Just Seven Months to Christmas!!

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With just seven months to go until Christmas Day you may think me quite mad to bring up the festive season! However if there is an opportunity for you to consider a White Christmas in the Alps then now is a great time to get planning.

Have you ever even considered having Christmas away from home? Here are my top tips:

  • The benefits mean you can ski all day, enjoy yourself and relax whilst someone else cooks your Christmas Dinner and does the washing up!

  • Talk to the family about it sooner rather than later so everyone can get their plans in place (whether you are suggesting they join your or not!)

  • As far as school holidays go‚ Christmas is one of the more reasonably priced weeks to spend in the mountains and you can generally take a week with a maximum of three days out of the office.

  • The days are short in December so plan a mix of skiing and relaxing. Choose your accommodation wisely to allow you to do this. Who knows you could even come home a little refreshed!

  • Last Christmas the snow conditions were awesome and guests lucked out but the three prior to that were not great. If you go with low expectations they can only be exceeded. Even (or should I say especially) when the conditions haven't been great the resorts will do everything in their power to ensure guests get to ski and enjoy their holidays. And have you seen that some resorts are now snow farming to ensure decent conditions at the beginning of next season!

  • Each resort has it's own agenda but all will have a selection of traditional and more modern festivities to make your stay special.

  • Think of the money you will save on the excessive food/drink/presents you buy at home for just one day.

  • This one comes with a huge fingers crossed but imagine waking up on Christmas morning to that elusive Winter Wonderland.

  • December flights are now available across all airlines so benefit from the best prices and availability by booking your journey now.

  • If you are hoping to declutter your house/life then a Christmas ski holiday is a great way to turn presents into experiences and reduce the 'stuff' pile.

  • Avoid the overstuffed Christmas feeling by getting out on the hill and exercising each day.

For me Christmas in the mountains with my loved ones is one of the best presents I could get – how about you?

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Living the Pre-School Dream in the Mountains

Life can pass in a blur sometimes and that is never more true than when you have little children. Before you know it they will be all grown up and heading off to school‚ becoming more independent by the minute. If I had my time again I would have taken advantage of the baby/toddler freedoms and more specifically skied out of peak season more than we did!

Once you get into the school system it is going to be nearly 15 years before you regain your freedom to holiday as and when you choose‚ so as much as life is frantic right now don't miss this opportunity!

We embarked our our first family ski trip when the kids were 4 and 2. We were super lucky with the weather and snow conditions and the week was a great success. Three years on and that first trip is still a regular topic of conversation around the dinner table!

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Whether your children are still babes in arms or 3+ and ready to try out ski school here are my top ten tips on how best to enjoy a ski trip with your little ones. That said – if skiing is not for you there are no laws to stop you just hanging out in the mountains and not even putting skis on. Whatever your preference‚ the majestic scenery and fresh mountain air is sure to make for a great break from the home routine.

  1. Take Granny – a brilliant opportunity to spend quality time with the wider family and most likely you will get plenty of help with the childcare.

  2. Choose a resort with a short transfer time – regional airports and short transfer times can reduce the risk of a long‚ stressful travel day and the need for another holiday as soon as you get home again.

  3. Consider a specialist family operator – the specialists include in-house child care‚ facilities and baby equipment. I offer impartial advice to ensure you book the right holiday for your family.

  4. Self Catering Apartments - for more of a home from home you can opt for a self catering apartment. Don't fret – it is still possible to make arrangements for meals to be provided but leaves you the space and freedom to run by your own routine.

  5. Go Luxe – if your children are really little there are many properties that charge a nominal fee to bring them along – make the most of it now and enjoy a more luxury stay as they will cost you a fortune in no time! Many offer childcare on site and beautiful spa's for some well deserved 'me' time.

  6. Use an in-resort nanny service – you deserve a break so use the services of a professional so you can get some time on the slopes.

  7. Child Friendly Weeks – resorts are becoming more child friendly year on year. Some have selected children's weeks where they offer extra events to entertain the little ones‚ freebies or even accommodation discounts.

  8. Ski school - once your child is out of nappies (general rule – varies per company) they can join in ski school. Seeing the tiny's whizzing past at high speed is definitely a proud parent moment to behold!

