Are Transfers Electric?

(from the Cool Bus Magazine 2016/17 Winter Edition)

Regular readers of the Cool Bus magazine may remember an article we ran in our last issue  entitled “Eco-Skiing” in which we highlighted some of the ways that we, and fellow ski industry brands are trying to do our bit minimise our impact on the environment. The final paragraph read as follows:

“Ultimately we are looking towards a day where we can viably use hybrid vehicles that run partly on electricity generated from our own solar panels. It may not be as far off as you think!”

Well just how soon that came around surprised even us!

A somewhat inebriated conversation with a Tesla employee during the early hours of a friends wedding in Barcelona last May planted a thought that resurfaced during the 8 hour drive back to Bourg St. Maurice the following day. A few hours of internet research in the office confirmed that the future of airport transfers might be just around the corner in the shape of Tesla’s brand new Model X due to be available at the end of 2016. This new vehicle was set to be the most advanced SUV on the market and with 6 passenger seats and a range of 300 miles it was certainly ticking all our boxes!

From a purely business point of view it made no sense at all. For the cost of one Model X seating 6 passengers Cool Bus could comfortably buy 3 Volkswagen Caravelles which would seat 24 people. The numbers simply didn’t add up but should it really all be about the maths?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 10 years you will be aware that the temperature of our planet is increasing at an unnatural rate. The disastrous effects of this are already starting to show in many ways including an increase in freak weather events such as floods, hurricanes and droughts, rising sea levels and an acceleration in the species extinction rate across the globe. Ultimately if it continues unchecked we could be heading towards a day when our planet is no longer habitable for anyone.

It is now widely accepted that the main reason for this warming is the “greenhouse effect”, caused primarily by increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of human activity. The number one reason for these elevated levels of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels and transport alone accounts for roughly one third of consumption. The bottom line is, if we want our planet to stay healthy one of the many steps we must take is to stop using cars powered by petrol, diesel and gas.

Tesla is a company that have taken this onboard and come up with a strategy to change our views on electric cars. Back in 2008 they came out with the Roadster, a sports car that radically redefined what was possible from a battery powered vehicle. In 2012 they produced the Model S, a luxury saloon which has sold over 100,000 units and is still available to buy. Both models were produced at a loss to the company due to the huge amounts invested in their research and development but the aim here was not purely to make huge profits but to change peoples perceptions of electric vehicles and give the car industry a much needed shove in the right direction.

IMG_2024Using the same philosophy we decided to take the plunge and order a Model X ourselves. Make no mistake, these cars are incredibly expensive but as soon as we test drove one it was clear to see why! It is quite simply the best car we have ever driven. The power and road handling is akin to that of a thoroughbred sports car.

Until you have travelled in a Tesla it is impossible to understand just how smooth the ride is. Regular cars genuinely feel old fashioned and clunky afterwards. Its like you are floating along silently above the road.

The Model X 90D is capable of hitting 60mph off the lights in just 4.8 seconds. The four wheel drive is electronically controlled to maximise traction. All you need to do is put your foot flat to the floor and the car takes care of everything else. Being reliant on a huge bank of batteries means these vehicles are certainly heavy but with all that weight situated just inches from the ground in the floor plan, the road handling is like nothing you have ever experienced. It is literally stuck to the tarmac.

IMG_2020Tesla have piled huge sums of money into the development of every single area of the Model X. With a battery range of over 300 miles, Tesla are lightyears ahead of the competition but it is so much more than this. The Model X is the safest SUV on the market. It has 20% lower drag than its nearest competitor. It features the largest panoramic windscreen in production. All Tesla’s feature the most advanced driver aids available in any car including collision avoidance, emergency braking and autopilot, all linked to a radar continuously scanning the road ahead. Even the air you breathe while driving is better quality than that outside thanks to its HEPA filters!

And then there’s the falcon wing doors! OK these might be a bit gimmicky but they do offer unbridled access to the two rear row’s of seats even from the tightest of parking spaces and they certainly turn some heads!

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ZEAT

The ski industry is at odds with itself. One of the main reasons we love it is the pure joy of being in the high mountains, surrounded by imposing snowy peaks but many of the things we do to get on our holidays are implicit in causing the very issues that threaten it.

With this in mind we present to you our new VIP airport transfer brand, ZEAT (Zero Emission Airport Transfers). With the Model X retailing at well over 100k euros it is currently too expensive for us to realistically consider as a viable option for replacing the Caravelles in our Cool Bus fleet. As a VIP brand we can charge that little bit more for the luxury it brings with it and hopefully recoup some of the huge outlay for its purchase.

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ZEAT bookings can be made via our dedicated website – www.zeat.vip. While the brand may be different the entire service will be run by the same team behind Cool Bus so you can rest assured that we have all the knowledge and experience at our fingertips to ensure you the very best VIP service. We will be offering transfers to all resorts in the Tarentaise from Geneva and Chambery. Our dedicated, smartly dressed driving team have many years of Cool Bus experience behind them as well as a wealth of knowledge about the local area.

