I was last in Saas Fee in late April several years ago when the sun shone and after a day of ski touring, the apres ski was long and the memories hazy. I returned last weekend, to complete the Super 3, the series of Swiss amateur ski races in which I have been taking part in this winter.
Saas Fee hosts the Allalin-Rennen, the third in the series after the Belalp Hexe in Belalp and the Inferno Rennen in Murren.
Tagged as the highest amateur glacier ski race, for this 36th Allalin-Rennen race we headed up to try and make a recce of the course from its glacier start on the Thursday before the Friday team event. Unfortunately with limited visibility and high winds, there was no access up past the top of the Spielboden lift at 2870m.
So skiing the course blind on Friday morning was ‘interesting’ but the weather was clear.
The very top 100m was still not open, knocking around 40 seconds and 1km off the full 9km course.
Starting just below the revolving restaurant at Mittelallalin, at 3500m, in my team of four, I let the three guys take the lead spots and tried to tuck in behind. A long schuss starts the race followed by a blind steep drop with a compression at the bottom. Local Alex had told us to stay in the tuck, and with that I just held my breath and went for it. I’d lost sight of the boys so just weaved from left to right down the steeper section through the red gates, sharp left at the bottom, another steep section then in to a final right hand bend, avoiding the orange netting and in to the final long schuss to the end at the village level.
With fresh snow on the course, the pistes were in great condition and our team ‘Mallow Racing’ finished in 57th place (out of 70)
One of just two British teams, the other made up of two other super 3-ers and our local new friend Alex.
Alex suggested Waldhaus Bodmen for dinner -a 10 minute walk out of Saas Fee along a snowy, icy track and we came across this old traditional chalet, perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the lower village of Saas-Grund.
At one end of the restaurant is a huge animal pen full of rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. I chose lamb for my main, just to save one of those little mites…altho to be fair I think they are there for entertainment value only…here’s hoping! The food is delicious, the setting stunning and the walk back an opportunity to digest the huge portions.
Individual race day and the weather had once again socked-in. With a lower start, from the Morenia restaurant, we were able to stay dry and head out just before our individual start numbers. The challenge was to stay low in the tuck, make all the gates in the tricky visibility and stay out of the netting. The fastest time was, 1min 59. My time was 3 mins 12, 6th place in my category, and winning me a basket of local cheese and sausage!
Jonas Bumann Allalin Rennen Race Director adds, “we had over 1000 racers for the 36th Allalin Rennen this weekend. It was a shame we could not start up on the glacier for Saturday’s main race but the Team event on Friday gave most skiers the chance to ski almost the full course. Next years event takes place over the 5/6 April 2019 and we hope to welcome even more skiers from around the world!”
I now have my Super 3 medal, and feel proud to be one of just 23 women to race the triple series this winter and the only British woman to take part.
Leaving on Sunday morning, the skies cleared offering stunning views of the cascading glaciers and pistes in the huge bowl and ski area above the village.
Erna Low Property has unrivalled knowledge of the French property market, with a particular expertise in the French Alps. Erna Low Property launches its 2018 French Alps Property Reportwhich includes the following key trends:
French Property Market Is Booming
There were a record number of sales of existing properties last year (958,000 report page 5). Along with strong international demand, this is helping to drive a wave of new developments across the French Alps.
Vaujany, connected to Alpe d’Huez, is a great example of this where Erna Low Property currently has three developments in progress with sales being fuelled by the impending 2021 lift- link to neighbouring ski resort Les Deux Alpes.
Race To The Top
French resorts are involved in a “race to the top” to become global brands – and they are investing staggering amounts of money in redevelopment and infrastructure. La Plagne, for example, has announced €455million of new spending (some of this is in collaboration with Pierre et Vacances). €12 million of this is focused on new snowmaking systems. La Plagne will also see its first 5* development of apartments – The White Pearl. Châtel continues to expand, with new developments taking advantage of its rising profile, both as a ski resort and a mountain-biking hub.
Ultra-Low Euro Mortgage Rates and the Best Currency Rates
Ultra-low Euro mortgage rates mean the cost of borrowing is cheap [see graph on page 5]; repayments on, for example, a €240,000 fixed rate mortgage are still considerably lower in 2018 than they were in 2011 and 2014.
