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Bring your skis or snowboard on board

Want to explore the best ski resorts in the Alps but prefer to take your own skis or snowboard? We totally understand – you'll enjoy it even more with your own gear! Luckily nowadays most airlines let you check your gear in as special luggage, and it's affordable, too!

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The best ski resorts in the Alps

We've been waiting a while but it's here at last: snow season! What if we travel a little further afield this time instead of going to the same old resorts? Today we're going to take a look at the highest and most famous peaks in the Alps and tell you about the best ski resorts in that 1,200-km-long mountain range.

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Electronic And Snow In the Alps

Who says you have to wait for the good weather to enjoy open-air music festivals? One way of having a final fling at the end of your ski season is by treating yourself to one of the festivals hosted on Europe’s summits, where pride of place goes to music and snow. One of these must-attend events is Snowboxx, a festival which brings both elements together and where musical quality, snow sports and entertainment are guaranteed.

This, the fourth edition of Snowboxx will be held from 18 to 25 March on the fantastic pistes of Avoriaz, in the French Alps, some 80 kilometres from Geneva airport. Basement Jaxx, Wilkinson and Hannah Wants are the highlights of this festival, which also features High Contrast, TQD (Royal T, DJ Q & Flava D), Karen Harding, Yousef, Norman Jay MBE, Bicep, Jax Jones, Charlie Tee and Charlie Swift, among others. So, you’re in for a heady shot of electronic music to see out the season of winter festivals.

But, music is not the only leading light of this festival, as it shares the bill with the snow, and everything you can do in (and with) it. 650 skiable kilometres distributed across 283 pistes (27 black, 104 red, 119 blue and 33 green) and 14 valleys, where you can ski or snowboard – a veritable paradise which any skiing or snowboarding enthusiast can explore. And, there’s more, as Avoriaz also has several snowparks which will wow all freestylers. Oh! And if you’re not a dab hand at sliding on snowbound surfaces, you can always join the mass snowfight organised by Snowboxx, or dance in an indoor swimming pool to the background music of some DJ.

Another ingredient of this festival is cuisine, essential for beating the low temperatures and repairing your energy wear and tear. So, don’t hesitate to build up your strength by savouring the local classics, such as raclette and fondue, or warming your hands on a glass of hot wine while you listen to your favourite music.

Avoriaz – A Car-free Area 

One of the unique features of Avoriaz, the ski resort which hosts Snowboxx, is that it is closed to all vehicular traffic. That means you can only get there on foot or by any means of transport purpose-designed for gliding on snow, namely horse-drawn carriages, sleighs or skis. This affords you the luxury of being able to walk from the hotel to the ski runs. For those of you who come by car, there are two parking lots, one open-air and the other covered (both pay facilities), where you can leave your vehicle during your stay.

Avoriaz, which has been operating since 1966, is located in the central area of the group of fourteen ski resorts making up thePortes du Soleil.The different sectors are Arare, Lindaret, Chavanette, Té, Chatel, Intrets, Prodains and Super Morzine.

Book your Vueling to Geneva, which lies 80 kilometres from Avoriaz, and enjoy this magnificent festival of electronic music.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Snowboxx

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Eight Pointers for the Engadin Ski Marathon, Sir Norman Foster’s Favourite Race

What do an architect, cross-country skiing and a search for efficiency and sustainability have in common? I told you how I discovered the Engadin Ski Marathon after seeing the documentary, “How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?”. This film, which premiered in 2010, describes how the designs of Britain’s renowned architect, Norman Foster, evolved into sustainable and more efficient buildings. This documentary opens with epic scenes from the Engadin Ski Marathon, then cuts to feature a surprisingly athletic Norman Foster doing cross-country skiing, after which it fades to black and shows him calm and pensive, on the balcony of one of his works, Chesa Futura, which crowns St. Moritz. In its beginnings in 1969, just over 900 people took the start in the race, while this last time, 47 years after its inception, I was one of the nearly 14,000 participants. The experience was incredible and, if you’re curious, I can give you a few tips to get a better view of the race. By the way – St. Moritz is only 203 kilometres from Zürich.