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Ideally we would love to see our Model X on the road every single day of the season to maximise its potential and reduce the carbon emissions of Cool Bus. As such we will be offering the ZEAT treatment to selected Cool Bus customers as an upgrade to their existing transfer for the low price of just 100 euros. In addition to this we will of course fill any of its empty journeys with our Cool Bus clients so if you are travelling with us in 2017 you might just get lucky and get the full VIP treatment for free!

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The more people that get a chance to travel in it, the more people we can switch on to the potential of electric cars which might just help us as we all strive to eliminate the need for fossil fuels in the future.

 

The power for charging our new Model X will come from 3 sources. Firstly, the 21 solar panels installed on the roof of our depot in Bourg St. Maurice. Where this is not sufficient to supply all the charge necessary the remainder will come from our local grid which is sourced entirely through hydroelectric plants. In addition to this we will also use Tesla’s Supercharging station close to Geneva airport which is also fuelled entirely from renewable energy sources. You can therefore rest assured that all the kilometres covered by our Tesla will be done with precisely zero carbon emissions!

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Watch out for a Tesla Model X creeping stealthily around a ski resort near you this season…

Eco-Skiing, A Snow Lovers Dilemma.

By Jemma Harrison

Skiers and snowboarders: by our very nature, we love nature. But is our winter past-time killing off the environment we love? (The answer, irritatingly, is yes.)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the earth’s temperature is rapidly increasing and has gone up by 0.8 degrees celsius in the last century. In even worse news, the Alps are taking a bigger hit than most areas. If we look at the French city of Annecy for instance, a century ago the average temperature there was 9.6 degrees and now it’s 10.8 with local meteorologists saying the winters are much milder with far less snowfall.

Human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, industrialisation and pollution are considered to be the main factors for global warming. Unfortunately, knocking down a load of trees, replacing them with lifts, building a heap of underground car parks and lux chalets and then herding in thousands of people to fill them every weekend is EXACTLY what you shouldn’t do.

It’s quite a tricky predicament for skiers with half a conscience. The only real way to be kind to the environment and still get your snow fix would be to pitch up in a tent made of hemp and make like Sir Ranulph Fiennes up to the top ridge. Only once you’d walked all the way from Heathrow, mind.

IMG_0373It sounds like a nice adventure to me, but tourism would plummet and I can’t see it catching on. However you’re in luck, because the ski and snowboard industry is filled with entrepreneurial, earth-loving folk who are taking on all of the hard work. So if you are green and keen, you can still hit the snow with your morals intact.

The first and biggest problem to grapple with is the “getting there”. Around 73% of the emissions we can attach to any ski break is as a result of transport. This mass-migration of snow loving holiday makers every weekend puts a tremendous strain on the Alpine environment. You may notice travelling through the valleys that speed limits are often reduced on a Saturday and Sunday to try and combat all the smog and pollution.

Handily someone over at the Ski Club of Great Britain has actually worked out how much CO2 you use for all the different types of transport from the UK. It’s a bit of a laborious read, so I’ll come straight to the point. Hopping on the train from London to Bourg St Maurice is best, but only if the train is full. A close second is to take the bus (no thanks) but after that it’s a short-haul charter airline, like Tui, but one that is full to capacity. Getting up the mountain to resort should be done in groups in an eco-friendly vehicle. Do either of these and you’ll be using less than 200kg of CO2 for the return journey apparently. The worst thing to do, according to them, would be to drive over to the Alps in a big 4×4 on your own, with a boot full of bricks or anvils or something.

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It’s pretty obvious stuff, but airline carriers and transport companies in the Alps are so worried about the effects of this they’re doing all they can to help. Being fuel efficient, also means being cost efficient, after all, so it’s in their favour. Airline Jet2, for example, have recently ripped out all their heavy seats, shaving off an average of 500 kilos per flight and transfer companies in the Tarentaise Valley have formed close working relationships in order to try and cut down on the number of empty journeys their vehicles make each winter.

Once up the mountain, the companies who run the resorts are getting a handle on things, especially in our little pocket of the Alps. Paradiski (the combination of Les Arcs and La Plagne) became one of the world’s first ski areas to use 100% renewable energy for not only it’s 141 lifts, but also in all it’s restaurants, shops and hotels. A new bio fuel heating facility for the buildings in La Plagne Centre has reduced CO2 emissions by 4000 tons. This serious commitment to green skiing has meant it is now a member of the “QSE league” (Quality, Security and Environment League), which is a pretty big deal.

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But what can you do once up in resort? Aside from making sound decisions like turning off lights, and putting on an extra jumper – you’d be surprised. Buying eco-wax for your skis and boards, buying from local clothing companies, supporting the bio-lodges rather than the mass purpose built hotels… all these things add up. We’ve done a tidy little round-up of a few of our favourite local companies who are all striving to make you look and feel cool as well as being an eco champion.

