Half term skiing

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness!

Sharing the magic of the mountains with your children is a special way to make long lasting special memories.  Think sunny days, fresh air and great food.  Picture rosy-cheeked children with a healthy glow from being active in the great outdoors.  Imagine roaring fires, cosy chalets and good wine.  Fast forward to what can be the reality for many…….a hugely expensive holiday, overtired difficult children and harassed parents.  However, its worth it – I promise! And there are many ways that you can prepare.  Read on to learn more about half term skiing: how to survive the madness!

Half term is the most popular time for families to ski.  However, UK and french school holidays often coincide so the resorts and pistes are extremely busy over February half term.  Tour operators and hotels are usually completely booked up, holiday home owners flock to their chalets and apartments are full.   Busy resorts can lead to logistical challenges with transport, parking, eating and booking services.  I have complied my top tips to help you to minimise stress when skiing at half term.

Skiing at half term. Tips to avoid the crowds.

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness

Top Tips for half term skiing

Travelling

Start by preparing well for your journey to the moutains.  Airports are notoriously busy at February half term time.  Be prepared for queues (both in the airports and on the roads). Make sure that you have plenty of snacks and activities for children.  Think about what you are wearing to travel. All too often, people wear bulky clothing and ski jackets which can be restrictive and too warm.  Try and wear layers that can be easily removed so that you don’t overheat en route.

If you’re travelling with young children, keep a change of clothes accessible (for all of you). Think spillages, accidents and travel sickness on windy mountain roads.  Also, keep a packet of baby wipes and tissues handy.

If you arrive in a resort feeling harassed after a difficult journey, it can take a while to get back on track.  I wrote more about this in a previous blog on why skiing brings out the best and worst in people.

Ski lessons

For school holiday periods, book ski lessons at least six months before your trip (a year if possible).  Finding a free ski instructor in half term is near impossible.

Leave early to get to lessons so you don’t have a panic if it takes you longer to get to the meeting point you anticipated.

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness

Book ski lessons well in advance of half term

Ski and board equipment

Prebook ski and snow boarding equipment to avoid a last minute rush when you arrive in resort.  Many companies offer a delivery service where they will bring the skis and boards straight to your door, for example Door Step Skis in Morzine and Snowberry in Val d’Isere. This hugely takes the stress out of ski and board hire.  No more traipsing to the shop and queueing for kit.

Buy a lift pass on line, order it through your tour operator or buy it the day you arrive.  You don’t want to spend ages queueing for a lift pass the first day that you want to hit the slopes.

Restaurants and meals

Book evening restaurants well in advance to avoid disappointment. Ideally book before you arrive in the resort.

If the weather is warm enough, consider a picnic lunch.  This will save you money and help you avoid queues in busy mountain restaurants.  It is so easy to grab a baguette and some ham or cheese.  You could also consider packing some sandwich bags in your luggage.

If you are self catering, take the stress out of cooking each night and order a few meals in. There are a growing number of companies that now offer a food delivery service. An example of a company delivering fresh meals to your door in Morzine is Chez Michelle and across the french alps is Huski.

Safety

During February half term the pistes are extremely busy.  I would strongly recommend teaching your children about piste safety and the skiers highway code.

We covered many aspects of snow sports safety in our blog on skiing out of control.

Attire

Be prepared for all weather.  February can be freezing cold or very warm.  Dress yourselves and your children appropriately.  Once again, think about wearing layers that can be easily added or removed rather than bulky tops.

Pack at least two pairs of gloves per child for your holiday.  For young children put the gloves on an elastic or velcro strap to reduce the chance of loosing one! Having a spare pair will also help if the children have been building snowman. No one wants to put on wet soggy gloves and the cold can be dangerous for little fingers.

Think about the little things that will make getting out the chalet easier the next morning.  Ensure that all wet clothing is hung out to dry and don’t leave your ski boots in the cold over night. They will be very stiff and difficult to get on the next day.

Timing

Getting yourselves and children dressed and out of the house in full ski gear can be a huge palaver if you are not used to it! Plan the time that you need to leave the chalet and start getting your outdoor gear on at least 15 minutes before you are due to leave.  Trust me, it can take this long to wrestle little ones into their salopettes and ski boots.