  9. Child Friendly Après Ski - choose a resort with plenty of off-slope activities (for parents and children alike). Make memories with snowman building‚ sledging and horse drawn carriage rides. Many resorts have a decent local children's pool or hangout in your chalet playing games. If you have childcare you may want to après in a bar‚ indulge in a spa or relax by a roaring fire with a good book.

  10. What to take - you don't need to pack the kitchen sink! These days it is usual to be offered basic baby/child equipment by your accommodation and in many instances it is possible to get everything you need in resort.

The weather is so unpredictable from one season to the next these days but if you plan to travel towards the end of the ski season in Spring you should find warmer and longer days which will be preferable for both adults and children. Depending on the age of your child it is likely that they'll want to spend all day outdoor soaking up the mountain vibes. Ensure you have plenty of suitable clothing (and sun cream) to wrap them up warm and you'll be ready for a fabulous family holiday.

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When travelling with children you want to know the set up will work and that both the destination and getting there will be suitable (and easy!). My services cover all that and there is no charge for my experience so please use it! Whether this is food for thought for next season or you can head to the mountains this April to make the most of the momentous conditions we've had this year, everything is possible!


 

An Alpine Summer?

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Offer me a Mediterranean beach for a fortnight and I will be first in the queue. However – there are so many other options to consider when planning a summer holiday and the mountains should be up there on your list. The Alps have long been the go-to destination throughout the winter months but the summer appeal has never really infiltrated the British market. Whether you are planning the family summer holiday, a short break for friends or a corporate retreat there is plenty to satisfy every need. Here are my top ten reasons for choosing an Alpine summer:

  1. The scenery is beautiful. I've been lucky enough to spend plenty of time in the mountains in both summer and winter and I will never get bored of the majestic views. Words cannot describe them. You still get snow capped peaks in the summer months, along with flower filled meadows, babbling streams, waterfalls and turquoise lakes. Twinned with the super fresh air you know you are onto a winner. 

  2. Activities aplenty. If you are an active type you will be in your element. Biking, hiking, rafting, horse riding, swimming (in mountain lakes and outdoor pools), golf, even summer skiing to name just a few. There are amazing spas, cookery schools, cheese farms and vineyards to visit. 

  3. The weather. Alpine summers can be super warm but the altitude tends to mean it is not oppressive. It can also rain and be pretty miserable at times but there is so much to do that this doesn't mean a ruined holiday.

  4. Amazing accommodation. Whilst most resorts operate at a quieter level than during the winter months there are benefits. A good selection of hotels and chalets can still be found and often the rates are considerably lower than you would expect to pay in the winter so you can indulge in luxury for less. Alternatively camping is great way to get back to nature.

  5. Travel plans. As the Alps are less in demand during the summer months it means flights can be very reasonable and most airports are still nicely accessible.

  6. Where to go. Many of the big winter resorts are amazingly well set up for summers too. You can enjoy some 'apres-velo' in the bars and it can feel similar but quieter than the winter vibe. There are also many mountain villages that might not be winter resorts but can offer a beautiful summer base. Think local markets, hot air ballooning and cafes in the church square. Your options are endless.

  7. Children. To risk repeating myself, there is so much to do with kids of all ages. Some resorts even offer a ski school equivalent allowing you some time out whilst the kids are entertained with activities, nature, or language courses if you want! I personally think it is much easier to entertain small children in the mountains than on a hot beach all day long.

  8. The luge. Really fun – loads of resorts have one. You'll want to have a go!

  9. Who knew what was under the restaurant terraces? We all have our favourite mountain restaurants on a ski holiday and when the sun is shining there is no better place to be than on the terrace watching the world go by. But did you know that some of these terraces are removed in the summer to reveal a mountain top swimming pool! Take a dip at altitude surrounded by views of glaciers. Amazing! 

  10. Food. If you can't wait 12 months for your next fondue, tartiflette or Tiroler Grostl then it is all available in the summer too! Along with delicious meats, cheese, ice creams and wine! Say no more!

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The location of the Alps means that you are well placed to mix up your holiday and combine some mountain air with a city break, multi-country road trip or even head down to the beach - but beware - like me - you may not want to leave!

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It is never too early to think about next season!

If you have just returned from your annual visit to the mountains you may think me slightly over eager to suggest putting some thought into next year's trip already. It is a whole 12 months away after all! However‚ we somehow find ourselves at the end of February and I'm not sure about you‚ but it feels like deepest‚ darkest January was just a blink ago! The year will no doubt fly by.

