Crystal may be renowned for cheap family ski packages but it’s getting down with the kids with two new “riders’ lodges” for snowboarders: the Chalet Terrachu in Tignes (from £635pp including flights) and the Chalet Sequoia in Val Thorens (from £669pp). That means an Xbox 360 + Kinect, snowsports DVDs, a pool table, in-house bar plus a “snow guru” to guide you and take you partying.
Ski classes, Switzerland
Verbier has become synonymous with the extreme ski and snowboard competition, the Freeride World Tour (FWT), which hosts a leg there. Now the tour’s organisers have joined forces with the local ski school to launch the FWT Club, offering freeride classes by local instructors. The classes are accompanied by pros (and winners) that compete but live locally, but who aren’t allowed to teach. However, they will impart advice and ski alongside you while you learn to throw yourself off cliffs and down near-suicidal lines.
• Booking goes live in November for various courses at verbierbooking.ch
Splitboarding is experiencing a surge in popularity as more snowboarders – jealous of their ski-touring friends’ ability to slide quickly up the hills – are giving it a go to access far flung powder stashes. In Chamonix splitboards can be hired in town but for a more immersive experience, cool chalet group Rudechalets (08700 687030, rudechalets.com) has launched a new splitboard intro week from 6-13 April, led by a top International Federation of Mountain Guides Association guide, Lars Vanhaelewyck, a “Belgian snowboarding legend”, who also teaches backcountry safety and crevasse rescue. It costs £1,299pp for five full guided days, board and skins rental, six-day Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, seven nights fully catered en suite accommodation in Chalet Chocolat in Chamonix, and transfers (maximum group size is six).
The big snow-by-rail news this season is Eurostar’s launch of a new route to Switzerland, from 22 December. The Swiss Alps Ski Train will run every Saturday until 13 April, from London to Lille, where passengers make an easy change to the TGV for the final leg to Switzerland, where stops include Aigle, Martigny, Visp and Brig, handy for Zermatt, Saas Fee, Verbier and Crans Montana.
• From £189 return, standard class, eurostar.com
Heli-ski and love
Powder White (020-8877 8888, powderwhite.com) has a new heli-ski taster package in St Anton, Austria, from £850pp for a week’s fully catered accommodation at the Chalet Fritz and two heli-ski drops. You depart from nearby Zurs up to Schneetätli summit at 2,652m for an hour-long descent into the Lech – not bad when heli-ski trips to the US and Canada usually cost thousands. The company has some other interesting new ideas, including a trip to Courchevel for single people looking for love, called Potentially. It departs on 16 March and costs from £499pp, sharing a room: guests must bring a wingman or wingwoman. Powder White has also launched fully catered weekend breaks of 3-4 nights, from £299pp, to Courcheval and Verbier.
Another reasonable heli trip is available with Echo Travel (echotravel.co.uk) to Monte Rosa, with four nights’ BB in a Gressoney hotel, three days of guiding, lift pass, one dinner, airport transfers (not flights) and one heli trip, for £1,025pp.
Ski lift, Switzerland
Bruson, one of the satellite resorts linked to Verbier, is to get a new lift to connect it to the resort for the 2013/14 season. The long-awaited link (first proposed in 1961!) is an eight-seater gondola running from Le Chable and is likely to be a catalyst for development, so if you like the tiny hamlet as it is, a barely discovered powder trap with tree skiing, this season is the one to go.
Ski and music festival, France
After a residence at the Swiss resort of Laax, the Brits ski and snowboard competition (and music festival) is moving to the French resort of Tignes, a party town with great bars and a huge ski area. The week-long event, from 23-30 March, will feature après sessions including a reggae barbecue, “sledgercross”, a Whitelines rail jam and what’s called “drinking and boasting”. Nextmen and Lazy Habits will play but the rest of the music lineup is to be confirmed (previous acts have included Pendulum, the Go!Team and Bonobo).
• Packages from £279pp including seven nights’ accommodation (more expensive options available too), six-day lift pass, events and a beanie, the-brits.com
New area, Austria
A new ski area, Ski Jewel, has been created in Austria, linking Alpbach and Niederau with a new gondola to the Schatzberg mountain in Auffach, creating a linked area of 145km of pistes, 47 lifts and three terrain parks; skijuwel.com
Snow and ski festivals, London and Birmingham
Ski fever starts this weekend in the UK with London’s Freeze Festival (freezefestival.com), featuring a real-snow slope at Battersea Power Station and a gig by Public Enemy on Saturday evening. The British Ski and Board Show (globalsnowshows.co.uk) runs until 28 October at Birmingham’s NEC, offering slope skills and stores.
The Ski and Snowboard Show (skiandsnowboard.co.uk) is at London’s Earls Court from 31 October-4 November, featuring all the leading ski and board brands for gear, clothing and accessories, as well as smaller, stylish ones you won’t necessarily find on the high street. Plus, also featuring this year are skating and curling, a Warren Smith skills academy, a jumps airbag, Santa, and penguins – real ones.
A new collection of hotels in the snow, called, of course, Snotels (snotels.com), offers 25 in four European countries, including fabulous resorts such as Engelberg in Switzerland.
Trawling websites trying to look for the perfect chalet can take hours but a new one should help, as you just post up what you need, and chalet owners come to you with their offer. The service is available with Much Better Adventures at muchbetteradventures.com/ski.
Pre-Christmas deal, Austria
A pre-Christmas break, that runs from 16-23 December, in St Anton, is being offered by top tour operator Kaluma Travel (01730 260263, kalumatravel.co.uk/ski). The seven-night deal, staying at the luxurious Hotel das Mooser, costs £850pp and includes BB accommodation as well as return transfers from Zurich, Innsbruck or Friedrichshafen. It also serves up a chef’s menu on any chosen night of the stay at the hotel’s excellent restaurant, Vinzents, which is only open to hotel guests. This stylish hotel with spa, which only opened last season, is right next to one of the world’s most famous après ski bars, the Mooserwirt.
Ski safari, Norway and Sweden
Ski Safari has added new multi-destination ski holidays in Sweden and Norway. A Swedish Arctic trip combines Åre with Riksgränsen, the world’s most northerly ski resort. A Norwegian safari takes in Geilo and Voss and also includes scenic train travel from Oslo.
Skisafari.com. From £989pp for 10 nights, including flights
Ski Club chalet, France
The Ski Club of Great Britain (020-8410 2022, skiclub.co.uk) has launched its own full-service catered chalet for the season, in Flaine, hosting a selection of off-piste holidays. The new Chalet Freshtracks has six bedrooms and themed weeks from “families New Year” to “improvers powder skills” or “adventurous powder”, for Ski Club members.
New flights, Austria, France and Germany
Monarch (monarch.co.uk/ski) has announced the launch of its first-ever ski routes for the winter to Grenoble, Innsbruck, Friedrichschafen and Munich – with prices currently from £34 one way. Flights depart from Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds – and skis and boards are carried free.