A Brief History Of Snowboard Movie Soundtracks By 6ft Stereo

If you’re like me then at some point before you head out on your pilgrimage to the snow, probably from the first signs of Autumn, you will have watched clips/shorts/movies (depending on your attention span and what you can get away with at work) of the worlds finest snow sliders tearing the mountains to shreds. I’ll also take another guess, that the movies that stand out are the ones whose soundtrack reaches out to you, either in terms of musical taste, or somehow compliments the action perfectly.

Either way, a riders section can be made legendary simply by the choice of music that accompanies it, how can that be?

First, we need a bit of history (It’s OK, you have time!)

There was a time when skiing was boring and desperately uncool, snowboarding was in it’s infancy and no-one cared. The only person documenting the sport was Warren Miller, making tediously long movies with mediocre action, sections with people falling off chairlifts, moguls, ski ballet and worse. All put together in decidedly cheesy terms with an even cheesier soundtrack, chosen by your Grandad (but not your cool Grandad who was a hippy and at the first Glastonbury). This is how these sports and lifestyles were presented to the world, so unsurprisingly, the world thought it was a bit naff.

Then, along came Greg Stump with a series of movies that changed everything in snow film making.

“The Maltese Flamingo”, “The Good, The Rad and the Gnarly” “The Blizzard of Aahhs” and “License to Thrill” showcased skiing’s underbelly, the dirtbags who were rebelling against everything Warren Miller was showing, introducing young punks who, instead of  spending days training at slalom, were chasing powder and dropping cliffs. The films, and the stars in them, were all on a shoestring budget, so big names weren’t included, instead it was the young and hungry such as Glen Plake, Scott Schmidt and their friends who got the call and whose personalities perfectly suited Stumps trashy, pop cultured stylings.

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Licensing music is an expensive business so these films sought out smaller labels, eventually working hand in hand with ZTT, giving the label widespread coverage in return for exclusive tracks from some of the hottest acts of the era – 808 State, Nasty Rox Inc and Frankie Goes to Hollywood to name but a few. This wasn’t the family friendly Warren Miller show, this was young, energetic and punk which, in the process, inspired a generation of kids (me included) to follow their lead and live the lifestyle that looked oh so enticing, changing the snow industries forever.

Greg Stump was lured away from skiing to make music videos (and a lot more money, I expect) and without his vision, cheesiness made it’s way back into ski movies and things went slightly naff again. But really, by this point, no-one was watching, because snowboarding had reared it’s head and was overshadowing skiing in terms of youth popularity, creativity and energy.

Snowboard film producers became the taste makers, combining their creativity and energy with the aesthetic of the current skate movies (early snow movies often featuring skating alongside) trashy soundtracks, often with the bands name-checked MTV style. Capturing the newest tricks and styles was more important than production values given there wasn’t any due to the ludicrously low budgets, but with video cameras becoming a consumer item it was now far easier to turn in something watchable and more importantly, sellable.

In the pre-internet era and certainly before mainstream acceptance getting hold of a copy of the latest shred flick was hard and the new films were coveted and pored over, even through the summer months, as content hungry snowboarders literally studied each movie, learning each trick, section and, by proxy, soundtrack by heart.

So it became that the tracks in these movies were not only the soundtrack to the latest tricks but the soundtrack to our lives. Long after the video tape wore thin from overuse, those songs and the memories attached to them remain lodged in our craniums and take us back to those special times whenever and wherever we hear them.

Of course Burton were among the first companies to start putting out feature length movies showcasing their team but these often featured slightly strange themes and failed to capture the essence of the fledgling sport, more like a corporate show reel.

But then, along came two production companies which changed the face of snowboarding and how it was presented, Fall Line Films and Mack Dawg Productions. Fall Line had higher production values and made travelogue style films, capturing the lifestyle of powder hungry kids, whilst Mack Dawg placed themselves on the bleeding edge of  progression, showing rider after rider pushing the limits of freestyle with a heavily skate influenced theme.

Both styles of movie had huge success, but Fall Line gave way to a new company by the name of Standard which upped the production again and bordered both worlds, showcasing the best big mountain riders alongside the most talented freestylers, often giving them the chance to take their tricks to the big mountain environment.

Simple-PleasuresBut come the late 90’s Mack Dawg scored a coup with the hottest team on the planet, the newly formed Forum Snowboards team, and it was this that solidified their position. Purely freestyle, rider driven sections, and soundtracks that reflected the riders often overblown personalities made for compelling watching and often made Standard’s offerings seem a little bit old hat. But this push and pull between the two companies gave us some of snowboardings most memorable moments: JP Walker announcing his arrival to the sounds of Blondies ‘Dreaming’ in Simple Pleasures and Terje Haakonsen being generally heads and shoulders above everyone else in TB2.

