bmi regional set to start ski season, flights announced to European winter sport gateways

bmi regional, a UK-based budget airline, is set to launch the snow sports season with flights to European gateway airports that provide access to 300 snow resorts, from Bristol airport.

The announcement comes as the Ski Club of Great Britain reported that its Consumer Research 2013, covering 21,000 respondents, found that 95 percent of people that skied last season intend to ski in 2013-2014.

bmi regional fares, which start from GBP79 per person one way, include in-flight menu and full bar service, in addition to 20kg checked baggage, ideal for travelling with winter clothing. For those flying with their own skis or snowboard, the airline charges £30 per flight per item (up to 20kg in weight).

bmi regional’s fare from Bristol to the ski gateway of Munich, which is just two hours from the Alps, starts from £79 per person one way.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a popular European ski destination, and its neighbour, Mittenwald, are claimed to offer a vibrant Bavarian ambience and are only 120km from Munich airport. Oberstdorf, another popular resort for skiers and snowboarders alike, is also easily reached by train or road from Munich.

For the Italian Alps and Dolomites, bmi regional offers flights from Bristol to Milan, also starting from £79 per person one way.

Dolomiti Superski, an area that features 1,200km of slopes, is suitable for both skiers and snowboarders and offers guaranteed snow from December until April. Alta Badia, a ski resort at the heart of the Dolomites, is within easy reach of Milan, while Val Gardena, an ideal resort for beginners, offers a diversity of pistes across 175km of ski runs.

Flybe to launch four new ski routes from Cardiff

British low-cost regional airline group, Flybe, will operate new ski routes to Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon from Cardiff this winter, Travel Weekly has reported.

The flights will operate between December 21 and April 2014 with one-way fares starting at GBP34.99.

The airline will use 78-seat Q400 and 88-set Embraer 175 aircraft on the routes. Chambery will be served twice a week, while the other three destinations will be served with weekly flights on Saturdays.

The low-cost carrier currently operates flights from Cardiff to 16 destinations in the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and continental Europe, including Belfast City, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The airline’s marketing director, Simon Lilley, said: ‘Our four new direct ski routes from Cardiff offer a choice of affordable and particularly attractive ski destinations direct from Wales, saving people valuable time, money and especially the hassle of having to trek to England before they even start their journey.

‘We see these new routes as a natural addition to our network out of Cardiff airport and are confident that these attractive winter destinations can only be positive news for Wales.’

Mr. Lilley added: ‘Flybe will continue to explore all possibilities for expanding our services at Cardiff and we look forward to welcoming our first ‘Welsh snowbirds’ on board in December whether they want to hit the slopes or just simply enjoy a quiet winter getaway.’

Airport chief executive, Jon Horne, said: ‘We have been working closely with Flybe as part of our strategy to bring back a greater choice of flights and destinations to Cardiff Airport and we look forward to exploring further opportunities in this regard.’

The Welsh Government bought Cardiff Airport in March, and had pledged to make it profitable after passenger numbers declined in the recent years.

Monarch Airlines to start German ski routes

The UK’s Monarch Airlines is looking to introduce ski routes to Friedrichshafen airport in southern Germany for the coming winter.

Monarch Airlines is a UK-based scheduled leisure airline operating from six bases in the UK – Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Luton, where it is based. The airline operates flights to holiday destinations principally around the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands – including Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Madeira, Portugal, Spain and Turkey – and to ski destinations during the winter.

The newly introduced, six times weekly flights will run from Gatwick and Manchester from December until April 2014. Friedrichshafen is a 90-minute transfer by coach, car or train to ski resorts in Switzerland, Austria, Leichtenstein and Germany, including St Anton, Lech, Zurs and Flims-Laax.

Monarch managing director, Kevin George, said: ‘After successfully launching our new scheduled flights to ski destinations last winter 12/13, we are keen to highlight our products and services to ski and snowboard travellers who are beginning to think about their winter holiday for this year.

‘Working with a key ski destination airport such as Friedrichshafen provides our great ski offering to customers.’ More than 50,000 skiers used Friedrichshafen as their gateway to the Alps last winter.

