Spacious and Stylish – Lech Zurs, a Skier’s Paradise

Lech Zurs the glamourous and glitzy ski resort high up in the Austrian alps, certainly lives up to all the hype and then some… As I got to know the ski runs, après ski haunts and hotels of these two lovely Alpine villages, it struck me just how lovely Austria is and how there is such a sense of space on these fabulous slopes.

Lech Ski Area

Lech Ski Area

The sophisticated Arlberg resort of Lech has a brand new gondola (with heated seats) linking the smaller relatively unknown area of Warth (pron Waart) over the mountains in Austria’s Voralberg region.

The twins are also linked by lift to Zurs, which sits above St Anton, to which it is linked by ski pass and reachable off-piste from the Valluga peak in Anton (not easy skiing).

The White Ring

The White Ring

Group Shot with Lech Ski Schule Instructor, Martin Schneider

Group Shot with Lech Ski Schule Instructor, Martin Schneider

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The link to Warth – by a new-type Dopplemeyer lift of half gondola and half chairlift – adds about a quarter more pistes for skiers and riders and makes a great day out, and one not quite as extensive or as difficult as the present Lech’s hero run, the famous White Ring from Lech to Zurs and then round the high mountains back to Lech, a circuit to rival Sud Tirol’s Sella Ronda.

Warth has around 20 mainly intermediate runs with a few black thrown in to keep you on your toes, and half a dozen good-value eating lodges on the mountain.

We stayed at The Gotthard hotel, about a 5-8 minute walk from the Ski School and main lift area, the spa facilities and sauna area were excellent and much appreciated after a day’s hard skiing. The food was also very good and we stayed at the hotel on a half board basis. Crystal Ski are the tour operators and you can book via Crystal or book directly with the hotel. http://www.gotthard.at/en/

Charming bedroom suite

Charming bedroom suite

More good news for Arlberg and Swiss fans – you can now get to Western Austrian and Eastern Swiss resorts faster and cheaper via Monarch’s new service from London Gatwick and Manchester to the southernmost German airport of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, which knocks up to half an hour off the Zurich route and slashes the price too and it cuts out the winding route and traffic from Zurich to the Alps.

Monarch’s service costs from £37 each way – and you can get its Premier service with extra leg-room and a cooked breakfast, for only £9.99 more. And because it is an early-morning flight you can get to resort in daylight and maybe even sneak in a warm-up run or two on Day One.

Monarch airlines at Friedrichshafen airport

Monarch airlines at Friedrichshafen airport

Friedrichshafen airport, has the largest and widest runway in Europe, often taking lots of winter diversions, unable to land at Innsbruck airport. It is a great gateway to the alps, with 4 countries close to its proximity it is a much easier, less hassle airport to navigate around on arrival which will ultimately mean swifter transfer routes into resorts. It is located next to Lake Constance, which in the summer is a stunning location to take a few leisurely days before heading off on tour – with good bike routes around the lake and water sport activities on the lake it is a great destination in itself.

Ski and Snowboard Show London, celebrated its 40th year

The Ski and Snowboard Show London took place at Earls Court 2, London and celebrated its 40th year from 30th Oct – 3rd November. Check out the video to see what the event was all about!

Hundreds of people made the annual pilgrimage to London to enjoy beginner and advanced ski and snowboard lessons inside Earls Court on a custom built slope, as well as stocking up on their ski essentials for this winter. Headline Sponsor Monarch Airlines now the ski airline of choice, hosted an Ice Rink and Curling Lanes, and Tubing for visitors to try. With top ski resorts from Aspen to Alpe d’huez set to open this weekend, three weeks early thanks to all the snowfall; it’s already shaping up to be a great looking ski season

With top destinations, tour ops and retailers too, the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard Show London was a great place to plan a ski or snowboard trip and pick up everything for your ski holiday.

Monarch Airlines and Friedrichshafen Airport re-commence Ski routes to the Alps for winter 2013/14

Monarch Airlines will be re-starting its winter ski routes to Friedrichshafen Airport in Southern Germany this winter. Friedrichshafen is fast becoming the ski airport of choice for discerning travellers looking for a reliable and easy transfer to the best ski resorts in the Alps.

Kevin George, Managing Director of Monarch Airlines, commented:

“After successfully launching our new scheduled flights to ski destinations last winter 12/13, we are keen to highlight our products and services to ski and snowboard travellers who are beginning to think about their winter holiday for this year. Working with a key ski destination airport such as Friedrichshafen provides our great ski offering to customers.”

