Tim Crump, Action Outdoors client and self confessed UCPA newbie, was so impressed with his recent UCPA ski trip to Val d’isere, he put pen to paper to tell you all about it. Here he explains why Val d’Isere is not only a truly epic ski destination but also why the UCPA was, to say the least, a very pleasant surprise….
I was getting somewhat panicky in March this year. The end of the season was approaching and I still hadn’t been skiing. To a non-snowsports lover a complaint like that probably ranks in the same league as a Hollywood star getting fed up with the colour of their Lamborghini – but if you’ve developed an addiction to the frozen white stuff over the years then you’ll know exactly what I mean.
To people like me there’s nothing indulgent about skiing. All I need is somewhere to crash and enough half-decent food to keep me going; nonetheless, a ski trip is a ski trip – and enough cash to secure a room in a snowsure resort is a must, as is a bunch of like-minded people to go with. Unfortunately this year I had neither.
This seemed more than a little unfair. I can rock up at a YHA on my own with a pittance to spend and enjoy the same mountains as someone in a luxury hotel – so why can’t I do it in the Alps?
Actually you can. And I did, with a £760 package from Action Outdoors, who packed me off to the UCPA at Val d’Isere.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you; I got a week in a resort known for attracting the likes of Matthew Pinsent, Sarah Harding and Jamie Oliver for that price. I didn’t see any of them, but then again I had the awe-inspiring peaks of the Vanoise National Park to stare at all week. My base price included accommodation, full board, gear hire and the all-important (and notoriously pricey) full area lift pass. I also paid for an £80 transfer and a budget flight, leaving me wondering what the catch was. I never did find out.
The centre was not stuck out on the edge of town as I had suspected. It was a short walk from the central Front de Neige, focal point of the entire ski area Val d’Isere shares with neighbouring Tignes, and home to the famous Face De Bellevarde Olympic run.
Just traversing down this notorious thigh burner is no mean feat, and the hardcore treats become even more challenging if you wish, with the world’s best lift-served off-piste on tap. Don’t let this put you off, though, contrary to popular belief Val works well for all levels. The easy runs are all up-top so a lift back down at the end of day is required, though given the enviable and virtually queue-free hardware that your lift pass pays for that’s no inconvenience at all.
Its infrastructure may be impressive, but its 1800m altitude and 2000m vertical are even harder for other resorts to keep up with. Nearby Courchevel even gave its top village at 1750 meters the ‘1850’ designation purely to compete on marketing terms, such is Val D’Isere’s fearsome reputation among its admittedly illustrious peer group.
Staying in a centre that’s primarily there to get people onto the mountain means you’ll meet guests who want snowsports above all else, so we all had plenty in common when hanging out at the centre’s bar. It was a bit like being a student again really, only with better stories and a more cosmopolitan air, thanks to the amiable French and Scandinavian guests who made up the bulk of the non-UK clientele.
Come dinner time there was plenty more conversation on offer, though thankfully my erstwhile student dietary choices didn’t figure on the menu. UCPA newbies are always surprised at how good the food is; you can have as much of it as you like, and they’ll even give you a packed lunch.
If you’re still unsure, just cast your mind back to the scene in Titanic where Leo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet thumbed their noses at first class to head off downstairs where the real party was happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to find either of them skiing in Val D’Isere too, come to think of it.
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Action Outdoors met up with Christie Fearnside, co-founder of Red7SkiWear, to learn more about the new start-up and how the idea for their CG1 all-in-one snow suit came about. Red7SkiWear products are available online at: www.red7skiwear.com
How did it begin?
It all started with the search for a Christmas present. After breaking her leg playing sport, twice, one after the other, Naomi spent six months in a cast. Tired of struggling to find clothing which which would keep her warm through the winter but still fit easily over the cast, she resorted to wearing her cotton onesie. Due to go on a skiing holiday after Christmas, I thought the perfect present for Naomi would be an all-in-one ski suit; replicating the comfort and movement Naomi had grown accustomed to. However, after being left disillusioned by the products on the marketplace we embarked on a journey which led to the birth of Red7SkiWear.
Utilising our backgrounds in Sports Technology and Science, as well as elite sport, we formed Red7SkiWear with the goal of providing functional outerwear for to meet the user’s demands, whatever the purpose. Frustrated at purchasing multiple products for different temperatures or activities, our vision is to build the most functional outerwear.
What is the Red7 CG1 all-in-one?
Unlike the traditional skiing jumpsuit, or rival padded suits, our Red7SkiWear CG1 all-in-one is made from a waterproof soft-shell outer layer. This allows for greater flexibility and movement, which is desired in a full suit, whilst also ensuring greater breathability. To complement the thinner design of the suits, we have worked closely with a number of fashion houses in London to perfect the overall fit meaning that users can layer up in the cooler winter months without any restriction to movement, or looking like the Michelin man. This makes our suit perfect for whatever the activity or temperature, reducing the number of purchases required each year: we recently spent the winter in Austria where there were days of -13℃. Normally I really feel the cold and used to be one of those people who’d leave the house is as many layers possible. However due to the circulation of air within the suit, and the absence of gaps to which the cold air could get in, I was more than comfortable with just a light down over my base-layer.
Finally, our suits not only feel great, but look great. Although functional performance is the core of our products, we have also ensured that no matter what the occasion you’ll be strutting your stuff!
Why an all-in-one?
One word, comfort. Until that first time you glide down a mountain in an all-in-one its hard to portray the freedom and comfort you feel wearing a full suit. It is a mind-set change, and once away from the toilet question (we have perfected the technique and now have this down to less than 6 seconds) people are beginning to come around to the benefits of wearing an all-in-one. Because, ultimately, there are some places which snow shouldn’t go!
Action Outdoors readers can receive an exclusive 20% discount code for any purchase made on the Red7SkiWear website. Use code: ‘20AOBLG%’ at checkout.
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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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