 

 

OUR ECO WARRIORS OF SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING

Can you look rad AND save the planet? The answer is yes with these trailblazing companies…

FUNI

Headwear brand Funi began in Bourg St Maurice in 2008, in the same house as CoolBus as it happens! Named after the funicular snow train that runs up to Les Arcs, the beanies are now knitted by a fleet of grannies in the UK. This company sources all of it’s yarn from the north of England and everything from their packaging to vegetable ink in their printers is environmentally friendly. Plus they donate £1 from every pompom sold to combating the effects of global warming and radiation. Headwear with a heart. Check them out at www.funiwear.com

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PICTURE CLOTHING

A great brand, who started off in 2008 selling 100% organic cotton clothing. Since then the company has grown to be at the forefront of sustainable outerwear and has a fistful of awards for their eco-friendly outlook. Their recycled polyester jackets sell-out in weeks. Oh and they come from Annecy. www.picture-organic-clothing.com

 

HEAD

Globally known HEAD sportswear cofounded Cool Earth, a charity organisation that protects endangered rainforests while working with local indigenous villages. Through this, HEAD has managed to save 7000 acres of rainforest each year since it began

 

BUTTA

Starting in Tignes 5 years ago, wax company Butta has a deep-rooted respect for the environment. Their eco wax is fluoro-carbon free and totally biodegradable, plus Butta also run their workshop entirely on solar power. Not only that, but it’s really very good wax, used by Olympic skiers and snowboarders. Fast and friendly. Winner. www.butta.com

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STRIDING EDGE SNOWBOARDS

Selling eco-friendly, sustainable bamboo-core snowboards, this Lake-District based company promise to be carbon neutral by 2016. Quite a big and impressive call.

 

 

COOL BUS

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If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re currently sat in one of our new super-efficient T6 Cool Bus minibuses. This latest generation from Volkswagen features stop/start technology, regenerative braking and an engine that can achieve up to 47 mpg, but running super efficient vehicles is only half the story…

IMG_2551We have balanced all the carbon dioxide produced by our fleet of vehicles since January 2015 by paying money to Climate Care, an organisation that specialises in carbon offsetting. They are one of the leading companies in this field and have been funding projects for 18 years which have improved the lives of 6 million people worldwide and achieved a total reduction of 16.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

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The carbon offsetting industry is a minefield to negotiate but we are convinced that in Climate Care we have found a company that are doing it right. Unlike some other companies, we don’t ask our customers if they wish to contribute towards carbon offsetting. The funds have come from our side and as such are automatically allocated for every journey we make.

As one of the few transport companies in the Alps committed to reducing their carbon footprint, every decision made at CoolBus HQ takes in to account the impact it will have on the environment.

Here’s a few more examples of small changes making big differences:

*Where legally possible, our office is paperless and any remaining waste paper and packaging is recycled and made into fire-bricks which fuel the Cool Bus house.

*We buy all of our oil and screen-wash in 200 litre drums and then siphon it into smaller containers that we use over and over again. This is saving well over 100 5litre plastic containers every winter for our screen wash alone.

*Our drivers uniforms are made by Anvil, another company dedicated to the environment who use organic cotton and polyester derived from recycled PET plastic. They own the majority of the factories where their garments are produced meaning they can ensure a minimum impact on the environment and a fair wage for all of their workers.

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*Over the last 5 years we have steadily developed initiatives and relationships with the local suppliers in our area in order to help us all cut down on the empty journeys our vehicles make. For us this has resulted in a reduction of over 15% in kilometres travelled without passengers onboard.

*We’re even using our old tyres to terrace the Cool Bus garden!

Plans for next year include installing a roof load of solar panels to generate electricity and hot water at ‘The Pink House’ where a third of our staff live during the winter. Ultimately we are looking towards a day where we can viably use hybrid vehicles that run partly on electricity generated from our own solar panels. It may not be as far off as you think!

2016 Coeur Blanc – Snow Camp – Charity Fundraiser

Dan Evans has been a good friend of Cool Bus since the very beginning. Back in 2001 he was part of the Dragon Lodge team (Welsh owned and run snowboard chalet in Tignes) where we did our very first transfers from. He went on to run the very successful Snow Chateaux chain of chalets for many years and is now in the process of setting up a ski and snowboard holiday business in South America.

So when he came to us a few weeks ago to see if we’d be interested in getting involved in a charity fundraiser in Meribel we immediately said yes. Dan has been involved with the charity Snow Camp for many years and it is a cause that’s very close to his heart. They are the UK’s only registered charity using a combination of snowsports, life-skills and employment training to support inner-city young people – taking them from absolute beginner to qualified snowsports instructor and into employment over one life-changing year. Offering hope for a new start, Snow-Camp has grown over 13 years and is now expanding programmes nationally across 5 UK cities, as part of its 5NOW campaign – a goal which your donations can help achieve.
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This year Snow Camp has been chosen as the beneficiary charity of the Coeur Blanc, a ski & snowboard marathon that takes place in Meribel on the 12th March. Its a challenge of planning skills and stamina: to use every one of the 52 lifts in the Meribel Valley and ride almost 100KM with almost 15,000 meters of vertical drop (equivalent to almost 2 Everest’s!) – all in one day. Established in 2008 – previous Coeur Blanc challenges have raised £1.4 million for Leukaemia and Melanoma research, the SkillForce & Greenhouse charities.