Located in Southern Germany, Friedrichshafen, is a skiing gateway to 4 countries from 1 airport. Friedrichshafen Airport is only a 90 minute transfer by coach, car or train to internationally recognised, quality ski resorts throughout Switzerland, Austria, Leichtenstein and Germany including St Anton, Lech, Zürs, and Flims-Laax.

Monarch Airlines’ new regular ski routes from London Gatwick and Manchester will fly direct into Friedrichshafen Airport, in Southern Germany. From December 2013 through to April 2014, Monarch airlines will operate six weekly direct flights from London Gatwick and Manchester Airport to Friedrichshafen.

With convenient flight times, just an hour and a half flight from London and two hours from Manchester, means that same day fly and ski is possible for those flying into the Airport and transferring on to one of the nearby sky resorts.

More than one million people in the UK take a ski holiday every year. Friedrichshafen Airport hopes to benefit from this traffic thanks to Monarch’s ski routes. The airport prides itself on its 30 year record of landing in any weather without delays and its proximity to more than 50 ski resorts across the Alps. Last year alone, over 50,000 ski visitors used Friedrichshafen as their gateway to the Alps.

FDH airport has a handy UK online platform at http://www.fdh-airport.com/uk for accessible information on the Monarch Airlines’ flight schedules into FDH. Monarch operates flights to all seven ski destinations from Manchester and Gatwick Airport and selected ski destination from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford and London Luton Airport, 160 ski resorts are within easy access of these airports, giving UK holiday makers a stress free route to resorts in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Leichtenstein.

Meribel La Coeur de les trois Vallees….a skiers dream

Invited to ski by an instructor friend for a final weekend before the end of the season, in Meribel in Les trois Vallees, how could I resist… flight booked, transfer booked, bags packed.

Despite a slightly shaky start thanks to fog in London, I eventually rocked up in Meribel 24 hours later after being transferred from City Airport to Heathrow via Frankfurt to Geneva.. oh the joys of travel. I arrive into resort to beautiful blue sunny skies and head straight for the slopes, there is still plenty of snow and the pistes are extremely well kept.

This season has seen some of the best snow in recent years in Europe and the ski industry is booming at a time when perhaps economically it could be seeing more  challenging times. Skiers and snowboarders are however, thankfully choosing to take a winter snow sports holiday in there droves and tour operators such as Tui has taken the decision to extend the season by an extra week.

Méribel is a ski resort in the  Tarentaise Valley in the French Alps, situated near the town of Moutiers. Meribel has three neighbouring villages in the Les Allues commune: Meribel Centre, Meribel-Mottaret and Meribel Village which is in the heart of the 3 Valleys and interlinked to the largest ski area in the world. Situated at 1,400 km above sea level it was originally founded by a Scotsman Colonel Peter Lindsay in 1936 who was looking for a new winter sports area away from Austria and Germany as the Nazi regime began to grow.  Lindsay used specialised architects Paul Grillo and his partner Christian Durupt, as he wanted to maintain the Savoyard style and control the building development of the resort through his property company.

With so much alpine terrain to choose from it’s hard to decide where to go first, but my guide takes the lead and we head for some easy blue and red runs in La Sauliere. The slopes are fantastic and easy for beginners to navigate as well as intermediates. I even ventured down some mogul fields quite well given it was a while since I’d attempted them.

Meribel by J.M Gouedard.

The 3 Valley’s has some of the best terrain in the Alps, from skiing down through the alpine trees into La Tania and across the mountains to Courchevel it’s beautifully breathtaking. As we ski down towards Courchevel we see the Courchevel airport which was featured in the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”, it’s the world’s 7th most dangerous airport due to the short runway only 525 m (1,722 ft) with a gradient of 18.5% and nosedive cliff tops. I can see why it’s dangerous! note to self not to use it, an unlikely possibility as it’s namely Oligarch’s arriving on their Private Lear Jets.

After a morning’s skiing and trying to keep up with L’Instructor and not look too silly (falls x 2, don’t think he noticed) we stopped for lunch. Dining on the slopes is always such a luxury, and “Le Blanchot”  did not fail to impress with its stunning mountain views and gastronomic menu choice. We opted for the more traditional French Savoie dishes of  “Chaud fromage en boite” with potatoes, delicious french bread and salad and a traditional “Savoie rosti”. There is also a skiers ‘ dish of the day’ and a two course ‘skiers menu’ a good way to enjoy “Le Blanchot” without blowing the budget. The service is very good and a great spot for people watching or catching a few rays.

