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January 28, 2014

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The Ultimate Ski Breaks

by Julianne Mooney

DSCN0600I may not be the best skier in the world, but I love it. Standing on top of a mountain, blue skies above, glistening snow at your feet and a litte voice in your head saying “Are you really going to this? Throw yourself down the side of a mountain?”  Then, without a second thought,  you do exactly that. Gathering a little speed, you soar down the slopes and everything leaves your mind. It’s just you and the mountain. Pit-stops in little restaurants, sitting on benches in the sunshine, gorging on cheesey galettes and cups of hot chocolate. Nothing can taste better.

When I was fifteen, the Mooney family went en-masse to Switzerland for our first ski holiday. Two weeks in a charming Swiss resort, with our own wooden lodge and two English girls to make hearty meals, meaning Mum got a rest from feeding her brood of five.

My memories of this holiday far exceed those of any other family holiday, not because it was our first holiday abroad in over eight years and wasn’t a caravan in Wicklow, but the experience of learning a new sport, knee deep in snow, surrounded by Alpine forest was intoxicating. We spent our mornings in ski school, my brothers failing to move off the nursery slopes and my Mum spending her mornings reading quietly in the cosy chalet, joining us for hot chocolates and a sleigh down the slopes at lunch. As my sisters and I improved, we braved the slopes alone in the afternoon, practising our twists and turns, returning to our chalet exhausted, but happy.

One of the most magical moments was when it snowed on Christmas Eve and Mum raced outside to skip through the snow like a four-year old. These are my memories and I will never forget them.

Last year, on Ireland AM, I talked about Family Ski Breaks (Read Here) but this year, I talked about some Ultimate Ski Breaks.

ST. ANTON, AUSTRIA

Best for    Groups, people looking for lively apres-ski and challenging runs.

St Anton is a tiny village comprising of a pretty pedestrianised main street lined with bars, restaurants and shops. The slopes lead down to the edge of the village meaning you can walk to the ski lifts in a matter of minutes and ski back into the village to enjoy a hot port at the end of a long day on the mountains. St Anton has a bit of a party reputation, famous for its après ski, with legendary bars such as the Krazy Kangaruh, but the centre still has a traditional feel, with pretty wooden chalets and quaint hotels sprinkled about the area.

It’s also the place to come if you’re looking for good, challenging runs as there are plenty of pistes to choose from and a lift pass in St Anton gives access to the whole Arlberg area. A great place if you’re looking to party and ski hard.

Getting There

Flights Direct to Geneva    From €40 one way

Ski Pass & Tuition

6 day ski pass €235/6 day lessons €159/6 day ski hire €170

AUSTRIAN SPECIAL OFFERS

Crystal Ski 

St. Anton – From €850pp includes return flights, 7 nights on half-board, transfers OR Kitzbuhel – From €549pp includes return flights, 7 nights on half-board, transfers

 Topflight

Soll – From €399pp includes return flights, 7 nights accommodation, resort transfers, generous luggage allowance and representative services

LA, TANIA, FRANCE

Best for    Groups on a budget, families and those looking for a small village with access to excellent ski runs.

One of Europe’s most glamorous resorts is Courchevel, tucked into the Three Valleys in France. The smartest and most expensive village is 1850 and unless you are willing to pay top prices, you won’t get much for your money here. However, the lower towns, 1650, 1500, and La Tania are much more reasonable with cheaper accommodation available. La Tania is a great option for families with beginner slopes suitable for children and adults while more accomplished skiers can head to 1850 through a series of ski runs and lifts. There are a number of good restaurants and some bars that are lively in the evenings with live music and people enjoying après-ski in La Tania and the accommodation tends to be family-friendly hotels and chalets.

1850 has fantastic ski, although it can be busy on the main runs, so it’s good to escape to the more remote pistes and with 150kms of runs there’s plenty to choose from. There are over 10 restaurants littered around the pistes where you can stop off for a hot drink and refreshments.

Le Ski has 14 chalets in 1650 and La Tania.

 Flights

Fly direct to Lyons/Geneva    From €29.99 each way

Ski Pass & Tuition

6 day ski pass €267/6 day lessons (mornings) €160/6 day ski hire €150

FRANCE SPECIAL OFFERS

Crystal Ski La Tania – From €700pp includes return flights, 7 nights self-catering, transfers, taxes and charges OR Les 2 Alpes – From €489pp for 7 nights self-catering, flights, transfers, taxes and charges.

Topflight  – La Plagne – From €399pp includes return flights, 7 nights accommodation, resort transfers, generous luggage allowance and representative services

 Highlife Ski – Morzine/Val D’Isere/Meribel – From €525 adult/€434 child under 11yrs includes 7 nights accommodation, resort transfers, half board, all wine beer etc, piste transfers

NORWAY

The ski season in Norway typically lasts 6 months each year, with relatively good snow throughout. Norway is a favourite with ski tourers due to its abundance of cross-country routes. The terrain is varied and extensive and plenty of snow means there is also plenty for non-skiers to do such as tobogganing, dog sledding and ice fishing. Fly into Oslo and from here you can combine a ski trip with a city break. Only 20 minutes drive from the city is Oslo Winter Park Tryvann where the World Snowboarding Championships 2012 will be held. There are five slopes suitable for both beginners and more experienced skiers and snowboarders. However, to experience true Norweigan ski, it’s best to head an hour or two outside the city where there are plenty of resorts to visit.

Trysil, Norway

Trysil is one of the largest ski areas in Norway and is a very popular resort, with the main attractions being that 80% of accommodation is Ski in / Ski out and the season generally kicks off at the end of October and runs till the 1st May. If winter should fail to arrive on time, Trysil will refund the money you paid for your skiing holiday covering accommodation, skiing lessons, ski hire and ski lift passes.

A bus brings you directly from Oslo airport to the resort and transfer time is around 2 hours.

LilleHammer

Lillehammer is one of Norway’s oldest winter sports destinations, a small picture postcard village with the ski area Hafjell about 20mins outside the town. It is popular not only for ski, but cross country skiing, huskey sled rides, tobogganing and bobsleighing.

Hafjell has a new children’s area right on the mountain where they look after all children between 4 -15 years old. For smaller kids 2 – 4yrs they have a childcare facility to look after them. The tracks run all the way to Lillehammer and you can ski in both forested and mountain terrain.

Transfers from Oslo airport are around 1hour 40mins by train.

Getting There

Fly direct to Oslo (2/3 flights per week) From €129 each way

Package deals with Topflight.ie

Trysil: Flights/4nights accommodation in the Radisson Trysil Resort B&B/3-day lift pass/3-day ski equipment. From €699pps

Lillehammer: Flights/4nights accommodation in 4 star hotel- B&B/3-day lift pass/3-day ski equipment. From €359pps



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