Francois Marchand, Director of Erna Low Property adds, “Interest from UK-based buyers remains strong. The average spend of Erna Low Property clients has risen in the last two years, this coupled with the ongoing low mortgage rates mean it is an excellent time for buyers; plus with our currency expert Halo, we can ensure buyers benefit from the best rates available.”
South of France or French Alps for Summer
Buyers are ever-more interested in summer – a resort with good summer facilities, close to Geneva or other main airport – are now as sought-after in summer as in winter.
Erna Low Property has been selling properties in the South of France for over 10 years. Complementing its Alps business, clients have options in the Cote d’Azur and Provence. NEW, close to Cannes, Villa Alice offers apartments from just €150,000.
Standards Are Rising
The age of the rabbit-hutch apartment is gone, and our partner developers such as Nexalia and Terresens offer more spacious properties, with bigger windows, higher-quality finishes, and wood-burning stoves. Customised interiors (e.g. you can reduce the number of bedrooms if you want a bigger lounge), and more flexible rental schemes are all part of the scene now.
Please contact Vanessa Fisher for a printed copy of the Erna Low Property French Alps Report, any information on available properties for sale and/or images: firstname.lastname@example.org 07957 618525
Erna Low Property was established to offer customers the opportunity to purchase properties in some of the world’s most beautiful and desirable locations. Whether looking for snow or sun, Erna Low Property helps buyers to choose the perfect property for holidays, retirement or investment.
Erna Low’s ongoing relationship with top Canadian resort developer Intrawest (well-known for pioneering Whistler and Mont Tremblant in Canada and Arc 1950 Le Village in France) led to the launch of Erna Low Property in 2003. Arc 1950, a new ski village in the French Alps and Intrawest’s very first project in Europe, was the first key property sales project for Erna Low and over the past few years, Erna Low’s property sales service has gone from strength to strength. Erna Low Property has its dedicated Estate Agency to sell properties all over the Alps and the South of France to property investors.
Erna Low Property now holds a sizeable portfolio of properties from the French Alps, across Europe and beyond. With their background as a specialist, niche tour operator, Erna Low Property and Erna Low Travel have been hugely successful in introducing many clients to both property sales and holiday rentals.
The French Pyrenees have received regular fresh snow top-ups over the last two weeks building on an already excellent snow base setting them up for excellent conditions for their final few weeks of the season and spring events.
Below are a selection of ski holiday offers for March and April:
Zenith Holidays in St Lary – Departs 17 March
Zenith Holidays offer 7 nights in the Cami Real apartments from 17 March from £163pp, sleeps 4. Flights available from £50 from London Stanstead. www.zenithholidays.co.uk
These excellent spacious apartments are in the centre of the Pyrenean village of Saint Lary Soulan in the Hautes-Pyrenees. Sensoria, the resorts thermal baths are just a short walk away through the garden of the residence. The main gondola up to the skiing at Pla d’Adet and beyond is a 100m from the Residence. St Lary has a lovely collection of shops and restaurants with plenty of Spanish influence in the local tapas bars lining the streets.
Big Break St Lary – 11-30 March
Book direct with St Lary between 11th and 30th March for any 3 days and get the 4th night for free. Just 175€ for four nights including a lift pass. www.saintlary.com/hiver/big-break
Ax les Thermes in the Ariege region of the French Pyrenees, just 1.5 hrs from Toulouse is an historic village based around its thermal waters. Guests can visit the Bains du Couloubret spa or soak their feet in the thermal open air foot spa at the base of the gondola. Ski Ax 3 Domaines with its three sectors, Bonascre, Saquet and Campels and skiing from 1400m up to 2400m. Over the closing Easter weekend March 31 and April 1st, a Snow Bike festival closes the season with MTB/Dirt bikes, enduro and races for all ages.
Erna Low in Cauterets Save 15% and 20% Departs 31 March
The Residence Baleno Aladin has a great location in the centre of Cauterets, 100m from the gondola taking skiers straight up to the ski area and 150m from the resort spa centre. Guests have free access to the Espace Balnéo Aladin spa centre which covers 800m² and includes 5 pools heated to 32° with water jets and hot tubs, steam room and sauna. Children from 3 to 13 years have a 3-storey play structure, games consoles, a mini cinema and a relaxation area for parents.