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This two horse race continued for years with only a handful of independent releases coming anywhere close, one of the most notable being ‘1999’ which featured a heavy list of some of Europe’s finest riders but what made it stand out was it’s use of sound design and it’s soundtrack. Although it was based on the standard rider/section format it was like a snowboard movie mixed together by a DJ so each section cleverly segued into another, the songs often mixed into each other using real life sounds to knit parts together. In short, a film whose soundtrack has never been bettered until last years film Paradigm, whose creators went to great depths to make the sound of snowboarding as integral a part of the film as the action itself.

It seemed that the consuming snowboarder was happy with their lot until a group of riders, tired of the way snowboarding was being presented, organised themselves into a production group, called themselves Robot Food and changed everything (again).

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Over the course of three movies, this group of über creative riders, showcased not only the finer points of freestyle snowboarding but incorporated lifestyle and goofing around, moving as a crew which everyone wanted to be a part of.
As well as being refreshingly honest visually, the soundtracks are what make these movies so watchable. Classics from the Cars, mixed with up and coming bands such as The Caesars (arguably responsible for making their hit “Jerk It Out” cool enough for Apple to use it in its iPod ad campaigns) Indie pop from Her Space Holiday and a cover of “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Presidents of the USA.
As well as bring great songs, they seem to fit the narrative of the films and the personalities of the riders to a degree not seen or heard before. Well, maybe once or twice but we’ll come back to that later. You can tell how good something is by how many people try to imitate it and, as such, the whole snowboard industry was now making movies about friends and good times. The Robot Food crew however, knew the time and after three short seasons they called it quits.

Maybe they saw the future and realised they may not have a place in it. Mack Dawg made it to his movie Double Decade before winding up and Standard Films reached TB20 before calling it a day on full length snowboard movies.

As with much of the media, the internet was changing the way the hungry public was consuming the sport. Kids didn’t want to hang on for action which, by the time it was released, could be nearly a year old. They wanted it to see it a few days after it was shot. So as it was, short movies, or clips, started to be self released by the riders themselves, taking away the need for a big production company.

The unmistakable kings of this self promotion has been the Helgason brothers, Halldor and Eiki. Their brand of goofing about, showing as many slams as landed tricks (but those tricks that are landed, oh my) and new media savvy has tapped into a whole new vein of snowboarding culture and rocketed them from relative nobodies in their native Iceland, to being the arguably the biggest names in snowboarding today.

maxresdefaultExcept for one person who is still, by sheer brute force, bucking the trend. This person’s movie exploits get more ridiculous with every successful release and with the deep pockets of Red Bull behind him, it is affording him time to get very ridiculous indeed.

That person is Travis Rice.

His movies, ‘That’s It, That’s All’ and ‘The Art Of Flight’ were both filmed over the course of two seasons apiece, completely disregarding the trend for quick fix hits. His new film ‘The Fourth Phase’ was filmed over a maniacal three seasons and was released this October. But whilst taking spunking money to new levels, they have also taken snowboarding cinematography to a whole new extreme, borrowing technology used in major feature films to create masterpieces, documenting the absolute cream of snowboarding.

Is it worth it?

Oh, you better believe it.

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These films not only make you want to go snowboarding, they literally guide your mouse finger to the Easyjet website and book your flights for you. I can only imagine the percentage increase in injuries on the mountains by middle aged guys (like myself) trashing themselves because they are so jazzed up after watching Travis Rice in the chalet before heading out. Part of what makes these films so watchable is the epic soundtrack. Brain Farm, the production company responsible, worked with artists like M83 (who, in turn, must doff their caps to ZTT’s Propaganda) to score the soundtrack and the accompanying visuals work together so harmoniously you wonder if they had the tunes blasting in their headphones whilst filming.

So here we are, bang up to date. Where are snowboarding movies going next? And what will their soundtracks be like? In an age of quick fix hits, will music become irrelevant all together? Surely the people putting together these clips won’t be able to license ‘proper’ music, so will it revert back to trashy guitar bands making tunes in their garage? Or will music technology become such that instead of playing guitars in their garage, kids will be able to recreate an epic score to rival any Travis Rice film and give it away for free?

What I do know is this, the savvy snowboarder knows their success rides on what music they back their footage with for it is the tune that sticks in people’s ears, get that right and you’ll become part of our sport’s rich history…

BTS - Brainfarm behind the scenes in Japan6ft Stereo’s “Best Of”

To save you gluing yourself to Youtube for months watching every shred flick ever made here is my own personal list of movies that will jazz you up featuring songs that will stick in your mind for months and years to come.