1. Distinguishing classic from skating. It is important to know that cross-country skiing comes in two varieties. In the classic style you ski along a marked trail, while the skating technique involves skiing off-trail. The equipment and technique are different, too. In the skating or freestyle technique, you glide on the whole ski using longer poles, while in the classic style traction is provided by the base of the ski (waxed or wax-less scales). In some trials you can only ski in the classic style. Engadin allows both, the skaters keeping to the left, and the classic skiers to the right.

2. Prepare your technique to adapt to the terrain. The ski run is very pleasant because much of it is along a false flat, and the rises, although tough and technical, are also short. There are only a couple of downhills in the forest which can become taxing on account of the crowding. It is an approachable course on the whole, but you need to be an intermediate to really enjoy it.

3. It is not a course but a line race, and public transport is good. You don’t need to stay over in St. Moritz; neither do you have to drive there. Public transport takes you across the whole valley and is good. You only need to secure accommodation and commute to the villages traversed by the run.

4. Use the occasion to try out all types of skiing. You are in the Alps and it is easy to try out everything here. You don’t have to limit yourself to St. Moritz either, as there are ski stations on the way to Zürich such as Lenzerheide, which we went to. These are more accessible, less crowded and ideal for skiing both on the runs and off-piste.

5. Check the weather forecast for the day of the race and allow for it. If it’s sunny, as it was this year, a single layer is enough, and on top of that a waistcoat, at the most. It is essential to keep hydrated and use sun block.

6. Head for the ski run with the minimum. On the day of the race, they will give you a bag to leave at the start, depending on your number time. Arrive with your ski boots on, your skis out of the bag, fastened with Velcro and keep your gear to a minimum.

7. Warm nourishment. There are fueling stations along the whole course, but you are advised to bring your own flask in a hip pack typically used for cross-country skiing. The race is sponsored by ISOSTAR but, beware – the drink they give you is warm, like tea.

8. The after race has been invented and it is called Après Ski. In my last post about Ironman Lanzarote you will have noticed I am a stickler for preparing ahead. But, in St. Moritz, I would say you don’t need to organise much. Either you hang around for the party they throw at Zuoz, or go straight up to St. Moritz and eat in the sun on a terrace and have a drink while listening to music afterwards. I am not talking about clubbing, but about chilling out.

After spending those days in Switzerland, I realised they love sports but, if skiing is not your thing, don’t worry, because I have these other plans which are a good excuse for coming along anyway.

- 19 April: Zürich Marathon, where you can either run the whole marathon or in a team.
- 9 May: Sola Race, where mixed teams of at least 2 women and a maximum of 8 team members run a distance of 116 km in 14 legs.
- 19 July: Ironman Zürich. Swimming in Lake Zürich. The course is beautiful, which means that entry tickets to the race run out fast.
- 19 August: Swimming Across the Lake. A 1,500 m race, from Mythenquai to Tiefenbrunnen. The date varies, depending on the weather.
- 26-27 September: Freestyle.ch. Artificial snow ramps for BMX, skiing, motor acrobatics and snowboarding freestylers.

While man does not live by sport alone, and I am not one given to visiting monuments, I would recommend you stroll around the town centre and try one of two “dinner + drink plan” options. Or else, the world’s oldest vegetarian eatery, HILTL, dating from 1898, or the Widder Bar, which doubles as a hotel. They’re open as a restaurant and club. They are good, less touristy options than visiting the train station – while it is stunning, you won’t see any Swiss people walking about there.

Looking ahead, the next Engadin Ski Marathon is on 13 March 2016. Come along to discover Swiss-style sports. Book your flight here.

Text by Raúl Casañas

Images by Pello Osoro, Andy Mettler, Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

 

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