Unless you have to plan your timing around lessons, leave early to get the first lifts.  An early start means that the queues won’t have had much time to build and you can head away towards quieter pistes straight away.

Think about what time you will eat your lunch.  Between midday and 2pm the pistes are usually much quieter so this can be a great time to ski and board to avoid the crowds.

Preparation

If you are physically in discomfort from poor fitting equipment, aches and pains or injuries then stress levels are likely to run higher.   Be fit to ski, pace yourselves and think about recovery after skiing.  Wear suncream and dress according to the weather. Ensure good fitting equipment that is adjusted to your specific needs and ability.

You may be on holiday, but avoid the temptation to keep children up too late.  Over tired children can lead to meltdowns and therefore frazzled parents.  Also bear in mind that the altitude, exercise and cold temperatures can tire all of us out more than usual! A ski trip is not like a summer holiday where you can sleep off late nights next to the pool the following day.

If you have very young children or babies, have a look at our blog on skiing with a baby for tips and ideas on how to make this as easy and fuss free as possible.

Childcare

If you need a nanny or babysitter during half term you will need to book this months in advance.  Also, consider if you will need a lunch club (if available) with ski school or creche facilities during your trip.  The earlier you book, the less likely that you are to miss out.

Resort workers

Finally, if you are working in a resort for a season, use this time to maximise your income.  Avoid the slopes when they are packed and increase your hours to benefit your earnings if possible.  This may not be an option if you are working in a chalet, however sometimes you can bank over time hours which you can then use during a quieter period.

Take the trip!

So to sum up, take the trip!  It is well worth it and an alpine experience with your family will undoubtably be special. The better you can plan, the more enjoyment you will have.

 

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Skiing with a baby

The best things to pack for a ski holiday with a baby

The thought of packing for a ski holiday with a baby may put a lot of people off a winter trip.  Many friends have avoided skiing holidays while their children are very young and I can completely understand why.  The thought of having to pack everything that you need to take a baby on holiday, on top of bulky ski gear can be daunting.  However, it can be done so read on for top tips and advice.

Some insider information from a mountain mummy will go a long way towards helping make a ski holiday with a baby much easier.  All the family can enjoy the mountains.  You don’t have to miss out over numerous years while you wait until your little one is old enough to ski.  Watching littles ones discovering the snow for the first time is a truly memorable moment, so don’t hold back.  A little logistical planning and preparation can make a ski holiday with a baby easy peasy.

The first thing to think about is where you will be staying.  Some family friendly chalets will provide a great deal of equipment for you.  After all, you don’t want to be lugging travel cots, baby monitors, high chairs and sterilisers with you.  Some companies will even order in nappies, formula and baby food for you so do your research when booking accommodation!  There are also independent businesses that will hire equipment to you. These are often part of nannie companies so why not book your childcare at the same time.

If you plan to arrange childcare during your holiday, book early.  Many nanny companies offer discounts outside of peak holiday weeks.  If you don’t have school age children, avoid booking your trip during holiday periods.  If you are not yet comfortable leaving your baby, maybe grandparents fancy a holiday in the alps?

Finally, think about the time of year that you take your trip. If possible, avoid school holidays as it is a lot cheaper outside of vacation periods.  Also consider the weather.  Whilst, the weather in the Alps is extremely unpredictable, March and April are generally warmer months than December and January.  This may make getting out and about with a baby a bit easier. They are more likely to be more protected from the harsh elements when the temperatures have warmed up in spring time.

Don’t plan to jump in a cable car for a ride with your baby.  Little ones can suffer the affects of altitude if they ascend too quickly.  Their ears especially can struggle to equalise.  I think our eldest daughter was 1 year old before we took her high up, then a ride in a bubble became a regular fun adventure.  Our youngest is yet to experience this.

So, what are the essentials that you may need to pack?

1 – Change of clothes for the flight

Keep a change of clothes handy for EVERYONE, not just the baby.  This is true for any long journey that you make. I think as parents we can be very good at thinking about what we need for our children but not so much for ourselves.  Who knows when you will have a drink knocked all over you mid-flight, or baby food smeared into your top.  And don’t forget that transfers to ski resorts often involve very windy roads……I’ll say no more!

