Tignes, France Ski Holiday Guide

Tignes began as a ski resort in the 1930s, but the original village was swallowed up when the Tignes dam was opened in 1952, submerging the place below the Lac du Chevril. The dam, which you get over on your way up to Tignes, was able to supply a tenth of France's power when it started operation, so a few houses weren't going to get in the way of progress. Fortunately for the villagers, the compensation amounted to white gold and this allowed them to get started in building lifts higher up the mountain. The first apartment blocks were built in 1956, defining the foundations of modern-day Tignes and producing in the process a concrete behemoth.

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Despite its best campaigns at sensitivity and a massive £35m investment in underground parking and wood cladding to offset a generation of ill-conceived design, Tignes would always be Val d'lsere's not-so-good-looking sister bearing concrete tower blocks and bare landscape. Improvements have definitely been made, featuring underground bypasses, free round the clock buses and incentives for landlords to spruce up their apartments. But no one goes to Tignes for the architecture, unless they stay down at the authentic mountain farming village of Tignes Les Brevieres, about 600m below the high-altitude villages. Individuals come to this high-altitude, high-rise valley to experience the unparalleled snow conditions and the enormous ski area that it shares with Val d'lsere.

Set at the bottom of the Grande Motte glacier, Tignes' primary ski area starts where some ski resorts end and still able to pack in 1,400m of vertical between the top village of Val Claret and the highest lifts on the Grande Motte.

The weatherproof but queue-prone Grande Motte belowground funicular takes skiers from Val Claret 1,000m skyward in just seven minutes and gets them at the bottom of the summer ski area and the Grande Motte cable-car, which heads up to Tignes' highest peak, a breathtaking 3,450m. The snow on the glacier is almost always exquisite. If you can't wait, don't worry - the runs going back down from this point are wonderful, particularly the out-of-the-way Genepy piste, an easy but adventuresome blue that strings back down towards Val Claret.

Mmv Hotel Club Les Berges  GeneralMmv Hotel Club Les Berges
Renovated in 2009, the Hotel Has 93 Rooms With 2 or 5 Beds As Well As Mini-Suites With 4 To 5 Beds in Connecting Rooms. All the Rooms Are Cleaned On a

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© 2012 Athena Goodlight

Are, Sweden Ski Holiday Guide

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Sweden's biggest single resort, Are, Sweden spans along the frozen Lake Aresjon. The location is redolent of St Moritz but much more remote. Are is a beguiling community, having traditional wooden buildings painted in the customary russets and yellows. Away from the slopes, the distinct main square, where a dozen or more restaurants have sprung up, is the central point.

The resort is divided into four regions - Duved, Tegefjall, Are and Are Bjbrnen - with almost 100 pistes. The 40 lifts include Sweden's sole cable-car. A lot of the skiing is easy, but you'll find some challenges too, including the Slalombacken, the Skogis run across the forest at Bjornen and a World Cup downhill course. You'll come across 17 mountain eateries. Ulladalsstugan and Hummelstugan are highly recommended. For some snack with a difference, proceed to the bottom of Stendalen where you're expected to come upon Lapps dishing out reindeer burgers, sandwiches, coffee and pastries from benches directly in front of their goahtes (tepees).

The Hotel Diplomat Aregarden is right in the center of Are and close to the lifts, shops, restaurants and bars. Some good hotels include the Holiday Club located by the lake, the slope-side Fjallgarden and the Park Inn Tott.

One outstanding restaurant would be the Villa Tottebo, a cozy old hunting lodge. The fish is fantastic, and the specialty is reindeer fillet. Sweden's northerly ski area is quite close to Norway that you are able to ski across the border. Because of its position, on the north-west tip of Swedish Lapland, Riksgransen's ski season does not actually start until February when there are enough daylight hours. Almost 250km beyond the Arctic Circle, this is not your normal resort - a dedicated off-piste venue having little activity off the slopes. Nineteen groomed runs are there for the taking- having names like Lammeln (Lemming) and Fjallraven (Arctic Fox) - but Riksgransen is known mainly for its off-piste. Snowboarders rate it quite high.

Almost all of the apres-ski action happens at the only hotel, the Riksgransen, which is actually the resort. You will find a bar, snooker, bands, large dance floor, DJ and live music during weekends, and the award-winning Lapplandia restaurant, featuring terrific views across the lake.

© 2012 Athena Goodlight

Tott Hotell Photo #1Tott Hotell
The City Center is half mile, Are Ski Resort is three miles, Are Ostersund Airport is 76 miles and Train Station is just one mile from the hotel.

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Les Arcs, France Winter Sports Holiday Destination

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Set above the valley town of Bourg St Maurice on a sunny plateau, Les Arcscame to being in the 1960s with the Arc 1600 was built. It was one of the first ski-in, ski-out developments. The buildings, which were presumably designed to blend into the mountains and mimic them in the eye of the architect, alternatively mimic a type of tatty holiday park, but the design was user-friendly and assured Les Arcs' success for years to come. From then on, Les Arcs has boomed steadily into Arc 1800 and Arc 2000, two more convenient slopeside villages, and a rare new development, Arc 1950, which is constructed in faux-Savoyarde style and whose apartments were snapped up within three days of going on sale in Paris.

The reason for the rush were, firstly, new 'resorts' in the Alps are as rare. Second, in spite of its faults, Les Arcs is an underrated ski resort, having an immense and varied ski area, ski-in, ski-out accommodation, lifts  going up to 3,200m and a vertical of more than 2,000m, plus a funicular going down to the railway at Bourg St Maurice, including the fast rail links to Paris and London.