Teams are made up of 5 to 6 people and ours is the only one that consists entirely of snowboarders, including:
- Daniel Evans (Snowboard & Ski South America)
- John Bassett (Dragon Lodge)
- Rob Forbes (CoolBus)
- Kieran Hicks (Tignes Spirit)
- Hamish Duncan (Penny Black)

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Each of us has lived in and ridden the worlds mountains for the last 25+ years. We each created our own businesses inspired by what we learned and who we met, by our experiences in and love of the mountains. From snowboard & ski chalets and tour operations, to an airport transfer company, snowboard & ski shops, and international branding consultancy & networked organisation…and a stint in the pro-snowboard game. None of our lives would have been the same without that initial contact with snowboarding.

We’d be stoked (very grateful!) if you would sponsor our team, and help Snow-Camp, with a donation by hitting the Donate Now button (and please tick the GIFT AID box – costs you nothing and the government will match 25% of your donation) via the link below

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Any donation, however big or small, is gratefully received and will make a difference.

Advice For Driving In The French Alps In Winter

As January comes to an end we find ourselves looking towards February with baited breath. This is the start of the silly season and traffic volume into and out of the Tarentaise valley is set to double or even triple as various European countries move into their holiday periods. Starting from the 6th February and for the following month, each week sees at least two major European countries taking holidays including France (4 weeks), the Netherlands (2 weeks), Belgium and the UK.

With 15 years experience we have learnt how to work around the traffic fluctuations and by passing on a little bit of our inside knowledge we hope we can help you do the same but let’s starts with the bare essentials you need to have in your vehicle before you even roll off the ferry/tunnel

 By Law:

  • hi-vis jacket (the law says you should have one for each passenger)
  • spare bulbs
  • warning triangle
  • beam deflectors on your headlights
  • GB sticker
  • breathalyser (still required by law although there is no fine for not having one!)
  • documents – passport, driving licence, MOT certificate, V5 logbook, insurance.

You might also want to consider getting your hands on a French motorway toll badge. This can save you loads of time during busy periods as you don’t have to queue through the toll booths. You do have to pay a yearly charge for the badge but if you drive through France a couple of times a year it could be well worth it. Check the SANEF website for full details - https://www.saneftolling.co.uk

You’ll also need a Swiss motorway vignette if you are travelling through Switzerland but these can be bought at the border for 40CHF

For winter driving in the Alps it is also essential to have the following:

  • snowchains – in fact the police may only allow you to continue driving on the higher altitude roads if you fit snow chains. In other words, without them you could end up stuck down in the valley for the night!
  • head torch and gloves so you can fit the above!
  • shovel (for digging out your car to get home if it snows)

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It is possible to buy ‘snow socks’ to fit over your car tyres. Whilst these undoubtedly help with grip on snow, they are in no way a suitable substitute for snow chains. They might be easier to fit but when the going gets tough they are not going to get you out of trouble.

If you find yourself at an altitude where the snow is settling on the road and covering it, pull over at the first available lay-by and fit your chains. Please, please don’t just keep going until you can’t get any further and then fit them in the middle of the road. Lots of people do and it is the bane of our life! Once one person has done so the car behind has to stop and wait which means they then get stuck and the same for next car, and the next. Pretty soon you are left with a 10km queue of cars fitting snow chains with a couple of transfer drivers sat somewhere in the middle with steam coming out of their ears!

Another piece of sound advice is to try out fitting your chains beforehand on your driveway at home so that when it comes to the crunch, you already know what you are doing and don’t find yourself trying to read the instructions by torchlight in a blizzard! It’s also a good chance to make sure they are a good fit. Take a minute to think about whether your car is front or rear wheel drive as well so that you don’t end up looking like a complete muppet! We have seen it.

And don’t think that just because you have a 4wd that none of the above applies to you! We have seen plenty of big 4wd’s stuck in the snow with all four wheels spinning. If you’ve only got normal road tyres you may still find yourself stranded so chains are still a good idea.

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A Few Other General Points On Driving In France:

  • drive on the right!
  • the motorway speed limit is 130 kmph but that drops to 110 kmph if its raining (or snowing!)
  • it is against the law to overtake a snowplough!
  • watch out for ‘Priorite A Droite’! This archaic French law states that you should always give way to traffic approaching a junction from your right. This has been the undoing of many an unsuspecting British driver! Thankfully it is steadily being phased out but their are plenty of such junctions in the Tarentaise valley. If you see either of these signs it means you must give way to drivers approaching from the right at the next juntions(s):
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Traffic In The Tarentaise

We are lucky enough to have some of the biggest ski resorts in the world here in the Tarentaise valley, including Tignes, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Meribel, Courchevel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens. Due to the geography of the area there is only one way in and out during the winter. On the busiest weekends of the season there can be over 35,000 vehicles a day trying to pass along these roads which for long stretches are only single carriageway. Leaving the valley can be particularly bad as everyone wants to set off at the same time – generally between 9 and 11 in the morning.

These problems are further complicated when it snows, something which happened with disastrous consequences on the Saturday after Christmas 2014!

