Looking for Early Skiing in Europe – Try Glacier 3000 in Switzerland

On your marks, get set, SKI!

It’s that exciting time of year when skiers and snowboarders begin the process of ‘hurry up and wait’ for the winter season to commence. If you are desperate for some early ski season action, look no further than Glacier 3000 in Switzerland. Located at 3000m/10,000ft, the glacier has one of the longest ski season in Europe and will be opening THIS weekend: 28th October, to be exact!

Glacier 3000 is situated 7 minutes away from the Swiss town of Les Diablerets (a firm favourite on this blog), 90 minutes from Geneva international airport and is accessible by train, car and bus. What are you waiting for? Let the pictures speak for themselves…I see that 50cm/20inches of fresh powder fell this week!

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Enough snow for you? Photo credit: Glacier 3000
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Snow, snow everywhere…  Photo credit: Glacier 3000

 

So, who’s ready to hit the slopes this weekend? I know I am…!

 

Photos: banner – Jennifer Hart, Glacier 3000 original source click here

Adventure Families: Avalanche Fear and 5 Tips for Families Skiing / Snowboarding

I’m often asked by people “aren’t you scared of avalanches when you ski so much?” Short answer: Yes. Any skier/rider worth their weight that spends time in the mountains KNOWS this is a permanent risk underlying our favourite activity. Avalanches are real. They kill real people every year. They are not exclusive to the Alps and they can happen anywhere with mountains/hills and at almost any time.

So, if that’s true, then what the heck makes me go up a mountain, with my children and ignore this reality.

Several factors lead to this; none of which I intend to sound smug or dismissive. I am forever aware that this is part of mountain life and sports and try to be smart and prepared.

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Like all parents, I fear ANYTHING happening to my precious kids.

5 Tips For Getting Over Avalanche Fear:

  1. Trust the mountain rescue workers to do their jobs. That does NOT mean only after an avalanche has struck. Mountain rescue workers around the world are working day in and out to secure mountains and make sure they are safe for us to enjoy. They post daily risk factor scales (usually 1-5 rating or a flag system) and shut down mountains they deem unsafe. They routinely bomb mountains to set off avalanches (in secure situations) that seem evident. Watch the following video of a purpose-led avalanche by the amazing staff at Glacier 3000/Les Diablerets:https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fglacier3000%2Fvideos%2F907671902668989%2F&show_text=1&width=560
  2. Wear Recco reflector strips. My entire family does. We wear them in the recommended manner of one on one boot and one on the helmet. Recco is a trademarked avalanche rescue system that almost every ski resort in the world uses to find people trapped in an avalanche. There are several clothing companies that now make winter wear with Recco sewn into their clothes. Their transmitters are the best in the world and when the juniors start wanting to experience more freeride and off piste adventures, we will buy one for each of us.
  3. Stay on piste and listen to the advice of the mountain staff. If they have closed my favourite piste for the day, I don’t argue or think I’m above their decisions. I listen to their advice and stay where it is safe.
  4. On my personal to-do list is to take one of the numerous FREE avalanche safety training courses offered throughout Switzerland next year. Anyone can attend and as my juniors get older and push the boundaries of their skiing, I will make sure they are fully trained up in this area. Look to see if courses are offered near where you ski or at your favourite mountain gear shop.
  5. ABS Airbag systems. We don’t have these yet but we will all get them when/if freeride becomes a part of our lives. Check them out!

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Until then, I have discussed avalanches with the kids and we have practices the dog-paddle move you are meant to do to help create breathing space if you are ever caught in an avalanche. Our needs and the safety items on our list will expand as their skiing does but for now, I take comfort in playing it safe and only skiing when the pisteur/mountain staff say it is a moderate risk day. Their job is to make us safe and if I didn’t have faith in them, I don’t think I could ever take my precious children to 3000m/10 000ft.

