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OOMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
(‘UIIITUIIIL‘LI yy ith glossy brochures ol' the piste-sot haying ( IUULI 'I‘intcs. curccring down cliff luccs and thch lounging in hairs with hot totltlics inuy distract you fromth husics. I‘or gootl ski-ing. you need to be able to afford the holiday you choose. you nccd snoyy and you IIL‘L‘LI to he in the resort yy hich
will most suit your abilities. 'l‘hcrc is a \ crituhlc jungle of jargon to scythe your
way through first. And then. assuming you aren’t equipped yy itIi LIlVIIIL‘ omniscicncc. you need to identify pluccsyyhich are likely logL‘l snow. Equally. there are places to in Did it you're not into post-piste all-night discos. If you can't cook. perhaps sell-cutcring isn't th' right choice either. In association. us they say. with the Iitlinhurgh 'I‘ruycl ('cntrc. The List \y ill guide you through the t'rcyusscs and set you on the right course.
Last year‘s ski season suffered from a droughtof it. Some chic resorts have snow-making machines which pumped the stuff out fast and furious. Others bussed frustrated ski-ers to fields farther away. And others shrugged their shoulders at the sky and did nothing. It can‘t be guaranteed. but the rule of thumb is simply thatthe higherthe altitude. the more likely it is thatthere will be snow. Check onthe snow record of a resort as well as its altitude. Novice skiers generally ski on lower slopes, so this is something to watch out for if you're going on a beginners“ package. Pre-Christmas until January is a bit ropeyweather-wise - either a lack of snow or blizzards can spoil it all. February and early March are the high season. while late March and Easter holidays risk lack of snow again. Go to high resorts (2500—3000 metres) with plenty of north-facing slopes. Always ask about snow guarantees with the tour operator- at least money may partially compensate you foran unwhite skiing trip. Notall operators offer such guarantees. so pick one that does and check the small print very carefullyfor escape clauses.
This may be governed by factors such asthe availability of directllights from Scotland to a destination. exchange rates and whether or notyou speak the language. You can now go ski-ing to Australia. New Zealand. the USA, Spain and the Himalayas. although we're only covering the main European destinations here.
FRANCE: The three main
. spacefortherestofus. . Goodskiingforall standardsis available.with
areas are: Les TroisVaIlees (Meribel. Courchevel. Val Thorens among others): The Savoie/lsere (Les Arcs. Val d‘lsere. La Plagne); The Portes du Soleil. French resorts are often purpose-builtand may | therefore be expensive and unattractive. But there are still traditional places with appeal. so specify your requirements.
AUSTRIA: With many picturesque locations. t Austria is still the British favourite. However. resorts g are generally lower. so I check snow-records. } Nightlife is lively and i accommodation is mostly hotel orskihaus (B & B). SWITZERLAND: Supposedly the haunt olthe very-well-to-do. Switzerland does have
a large selection of types of accommodation from cow-bell Heidi-holes to purpose-built resorts.
ITALY: The Italian Alps are split into three areas — the Western Alps. the Central Alps and the Dolomites. E Italy is scorned by some as l the skier‘s Benidorm (it's relatively cheap and may have a vigorous nightlife)
but if it's budgetski-ing you're after. it's a good choice.
ANDORRA and THE PYRENEES: This is the
destination for beginners. Andorra is duty-free and serves very large measures. which mightbe
an incentive for some.
and ROMANIA: 0n the up and up. Baltic resorts are not always as slick as those well-versed in catering for the multitudes. butthey'll provide inexpensive and i scenic ski-ing.
llyou imagine yourself slicing down black runs with
not another person around lormiles. you mightbe deluding yourself. For minimum crush. choose a resort which is small andfar from any large towns and cities. Weekends are invariably busy. with floods of Brits wending their way towards the snow on Saturdays plus local weekenders. Try and fly on a Sunday (or a week day if you're training it orcan unearth such a flight).
A package will probably include ski hire. accommodation and transportation. Ski lift passes are a considerable extra cost so add them into yourbudgehng.
Whatto took our for
The closeness olyour accommodation tothe slopes. You might notwant to spend half an hour each day getting to the snow. The closeness of yourresortto your arrival airport/train station. Extra train and coach journeys are invariably parforthe course. so be prepared. Lastyear. the French Tarentaise region was jammed with traffic at the weekends. Geneva Airport proved to be another point of skiing congestion. Avoid them ifyou can'tlace delays and crowds. The quality and quantity of ski lifts and drag pulls which give access to the slopes is vital. You don‘twantto stand in a queue for hours. nor get barged into by queue-jumpers.
Ski Lift Passes
Both in Scotland and abroad. take a couple of passport-sized photos with you. as you may need them for passes.
Apartfrom weekends. Christmas. New Yearand
the first three weeks of February are busy because of local holidays. You‘ll get queues at ski lifts as well as floods of people onthe slopes.