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If at all possible avoid travelling on the busiest Saturdays of the season. These are generally the same every year and include the following:

  • The Saturday before Christmas, between Christmas and New year and immediately after New Year
  • Any Saturday during the European school holidays. This year these stretch from 6th February until the 6th March. They usually start the weekend before UK half term and go on for four weeks.
  • To a lesser extent the Saturday before and during the Easter holidays.

Travelling on Sundays is vastly preferable and virtually traffic free even around the busy periods mentioned above.

If you are absolutely unable to avoid these Saturdays then you can still time your journeys to miss the bulk of the traffic. On your way home we suggest leaving resort no later than 7am. It might not sound great having to get your car packed up in the dark but it is vastly preferable to spending 4 hours queuing though the first 50 miles of your journey home!

Alternatively, ski all day and set off in the late afternoon/evening. If you’re travelling all the way to the UK it might mean you need to have an overnight stop en-route but you can sleep in your hotel bed feeling pretty smug that you just squeezed an extra days skiing out of your holiday and cut our journey time in half!

Timing your arrival in the Tarentaise to avoid traffic is much trickier as it tends to be spread over a longer period. Generally if you can get into the valley before midday that can help matters a lot. If you’re driving out from the UK this might mean setting off on Friday evening and stopping en-route but on the plus-side you will arrive in resort early with loads of time to pick up hire skis, do some shopping and have a good nights sleep before your first days skiing!

 

And if all this sounds like a bit too much just book a flight and leave the rest to the professionals at Cool Bus!

Cool Bus Onboard Magazine 2015/16

We’ve been sitting on this for a few weeks as its been pretty bloomin’ hectic around Cool Bus HQ lately. December is always the busiest month of the year for us. It kicks off with all our drivers arriving and the necessary paperwork and training that entails. Then there’s new vans to take delivery of and the whole fleet needs preparing with all the usual kit, snow tyres, vinyl logos etc etc.

Two weeks of last minute preparations leads us straight into a flat out 9 days providing transport for the Les Arcs European Film Festival! Once the last VIP has been dropped off at Geneva airport we are already falling headlong into Christmas week. For most of the senior staff its 7 day weeks all the way up until Christmas Day!

So now we’ve finally got a chance to breath it gives us a good opportunity to introduce you to this years Cool Bus Onboard Magazine! This is the second issue that’s been produced entirely in-house with current and past Cool Bus drivers responsible for over 95% of the content and 100% of the design work. Luckily we’ve had a pretty talented bunch working for us over the years so the result is another issue that we are all incredibly proud of! 12394181_793268910801169_695358540_n

Inside you’ll find all the usual in depth guides to the local resorts that we cover and a bunch of great articles on a variety of subjects including backcountry skiing advice, tales of Cool Bus past and the impact of the ski industry on the environment. The big change this time around however, is that we’ve devoted nearly 30 pages to the summer!Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 20.27.31

Like a lot of people around here, we love summer in the Tarentaise. There’s so much to do – mountain biking, rafting, paragliding, road biking, climbing, hiking, the list goes on and on and a lot of it can be done for free if you have your own equipment. The days are long, the sun is out (most of the time!) and the atmosphere in the valley is considerably more relaxed once the crazy winter tourist season is done and dusted so this is our chance to try and inspire you to spend some time here next summer!
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The full magazine tops out at 70 pages and the paper version is available a Cool Bus near you right now and we have set our drivers  the task of distributing the mag to as many places as they can manage throughout the Tarentaise valley. We will also be getting it out to snow centres and ski shops in the UK in the New Year but if you just can’t wait to read it then don’t fret! The online version is available to you right now here!

Happy Reading!

 

Cool Bus Sponsor a Bunch of Helmets!

Is there more to this attention grabbing headline? Well yes there is and it mainly involves who’s heads they will be sat on – the SB Gravity mountain bike team! Who are they you ask? None other than enduro racers (and brothers) Alex and James Stock and Elite Downhill racer Gareth Brewin.

 

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These guys boast a huge amount of experience between them. Al was the 2013 UK Gravity Enduro series Champion no less. This year Gaz has already scored a 3rd place at the first round of this years Gravity Enduro series and it was his first go at racing the discipline! Expect to see any or all of these fellas on a podium near you at some point over the summer.

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Gareth on the 3rd step!

As official helmet sponsors you will be seeing our logos on their shiny Bell helmets at races all across the UK and Europe. Gaz will be racing the British Downhill series and no less than 5 rounds of the UCI Downhill World Cup and you’ll see Al and James at the UK Gravity Enduro series and most rounds of the Enduro World series. These guys are all over the shop with races virtually every weekend from May through to October.

imageThis coming weekend all eyes turn towards Ireland for the second round of the Enduro World series with the third round just a week later in Glentress, Scotland. Then straight after that its back-to-back downhill world cup races in Fort William and Austria. We wish them all the best. Smash it!

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Al racing in Austria in April

Click here for an article on the SB Gravity team launch on Pink Bike.

James Stock enduro racing stage 1, Mishmar ehamek, Israel from James Stock on Vimeo.

