Ski for Cancer

Arctic Ski RaceAs a keen skier and a cancer survivor, I admire the efforts of Ski 4 Cancer, a charity that provides Alpine respite days and short-breaks for families affected by cancer. They also make grants to relevant care institutions and support research into the positive effects of skiing to prevent cancer and assist in recovery.

Anyway, over this last weekend Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott, Adam Libbey, Chris Brooks, Max Wilcocks and Richard Gibbs in a team called Arctic V took part in what is dubbed the ‘World’s Toughest Ski Race’ in aid of Ski 4 Cancer, sponsored by Columbus Direct. The team hope to raise £30,000 for Ski 4 Cancer, and you can make a donation via Justgiving.
Cross country skiing in the Arctic Challenge
The Arctic Circle Race as it is officially known, is an annual three day competition involving 160 kilometers of cross-country skiing in Greenland, with competitors camping in the back country as part of the event in temperatures as low as -35 degrees Centigrade. In keeping with being in a Green land, the race organisers pride themselves on leaving the race site exactly as they found it.Race 2015
And how did it go? Well the race was called off after two days when very high winds and blizzard conditions descended on Greenland. It was always about the taking part and Chemmy reflected afterwards “Rest, Recovery & Reflection. We conquered the Worlds Toughest Ski race which was both brutal and brilliant at the same time. Please donate to our fantastic charity”.Chemmy Alcott
You have been asked nicely – go to Justgiving or Ski4Cancer’s web site.

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Bruson resort review

Nic Oatridge in Bruson, Valais
On a recent excursion down to Valais, I decided to check out Bruson. You can be forgiven for not knowing of this resort as it is somewhat overshadowed by its neighbour across the Val d’Bagnes – Verbier. However on paper it looks worth visiting. It claims to have 51km of piste and, as of last season now has a gondola lift to replace the old bus service. This means it is now directly connected to Verbier, and to the railway station at Le Châble (which connects to Martigny).

The 51km of piste that appears on most literature about the resort sounds pretty impressive, although the resort itself only claims 40km. Still, even on the lower estimate that puts it alongside resorts like Grächen, Klewenalp or Pizol, all of which have plenty to keep you occupied for a day.
Bruson with a view across to Verbier
I have to say I was a tad disappointed. Apart from a section associated with a surface lift up at the summit, most of the resort seemed to consist of variations on a single run near the main chairlift. The variations were on a respectable black run which you could join or avoid through interconnecting blue or red runs and some off-piste cut-throughs in the trees, with the section of the black at the top of the chairlift the steepest part. If the snow was better there looked to be some decent off-piste around the surface lift at the summit. Another surface lift connects a couple of lower runs up to the bottom of the chairlift and the top gondola station. The piste map suggests there are a couple of unprepared trails that take you down to Le Châble at 881m and Bruson itself at 1080m, although I suspect you wouldn’t normally take those even if the snow was good except to get back down at the end of a day. Those runs may explain where most of the 40km of runs comes from, because my estimate for the resort would put it nearer 20km.

With typical Spring conditions the snow got progressively heavier as the day progressed, but between the summit at La Pasay (2163m) and the gondola top station at Moay (1640m) it was fine in the morning. Indeed if there is one thing in Bruson’s favour it is that you have, easily reachable from Verbier, well-prepared slopes and empty lifts every day.
Empty slopes at Bruson
It is not especially cheap. The lift pass just for Bruson is SFr47, but the sector is included in the full 4 Vallées lift pass, so if you have the full pass and are based in Verbier, it is worth an outing – especially for confident intermediates who want to practice technique on well prepared runs without wannabe Beat Fuezes whizzing around.

I found three small restaurants with simple fare. The one half way down the main black run had friendly staff, great views from the terrace, some nice wines and a very pleasant home made vegetable soup served with some local cheese. However it seemed to charge Verbier prices for the privilege.

All in all, an interesting day out, but I wouldn’t hurry to return.

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Winter Vacations in Vaud and Francophone Valais

Nic with Belgian friends in Portes du SoleilAlthough I am technically a resident of Switzerland, my family is living in the Netherlands, so I spend a lot of time to-ing and fro-ing. We plan to move to the French-speaking Romande area of Switzerland, so my ski trips this winter have largely had an ulterior motive, i.e. where best to live. This has resulted in a number of my trips being based in the valley to get a feel for places, and then going up the mountains to ski. And additionally I did one trip staying in a ski resort to get a feel for the pros and cons. So, given a choice of anywhere in Switzerland we could choose to live, where would it be?
Aigle and Les Dents du Midi
And the answer is… Aigle. Ten minutes from Montreux, thirty from Lausanne, an hour from Geneva airport and a whole bunch of world class ski resorts. From a family point of view the schooling seems better than Valais and the people less provincial – and Valais is walking distance away! The weather is about the best in all of Switzerland with around 300 sunny days a year. The apartment we are hoping to secure won’t be built for at least a year, but it promises to have wonderful views of Les Dents du Midi, perhaps one of the half dozen most memorable mountains in the whole of Switzerland.

Anyway, over the next few days I will share my insights about skiing on my winter trips to Vaud and Valais, and let you into some of the adventures along the way, like inadvertently ending up in Geneva (but getting to visit the wonderful Galerie 123), watching Brigitte rock the pistes, partying with a bunch of Belgians, picking up some useful ski tips and much more. But now time to pick up the kids!

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Ski Insurance

I have Swiss insurance and am a member of Rega (the air ambulance people), but there are some gaps in terms of ski insurance cover. In many resorts there is an excellent service you can buy with your lift pass called Snowcare. It costs SFr 5 per day and covers refunds of ski pass, lessons and equipment hire if the slopes are closed, and costs of assistance and rescue, transport by ambulance and helicopter, medical expenses, sanitary repatriation and legal assistance. The amount is limited, but the ceilings seem reasonable, and the insurance is intended to supplement usual insurance and European Health Insurance Card provisions as applicable. It also does not cover off-piste activities.

You can buy the card at a number of resorts, currently the list includes:

View over Zermatt
Incidentally, regarding Rega, they waive the costs of the rescue missions of members (annual fee: CHF 30), providing that these costs are not covered by a health or accident insurance. That is one good reason to sign up, but additionally they are a non-profit foundation who provide emergency medical assistance by air according to medical necessity and, as they put it: “to rescue, not to pass judgement on right or wrong, guilt or innocence”.

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