Make sure you select a resort which hastuition (can be expensive unless included in package) if you're a beginner. which has suitable slopes. rather than launching yourself off precipices straightaway.
Full medical cover is vital. Skiing is a dangerous activity. fraught with the possiblities of broken limbs. Insurance does not normally coveryou for accidents off the marked and patrolled pistes. Ask about insurance against equipment breakage too.
Yet more expense. There‘s no need to go inlorthese Olympic body-hugging
Awarm. windprooljacket and a waterproof pair of trousers will do (with warm necessaries underneath). Woolly hat. goggles. gloves. medium thickness socks without ribbing which may rub. You don'tneed hundreds of pairs ofsocks any more. because they make boots better than they used to. Lip salve and a sunscreen cream should be takentoo.
Companies that fly from Scotland
Activity Travel. Bladon Lines. Best Ski Holidays. Enterprise. lnghams. lnlasun. SkiAn Do. Snowtime. Supertravel. Neilson Holidays. Thomas Cook. Thomsons.
There are operators who specialise in family. singles. OAP. budget etc. Ask yourtravel agent.
Notoriouslor prompting puns. ski jargon isa
tulsome creature. Here are I justafewexamples:alpine
L___-__ _ _-
lycra-type suits (£600 plus).
skiing (downhill skiing) Apres ski (whatever you do afterskiing); black run (a steep. difficult run); blue run (fairly easy run): drag lift (lift which pulls skier uphill on skis): dry slope (fortraining/fake skiing); evolutil skiing (learning method on short skis): fall line (steepest. mostdirect route down slope): glacier (slow-moving ice formed by accumulation ofsnow on ground over 10.000 feet- people ski onthem); funicular (mountain railway); green run (very easy run); luge (type of toboggan); motorway (a broad. easy. long ski run); off piste (area ortechnique of skiing off prepared runs); piste (marked. prepared and patrolled run): piste basher(machine used to prepare pistes): pisteur (memberof patrol who will help when necessary); porridge (heavy. lumpy snow); powder(light. dry. newly-fallen snow): red run (medium-difficult run); sugar (spring snow-dry. frozen crystals): T-bar (two-person drag lift).
Nordic. langlaul. or cross-country skiing isa fine alternative to going up and down mountains. Tracks (covering varying distances) are often prepared. enabling Nordic skiers to travel from village to village. through forests etc. with the greatest of ease. Operators offer packagesto several destinations. It‘s going to catch on in a big way asa cheap (no fancy equipment ordesigner-wear necessary) and unpretentious option.
This can take whichever form you prefer— self—catering. B & B. chalet-sharing or hotels. If you're self-catering. check the availability olfood shops in the locality. For chalet-sharing. gather togethera large group of friends to make it cheaper.
Instead of heading abroad. you could just stay at home
and join the boy-racers on the A9 shooting up to Aviemore on a Friday night. Better still. go in the week for good value and more space. There are four main skiing areas (for downhill).
with different degrees of
THE CAIRNGORMS—The original and best equipped of Scottish areas. The White Lady isthelamous championship runand
,I Aviemore the main resort.
CLENSHEE—facilities are continually being improved. There are a variety of slopes with different degrees of difficulty. THE LECHT— Family skiing (it has a creche) is the focus here. with opportunities for cross-country skiing nearby too. GLENCOE— packed at weekends. with long queuesfor ski hire and lifts (butyou can book in advance by phone). ltall happens on one mountain. Accommodation may be some distance away.
The Scottish Tourist Board publishes a hefty brochure on Scottish skiing.
E supplyingfulldetails of
prices. accommodation and all-in packages. Often with Scotland. the weather can let you down. Snow is dicey. and when there is some. access roads maybe blocked. However. asthe devotees of Scottish skiing will tell you. the occasional glorious days more than compensate for the rain. rocks and moguls (large. awkward mounds ofsnow built up bytoo many people turning in the same place). The slopes for downhill are invariably reached by vehicle to a car-park atthe base. then ski-lifts and chairs get you ontothe snow.
The Good Skiing Guide gives you the works on over 300 European resorts. Published by Hodderand Stoughton (with the Consumers' Association). it costs £9.95).
041 639 5252
DREAM HOLIDAY CENTRE
1 12 Ayr Road, Newton Mearns. Glasgow OFFICIALLY APPROVED U.S. TRAVEL COUNSELLOR SKI USA AT LAKE PLACID. VAIL. BRECKENRIDGE. ASPEN. UTAH. VERMONT.
SKI EUROPE IN FRANCE. ITALY. SWITZERLAND. AUSTRIA. ANDORRA. YUGOSLAVIA. BULGARIA. TURKEY.
The List 28 ()CI — III Nov 1988 55