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Things happen but trust the mountain staff to always have your safety in mind. We were caught at 3000m/10000ft when a storm came out of nowhere. Out came the snowcats to save us. These dudes were my heroes that day!

Photo/Video credit: Glacier 3000/Les Diablerets, ABS Airbag System, Fotolia, Jennifer Hart

Bang Bang There Went My Head!

It’s been quieter than normal around these parts but I wanted to take a quick moment to explain. In February, I was involved in an accident that caused a moderate concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)  and have been recovering ever since. I was not allowed to go near screens such as a mobile phone, tv, iPad or laptop for quite some time. I’m getting better at this and my headaches have disappeared for the most part. It’s still a struggle to concentrate on reading, which frustrates me to no end.

However, hang in there with me and I promise to be back soon. I have a few awesome submissions for Friday Featurette that are being worked through. Everything should be back to normal in the next week or so!

Thanks for not quitting on me yet!

 

Lausanne 2020 – Youth Olympic Games

We are so excited that the Youth Olympic Games 2020 will be happening in our neighbourhood!  Children are the future of sports and athletics. Some of them will  continue on to become the best in the world but many will take their experiences and grow to become informed sports scientists, doctors, engineers, etc.

Will you be here in 2020 to help cheer on the future of sports?

My own children are hoping to be part of the host nation ski team. Cross your fingers for them!!!

 

Photo and video credit: Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games

 

 

Photo Journal: First Ski Day of the 2016-2017 Season

When I first moved to Europe from Canada, it took me a while to come to terms with how late in the year snow fall arrived. I was used to Halloween being a snowy event so when ski trips booked to the Alps for Christmas deemed dicey, my brain couldn’t compute.

Yet, compute was what I was forced to do when TWO Christmas/NYE trips in a row were all but ruined from a complete lack of snow. Global warming is not up for debate in my world and I truly believe we are seeing the affects of it in the Alps. Perhaps a topic for another day…

So, imagine my surprise when we hit the slopes this past weekend at relatively lower altitude (1800m/6000ft) Here are some photos from the 20th of November 2016 at Les Diablerets/Isenau. For tips on skiing with children, click here.

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Hart

Adventure Families: Tips for Snowshoeing with Kids

“Don’t just tell your kids to be active and get outside and play. Lead by example.”

 –Summer Sanders  

One of the great joys of our move to Switzerland has been the availability and proximity to the great outdoors. I grew up in northwestern Ontario and despite some its flaws, the endless ability to just get outside and DO stuff was not one of them! Lakes, forests, mountains, snow, sun…we had it all. I felt strongly like this was missing from my kids’ lives in Paris and by moving here, we have all enjoyed our newfound freedom to explore the world outside.

I have previously written about hiking and skiing with kids in tow and I would like to expand up on that with a post about snowshoeing with kids. While this isn’t a very technically difficult sport to master, there are some considerations to make when taking children out with you. Hopefully you and your juniors will love this activity as much as we do!

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Fun in the Jura mountains

Tips for Snowshoeing with Kids:
Disclaimer: these tips are merely suggestions and things that worked for us or other families I’ve spoken with and might not be right for your family.