End Of Season Round Up

The 2014/15 winter ski season will surely go down as one of the most eventful in Cool Bus history. We fought through many challenging days behind the wheel but were lucky enough to have an awesome team behind us without which things could have much harder! Here’s a quick run down of the highs and lows…

Back in December things were looking pretty dire. With what was widely reported as the worst early season snow conditions for 40 years, many resorts in the Tarentaise were unable to open at all for their first week. Others such as Les Arcs and La Plagne opened with only two or three runs of artificial snow. Amidst all this doom and gloom we were doing our best to cope with our busiest week of the winter, providing transport for the “Festival de Cinema Europeen des Arcs”! Squeezing 200 transfers for the glitterati of European Cinema into one hectic week is no mean feat and the drivers and office staff at Cool Bus were already demonstrating the sort of determination that would prove vital later on in the winter!

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And then from one extreme to the other… Having struggled to squeeze a few centimetres of snow together for skiing through the busy Christmas period we then saw 40cm fall in a couple of hours during the early morning of Saturday 27th December. The chaos that ensued was widely reported in the UK press. For the full low down see our blog post below. Suffice to say our drivers and office staff were stretched to the limit and beyond with gridlock throughout the local area and journey times running into double figures just to get to Geneva airport (never mind getting back again)! The mayhem continued all through Sunday as well with the customers of lesser transport companies left stranded in airports, train stations and town halls across the area. The one silver lining from this weekend was the incredible feedback we got from our customers praising the superhuman efforts of our drivers who persevered through the worst conditions imaginable!

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January started in a much more sedate fashion. Always the quietest period of the season, we were blessed with a few weekends with very little traffic and even the weather was kind to us. As we approached the end of the month though, the snow reports were bringing warnings of an impending storm. This time the worst of it fell on Friday morning rather than Saturday but it still made for a pretty challenging weekend!

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The snowy weather continued into February and we had some pretty fun days both driving in it and skiing/snowboarding on the mountain. Here’s a little time-lapse driving video from our Vimeo channel showing what conditions were like that week.

Snowy Driving from CoolBus on Vimeo.

As the snow continued we experienced another interesting saturday at Geneva airport when they shut the runway for over an hour! This was right in the middle of the day on the 21st February – one of the busiest saturdays of the season, falling during UK half-term and French holidays. The result was many of our clients got diverted to Zurich, Basel or Lyon and then bussed back to Geneva 4 or 5 hours later. Another challenging one for our Geneva airport rep Sara to deal with!
Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 09.24.08 The very next weekend saw yet more disruption, this time in the form of a 50 tonne boulder which rolled down the hillside to finish up right in the middle of the main road up to Val Thorens! With this happening on Friday afternoon there was nowhere near enough time to get the road cleared before the peak traffic on Saturday morning (again still inside the French Holiday period!). The authorities diverted traffic onto a much smaller side road and allowed only descending traffic (cars but not coaches) to pass during the morning and then opened it up to those arriving in the afternoon. This resulted in a huge tailback of arriving traffic which built up steadily to Albertville through the morning and which did not clear until late into the night. Despite having very few transfers to the 3 Valleys we were still effected as the main route into the valley was blocked. Once again our drivers pulled out all the stops and their considerable knowledge to find alternative routes via every backroad available around Albertville!

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March provided some much needed respite as the snowfall eased off again and things returned to near normal! Despite the good snowfalls of february, most resorts still lacked a decent amount of base due to the dry december. At this point it was looking increasingly like we might see a very early end to the season and we took advantage of the good on-piste snow conditions to get a few sneaky runs in on our mountain bikes!

 

Winter Bike Uplifts from CoolBus on Vimeo.

And then April delivered! A good solid snowfall that seemed to last for a whole week provided just what was needed to see out the season. Even the snowpack (which had been incredibly unstable for most of the season) improved hugely meaning there was some awesome conditions to be found off-piste. With all of this happening just after the Easter holidays, the resorts were relatively quiet and we finally had the chance to really enjoy the snow! Here’s a little video showing one of our late season day trips to Ste. Foy.

Ste. Foy Spring 2015 from CoolBus on Vimeo.

And then just when you think its all over… there’s a landslide in Moutiers! On the day of the landslide itself (Wednesday 8th April) delays of up to 3 hours were affecting traffic into and out of the valley. Once again our drivers local knowledge was put to the test with some interesting shortcuts being devised along gravel roads and through forests! With most of the debris landing on the railway it was the trains that were worst affected and the Snowtrain was unable to complete its journey up to Bourg St. Maurice for the following 3 weeks while repairs were carried out!

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With such an eventful season its seemed only right that we see it out in spectacular fashion and so the end of April saw the inaugural Cool Bus Grand Prix take place at the karting track in Albertville. Nearly all of our drivers took part, competing in pairs that were picked at random. In the end it was Charlie Ward and Graham Gilligan that took the chequered flag with Emily Horridge taking the honours for fastest female around the track.

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From here celebrations moved on to Charly’s Factory in Bourg St. Maurice where Christophe and Agathe served us up an amazing meal. Then onwards to our, now famous, End of Season Party in Malgovert Forest, Les Arcs with all the usual trimmings – a boot full of Kronenbourg, huge open fire, glowsticks, balloons and DJ Carpetface!

