Adventure is all around us. Open a newspaper, browse a book shop and scan your social media newsfeed and you can’t avoid great tales of unimaginable adventures, videos of incredible feats and divided opinions debating the motivations and true cost of the adventure. When we think of adventure we think of majestic mountains, great oceans and vast deserts. Ranulph Fiennes, Ed Stafford, Jessica Watson are names some of us might associate with adventure, after all, adventure is about taking huge risks, striving to be the first and getting your name etched in history, right?
Adventure is, in actual fact, defined as an exciting or unusual activity with an uncertain outcome. We have built up adventure to be this superhuman exploit, unobtainable to mere mortals such as ourselves. It’s easy to forget that to have an adventure doesn’t mean you have to risk your life or travel across the world. Your footsteps don’t have to be the first. The truth is adventure is measured by our own perspective; your idea of an adventure may seem tame to some but for every one person unmoved, there will be two truly inspired by your accomplishments. Adventure is doing something that deviates from your norm, breaks monotony, tests your limits and pushes your boundaries, whatever they may be. An adventure leaves you happier with having tried it and will almost certainly leave you with a story to tell.
So what’s going to be your adventure in 2017? Learn to ski. Take your first steps beyond the piste markers and open yourself up to the exciting world of backcountry. Don touring kit and explore more of the mountains than you ever imagined possible. Set your sights on a world renowned challenge; summit Mont Blanc, ski tour the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt or complete the gruelling Tour de Mont Blanc by mountain bike. The neighbouring Alps have unlimited adventure opportunities, for all levels of adventurer, during winter and summer.
Guided courses are fantastic and readily available across the Alps, especially when you are aiming for a popular route. The difficulty is when your adventure dreams take you beyond the beaten track. If you dream of great Alaskan adventures, remote Asian summits or future self-guided trips, you will require the skills, knowledge and experience to turn your dream into a reality. Even if you are already quite experienced, realistically you will require some formal education, a lot of physical and technical training and completion of smaller challenges to fully prepare you for success, especially if you want to succeed with some level of autonomy.
Whatever the size of your adventure, or your current level of experience, check out the huge variety of courses available with the UCPA. What sets the UCPA apart from other adventure holidays or guiding companies is the quality and price. Their courses combine guiding, instruction and education; teaching important mountain safety skills in the real environment, alongside a guided adventure. This allows the group to become more experienced and self-reliant in the mountains. So whether you want to take your skiing into the high mountain, head into the wilderness on touring kit or attempt to summit a famous peak, the UCPA guides do more than just take you where you want to go, shouldering the risks, they will fully train you in preparation for the adventure.
This year, let your imagination run wild and begin the exciting task of planning your very own adventure. Who knows where you will be next year! Let us inspire you..
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Tags: adventure, new year, Summer, winter
More riders than ever are venturing beyond the boundaries of the piste markers. So what has taken off piste from the stuff of ski movie dreams and made it so easily accessible to the masses?
Anyone who has tried skiing off piste knows its trickier than the freeride movies might suggest. Thankfully ski instruction has evolved from the ski school ‘train’ most of us are familiar with. Now there are companies like Action Outdoors and UCPA catering for off piste skiers and boarders. Riding off piste carries a number of real dangers, therefore even the more experienced backcountry skiers should only explore these challenging areas with a qualified guide. Their local knowledge also comes the advantage of knowing where the best conditions are (and the crowds aren’t!)
Borrowed from the world of snowboarding, advances in ski technology brought piste skiers the backcountry confidence they needed; the fat rockered ski that floats on powder like a dream. Guy Willet, a Chamonix high mountain guide with multiple first descents skiing in the Himalayas and Alaska explains “huge improvements in ski and boot technology have meant that getting off-piste is much less intimidating and easier to learn. Last century skiing crud, deep power and steeps was the realm of the seasoned expert. Now with the typical underfoot ski with of 90+mm, rocker, easy turn initiation and a wealth of highly qualified guides and instructors available to get you there (and back), the off piste is your oyster, almost from the get go.”
Skiing was once considered a middle class sport, skiers searched for the perfect vin chaud rather than the perfect line. The introduction of budget accommodation in exclusive resorts encourages enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds to travel and experience the best. The internet age has also resulted in a shift in mentality. Video sharing sites have not only brought freestyle and freeride to the mainstream but have helped break the boundaries of what is viewed as achievable by the non-pro. Everyone, from first time riders to aspiring pros pushing limits, are sharing their achievements with the world, encouraging others to step up to their own next challenge.
Off piste is where the adventure really begins. Escape the crowds, queues, tracked-out side country and instead enter an endless playground of untracked powder fields, unspoiled views and peace and quiet. Sound good? You can join the craze – UCPA has off piste courses suitable for all levels, from introductory level courses for the intermediate skier/boarder, to expeditions aimed at pushing the experts’ limits with high-mountain glacier routes and steep couloirs. So even if your friends aren’t keen or are already dropping cliffs, with the UCPA you will meet a group at your level so you can explore the backcountry at a pace that best suits you. To discuss your level and what course is best for you feel free to contact us.