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So what are the benefits of booking this far out:

  • Get the perfect accommodation for your requirements – at this stage there is still plenty of choice in the properties available․ Whether you are looking for a hotel or chalet the peak weeks will likely still have some availability so particularly if you know exactly what you want‚ why wait? If your dates are set in stone there is no harm in looking․

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  • Early booking discounts – some operators and accommodations will hold their current season prices until the end of this season‚ or offer an early booking discount to anyone ready to pay a deposit to confirm their holiday at this time․

  • Spread the cost – if you pay a deposit now you have time to budget for the rest of the trip․ Generally the final balance will be due 8-10 weeks prior to departure so that gives you a good 9 months to save up!

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  • Early flight bookings – scheduled airlines release their seats around 11 months in advance (varies per airline) so if you have your accommodation sorted you can be ready to get the best flight prices on their release․ Or book the flights and then have the pick of accommodation for your dates. Low-cost airlines tend to release some seats in the summer so if you have your accommodation secured you are ready to click and confirm at the best rate․

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  • Have something to look forward to! As far as I am concerned there is nothing like having a holiday in the diary to keep the spirits high!

So what are you waiting for? Now you just need to decide where you are going to go․ If your holiday this year was amazing do you re-book and return in the hope that you replicate all that was? Or are you of the mind that there are so many places in the world to visit that you will try somewhere new? If your holiday didn't live up to the expectation then you have time to find somewhere more suitable․ Whatever your situation‚ why not use my accommodation finder service․ There is no charge and I will suggest a number of options to suit your requirements․ Here is what some of this year's clients have had to say:

'We are having a fab time‚ the slopes are empty. We'd recommend this resort․ Thanks for sorting a fab holiday' – Feb 2018

'It was an excellent holiday thanks․ I'd certainly recommend the accommodation․ Thanks for all your help' – Jan 2018

'We had a brilliant holiday․ The accommodation and service was excellent․ Thanks again for getting us started for this trip – very grateful for that․' Jan 2018

We all have different tactics when booking our holidays‚ so if you do prefer to leave it to the last minute to book (there are a whole different set of advantages!) then there is plenty of time left for this season and the conditions are the best we've seen in 40 years!

Not Long Now!

Where is 2016 going? Can it be November already? I hope you've enjoyed a happy, healthy and prosperous year to date. I've certainly had a busy one and as ever some of the best is yet to come.

Photo Credit: Meribel Tourisme

Photo Credit: Meribel Tourisme

The Alps have already received some significant snowfalls and there's plenty more forecast in the days and weeks ahead. We must all keep our fingers crossed for that elusive white Christmas and an abundant start to the 2016/17 ski season after the disappointment of the last two years. If temperatures stay low and conditions remain for the next fortnight we can expect the best start to a season for over 30 years!

If that is not enough to tempt you out to the mountains then perhaps some of the new in-resort developments will do it. There is way too much to list it all but here are a couple of highlights:

  • Many a new lift will crank into action for the season, to include the Flexenbahn a connection from St Anton to Lech and Zurs making the Arlberg ski area the largest in Austria.

  • New and updated hotels will open their doors across the Alps. Check out Fahrenheit Seven in Val Thorens and the newly refurbished Les Peupliers in Courchevel Le Praz which has been upgrade to a four star.

  • Apres ski activities are set to push boundaries with Ischgl's new Skyfly offering a 2km zipwire ride down to the resort centre at 84km per hour.

  • Families will appreciate Meribel's improvements which include easier, safer beginner slopes, indoor picnic areas, outdoor relaxation areas, mountain animal themed pistes, a Yeti park and extra family entertainment in the school holidays.

  • Travel routes have been tweaked to include some new flights from the UK whilst others have been removed from last season's schedule.

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Whilst the exchange rate is not so pleasing for the Brits this year there are plenty of great offers for hotels and chalets that will compensate for the Pound. Currently the very best offers can be found for December to include the festive period so why not consider a ski fix this side of the New Year. Whether you are looking for five star luxury or a more affordable home from home the perfect holiday is out there!