2 – Baby monitor

A baby monitor is handy if you are staying in a chalet. Once your little one has gone to bed, you can sit downstairs and enjoy an evening meal (I laugh as I type this sentence because my one year old is yet to learn to go to bed!). Monitors may be something that your accommodation provides or that you can hire in resort but check first.  Also, check on the type of monitor available if you have a preference.  We have always preferred a video monitor, rather than just a sound transmitter and will often pack our own monitor when we go away.

3 – Nappies and formula

Although these are readily available in resort, they may cost a small fortune.  Also, bear in mind that if your baby prefers a certain type of formula you may not be able to get this abroad.  However, both nappies and formula take up so much room in luggage!  One option is to pre-order formula to Boots at the airport that you are travelling from.  You can then collect it once you have passed security.  You usually need to preorder a week before you travel.

Nappies are light but bulky.  As a space saving tip, think about taking them out of their packaging, and slotting them around the suitcase individually.  Another option if you are heading to France, is that Amazon.fr may be able to deliver to your chalet.  Check this with your hosts in advance.

3 – Snowsuit

You may expect very young babies to spend a lot of time indoors when on a skiing holiday. However, this need not be the case if they are dressed appropriately for the alpine temperatures.  Fresh mountain air is invigorating and little ones love looking around at a winter wonderland.  Strolls around a resort in a push chair or a sledge and a babies first experience of snow make magical memories.

Bear in mind that chalets tend to be extremely warm so little ones will not need to be overly dressed inside. In contrast, the temperatures outside are likely to be below freezing.  The most effective way to keep little ones warm is through layering.  Lots of thin layers under a snow suit generally fit better and keep little ones warmer than bulky clothes.

I am a seasoned mountain mummy, therefore I take for granted how tricky dressing a baby and young children for the snow can be.  I think planning the layers and having well fitting outdoor clothes is probably the best advise that I can offer.

Not impressed with the first experience of snow!

Gloves / Mittens

I prefer mittens for babies and young children, partly because they are easier to put on and partly because I feel that they keep little hands warmer.  Whichever you choose, they are so easily lost that having gloves or mittens on a string or attached to a jacket by velcro is a good idea.  I talk about my preferred mittens for little ones in a previous blog: Why skiing brings out the best and worst in people.

Sunglasses – Kidz Banz or Baby Banz.

A decent pair of sunglasses is essential at altitude, especially when you factor in the glare of the snow.  Funnily enough, our eldest daughter loved wearing sunglasses and never took them off.  Our youngest however, rebels against the anything that is good for her!  Keeping sunglasses on her is a nightmare but having tried lots of different types, we are having some success with Kidz Bans sunglasses.  Click on the pictures below for more details.

Microwave sterilising bags or Milton sterilising tablets

Sterilising machines may be available in your chalet or for hire through a nanny company.  If not, an easy option for travelling is to take microwavable sterilising bags (check a microwave is available) or a packet of sterilising tablets with you.

Sleeping bag or familiar bedding

Some babies sleep anywhere and don’t mind change.  Some (like mine) repel sleep, therefore to give us a fighting chance of our youngest actually entering the land of nod at a decent hour, when we go away we try to keep our bedtime routine the same to how it is at home.  This includes having her sleep in her usual sleeping bag.  This is one item I often forget to pack, hence why I have added it to this list although most chalet companies will provide bedding for babies on request.

High factor suncream and lip balm

This is essential at altitude, even in the coldest months.  Whilst you can purchase suncream and lip balm in local supermarkets and pharmacies, it is much cheaper to bring your own with you.  It will also allow you to research an eco-friendly natural brand before you go.  I’ve recently come across eco-cosmetics which I will be trying with my girls this winter.

Crampons

If you are carrying babies and toddlers around ski resorts on snowy, icy paths then a pair of crampons is essential.  Crampons are inexpensive, light weight and easy to slip on and off a pair of shoes.  Alternatively, if you spend a lot of time in the snow, there are boots available which have retractable crampons in-built into their soles.

Resort Transport

A light weight collapsible pushchair won’t cut it in the mountains, unless it is springtime and the streets are clear of snow which is never guaranteed.  Ideally you need an off road buggy.  If you don’t have one, or if it is not practical to take on a plane then it is often easy to hire one. Many nanny companies in the Alps offer a pushchair hire service.  An alternative, fun option for little ones with good sitting balance is to use a sledge. We love our Jané Trider as a great mountain buggy.