Monarch is currently undertaking an expansion programme that will see its fleet grow in size from 32 aircraft in 2012, to 38 during this financial year to October 2013. The airline recently took delivery of two new Airbus A320 aircraft.

With the addition, Monarch became the first UK airline to operate aircraft fitted with Airbus Sharklets. The enhancements to the wingtips are claimed to save fuel, increase performance, lower carbon emissions and improve payload by up to 450kg. The Sharklets cut down on aerodynamic drag by helping to reduce the spiral shaped vortices that are formed at the wingtips of any aircraft during flight.

Top events to see at the Winter X Games 2013

If you love snow sports, chances are you’re keen to attend the Winter X Games 2013. Held in Tignes, France from March 20th to 22nd, these give you a unique opportunity to see some of the top athletes for freestyle and freeriding snowboarding and skiing. Since they’re happening next month, I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of the events you shouldn’t miss.

Before I start, I should point out that the official schedule has not been released yet (or it hadn’t when I wrote this, anyway!), so I can’t give you exact dates or times for each. What I will do, though, is give you a run-through of the main events and how each works, including handy information like how riders are judged.

Each event has a women’s round and a men’s round. Typically, the men’s will begin will an elimination round to narrow the contestants down (which will usually be the best of two runs) and then a final that’s judged out of the best of three runs. The women’s will be broadly the same, with the exception that there is usually no elimination session.

Snowboard Slopestyle

Let’s start by taking a look at the Snowboard Slopestyle event. Whether the contestant is snowboarding or skiing (though obviously in this case it’ll be the former!), this event is designed to test a rider’s skills on a variety of terrain.

The slope is peppered with a mix of obstacles and apparatus, including tabletops, hips, rails and a mix of different jumps. What I think is so exciting about this event in particular is that it gives riders a chance to show off their aerial skills – so, for you and me, that means some particularly spectacular viewing.

In this event, riders are judged on a number of criteria, including difficulty, landings, use of the course and execution.

Ski Slopestyle

The Ski Slopestyle event is very similar in spirit, but there are a couple of differences that I’ll just outline for you quickly. The first is in the kinds of features the course has; for skiing, the slopestyle course normally has a combination of kickers, rails, jumps and gaps.

In terms of how the competition is judged, contestants need to impress on several counts. Style, trick completion and creativity are among the top criteria.

Snowboard SuperPipe

This next event is often described as one of the most exciting in the snow sports world – so whatever you do, don’t miss it! During the Snowboard SuperPipe, riders tackle a world-class U-shaped pipe that’s designed to maximise their time in the air for the highest and most amazing tricks, including mind-blowing spins and grabs.

Each rider takes their turn to prove their prowess when it comes to amazing aerial skills. The criteria each competitor is judged on as they battle it out to be the best at the X Games is similar to the Slopestyle – but there are differences. This time, riders will be ranked according to landings, difficulty and execution.

Ski SuperPipe

As you’ve no doubt guessed, the Ski SuperPipe has plenty of parallels with the snowboarding event. One of the key differences is that the pipe used for this is a bit bigger – but the criteria used to judge the event are the same.

Just to finish up, I’d like to add that there’s a lot else going on over this two-day event. For example, it’s known for its awesome parties – some of which last all night – while the X Fest at the Val Claret snow front offers plenty of other entertainment. If you’re still in the process of planning your trip, you can find decent accommodation through the Snowchateaux website.

UK ski companies banned from showing clients best slopes in France

The practice of UK-based ski tour operators showing their clients around slopes at French resorts has been banned.

It has been custom and practice for a number of years for UK tour operators at European ski resorts to provide their clients with a complimentary tour of the slopes as part of a familiarisation service that also includes the local restaurants and bars. However, despite the fact that no ski instruction is included on such tours and the most advanced slopes are avoided, the French authorities have now ruled that the practice compromises safety.

A court in Albertville ruled on Monday that French law demands that only qualified ski instructors can lead organised groups of skiers on the slopes. The company that was taken to court for the test case was UK-based Le Ski, although the involvement of the ESF national ski school in bringing the charges has raised accusations that the move is motivated more by French protectionism than any genuine safety issue.