Photo Credit: Alpine Culture

Photo Credit: Alpine Culture

I'm here, ready and waiting to help. I'll trawl through the finer detail of the information above and supply you with some suitable accommodation suggestions. We can then create your holiday to include all essential elements for your ideal trip. I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo Credit: Val Thorens

Photo Credit: Val Thorens

Ski Planning - looking ahead or last minute?

The snow has now arrived in abundance in the Alps and the season is offering some superb conditions to all who visit. Word is that the sun is also back so there are some rather lovely Spring Skiing conditions to enjoy - in January - whatever next! Knowing when the white stuff will arrive seems to have kept everyone on their toes a little more over the last couple of years. Perhaps it is the winter equivalent of remembering every summer holiday as wall to wall sunshine - the reality of the here and now is sometimes a little different! But has this affected when you plan your ski trips?

I am a definite forward planner. Dates in the diary and full steam ahead as early as possible keeps me happy! With this in mind I am already working on a ski trip for my 2017 season. If you are like minded you may be interested to know that a number of chalet companies have already released their 2016-2017 availability and are taking bookings. Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on a Sunday in 2016 so there are various options as to how to avoid travelling when you should be celebrating. Some companies are offering a nine night stay whilst others have shifted their weeks to arrive mid-week for the festivities. Come January they return to a standard weekend to weekend and if your dates are set already you should be able to snap up a good deal. Whilst the early snow cannot be guaranteed, there are advantages to booking early and some great prices to reflect the 'will there won't there' snow record.

Many other people sit in the last minute camp - and this has its own benefits. Should you be able to drop everything and go by the end of this week then there are some great deals to be had. Even now there are some superb properties available for half term week, which have been well discounted. The problem here is that the flights prices tend to rocket, thus cancelling out the accommodation deal, but if you have the flexibility to drive then you can be quids in and living the life of luxury for a week for a fraction of the advertised price!

Food for thought in both camps. Should you be interested in a little assistance with your ski planning - whenever you may fancy travelling then do please get in touch - I'd be happy to help.

 

White Thursday is the new Black Friday

So half term is over, the excitement of Halloween has passed and the bonfires have stopped burning - surely now we can concentrate on the upcoming winter season?

© Copyright TVB St. Anton am Arlberg  - Josef Mallaun

© Copyright TVB St. Anton am Arlberg - Josef Mallaun

What better way to do this than by introducing 'White Thursday' - the Black Friday of ski holidays (named specifically for today but perhaps more accurately known as White November as it will last until all beds are gone).

If you haven't yet thought much about your ski plans and are a fan of great value then you may be interested to know that there are some UNBELIEVABLE deals around for early season and Christmas week skiing already. Even New Year week has some offers available. Think up to 50% off luxury chalets, complimentary nights and ski passes in top hotels, flights and transfers thrown into certain packages.....what are you waiting for? White Thursday is one not to be missed. There is still availability in resorts across the Alps, including St Anton, Verbier, Morzine, Val d'Isere, Courchevel, Zermatt, Andermatt and Chamonix to name but a few. Forget all night queueing, fist fighting over the best offers and websites crashing - simply let me know where takes your fancy and I will sift through the hotels, chalets and resorts to select some great options for your requirements. You can just sit back, relax and think of the snow.

A white Christmas in the mountains is such a treat. Once you have totted up the cost of festivities at home it is probably a similar price to a luxury week in your own home from home in the Alps - even without the discounts!.....please do get in touch if you and your family, friends or chosen Christmas companions are up for a week to remember.

© Copyright TVB St. Anton am Arlberg

© Copyright TVB St. Anton am Arlberg

The forecast suggests a little snow next week and then a change in what has been a mild autumn so fingers (and toes) crossed that the big snow is not far away - I can almost smell it! You could be on the slopes within the month - how exciting! My flights are booked and I can't wait!

Living the Dream but Missing the Mountains?

I have a number of friends living the Expat dream and I have to admit it sounds pretty good. Don't get me wrong - I am sure the day to day can be just as 'groundhog' as here in Blighty (even with a live in maid!) but the overall level of glamour seems to exceed what goes on in these parts.