During the 90s Les Arcs experienced an image crisis, almost hit the wall at osome time because other resorts stole the limelight and the custom, but having the link to La Plagne completed and the new Arc 1950 development, the resort is once again setting itself at the cutting edge of French skiing.

The largest talking point in the Alps come to fruition several years back, the union of convenience of Les Arcs and La Plagne under the umbrella of Paradiski. A 200-person double-decker cable-car, known as the Vanoise Express traverses the Ponthurin gorge separating the two resorts and opens up to skiers access to 425km of runs and 143 lifts.

What Les Arcs does have above its new partner is some truly steep piste skiing, and the sublime 7 km Aiguille Rouge run from the peak of the resort all the way down to the valley village of Le Pre, a vertical drop of more than 2,000m. But most of Les Arcs' tough stuff occurs above the treeline and is exposed to the vagaries of the weather, which can readily close down the highest lifts.

More on Les Arcs:

Travel Guide to Les Arcs, France

Skiing and Snowboarding at Les Arcs, France

© 2012 Athena Goodlight 

Maison Des Quatre Balcons (ski Hostel) Maison Des Quatre Balcons (ski Hostel): Image # 1Maison Des Quatre Balcons (ski Hostel)
Situated in the beautiful unspoilt little Alpine village of Nancroix we are ideally suited for the winter & summer sports enthusiast

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Champery, Switzerland Ski Holiday Travel Guide

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Some labels like picturesque, idyllic, chocolate-box, are bandied around far too freely when it bears on depicting mountain retreats, except with Champery, they all seem to merge nicely. The town gets by on balancing ease of access into the Portes du Soleil circuit with a relatively isolated location, and as such functions as a well developed but absolutely unspoiled resort. It's not that perfect -a rather low altitude, no runs back into the resort and missing some good beginner slopes in the area - but such gripes tend to be overshadowed by the region's arresting charm.

For some, the on-mountain attraction of Champery comes down to three words: the Swiss Wall. One of the longest and steepest mogul runs in Europe, the run's notoriety is warranted (plenty of people still come as complete cropper on it, and it can make for painful viewing from the Chavanette chairlift), but experienced riders will not have any problem with it.

The hills directly over Champery are suitable for intermediate riders - even the blues are steeper than in neighbouring resorts, while plenty reds make for long and uniquely gratifying runs. You can experience this on the awesome Ripaille, which winds for about 6km back to Grand Paradis, having stunning scenery all throughout. Also inspiring are the red runs that separate and join back below the Mosettes chair. This area is likewise an excellent sun trap: the Col des Portes du Soleil, where these reds virtually reside, is the 'gateway to the sun' that originally inspired the naming of the entire area. 

There's not much for expert skiers here, though powderhounds will come across a lot of off-piste action during heavy snow. Some of this can be encountered back on Ripaille: hike up from the lift, and stay on top of the track until you are immediately above a series of powder fields (don't attempt it if you do not know how to spot an avalanche risk because the area can be unstable). For those looking for more intimidating angles in their off-piste, the face below the Chavanette chair offers steep thrills aplenty - though taking a tumble here can end in a long spin cycle back home.

© 2012 Athena Goodlight

Where to Ski in St. Anton, Austria

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The most challenging ski resort in Austria is a town situated at the base of the Arlberg pass. During the 20th century, it was dominated by express trains barreling down the track between Zurich and Vienna, creating an unnatural separation of the slopes and the main street that usually led to long waits at the level crossing. Hosting the 2001 World Championships finally released the funds to move the station to the south of the town and put the trains underground, producing an open space in the heart of the resort. This was landscaped around an artificial lake that is used for skating and curling in winter. At the same time, lifts were placed around the lower slopes, improving the likelihood for ski-in, ski-out throughout the resort. Nasserein, formerly a poor relation known for its light on the pocket living accommodations, is now directly linked up by people-mover to the Gampen mid-station. At the other end of the scale, the super-rich are drawn towards the Arlberg Hospiz in the glitzy village of St. Christoph, efficiently engaged into the bigger picture via a gentle blue run from the Galzig mid-station.

St. Anton's reputation is built on rugged skiing and an indomitable party spirit that maintains the streets alive to the sound of music until the last merrymaker heads home. This happens briefly before the hotels begin serving breakfast, making a buzz that lasts day-and-night. The evening action focuses on the long pedestrianised main street, home to every best bars and clubs. By Austrian standards, the feeling is exceptionally international, having Brits, Swedes and Germans drawn together by Antipodeans searching for a winter season, or in many cases a new life, in the Alps.

Although St. Anton does have slopes for snow users of all skills and ambitions, experts are the ones who will benefit most from its broad network of challenging runs. The primary event is the Valluga just above the town, accessed through three cable-cars, the first to the Galzig mid-station, the next one to the Valluga Grat - the starting point for the rugged descents down Schindler Kar and Mattun. Originally black pistes, these were reclassified as ski routes, a clever twist that shifts the responsibility from the resort (which no longer patrols or sets them) to the skier (who tackles them at their own risk).

Read more on Saint Anton, Austria apres ski activities and dining 

© 2012 Athena Goodlight

Ski Total Photo #1Ski Total
A selection of quality catered chalets and hotels in the world famous Austrian ski resorts of St Anton and Lech.  Fly from London or travel independently.  Switzerland, France, Canada, USA

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