Jané Trider Pushchair

Jané Trider off road pushchair / all terrain buggy.

Travel in Style

Travel in Style

EHIC

Of course, this may well change with Brexit, but for this season it is important that all the family are covered by the EHIC.  You will also need travel insurance.

https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/startApplication.do

Swimming kit

Many large ski resorts have lovely warm public swimming pools. This can be a lovely baby friendly activity to enjoy with your little one or a great family option on a bad weather day.  When packing remember to put in a swimming costume or baby wetsuit, baby nappies and towels.

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Stocking filler and Christmas presents ideas for skiers

12 great stocking filler ideas for skiers

The countdown to Christmas is on and ALP has come up with 12 great stocking filler ideas for skiers.  I have selected a range of gifts, including both sensible and practical ideas and more indulgent presents which should suit a range of tastes.  When possible, I do my best to support local businesses and I have only chosen products that I truly believe in.

I love Christmas shopping.  I love choosing gifts for people and I often start months in advance!  But for those of you that don’t like shopping or often leave it until the last minute, here are some ideas handpicked for you.

If you are spending Christmas in the mountains, most of these gifts are small enough to pack in your suitcase.  I have selected affordable gifts that should suit most budgets.  I’d love to know what you think or if you have any other recommendations.

Chocolate Fondu set

When you think about yummy meals out in the mountains, a cheese fondu may spring to mind.  But how about a chocolate version? I was given one of these over ten years ago, and we still love to get it out when we have guests for dinner.  A chocolate fondu makes an easy yet novel dessert. Kids love it too.  And I can convince myself that all the fruit that I am dipping in the chocolate means that it is not altogether unhealthy (who am I kidding).

Drop Cliffs Original Beanie

A planks beanie makes a great trendy gift for men, women and children.  Look on their website for a range of styles, colours and designs.

Planks Drop Cliffs Original Beanie

Planks Drop Cliffs Original Beanie

Crampons

These are a rather practical gift, but they can be a lifesaver (or limb saver) on snowy and icy streets. I never took my crampons off in the snow during my pregnancies and I highly recommend that anyone with an injury wears them. However, they are not just for the pregnant or the injured.  Crampons are useful for everyone.

Here is an example;  your very own personal snow chains!  If these look a little too industrial, there are lots of different types available, however these have great reviews and are recommended on a variety of terrains; not just snow and ice.

Summit Velocity Frameless Ski Googles £60

If you are looking for a great gift which also supports a fantastic cause, look no further than the Summit Velocity goggles.  These are a limited edition goggle (only 100 pairs available), so order now to avoid disappointment.  All profits go to The Ellie Soutter Foundation which, in memory of Ellie is a charity set up to help relieve some financial pressure for young winter athletes.  The charity also aims to increase awareness of the mounting pressures that athletes are under. 
Christmas gift ideas for skiers

Ellie Soutter Summit Goggles

Jewellery or accessoires

Gifts don’t have to be practical.  A lovely pair of cufflinks or a pretty mountain necklace would make a lovely gift.

A Massage Voucher

If you have your ski trip booked, a quick google search will help you find a reputable massage company in resort.  A massage voucher is a perfect gift for a snow-sports lover to use during their next ski trip.

Obviously, in Morzine I recommend Mountain Rehab and in Val d’Isère Bonne Santé Alps.

Massage voucher for skiers

Massage Voucher

A massage stick

Light weight and easy to pop in your suitcase, a massage stick is a great gift for helping relieve achy muscles after a day on the slopes.  A massage stick would compliment a massage voucher nicely.

Mountain Girl Mug

Mountain Girl is run by a friend of mine based in Val d’Isere, however she also has a great online store.  Her products are inspired by a combination of her urban Parisian roots and love of the mountains.  Of course, I am biased but I wouldn’t recommend Mountain Girl if I didn’t think that their products weren’t great.  See for yourself: Mountain Girl

Mountain Girl offers a range of clothing and accessories for men, women and children.  We think that their mugs would make a perfect stocking filler for a mountain lover.