  • Start Gently and Slowly. Snowshoeing may not seem like a lot work but in no time your heart will be pumping and your muscles will be working hard to carry your body over the snow. Try to start with a flat trail that doesn’t challenge your youngsters too much. The idea is to make it fun which, in turn, generally means they will be more likely to want to do it again and again. The first few treks out, my kids also enjoyed throwing themselves into snowbanks and playing. I joined them. Being together outside isn’t about my exercise and heart rate, it is about teaching my kids to love being active and having fun together.
  • Buy Proper Gear. While I have seen several super cheap, plastic snowshoes available for youngsters, I have a hard time believing these will do the job. My kids wear very lightweight, kid-sized snowshoes called First Tracks by Lucky Bums. We have hit all kinds of terrain this season and they have done the job! Also, they come in pretty cool colours!
  • Skip the Poles. I said this with skiing and I will say this again now. Unless your children have extensive practice using poles for hiking and/or another sport like alpine or cross-country skiing, poles can just get in the way to start. They are a GREAT way to add additional balance but in my experience, kids actually enjoy falling in the snow and the poles can hurt when they land on them. If your child is really keen on using poles or is a bit older, then go for it, but for the very little ones, skip them to start.
  • Dress Appropriately. This should be a no-brainer but in case it isn’t, I will stress this point here. Kids love snow. Kids love falling, playing and rolling in snow. Dress them warmly in waterproof gear. Snow suits are best but older kids can get away with wearing gaiters if they are more interested in actually snowshoeing than snow-playing 😉 Gloves, hats, warm boots, sunscreen and even sunglasses if is sunny. Don’t forget the snow reflects UV rays so protecting the eyes and skin are crucial.
  • Pack Snacks and Water. A thirsty and hungry child can quickly shift a fun activity to a stress fest for mamas and papas. Be wise. Carry a backpack with healthy snacks and water for all of you.
  • Listen to Them. This goes back to point one where I strongly believe if you start slowly and progress gently, you will be a snowshoeing family in no time. However, kids get tired easily and this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If they are cold, tired or just simply over it, then head back to the car/home. Forcing kids to do anything will result in a meltdown and will ruin the experience.  Some kids have more endurance than others so don’t push your kids to keep up with anyone else other than themselves. Learning to snowshoe is a gift. You will be teaching your kids to exercise without it seeming like a big deal. Even kids that loathe sports are keen to try snowshoeing so bank on their interest, keep it fun and at THEIR level.
  • Have fun. Enough said 😉

 

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Mummy and Me
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Even our dog benefits from snowshoeing – be sure to pack ‘pick-up bags’ if you bring Fido with you!

Photo credit: Jennifer Hart

Weekend Getaways: Crans-Montana

Earlier this winter, Mr H and I were cuddled up on the couch one night watching the BBC 2 programme Ski Sunday. On this particular evening they were discussing Lindsey Vonn’s triumphant return after missing the 2013 and most of the 2014 seasons due to a horrible accident. If you don’t know who she is, I highly suggest you take some time and watch the RedBull documentary The Climb and get to know what a phenomenal athlete she is. Anyway, the hosts of Ski Sunday made a comment about looking forward to seeing her race in a few weeks time at Crans-Montana. That was all I needed to hear and within 10 minutes we had a weekend booked to see the Audi FIS Ski World Cup – Women’s event!

The excitement in our household was pretty high as we packed up the car to head to the event. The kids were honestly buzzing with energy. We discussed all the kick-butt skiers we were going to see: Lindsey Vonn(USA), Lara Gut(SUI), Larisa Yurkiw(CAN)…! Unfortunately for everyone involved, the unthinkable happened: winter was too wintery for the world cup. The races were cancelled under a high risk level of 2 metres of fresh powder!  Mother Nature wasn’t playing around! However, it did leave us lots of time to get to know Crans-Montana and enjoy our weekend in this charming alpine location.

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The lone Canadian flag in a sea of Swiss flags!
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Free local bus/navette

Crans-Montana:
Made up of not one but two neighbouring ski areas, Crans and Montana, the region has everything you would need for a ski trip to the Swiss alps. Situated around 1500m/4900ft, the villages are both distinct in their nature and yet there is space enough for families, the jet-set crew and everything in-between. The shopping is out of this world, ranging from local artists to the most luxurious of luxury goods. If the thought of Switzerland conjures up images of luxury and snow, then you must be thinking of Crans-Montana. I am not sure whose life sees them arrive at a mountain village needing t0 purchase an Omega watch but I am certainly NOT going to criticise! 🙂

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That view!