But how does it work as a skier? Well - don't fear - for those of you living in warmer climes (or just far, far away) who tend to be used to regular long-distance travel, a trip to the Alps doesn't have to be as complicated as you might imagine. Here are my top tips:

  • Make the most of your resources - Ski Dubai (for those of you living there) is a great place to warm up your ski legs or to send the kids off for some beginner lessons allowing you all to really make the most of the real snow when you get there.
  • Flights - pick a resort that is in close proximity to an airport that works for you. Geneva, Zurich, Munich and Lyon (amongst others) are international enough to offer direct flights from many a far flung corner of the world - offering a huge selection of resorts to consider.
  • School holidays - often the expat school holidays will be slightly different to the UK and Europe - make the most of this as you should have the pick of accommodation and much better prices - perhaps to such an extent that the airfare difference is covered.
  • Arrival day - if your weekend differs from our traditional Saturday-Sunday, don't be afraid to ask for what works best for you. I can't promise that everywhere will offer your exact requirements but, out of peak season, a Thursday or Friday arrival day should be able to be accommodated.
  • Short breaks - again, if you are used to the long flight and are short of time, it is still possible to enjoy a shorter three or four nights in the mountains to fit with your lifestyle. Direct flight, short transfer and BOOM you will be on the slopes before you know it!
  • A holiday for one and all - sometimes living abroad means most of your holidays are taken up with trips home to catch up with family. Why not suggest meeting in the mountains next time? Make that Christmas visit a really special occasion by taking a chalet - your own home from home for the week. A chalet can accommodate a varied group size (generally 2-32 people) and allows you to all feel equally at home rather than squeezing into your loved ones’ spare room. There are still some great Christmas chalet options available for this year if you have yet to finalise your plans.
Chalet Pierre de Compia, Val d'Isère

Chalet Pierre de Compia, Val d'Isère

There are of course places to ski aside from the European Alps; Lebanon and Iran are just a hop if you are based in the Middle East, Japan is known for awesome powder fields, the US and Canada speak for themselves and there are plenty of options in the Southern Hemisphere too. But if your ski trip is incomplete without some of those traditional Alpine charms, vin chaud, lederhosen, fondue, tobogganing and après ski to name a few then please do get in touch at katie@tmac-ski.co.uk for help, advice and booking the perfect accommodation. The Mountains are Calling....oh yes they are!

Living in the sun has countless benefits - but the snowy Alps are hard to forget - and there is no need!


TMAC Ski Season Opening Suggestions

We are all looking forward to the start of the ski season - but how best to celebrate it?  If you have the time to consider an early season trip then here is a small round up of what some resorts have on offer to mark the start of their winter:

In Austria a concert seems to be a standard part of many resort openings. This year Ischgl are welcoming The Beach Boys on 28 November and St Anton have Kim Wilde and top German band Sportfreunde Stiller the following weekend (5 December). Tickets are already on sale for both. Kitzbuhel takes a more traditional view of the season and have a Christmas market in resort from 26 November until Christmas Eve. Think nativity scenes, stalls selling crafts, gifts and delicious food and drink - I can already smell the gluwein from here!

If Switzerland is your destination of choice there is another Christmas Market to enjoy in Andermatt on 28 November. the perfect opportunity to mix Swiss tradition with a stay at the luxurious Chedi perhaps? In Zermatt the season has already started with 40-60cm of fresh snow on the top slopes. Currently there are art exhibitions to enjoy in resort and come mid December (11-13 to be precise) those who like to ensure they are the best dressed on the slopes might enjoy the inaugural Zermatt Fashion Weekend. And from best dressed to fancy dress in Verbier where on 6 December they have a 'dress up as St Nicholas' and ski for free day, as well as DJs, concerts and paragliding demonstrations.

Over in France there is the opportunity to see the world's top skiers compete. In Courchevel the FIS Ski World Cup - Ladies Alpine takes place over 19-20 December. In Val Thorens (21 November) and Val d'Isere (29 November) you can pretend you are part of that elite group by trialling new equipment for free! Or if you fancy taking up a new discipline head to Val Thorens for the latter weekend when you can join the Snowscoot tour - a combination of snowsports and BMX! Free testing and demos are available for those brave enough to give it a go. To add yet another sport into the mix you can enjoy watching pro ice hockey in Morzine on 5 December.

So a whole host of options are offered across the Alps, and the above is just a glimpse - all resorts will mark the new season's arrival in their own way. More snow has fallen and more is forecast so perhaps this is the year to consider a pre-season ski. An alternative work Christmas party, a pre-Christmas treat, an early present for a loved one - or just because you can. Please do get in touch if The Mountains are Calling so I can help get you there.