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Tags: Action Outdoors, courses, off piste, Skiing, Snowboarding, UCPA
Check out this great little video of Vivian Bruchez steep skiing in the Chamonix Valley. As it’s name suggests steep skiing involves searching out the steepest and most technical lines on the mountain and skiing them in the best style possible. Any slope over 45 degrees can be considered a ‘steep ski’ and they range from wide open slopes with easy run outs to tight and technical colouirs with do or die skiing. Steep skiing is in many ways the most logical progression of skiing – trying to ski the hardest and steepest slopes humanely possible. There are a number of steep skiing specialists pushing the limits of the sport, blurring the boundaries between skiing and mountaineering.
Steep skiing requires a cool head, precise technique and an in depth understanding of the mountains. It’s an exhilarating and satisfying aspect of the sport but needs to be approached with respect. Conditions on a steep ski can really change the nature of the route, a descent which is fairly amiable in the right conditions can feel desperate if conditions are wrong and mistakes can be costly. There are many factors which can effect conditions such as temperature, wind, slope angle, slope aspect, snowfall and relief. It takes years to master the skills to operate safely in such extreme terrain and good local knowledge to know which routes to go for and when.
If you are interested in taking your skiing to the next level and trying out steep skiing then it’s advisable to hire a guide. With guide fees averaging £300+ per day it can be expensive to arrange this all yourself. We offer some superb Steep Skiing courses with the UCPA for a fraction of the cost of organizing it all separately. The price includes all the equipment you need to ski safely away from the pistes and a fully qualified mountain guide with invaluable local knowledge. Over the course of the week they will assess your ski ability, teach you specialist techniques for tackling steep terrain and then take you to the most suitable descents to safely push your steep skiing abilities.
Courses are available at Argentiere and Les Arcs. If you would like any more information on our Steep Skiing courses then do get in touch with us on 0203 328 5443 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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We woke up this morning to a white washed winter wonderland in Chamonix with snow down to 1000m and the mountains plastered in white. We are still a few months away from the winter proper but with the first signs of snow it’s hard not to get excited about the winter to come. In case you hadn’t noticed the winter 2013/14 season has been on sale for a couple of months now and some weeks are already selling out. If you are planning on skiing with us this winter make sure you get your booking in soon so you get the week, resort and course you want.
There is a theory among the locals in Chamonix that you can predict what kind of season we will have by the how many berries there are on the trees. The theory goes that if the conditions are right for a harsh winter then the trees produce a lot of berries, nature’s way of providing for what is to come. This Autumn the trees are certainly loaded with berries and the local Chamoinards are predicting great things for the coming season. After a cursory Google it would appear that there is little scientific evidence to back up the theory but the old locals have had an uncanny knack of predicting the conditions in previous years so we are choosing to believe them!
A couple of bits of news:
Price Rise: French VAT Rise
The French government has just announced that it will raise it’s reduced VAT rate from 7% to 10%. The rise in VAT affects restaurant and transport costs which includes ski passes. As a result the UCPA has had to raise their prices by roughly £9 per holiday. It’s not a huge rise but worth being aware of. You can still get the old price before the increase if you book before the 16th of October. The VAT increase will mean a general increase in the cost of restaurant food in ski resorts, luckily with the All Inclusive UCPA formula you don’t have to worry about that though!
Ski Show Tickets to Give Away
We will once again be attending the London and Manchester ski shows and we also have a load of free tickets to give away.
The ski shows are always great fun and this year looks like no exception. There will be freestyle shows, freestyle lessons, mountain talks, an ice rink, curling lanes and a variety of shops showing all the latest gear. Best of all our amazing Action Outdoor stand will be there with our all new Snowboard Simulator. Come along and say hello, test your skills and maybe even win a free ski holiday!
We have tickets for both shows available and all you have to do to get your hands on a pair is like us on facebook and tell us why you think you deserve some free tickets, easy!
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The 2012/13 season has turned out to be a great one for skiers and boarders with consistently great conditions from the very beginning. Heavy snowfall and cold conditions during December resulted in a solid foundation layer of snow setting us up nicely for the season. The opening day of the season was actually an amazing powder day with many locals describing it as the best opening day of the season they have ever seen!
With such great early snow hopes were high for the rest of the season. A few more pessimistic observers drew comparisons with the 2010/11 season when a large early dump was followed by long dry spells and icy conditions. Luckily for us they have been proved wrong and the snow has continued to come in abundance.
As yet the snow levels are not quite of the same epic proportions as last season but the snow we have had has actually been much more useful. Mountain conditions are fickle at best with a fine line between too much and too little snow and fresh powder can be ruined overnight by strong winds or rising temperatures. Last season’s glut of snow came in a few huge dumps creating such high avalanche risks that often the resorts were closed or partially open on those all important powder days. The gaps in between snow were sometimes quite long resulting in icy hard and windblown conditions which aren’t always that fun!