Afterbang – Robot Food

This movie was the one that broke the mould in the early noughties. The DVD came with loads of extras that could be unlocked with codes that were released throughout the winter but the real secret was that they were showing you what it was like to hang out with these guys (and my god did we want to hang out with them), shredding insane mountains and parks, smashing powder, all to a top drawer compilation of songs.

Travis Parker – Her Space Holiday – Keystroke
David Benedek – The Presidents Of The USA – Video Killed the Radio Star
Outro/Credits – Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime

Lame – Robot Food

Proving that they weren’t a one trick pony, the Robot Food crew came back and expanded on the theme with a couple of new names, notably the punk as fuck Scotty Whitlake, and Travis Parker’s seminal section, arguably one of the best ever, with a classic track, one that literally everyone in the western hemisphere knows.

David Benedek – Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
Scotty Whitlake/Louie Fountain – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Travis Parker – Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Afterlame – Robot Food

As if to stick two fingers up to the rest of the industry the Robot Food crew made a new movie in a more documentary style following the exploits of the riders as they try and find good snow, hot park laps and killer footage. For me, this is the complete movie. I want to hang with these guys, I want to be part of their bro-down, I want to shred with them, and if their soundtrack was the soundtrack to my life, I could live (and die) with that.

Intro – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky
Jakob Wilmelmson/Hampus Mossesson – Air – All I Need
Outro – The Knife – Heartbeats

The Garden – Volcom

In the late nineties, at a time when budgets were getting bigger and quality was improving, Volcom turned away from all that, handmaking a film, shooting on Super 8 using absolutely no digital technology. This gave the vibe a decidedly different feel to everything else at the time and it’s soundtrack pushed it even further that way. Instead of thrashy guitars or in your face hip hop, they went back to Neil Young and Deep Purple and earned their place in snowboarding folk lore.

Road Trippin – Neil Young – Heart Of Gold
Terje Haakonsen/Jamie Lynn/Bryan Iguchi – Deep Purple – Highway Star

1999 – Mosberg

From out of nowhere came a crew and a movie that changed the way soundtracks had been done up to that point. Using the sound effects and weaving them into the soundtrack, which in itself had been mixed DJ style, gave this movie a fluidity not seen as yet, sewing the individual pieces together and making it very hard to turn off. An underground classic.

Axel Pauporte – The Beastie Boys – Sneakin Out Of The Hospital
Babs Charlet – NTM – IV my people

There is nothing online pertaining to this film, track it down on VHS!

The Burning

All of it…

Canadian skate and snow madness in a very low budget style, but with a stellar soundtrack featuring Nat King Cole and other jazz and easy listening favourites, mixed live by DJ Vinyl Richie. This is a cult classic and the soundtrack could easily put off the hardened metal snowboarder but something about this movie is so charming that it cannot be denied a place in my favourites.

https://vimeo.com/111954789

TB2 (A New Way of Thinking)

Standard Movies first proper solo outing was a who’s who of snowboarding when it dropped in Autumn ’93. Bleeding edge freestyle and big mountain riding, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before with this level of production, and some killer, if slightly predictable, tracks to accompany it. Noah Salasnek’s skate style fitting the tune by Primus so completely and Terje closing things out with a tune that announces his complete dominance of the sport that feels more like a best of rather than an introduction.

Terje Haakonsen –  PAW – Gasoline
Noah Salasnek – Primus – Jerry Was A Race Car Driver

Terje’s section https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NychdrUBF4

Odd Man Out

Although the action is pretty shabbily cut together with botched landings cut short, the guys at Room and Board productions had made the savvy move of coming to London and getting in with Sony music who let them use some of the finest up and coming bands of the day. The soundtrack boasts big tunes by Oasis and Reef, who both went on to great things turned this from an average shred flick to one of the most memorable. Not to mention a small UK contingent getting cameos and a large section filmed at the UK’s snowboarding home in the Alps, Les Arcs.

Axel Pauporte – Oasis – Slide Away

DSCF40436ft Stereo is a DJ and Producer who, after seasons in Val D’Isere and Morzine, and calling Bourg Saint Maurice/Les Arcs his home for many years, is now based in Brighton UK, with a vast knowledge of snowboard movie soundtracks blotting out other, more useful, information in his brain.
He is to be found playing in and around Brighton and at festivals such as Glastonbury and Beautiful Days.
When at home he hosts a weekly show, 11am-1pm on 1BrightonFM.co.uk and also puts out a monthly podcast, one of which is an hour mix of snowboard movie tunes, which you can find here: www.soundcloud.com/6ftstereo

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…

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