spa experiences and even a la carte treatments such as a thermal water massage, jet-spray shower, detoxifying seaweed wrap, Hamman scrub, manicure baths and much more besides. If you reluctantly find yourself amongst a group of keener skiers in the Meribel area, why not slink off down to Brides les Bains for a day of real luxury.

If you’re looking ahead to winter 2019/20 and wondering what the best resort choices are for you and your group, we’re on hand to help. You can call 0203 0800 200, or reach us via our online chat service.

 

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