Last week the Burton catalogue landed through my door, which in my world is the signal that it’s time to get serious planning our trips to the mountains for this winter.
I’ve been snowboarding now for just about 20 years (that’s a terrifying thought!) and whilst last year was my first year without a trip to the hills (due to Jim hurting his ACL just before our holiday) I’m vowing that it’ll be my last year with a break!
Originally, before the diagnosis, our plan was to head to Mammoth in California for a snowboarding trip in February, but it looks like we might have to move that trip a little which might mean the snow isn’t so great by the time we get there, which just means we probably need to plan a trip to Europe too to get some snow time in!
With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to reminiss about some of my favourite resorts!
We took a trip Whistler a couple of winters ago, in the midst of the worst snow they’d seen in decades, but it was still the most wonderful resort- it was likened to a Disney resort on snow, and it didn’t disappoint. The runs are mostly wide and cruisey, and there were so many of them to choose from. We loved the Blackcomb side of the mountain best, but also spent a lot of time over on Whistler. And the Peak 2 Peak gondola between the two sides of the mountain was pretty impressive too.
I stayed away from the parks because I am just too old, but there are some well planned lifts that pass over them so you can get a view and they just look amazing. The big ones are BIG, but the fun parks looked manageable, say, if your knees aren’t broken!
The lift queues were short whilst we were there (I hear this isn’t always the case though) and they were orderly (no french style queues). And the mountain food was great too. We’re big fans of taking lunches up with us, but the food was so cheap and healthy (rather than €10 chips) that we didn’t after the first day!
And off the mountain we fell in love with the town too. I know it’s a purpose built resort, and usually in Europe that means ugly building but it’s not like that at all. And we loved the variety of apres options. We might have had a few too many pitchers and bulldogs and boozy hot chocolates and plates of waffle fries.
Obviously as it’s Canada it’s not the cheapest to get to, and you probably won’t pop over for just a week but it’s worth every penny and if you’re sensible you’ll get to have an awesome extra holiday in Vancouver to boot!
Morzine & Avoriaz
I think the Portes du Soleil might be my favourite European ski area. I’ve been to Morzine with Jim and Avoriaz with the girls and it’s just such an awesome resort.
For starters there is so much space. You’ve got some slopes actually in Morzine which you can definitely spend a leisurely day exploring but then when you head up to Avoriaz the fun really begins. For one there are just so many runs. I hate narrow road like runs and unless you’re riding back into Morzine (which you don’t need to do as there are gondolas) you don’t need to touch a road run which is super unusual for pretty much any resort. Two, you’ve got fun things hidden all over the slopes, like the Burton Stash Park (which I’ve had some fun on in the past – although I’m too much of a wimp to venture on to nowadays).
The only big downside to the whole ski area is how busy it is. It’s not really a problem on the slopes but when you get to the lifts, you need to get your game face on. If you’re not familiar with the french ski lift queuing technique then think Battle Royal, add in some annoying kids with poles who think skiing over your gear is acceptable and a lot of pushing and you might be somewhere close!
Off the mountains too they are great places to be. Avoriaz is a purpose built resort so it’s a bit ugly, but it’s also a no car zone so you don’t have to worry about being run over by anything but a horse drawn cart, skiier or snowboarder when you’ve had too much apres. Morzine however is a proper town. It’s got shops and restaurants and cafe that feel like more than just ski resort venues. There are clubs and bars and there is also Mutzig, a legendary beer that is to blame for a lot of the apres mistakes!
And as it’s only a bit over an hour from Geneva, it’s super easy to get to, which means you can keep the costs down, especially as you can grab some excellent package deals from Igluski.
The resort is in the Italian Alps, about a 2 day casual drive from Sheffield (yes – my dad used to drive us there!) and is, importantly, duty free. I can’t say for sure that this influenced my parents in their decision to start going there but I have a feeling it might have. Oh and it’s also super high up, so it’s pretty snow sure too. We used to go at Christmas and New Year, right at the start of the season and I can’t remember there not being a decent amount of snow whenever we were there.
The resort is set in the middle of a valley with the slopes on either side. When my parents started going before the invention of electricity it was all T-bars to take you up the hill, but there are super-fast gondolas and chairs now. As a family we always did morning Ski School, no matter our ability levels, and it was great to force us to explore the mountains further than we would have, but I always favoured the Motolino side on my snowboard and looking at the videos from The 9 Queens competition, the park has progressed far beyond the dodgy kickers and the half pipe I broke my rib on when we first went! And it’s great for a bit of old school unepiece spotting- honestly there are some awesome outfits that should have been left in the 80’s!
The town itself is made up of 3 villages and it had a very traditional feel to it – most because it’s been there since the middle ages, no purpose built resort here. But the après was always fantastic. There are so many bars and restaurants and I remember a couple of clubs that we ventured to playing some perfectly dodge euro pop! There are also a couple of spa’s, and as the shopping is duty free, sooooooo many perfume shops!
Whistler actually – and when you’ve been to them both you can see the
similarities. I lived here for a winter after uni and had the best time. Because
we were there for the season my experience of Mammoth is probably a little different
to that if I’d been there for a week, but I’m super excited to hopefully go back.
The mountains in Mammoth aren’t particularly high but the
slopes are, like Whistler, mostly wide and great for broken knees like mine.
One good snow days the back side of the mountain was a huge powder bowl, on
sunny days the parks are the place to be. Being there for the season we didn’t
really ride at the weekends as that’s when it’s really busy with weekend
tripper from LA and San Fran, but the week days were pretty quiet and the lift
queues, even from the main lodges were pretty short.
Mammoth is where I learnt to love rails, and got forced to
learn to properly ride with one foot out. It’s where I got an amazing farmers
tan and where I discovered how much I actually love just heading off into the
mountains on my own when my house mates were doing laps in the park.
As I mentioned before, the town centre is purpose built, but
the roads outside of the centre have a lot going on too, where as I think in
Whistler everything felt more contained. We didn’t eat out much as poor
seasonaires but we did have occasional meals out – Mammoth is where I first
tried sushi, and we’d take our selves for a Carls Jnr $6 burger when we were
feeling particularly flush. And there were some great happy hours to be had
across town too.
Like Whistler again, it’s not the cheapest to get to from
the UK, but it’s a great spot if you also fancy seeing LA, San Fran or Vegas
I really love these resorts!*