Whether you’re an absolute novice or seasoned pro, we’ve got all the tips you need to survive and thrive on the ski fields this winter…
As you might guess from his nickname, editor of InTheSnow magazine Patrick ‘The Snowhunter’ Thorne knows a thing or two about winter sports. And so he should – he’s been writing about hitting the powder for his entire adult life. That’s all year, every year, for over 30 years. In fact, InTheSnow now provides the world’s largest resort guide, covering seven continents.
With the 2016/17 ski season upon us, we took the opportunity to pick Patrick’s brains around how to make the most of the slopes, starting with his predictions for winter’s coolest skiing hot spots…
How’s the season shaping up?
The answer to our opening question spells good news for snow-loving Brits. Patrick describes this season as getting off to “the best start this century in terms of November snow.” But that’s not the only positive…
“The extra good news is that the pound is now regaining lost ground against the currencies of the main ski nations, so in-resort costs are dropping by the day,” he explains. And while there are too many top spots to mention them all, one of Patrick’s major highlights is the Arlberg region in Austria:
“The Arlberg region, where skiing kind of began in its modern form 110 years ago, is linking up its two halves – the Anton side and the Lech side. Thanks to four fast new lifts you can now ski it all without having to take your skis off and take a bus between the two halves, as was the case previously. Val d’lsere has also spent a small – well actually rather large – fortune on a big upgrade to one of its main ski areas.”
Seeking something slightly more exotic? An increasing number of resorts are opening in China, Patrick tells us, including a new Club Med this month. He also says more and more keen skiers are heading to Japan and there’s even a company offering ski holidays to Iran, which apparently has some great terrain!
With so many options, how do we choose a ski spot?
Much of this depends on your level of expertise. Handily, Patrick’s split it up into four key sections, to suit everyone from novice to pro:
Tips for new skiers
Patrick’s top tip for green skiers? “Choose an area with good beginner and intermediate slopes. This ensures you have a place to start and progress, rather than a massive ski area you may not get to ski.” Also, think about non-skiing time. As a beginner, he says you’re “unlikely to want to be skiing all day. Downtime is important and that means spas, pools, shops, bars and restaurants.” Hello ski-après!
Tips for families
“Want to ski with your kids all day, half the day or just part of it? It’s a vital question to ponder as you pick your destination. You’ll also want to consider the type of slopes best suited to your little cherubs, and your distance from the snow. There’s no point in getting your wee ones all rugged up and ready only to find them fast asleep by the time you reach the slope.”
Patrick says chalets are often a good option as they give children more space to run around, and often have space outside for building snowmen and throwing snowballs. “Make sure you research childcare services and menus and most importantly,” he says, “invest in warm clothing; it may come at a price, but trust me, a warm child is a happy one!”
Tips for regular skiers
Some of those new linked ski areas like the Arlberg region provide plenty of varied terrain for a week. But Patrick also advises researching some of the adrenalin-pumping non-ski activities on offer such as “the airbags in Tignes, the zip wires in Val Thorens and the fun parks found in most modern ski resorts,” before settling on a spot.
“Regular skiers may also like to try something new like cross-country skiing or ski touring, which is becoming increasingly popular.” It’s essentially hike up, then ski down, but Patrick recommends engaging a guide to ensure you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going. Remember: safety first!
Tips for advanced skiers
If you really know your stuff it’s time to test your limits. Patrick recommends the world’s off-piste havens and back country:
“Stretch yourself by heading to North America, Canada or Japan where you tend to find the larger, more guaranteed powder resorts,” he says. “Or, for something a bit closer to home, head to Italy and take your first heli-skiing trip.”
Now we’ve sussed the location, what about the gear?
If you’re brand new to the mountains, Patrick’s top tip is: “Don’t blow all your money. Borrow skiwear or buy affordable stuff at online shops like Aldi – at least until you’re 100 percent sure you’re an addict like the rest of us.”
Skis and boots are easy to rent, and Patrick recommends getting a feel for your gear before heading up the mountain at a local indoor snow slope or dry slope until you’re feeling comfortable.
What ski tech should we keep an eye on?
New technology is being embraced by the skiing community, and Patrick says the most obvious incorporations are resort apps and lift passes. Most passes are now computer chip cards bought online and delivered to your home or hotel – eliminating the tedium of ticket office queues and helping you reach the ski slope faster.
“The tickets themselves have become smarter and smarter and can now be used to track your movements around the mountain,” Patrick says. “You can download reports on where you went, how fast, how far, the type of terrain you skied, etc. They can now trigger automated cameras so you can watch a video of yourself later in the day, and you can even share this on social media.
“I usually download the resort’s own app, as most of the major ones have them and their features are constantly improving. Most will suggest different routes according to ability, and the best will help you avoid lift queues or other possible delays. Some even tell you the menu specials and help you plot your route to lunch. And, in emergency situations, resort apps can often be used by rescue services to locate you on the mountain and reach you more quickly via your phone’s GPS.”
At the end of the day, Patrick says, “skiing is one of the best things you’ll do in your life.” But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself. Grab your copy of InTheSnow or visit the website to find out more, gather your mates and fill your (ski) boots for a fun and adrenalin-filled winter.
Make the most of your winter… With these top five tips from Laura at Lazy Girl Running.