This season we have had an almost perfect weather pattern (for skiing) with a few days of fresh snow followed by a few days of sun to enjoy the powder and then just when it’s all starting to look a bit icy and few more days of snow! Throughout the French Alps resorts have been reporting consistently excellent snow even in the lower resorts with great conditions both on and off the piste.
When choosing a date for your ski holiday it is always a bit of a gamble what the snow gods will deliver and those elusive days of superb skiing are far from guaranteed. This season there haven’t really been any subpar weeks and it’s hard to pick one that really stands out from the rest. All in all an amazing season to go skiing or snowboarding in the French Alps and long may it continue!
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We would like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to Alan, our competition winner from the Viewranger competition we ran earlier this year. Alan has very generously suggested that rather than go on his holiday himself he would rather that we sold the holiday and donate the proceeds to charity, we were more than happy to oblige such a kind hearted offer. So, if you are the next person to book a holiday to Val Thorens your money will be going towards two very good causes.
We have both chosen a charity each and the proceeds of the sale will be split between the two charities. Alan has chosen the Douglas Macmillan Hospice, a charity of great importance to his family and we have chosen Help for Heroes, a charity we believe strongly in and have supported in the past.
The Douglas Macmillan Hospice was established in 1972 as a 28 bed hospice serving the North Staffordshire area. Their mission statement is: ‘To promote comprehensive care for those with progressive advanced disease and a limited life expectancy in order that they may achieve the best possible quality of life’. To read more on the Douglas Macmillan Hospice or to make a donation please visit their website here.
Help for Heroes was established in 2007 as a registered charity with the aim of offering practical help primarily to those wounded in current conflicts – ‘We don’t care about the rights and wrongs of war but we believe that if young men and women are prepared to volunteer to serve our country on our behalf, and are hurt while doing so, they deserve our support’. To read more on Help for Heroes or to make a donation please visit their website here.
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Epic TV are a fresh new company based in Chamonix offering access to thousands of top quality adventure films. The concept is a subscription based online service costing 6.90 Euros which in the words of Epic ‘For less than the price of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke you can get unlimited access to our massive library of the world’s best films on skiing, snowboarding, surfing, climbing, mountain biking, paddling, wingsuit/BASE jumping and more’.
Our well connected boss, being the influential fella he is in Chamonix, has managed to wangle a 6 month free subscription for all Action Outdoors customers. There are no strings attached and you don’t need to enter your credit card details to take advantage of the offer. To get your 6 month subscription visit the site then sign in through Facebook and insert the code ACTIONEPIC.
Before we partner with another company and promote their products we of course want to make sure they are any good. With this in mind I decided to take one for the team and spend a bit of time watching ski films, my job is quite tough sometimes….
To be honest I was somewhat sceptical of Epic TV when I heard about them. There is a wealth of high quality free content available on the internet these days so a website has to be fairly special to get me to hand over my hard earned cash. Nevertheless, with a free six month subscription on offer I decided to at least have a look round their site.
The first thing that struck me was the quality of the films on offer. I was pleased to see a good range of well known films with recognizable names, films that are not readily available for free on the internet such as ‘The Art of Flight’, ‘All.I.Can’ and ‘The Fall Line’ as well as some all time old school classics such as the groundbreaking ‘Blizzard of Ahhhhs’ and ‘Licence to Thrill’. From the films on offer it was clear that the guys at Epic had done their homework and had the support of top film makers in a number of the most exciting extreme sports.
I first looked around Epic TV during their Beta testing phase and needless to say there were a few rather annoying glitches. They have since put in a great deal of work and the user experience is now very slick, intuitive and professional. The only thing which does annoy me slightly is the requirement to download Microsoft Silverlight in order to play films on the site. In the modern age of the internet we have become used to the effortless usability of sites such as Youtube without the need for extra and unfamiliar software. Having said that the installation is quick and simple, requires little memory and being a Microsoft program you can rest assured its safe.
Once I recovered from my knee jerk reaction to paying for online content I realised it’s actually quite a good deal. Just one of these films cost about £15-£20 to watch on DVD so for about a third of a price of a DVD per month I can watch as many as I want online. For me the deciding factor was the quality of the films, they are the crème de la crème of adventure cinema with a number of award winning films, films that I genuinely want to watch. As an added bonus I get to watch a huge range of films that I would otherwise not watch because I would either not of paid for them or from different sports so I probably would never of heard of them.
Another compelling reason to use Epic TV is to support the adventure film industry. It’s a hard industry to succeed in with huge amounts of effort going in for very little profit. The prevalence of free films and internet piracy undermines the industry making profit margins even tighter. I am in no position to preach, in principal I am all for supporting such artists but when it comes to paying the high DVD prices I am a lot less keen! Epic TV is a great way for us to support adventure film makers, they get revenue from our viewing and we get to watch their films for a very reasonable price.
After a couple of weeks of using the Epic TV site I can honestly say I am impressed with what the guys have achieved. It’s a great service with superb content but you don’t just have to take my word for it, check it for free for 6 months and then decide for yourself if you think it’s worth the money.
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