Police on the slopes at the popular resort of Meribel apprehended a Le Ski host, telling him that his actions were illegal and that he was to report to the police in Courcheval.

The founder of Le Ski, Nick Morgan, said that his company will appeal the ruling and was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘As we expected, the court in Albertville has taken the side of the locals and the protectionist agenda of the ESF. We will be appealing and the case now goes to a court in Chambery. The fight goes on and we will take this all the way. We are determined to carry on and we are not prepared to see British ski hosting outlawed. By taking the British on in this way the French Authorities, and the ESF, have created a problem where there really wasn’t one.’

The director of the French ski instructors’ union, Jean-Marc Simon, responded in the report, saying, ‘This is purely about ski safety. We cannot have unqualified people taking groups of skiers around the mountain. We did not instigate this investigation, but as people responsible for mountain safety we must support the authorities.’

Top ski destinations for half term

Half-term is fast approaching and for a lot of UK families, this means a holiday is on the horizon. Skiing is one of the most popular things to do on a half-term break, but with so much choice it can be hard to know exactly where would make the best family holiday.

Here are a few of the top ski resorts for half-term:

St Anton in Austria

If you’re looking for a snowy paradise, St Anton could be the place for you. It boasts of being ‘a modern holiday resort that has retained its traditional appeal’. This means that it caters for all ages and levels, offering colossal backdrops of the peaks and skiing mountains as well as the comforts you expect to find from an international holiday resort. If you’re travelling by car, it’s important to know that a road tax sticker is obligatory in order to drive on motorways and on the S16. Alternatively, St Anton is just a stone’s throw away from Arlberg Rail Station. You can find some great winter deals with packages that include a 6-day lift pass, as well as half board and full board options.

Zermatt in Switzerland

Zermatt is a hugely popular skiing resort and is recognised as a family destination. Zermatt was awarded the Families Welcome seal of quality in 2013, which is given to holiday destinations that specifically target and cater for children and their families by the Swiss Tourism Federation. Wolli Park, close to the Sunnegga train station, is one of the best places to learn to ski, because it is sunnier and protected by the wind. Chalets come in a range of sizes to cater for both larger and smaller groups.

La Plagne in France

France is often the must-visit place for skiing. The stunning Alps and pockets of resorts dotted across it make it the ideal place to find your inner-skiing enthusiast. Not only is it great for adults but it can be heaps of fun for children as well. You can snow-board, trek, bob race, sledge and more at this vibrant resort.

Families can choose from a range of accommodation including the six separate high-altitude resorts which is perfect for keen skiers, or the picturesque villages which offer charm and the atmosphere of traditional Savoyard hamlets. Finally, there is the valley where families and holidaymakers can be in the heart of a preserved natural environment.

There are a number of things to consider when going on a skiing holiday, from the lift passes to the height of the slopes, but one thing you will want to make sure you don’t have to worry about is insurance. Ski insurance is specifically designed to cover you should you have an accident or if anything goes wrong on your skiing break. This offers peace of mind and ensures the only thing you’ll have to worry about is having fun.

Maine resort provides services to physically challenged

While the majority of resorts make a point of taking care of their physically challenged guests by providing them with additional services, a resort in Maine has been running a programme that has been helping handicapped people to enjoy the thrill of physically-demanding sports.

The resort, Sunday River, in Maine, has been adapting to the needs of disabled people who want to ski. The resort has adapted its facilities to the changing needs of various kinds of skiers, and it is now commonplace to see people of all abilities skiing in the area. Even those with severe disabilities, like blindness, have been able to ski in the resort, thanks to programmes that are specifically designed to assist them. The area’s skiing programme has been adapted to the needs of skiers of all abilities for more than three decades.

Judy Sullivan of Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation, said, ‘It serves so many people in so many ways. It’s not just a physical activity, it’s a social activity, a family type program. Once you’re here, you feel like family. You have lots of friends, lots of support. Cancer, amputee, MS, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, visual impairments, hearing impairments, the range is huge.’

The programme, Maine Adaptive (, which is available at the resort, relies on the services of more than 400 volunteers and a roster of approximately 300 skiers. They advise and assist skiers who are disabled. However, disabled skiers that wish to enrol need to obtain their doctor’s consent.