Pierre et Vacances in Grand Tourmalet Save 30% Departs 7 April
Grand Tourmalet is made up of the two villages Bareges and La Mongie with the largest ski area in the French Pyrenees. La Mongie is ski in-out with the cable car access to Pic du Midi and Bareges and old French town with tree lined skiing from the Tournaboup area. Both areas have spas using the local thermal waters.
Ski France in Peyragudes – Save 10% 17-24 March and Free Children
Ski France offer an apartment sleeping up to 4 people from 31 March from £319 in the Residence Les Adrets de Peyragudes plus children ski for free with every adult ski pass purchased. www.skifrance.co.uk
Peyragudes is a modern ski resort with ski in ski out accommodation perched on the side of the mountain in the Hautes-Pyrenees region of the French Pyrenees. Guests can enjoy an indoor pool at the Les Adrets de Peyragudes residence or take a short drive/transfer down to the village of Loudenvielle where they can enjoy the Balnea spa. The French Snowboard Championships weekend takes place over the closing Easter weekend.
Les Angles 30% off Lift passes and reduced Packages
Les Angles is offering 30% off lift passes booked from 17 March to the end of the season.
So a six day adult lift pass 165€ instead of 195€ [child 12 yrs & under 148€ instead of 175€) www.lesangles.com
Les Angles old village Is at the foot of the slopes, and it has managed to retain its authentic character whilst at the same time providing facilities of a modern ski resort. It is the only resort in the Pyrenees where the ski slopes end in the old village itself. The ski area has 55km with an altitude drop of 800m. With skiing up to 2,400m it is one of the largest ski areas in the Pyrenees-Orientales.
“Le Rendez Vous” EVENT 20& 21 April Cauterets
300 amateur and professional freestyle riders descend on Cauterets for the closing weekend. The Oakley snowpark at the foot of the ski area will be open for photos and video shoots to get the best of the action from the event. DJs are on site and the “Winter Closing” party is held in Cauterets village at the Royalty Café.
A resort that works for Kids, Tweens and Teens plus a skiing Grandad at Half Term: Wengen in Switzerland.NEW
My visit was a family visit.
A return to a resort I have been to many times but not with my family for a couple of years – like many Wengen regulars we were lured back by its enduring appeal for families.
My dad, now 72, wanted another ski with his grandchildren before his various ailments curtail his skiing.
To cut a long story short I ended up taking half of his eight grandchildren to Wengen;
One young one, a couple of ‘tweens’ and one teen, along with my father “grandad”, whose own health has been a bit suspect of late.
Wengen worked for everyone.
Tired legs – young and old – can come down from the mountains by train or cable car.
Teens can hoon around the circuit from the Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg and speed down the Lauberhorn back to the village.
The teen found some fellow skiing teens who he has met before in Wengen = happy teen!
Grandad liked to have a regular break at lunchtime in the sunshine when it appeared or was happy to latch on to a random group over a bowl of soup at ‘the station restaurant’ at Kleine Schiedegg.
Mobile phones make it even easier these days to connect with everyone but the joy of Wengen is the accessibility of its slopes using the excellent trains.
Plus the stand out wigwam – an easy meeting point come rain or shine (and we had both!).
If you want to ski back to the village base, there are options to suit all abilities and on our final full day in the sunshine all the grandchildren made it down the famous 4.5km Lauberhorn Downhill run, a proud moment!
Despite it being half term, we avoided the cable car queues in the morning with early starts.
Not once did we queue at Grindelwald for a bubble or return train up the mountain.
The blue run through the trees to ‘Brandegg’ and all the way down became a favourite for all ages, younger legs darting in and out of the bumps and paths in amongst the woods and snow banks and the older less flexible legs finding the smooth path between the woods easy to turn on.
There are a few ski resorts which work well for mixed ability and mixed age groups but none that I have been to, make it as easy as Wengen.
This weekend and next month skiers can party under the Super Blue Moon!
Celebrating it’s 15th Year – The Full Moon Party in La Clusaz in Annecy Mountains kicks off with Djs and bands playing in the bars and restaurants of La Clusaz in the Crêt du Merle and Beauregard sectors. The resort stays open both Saturdays, 3rd February and 3rd March from 9pm to 1am.
The 4 locations on the le Crêt du Merle area hosting parties are: Chez Arthur; Chalet des Praz, La Ferme and le Salto.