Platypus DuoLock Soft Collapsible Bottle

It is extremely important to stay hydrated when you are altitude, but not always easy to do so when you are whizzing around the slopes.  However, we found these light weight, collapsible water bottles which are extremely useful and have great reviews.

Handwarmers

Even the most technical gloves can’t always prevent cold hands and a pair of handwarmer’s are the perfect solution.  We recommend that you buy reusable pouches.  This way, they can be reused day after day which is not only convenient, but better for the environment as well.

 

High factor Sun protection and Lip Balm

Whilst a suncream and lip balm combo may not be the most exciting gift, it is certainly one of the most useful.  Even on the coldest of days, the sun can still be extremely strong at altitude and therefore wearing suncream is highly recommended.  The higher the SPF the better.

Smartwool ski socks

These socks are recommended by my husband who is a ski instructor and therefore spends a lot of time in ski boots.  Smartwool socks are soft, comfortable and breathable whilst delivering maximum warmth and would therefore make a great stocking filler.

Happy Christmas shopping!

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Other products that have been recommended have been done so because we think that they are great.  The only affiliate links in this blog are for Amazon.co.uk and amazon.fr.

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Skiing brings out the best and worst in people

Why skiing brings out the best and worst in people?

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Skiing brings out the best and worst in people! Thats quite a bold statement to make. But why do I think this? Well, skiing can be addictive, there is no doubt about that. But it’s not for everyone. In the years that I have spent living in and around ski resorts, I have regularly witnessed both ends of the spectrum.

For most people, the first time in the mountains is a magical experience, especially during the winter months when there is snow on the ground. The glistening soft white stuff transforms the Alps into a winter wonderland and even when you have lived in the mountains for a long time, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty.

Often, the scenery in itself can have a calming effect on people.   Couple this with a cosy chalet, good food and wine and you have a recipe for a perfect holiday.

Beautiful snowy mountains

Stunning views in the mountains

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.   For some people, being out of their comfort zone and in completely unfamiliar territory can have the opposite effect.  All too often, I see snotty nosed children sobbing uncontrollably because they don’t want to go to ski school and harassed parents fed up with their clinginess.

So here are a few tips to make the transition to ski school easier.

1 – Breakfast

Make sure your little one has had a good breakfast, ideally more than they usually eat at home. A hungry child is an unhappy child.

2 – Clothing

Make sure your child is dressed properly and appropriately for the conditions. Please don’t cut corners with children’s ski clothing. There are plenty of warm, waterproof options available. There is nothing more miserable than a cold child and it can be dangerous. Layers can be taken off if they are warm. My daughter often wears a balaclava, which is very thin to fit under her helmet such as these:

She has a good pair of gloves and we layer her clothes according to the temperature. I would highly recommend using mittens for children, as these tend to keep little hands much warmer. I particularly like having a central zip as I find that this makes putting gloves on and off much easier on younger children.  Our daughter has a pair of Roxy mittens and she has yet to complain of cold hands.

   

Your chalet should be able to provide you with a daily forecast to help you decide how to layer. Keep an eye on the humidity and the wind chill as well as the temperature.

Dress children appropriately

Dress children appropriately

3 – Don’t rush

Leave plenty of time to get to ski school. If you, as parents feel rushed, this will rub off on the children. Try and keep calm and positive.  If you have any concerns, contact the ski school in advance, rather than in front of the children on the slopes.  Be reassured that all instructors are CRB checked and regularly up-date their safe guarding children certificates.

4- Snacks

Pop a snack and some money for a hot chocolate in your child’s pocket. For my eldest daughter, the hot chocolate stop is still the highlight of going to ski school.

Hot chocolate stop

Hot Chocolate stop

5- Tiredness.

It may be tempting to keep your children up late on holiday, but you will pay for it the next day.  Altitude has a big impact on our sleep, which I will talk about in a future blog. Don’t be surprised if your children are having vivid dreams and talking in their sleep a lot. Again, this is down to the altitude.

6 – Preparation

Prepare your children for ski school. Put a positive spin on what they will be doing. Let them know that it will be exciting and that they will be making new friends.  When booking ski school, make sure that you pick the right level for your child, even if this means separating siblings. If a child is too good for a group they will be bored. If they aren’t good enough, they will struggle to keep up. Chat with the ski school about all the available options before booking.