Huge thanks to all the drivers and staff at Cool Bus that made the 2014/15 season what it was. You are the best! And not forgetting our customers who have been incredibly understanding and cheerful through some of the toughest times we’ve ever seen out on the snowy roads of the French Alps!

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See you again next winter, its been emotional…

27th December 2014 – The Worst Transfer Day on Record?

There we all were, moaning about the lack of snow and then it came, seemingly in a matter of minutes… At around 3.30am on Saturday morning some Cool Bus drivers were setting out to work, from Bourg-Saint-Maurice up to nearby resorts, snow free roads all the way, only to be met by carnarge on the way back down the valley en-route to airports servicing the area – Geneva, Lyon, Chambery and Grenoble.c985b04a976d2fb1361d87c7761ef54ec954bbbc43346cec71fb104c01125a63 The day had only just started and for many it would (hopefully) be the longest day and in fact weekend of the year! Quite frankly, we’ve never experienced roads like it. The main routes to and from the Tarentaise – through Moutiers and Albertville particularily, were gridlocked. Perhaps those worst affected were holidaymakers starting out their journeys on Saturday morning to the airport from Tignes, Val d’Isere and Ste. Foy. Reports say that a bus crashed and blocked the Ste. Foy road which then created mass queues on the only road that services these resorts – no way out, literally. It was TWELVE, yes TWELVE hours later that some vehicles got down to the end of the valley, a drive that would normally only take an hour at most!6fdb5a80f8cd6664133b36590a8882cc19afdbe2ec7786efd7fa751ffe342de8 The knock-on effect from such incidents was the main cause of problems throughout the day, that and drivers getting stuck here, there and literally everywhere including the fast lane of the motorway, before it was standstill! It is so important to be prepared for travel to the mountains in the winter, to actually know how to put snow chains and to not leave it too late in the event of snow on the roads but equally, not drive on snow-free roads at 20km/ph with chains on… Together with the sheer volume of traffic that is inevitable on this weekend of the year (between Christmas and New Year) and this instant snowfall, the motorways of the Savoie and all connecting roads to ski resorts were riddled with accidents, blockages and queues.5e1a26898e6f1d2294ab333bfc5c9b96976b46e97b9fb29efa0333d2250d433e What many people don’t know and without giving too much away, there are some excellent back road shortcuts that we here at Cool Bus use when times are hard on the main roads. Wherever possible, we tried to use every ounce of our knowledge and experience to bypass the jams and even though there were indeed some journey times well into double figures, we’ve had some greatly appreciated feedback from many of our customers – some of whom made their flights and others who weren’t so lucky. Getting people to their destination safely is our main priority and we are glad to report we were 100% successful.

“Just wanted to say a huge thanks to Emily for getting us to Geneva yesterday . The conditions were atrocious. We hope Emily got back safely. She was a trooper and was very helpful and always positive,” Robert, Donna, Izzy, Jakey.

“We just wanted to say how fantastic Wayne was when we were stuck in all the chaotic traffic en route from Lyon to Val d’Isere yesterday. He tried every possible short cut and had endless patience even with two young children and four adults in his load. We would not have got through without his skill and knowledge. He kept his good humour in spite of a very long day. Thank you,” Alice and Ian Herve.

“Firstly want to thank our skilled driver Will for getting us safely,courteously and patiently to Les Arcs yesterday,” Damian McManus

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank her (Sheryl) for her amazing driving yesterday. She drove fearlessly for 6 gruelling hours in a snowstorm that stopped many others in their tracks. She took short cuts and made quick-thinking decisions to avoid the huge jams and blockages on our way. Luckily, our flight was delayed to allow us to fly home but without her skilful driving we would be either stranded or injured. Please pass on my huge thanks to her and wish her and Ivan a very happy future together-Sheryl is one of life’s “good guys” and I was privileged to have met her,” Alicia Syson

“Please thank Niall for his epic back way driving. Please let us know that he got home safely,” Sally

“Can I just pass on my thanks to your team for getting us back to Geneva last night? It must have been a chaotic day, but your driver Lauren was extremely good – a fast but safe and smooth driver who was a pleasure to deal with,” Janet Bettle

“My family and I travelled into Geneva from Belfast yesterday and were due to be picked up by a private transfer arranged by Ski Lifts …. Due to the chaos, their driver ran out of hours and your driver Robyn Maddison very kindly came to the rescue as he was transferring another family to Le Plagne and offered us a lift and as it turned out a life line, as without his tenacity and determination we would still be in Geneva. I must compliment you and your firm on the quality of your vehicles and drivers ….. Robyn was simply magnificent. He knew all the back roads and got around the Autoroutes that had simply become carparks …. Robyn drove us for over 10 hours and would not give up, networking all of your other drivers on the road and your control for every ounce of intelligence as to what was drivable and what was not …. Eventually crawling up the Le Plagne hill through 21 hairpin bends, to drop us at the front door of our hotel….. Remarkable … When most other skiers were spending a night on the floor of the local school or town hall and he still had a two hour drive home to negotiate Please pass on our thanks and best wishes to all your team …. Truly brilliant, above and beyond the call of duty service yesterday …. Well done…” Lee Callow