Back in the village and Meribel is thriving, there were lots of people buzzing about, French and Brits out in force together and enjoying their afternoon. There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from in the village, apres ski is big business here. We go for Barometer bar which is slightly more relaxed and just off the piste, the atmosphere is fun and everybody seems to be in a good mood.

For dinner we opted for “La Fromagerie”, a cheese shop by day and basement restaurant by night. It was absolutely charming in that very Gallic way, the half wheel of raclette was everything I had been dreaming of with lots of yummy cheese drizzled over gherkins and potatoes.. just goregous. My Seasonnaire was at pains to tell me that whatever I wore to dinner I would need to wash immediately afterwards from the overpowering smell of cheese. It was bad but not as bad as a ‘ Munster Cheese’ smell we had to endure on one car trip back from France, courtesy of my Father.

After a brief but amazing weekend in Meribel I can see why everybody has the ski bug it is just so much fun. I’m certainly planning my next trip out there for 2013/14 season.

Flight from : London City Airport – Geneva 1hr45 with Swiss Air/ British Airways/ Lufthansa

Transfer from: Geneva to Meribel – 3hr (threevalleetransfers – http://www.3vt.co.uk/)

British Ski & Snowboard School – http://www.skinewgen.com/resorts/meribel/

Divine Decadence At The Legendary Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St.Moritz, Switzerland

A magical weekend at the “Grande Dame” of  St. Moritz, Badrutt’s Palace hotel. Set in the heart of the Engadin region, 1,856m above sea level, It is one of the prettiest Swiss villages. A  jewel of a winter sports resort with over 350km of ski slopes. Home to the famous “Cresta run”, it plays host every year to the “World Cup Polo on snow ” and  “White Turf weekend” horse racing on ice.

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Having always had St.Moritz on my bucket list after a ski season spent in Saas Fee many years ago! The more glamourous ski resorts of Gstaad and St. Moritz have somehow managed to elude me. These are the ski resorts that are destinations and playgrounds for the rich and famous and legendary in their own right. A seasonnaire at heart – for me it is all about the skiing and the snow, although I’m not averse to a little pampering once in a while and staying at the five star Badrutt’s Palace certainly is a taste of a different world.

This legendary  “Grande Dame” is in a class of its own, leading the field in luxury hotels it has played host to European Royal Families since opening its doors in 1896, followed by Hollywood Royalty and today it still plays host to the great and the good of the glitterati. The staff are impeccably mannered and extremely welcoming with generations of  the same families working here, they are clearly very passionate about Badrutt’s Palace hotel and it shows.

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I was of course beyond excited to be leaving a rather dull and overcast City airport for Zurich early Friday morning, transported at the other end by an efficient Swiss train service, which naturally ran like clock work. Within 20 minutes of landing we were on our way to Zurich railway and connecting trains to Chur and on through the UNESCO World Heritage site of beautiful snowy landscape and an awe inspiring winter wonderland before arriving in St.Moritz. We were met at the station by a fleet of Badrutt’s Palace porters with impressive Rolls Royce cars, which whisked us up to the hotel in style.. filmstar moi! Oh alright then…

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For our very first evening we were invited by the Head Chef of the hotel’s  “Le Restaurant” kitchens to dine at the Chef’s table, a first for me and an absolute delight. Each course was matched to a wine and we were treated to an extensive menu of:

– Cooked Egg whites with Imperial caviar and truffles

– Steamed Scallops and foie gras wrapped in Savoy cabbage with brioche bread

– Pumpkin Cream Soup and Caraway purple potato flower and leek

– Two styles of Venison filet seared with a truffle sauce and braised Veal cheeks in red wine sauce with black truffle shavings

For dessert we had a special surprise in the Patisserie Kitchen with Head Patisserie Chef Stefan Gerber and his team whom created a spectacular fireworks and music display to present every dessert imaginable.

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It certainly gave us a good sugar rush to head to the famous “King’s nightclub” dance floor and attempt some cool moves at the ‘ClubHaus’ 80’s evening.  “King’s Club” is situated within the basement of the hotel which proved handy in L.K. Bennett killer heels! This was no ordinary dance floor as the hotel PR informed me its claim to fame is being the richest dance floor in Europe with at least every other guest apparently a billionaire… how could I go wrong?