AIM  LEARN  PERSERVERE

But it’s not just the children who struggle. Miserable, short-tempered adults are not an uncommon sight! If you arrive in resort on the wrong foot, it can take a few days to get back on track. If you have had a long and difficult transfer, with an early start, bad weather, travel sickness and a bad airport experience, stress levels can understandably run high. Sometimes these factors are outside of our control, but when travelling try and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The fear factor can also bring out the worst in people (although, equally the opposite is true).  Often people are nervous outside of their comfort zones.  Novice skiers especially may be particularly nervous. They may be scared that they can’t control their skis, frightened of collisions with other skiers (see our blog on avoiding collisions), unsure of how to get on and off chair lifts and worried about their children.  It is no surprise that some people are fraught with tension.

So, consider the following:

1- Have a lesson before your holiday

If you have never skied before, have a couple of lessons at a snow zone before you head to the mountains. Getting used to the feel of clumpy ski boots, carrying your skis and learning how to put your skis on can be challenging at first. Master the basics by learning before hand.

Ski lessons for everyone

Ski lessons are recommended for all ages and abilities

2 – Food for fuel

Make sure you have also had a good breakfast and have healthy snacks handy. ‘Hanger’ is real. Altitude and cold temperatures greatly increase our appetites and calorific demand. Try and have a healthy snack (protein based) as soon as you come off the hill, as this will help with muscle repair and recovery.

3- Booze?

Avoid hangovers. Is anyone happy with a hangover?

4 – Skiing beyond your limits

Avoid pushing your spouse out of their limits. We’ve all seen it. The loving husband (sorry to be sexist but more often than not it is this way round), keen to show his beginner wife around the mountains. However, he has not thought this through. An icy blue slope to a beginner can feel like a challenging black run. Tears will flow, frustrations will develop and harsh words will be said!  We’ve all seen it; a skier sat down at the side of a run refusing to go any further! This is a sure fire way to put someone off skiing for life. It is also a surefire way to put a dent in your relationship.  If you value your relationship, even just a tiny bit, leave the teaching and guiding to the professionals.

5 – Pain and injuries

Don’t ski if you are in pain. If your ski boots hurt, change them. If you have an injury, seek advice from a physiotherapist.

6 – Lack of fitness

If you are unfit, skiing can become hard work. Thighs will burn, knees may ache and calf muscles will cramp.  Ideally, you want to stay fit year round and 6 – 8 weeks before hitting the slopes you should make your fitness training more ski specific (ski fitness warrants a whole blog in itself which will follow).

If you are struggling with fitness on the slopes and aren’t already doing so, consider having a ski lesson.  Improving your technique can greatly reduce the strain on your muscles.  Pace yourself, especially at the beginning of the week. Treat yourself to a massage mid way through the week to help ease your sore muscles.

7 – Hydration

This applies to children as much as adults. When you are working hard in high, dry climates, you will be loosing fluid through exercise as well as through breathing. Make sure you take on enough fluid to replace this.  You will need to drink more in the mountains than you do at home.

The beautiful mountains

We love to ski!

If you come across someone having a bad time on the slopes, a little support and encouragement can go a long way. Of course, a bad run or a bad day does not mean that the whole holiday will be miserable.  Sometimes, reflecting back at the end of the day can help us learn what to change to make skiing unforgettable for the right reasons!

So how does skiing bringing out the best in people? Skiing may not be for everyone, but there are definitely more lovers than haters. Look around you on the slopes. Most people will have a big smile on their faces. And look in the restaurants and bars during lunch or après ski. A hearty meal and a few vin chauds is enough to make anyone happy!

The majority of people who are nervous on the slopes have the opposite response to that which I have described above. Determination to learn a new skill or to develop technique can be greatly rewarding.  Pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone can go a long way. Once the adrenalin starts pumping and skill starts to develop, skiing gives you a feeling of elation like no other.

Fresh air, fresh powder, exercise and endorphins are a recipe for happiness.  Skiing is liberating, fun and exhilarating.  So enjoy the ALPine playground and make some memories.  If skiing really isn’t for you, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the mountains.

The saying in the ski community is that ‘there are no friends on a powder day‘!  I’ll leave this to you to decide if this is bringing out the best or worst in people!

Skiing fun

Skiing = happiness

 

 

 

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