“I just wanted to say thank you to our wonderful driver (Wayne). He got us to the airport yesterday with 6 minutes to spare and we made it on to our plane ( with a little bit of queue barging) !!” Mary Ann Rolfe and Family

“I just wanted to email to say a huge thank you to you and particularly to Sam who picked us up from Les Arcs yesterday for our transfer to Geneva airport. It was an horrific journey and he was absolutely brilliant, bearing in mind he was transporting 3 children for nearly 10 hours!! He is a credit to your company. Please pass on our thanks to him again, we really appreciate his calmness and humour as well as his safe and careful driving in really awful conditions. Thank you again for a second year of well organised transfers. Hope to be in touch again next year!” Jackie Jeffries and family

Thanks to all of our drivers for their hard work and patience and here’s hoping we don’t see another weekend like this for at least another 15 years!2048d6be20ff44feee94e047ba491deb1f3c8e6ce6fe4f6cd56f2f84f435bc33

Opening Day!

OK, the likes of Tignes, Val D’Isere and Val Thorens might have been partially open for some time now but for the bulk of resorts, the middle of December brings the opening weekend of the winter season. Cool Bus were out in force yesterday with the full fleet of 24 vehicles on the road. This year it was a little bit special as for the first time ever we actually managed to get every van fully sign written before the start of the season, largely down to the efforts of Bry! Driving back early from Geneva passing a Cool Bus every 20 minutes in full livery was truly a sight to bring a tear to the eye!

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The first week of the season for us is largely filled with providing transport for the Festival de Cinema Europeen des Arcs – lesarcs-filmfest.com. Now in its 6th year the festival sees the best of European cinema brought together for a week in Les Arcs. Its a bit like the Cannes Film Festival with a little less glamour and a bit more snow!

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Cool Bus have been involved right from the start and are the official transport suppliers. For us this means ferrying around lots of VIP’s (obviously we think all of our customers are VIP’s!) as we bring in the film producers, directors and actors represented by the featured films. This year the focus is on Irish cinema which is great as its means at least half the films being shown are in English! We are particularly excited about seeing Frank – http://frank-film.com/#/, a new film by Lenny Abrahamson which is in the running for an award. Remember Frank Sidebottom from the ’80’s (the man with a massive head!), yeah he’s in it!

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Opening Day Snow Conditions

There’s been plenty of press already about the lack of snow in the Alps and there’s no denying that conditions are far from ideal but we thought we’d take a chance here to focus on the positives and give you a rough idea of what’s open in this valley and while we’re at it lets not forget that the avalanche risk is at a record low for this time of year!

Tignes has been open for some time and has the best snow in the valley due to its high altitude. Access between Tignes and Val d’Isere is possible. Around half the lifts and a third of the runs in Espace Killy as a whole are currently listed as open. Val is currently showing around half its pistes and lifts as running.

Les Arcs and La Plagne both opened on time with limited skiing in both. Les Arcs has the 2000 bowl open with good piste skiing plus some shorter runs in 1800. The link between Les Arcs and La Plagne is due to open next weekend on the 20th December.

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Some skiers in Les Arcs yesterday!

Over in the 3 Vallees, Val Thorens is offering the best skiing as you would expect given its high altitude and the majority of its pistes and lifts are up and running. Les Menuires is open with a limited area. Meribel is partially open but there are only very limited runs currently accessible in Courchevel.

 Outlook

After a very mild november the weather has turned much colder. Snow cannons have been running round the clock to boost snow cover. The forecast for next week is currently showing snowfalls for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! Bring it on!

For more detailed info try the links below:

Val D’Isere – http://www.valdisere.com/valdisere/fr/glisse/pistes_remontees/ouvertures_pistes_remontees

Tignes – http://www.tignes.net/en/skiing-in-tignes/ski-area-932.html

Les Arcs – http://www.lesarcs.com/domaine-skiable.html

La Plagne – http://www.la-plagne.com/en/winter/news/snow-forecast/weather-forecast.html

Val Thorens – http://www.valthorens.com/hiver-fr/val-thorens/infos-live/plan-interactif-des-pistes.426.html

Les Menuires – http://en.lesmenuires.com/slopes

Courchevel – http://www.courchevel.com/winter/en/snow-cover-n563.html

Meribel – http://www.meribel.net/ski-2011/outils/ouvertures-pistes.html

Doing Our Bit for Sochi!

As you may have read in this season’s most thrilling on-board magazine (The Cool Bus Magazine!) we’ve been getting excited about the imminent 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games for some time now and they start in just over a weeks time!

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Team GB have a great chance of getting some medals from the likes of freeskiers James ‘Woodsy’ Woods and Katie Summerhayes amongst others. This last week we picked up some of the GB Paralympian team and took them up to Tignes and back for some last minute training.

Some of the GB Paralympian Team with Cool Bus driver Niall!

Some of the GB Paralympian Team with Cool Bus driver Niall!

They are heading off to Russia in the next few days and we wish them all the very best of luck!