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Next morning we were up early to enjoy breakfast in “Le Restaurant” including a harpist to play some music to us while we ate. Definitely a new one on me, but relaxing all the same as we looked out across the lake before the morning’s ski activities with our Swiss ski instructor’s, John and Aurelia.

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A little apprehension had sunk in as we climbed the mountian after a few too many bad moves at “King’s” but once on the slopes, we all started to find our ski legs again, before heading up to the highest pinnacle on the mountain range and indulging in some delicious cheese fondue and fantastic Swiss white wine. Yes Swiss wine! surprisingly delicious and perfect for the cheese fondue.. who knew?

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Après-ski in St.Moritz is of course a very stylish affair, so post a few red runs and wobbly mogul attempts after lunch, we took ourselves off  for a Gluhwein and hot vodka or two,  (can you see our common theme here?) hoping to mingle with some of the young, the rich and the beautiful people…

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Post  après ski we donned our most glamourous outfits to visit the underground cellars of Badrutt’s Palace, where they hold guests cases of vintage wine and cases and cases of the finest Champagne in preparation for the winter season. Guests can also reserve a table in the romantic wine cellar on request for dinner during the winter and summer.  After a Kir Royale we headed back upstairs to dine in the classical setting of “Le Restaurant” set with beautiful chandeliers and stunning views across the lake. We indulged ourselves once more with foie gras, lobster and Crepes Suzette on this very classic French haute cuisine menu, I could feel my waistline expanding with every delicious mouthful.

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Badrutt’s Palace hotel is open in the winter season from the beginning of December to the end of March and reopens for the summer season from the end of June. There are 157 rooms and 37 luxury suites, guests can arrive into St.Moritz by car, train or even private jet if they wish to.

A full programme of season highlights in St.Moritz and at Badrutt’s Palace can be found on the website: http://www.badruttspalace.com/en/stay/rooms  it’s a great destination to savour, experience and enjoy a most luxuriously opulent lifestyle, at least for a lovely weekend!

We travelled from London City airport with Swiss airlines 1hr 50 and the Swiss rail service from Zurich airport to St Moritz – 3hr 30 transfer time into resort.

The Chedi Andermatt: In the heart of the Swiss Alps, Opening Soon

Set in the heart of Switzerland in the Swiss Alps, just 1.5 hours by train from Zurich or two hours from Milan, is Europe’s first Chedi Hotel and Residences development, now nearing completion and set to open to the public by this Winter Season 2013. The resort is already covered in snow and looking spectacular. I’m ready to pack my case and head off to the mountains for a quick annual ski fix.

Designed by world renowned architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston and managed by leading hotel management company GHM, this will be a hotel and residences development that breaks all boundaries and caters for those seeking very high standards of service, location and luxury.

Chedi hotel and Residences Andermatt

Chedi hotel and Residences Andermatt

The Chedi Andermatt promises an elegant mountain haven complemented by all conceivable amenities. Forward thinking investors who are keen to be part of the next generation of luxury hotels have the chance to own a part of this very special property, the first Chedi in Europe.

Buyers from around the world can expect a fully serviced hotel residence that can not only be enjoyed for its myriad lifestyle-enhancing elements, but also for its strong delivery of year round rental yields.

Chedi luxury Andermatt

Chedi luxury Andermatt

Located in a beautiful valley in the mountains, it will allow visitors the freedom of choice across the year from summer climbing, mountain river swimming (if you’re brave enough) a brand new 18 hole golf course to a challenging ski area, which Olympic Ski Champion  and Andermatt local Bernhard Russi, skied every winter as a child. It’s the perfect location for families as a destination for all four seasons, with breathtaking panoramic mountain views.
The amazing Swiss cuisine also sees the valley to table experience come to life in Andermatt and is an indulgent foodie experience. With such an emphasis on locally grown produce, it is no wonder that the food served in Andermatt’s countless restaurants tastes so fresh and authentically Swiss. The region produces some of the best cheese, meat and wine in Switzerland, from the alpine valleys to our tables. In addition to the village’s traditional restaurants there are now some interesting international restaurants to savor and taste when in resort.

If you haven’t already booked your ski trip for this Winter 2013 Season, this could be the perfect excuse to explore a new luxurious destination, visit: http://www.makingofandermatt.ch/