Points Forts/The Good Stuff:
Located in the bilingual canton of Valais (French) or Wallis (German), Crans-Montana is a sunny resort that offers not only great skiing and impressive mountain views, on clear days you can catch a glimpse of the neighbouring Matterhorn. Crans-Montana is easily accessed in about 2hours by car from Geneva airport. Train accessibility is excellent and a funiculaire/cable car taking you straight up the mountain can be found in the lower altitude town of Sierre. Parking in both Crans and Montana was extensive and the free interconnecting buses/navettes can see you going from your car to the gondola/télécabine in minutes.
Like many alpine resorts, Crans-Montana is an all-season location with a reputation for some of the best golfing in Europe. Every September, the Omega European Masters is hosted in Crans-Montana, drawing fans and sports enthusiasts from around the world!

What To Do in Crans-Montana?

  • skiing/snowboarding (children under 5 and under are free)
  • ski/snowboarding school (multilingual)
  • tobogganing/sledding/winter tubing at Snow Island
  • snowshoeing
  • skating
  • indoor golf
  • cross-country skiing (gorgeous pistes!!)
  • hiking
  • paragliding
  • snow park
  • rock climbing
  • VTT/Mountain biking (117KM of marked trails)
  • outdoor swimming (summer only)
  • canyoning
  • golf
  • lake activities (summer)
  • tennis
  • Nordic walking
  • host town of world sporting events both winter and summer
  • Late shopping every Friday night for those that arrive at the mountain having forgotten something…like a diamond necklace! 😉
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What snow?! Cortège/parade of cowbells.

Skiing in Crans-Montana:
Located between 1500m (villages) and 3000m(Plaine-Morte glacier) Crans-Montana is well situated for snow-seekers. There are over 140km of groomed trails, many of them wide and long to allow for more time on the slopes and less time on a lift! There is a mix between easy, intermediate and advanced allowing everyone to find what they are looking for. For those looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush, the Snow Park offers a chance to try rails, backflips and everything in between.

Dining in Crans-Montana:
The international nature and appeal of Crans-Montana is evident by a small wander through town. The restaurants are just as varied as the languages you will hear. This was the first time I have ever seen an Indian restaurant at altitude before and we were tempted to try it but I already had my eye on something even stranger: Restaurant Chez Chico: a popular Argentinian local haunt. It was too tempting not to try and I am so glad we did!!! The owner, Chico, and his wife are simply amazing and if you are in the Crans-Montana region you simply MUST try their restaurant. The empanadas alone will have you swooning with love.

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Chez Chico – Delightful Argentinian restaurant located in Montana

Where to Stay:
There is no shortage for places to stay, from high end luxury hotels to Airbnb rentals, in Crans-Montana. With the abundance of parking and free bus/navette system, you are pretty much guaranteed almost any spot you find will be a fast link up with the ski departure zones. The Crans-Montana website offers both special offers and accommodation suggestions so feel free to check that out here. If you have the means and feel like having a luxurious getaway, I suggest booking yourself at LeCrans Hotel & Spa.

Points to Consider:
Crans-Montana is a VERY popular destination so book early! When looking for a hotel or an apartment rental, if parking is not listed and you know you will need it, don’t dismiss the location before you check and see if it is near one of the numerous parking lots available. Check with your hotel location to see if they offer any discounts on lift tickets as some do offer this service. In addition, if you are worried about skiing at higher altitude please see my previous post on Les Diablerets where I discuss what to look out for.

In the end, we didn’t see the women’s world cup but we did participate in the festivities and get a real feel for Crans-Montana. We will be back!

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The junior Harts bringing some spirit!
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Walking on stilts attached to snowshoes – BRAVO, guys!!
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Lindsey Vonn at the drawing of the order ceremony – before everything was cancelled. Oh well! 

 

Thank you, Crans-Montana for an excellent weekend. It wasn’t the one we were expecting but we left happy and excited to return. A big thank you, also, to the staff of Chez Chico for such a delightful experience. Mountain dining has never been so fun!! 

Photos: Jennifer Hart, Chez Chico, Fotolia