Organisers are offering the cost of the lift pass, lessons, equipment and even some items of specialised ski clothing, free of charge. Skiers do, however, have to arrange for their own hotel accommodation, and with the resort becoming so popular with people of different abilities, several properties in the area have rooms that are accessible to the physically challenged.


FCO Warns Travellers against Ski Injuries This Winter

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a UK government agency controlling interests of the UK overseas, has urged winter sports holidaymakers to exercise caution before hitting the slopes.

The agency is campaigning for raising awareness amidst Britons visiting European winter sports resorts this winter, against the dangers of attempting to ski on mountain slopes beyond their physical fitness levels.

The agency reported that in 2012, there have been around 12 serious accidents reported from the ski slopes in France, with seven resulting in deaths.

New research conducted by the FCO stated that only 1% of the respondents who visit ski slopes regard themselves as expert skiers, while the others rate themselves as beginner or intermediate skiers.

Around two thirds (65%) of winter sports travellers have admitted to skiing or snowboarding on slopes beyond their expertise in order to stay with a peer group; while 70% admitted to not having worn a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, highlighting a lack of awareness amongst ski loving Britons.

Simon Taylor, the UK Consul based in Marseille, France, said, ‘Last year we saw a high number of British nationals end up in hospital with serious injuries. Sadly this included a number of deaths. Many of these accidents can be prevented by taking simple precautionary steps.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll be fine if you’re with more experienced skiers or snowboarders. It is significant that a large number of cases we have dealt with have involved off piste skiing.

Those lucky enough to survive an accident and end up in hospital can face months of recovery, so it is important to think carefully beforehand about the very real risks out there.’

The study has also reported that around 38% of winter sports holidaymakers admitted to not having taken travel insurance on all winter holidays; while 31% said that they don’t always check their travel policies to see if they are insured against winter sports activities or not.

First Time Skiers Not Fit Enough for Slopes

Winter sports fans that are planning a ski vacation this winter should be asking themselves if they are fit enough to ski, as a recent travel survey has reported that almost a third of the people who take to the slopes for the first time are physically not up to the rigours of skiing.

The research has suggested that by not preparing themselves physically prior to hitting the ski slopes, first time adventure sports enthusiasts are risking a range of injuries on their initial ski outing.

The recent study conducted by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based travel agents association, has reported that around 39 percent of the respondents who are regular winter sports enthusiasts, have injured themselves at least once on a ski slope.

ABTA is partnering with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), a government agency that is responsible for the interests of UK citizens overseas, to produce a winter sports checklist that offers guidance to skiers, and a leaflet on ‘How to have a safe and healthy holiday in the snow’.

Victoria Bacon, the head of communications at ABTA, said, ‘Winter sports are becoming increasingly popular with an ever more diverse fan base. But like any activity that involves rigorous exercise you need to prepare yourself properly. By being physically prepared you can help ensure you remain injury and strain free and make the most of your time on the slopes.’

The research has also found that a third (or around 31 percent) of those embarking on skiing and snowboarding holidays do not take adequate travel insurance that is specifically for winter sports.

Chemmy Alcott, the British woman skier and brand ambassador for Monarch Airlines new ski routes, is also offering her support for the Get Fit for Ski campaign and said, ‘There is no beating around the bush – skiing is a dangerous sport. But there is lots that can be done to prevent injury as much as possible – first and foremost you can get in shape before you hit the slopes. This will result in a double whammy positive – your body will be better prepared to handle the physical excursions of skiing and you will be able to ski longer for harder thus getting more value for money!’

New Ski Destinations On Offer This Winter

While the 2011-12 ski season has been one of the best, with Europe having registered record snowfall in most resorts, British skiers preparing for the coming season should consider trying out new ski venues, according to UK-based Monarch Airlines.

The airline is offering new routes to Friedrichshafen, and Munich in Germany, and Grenoble, in France, from Manchester and Birmingham Airports in the UK. The routes come into effect on September 21, 2012. Monarch claim that the new flights to the ski destinations of Europe will allow ski lovers to enjoy the best slopes for low prices, commencing from £33.49 per person, one way.

Grenoble, in France, is located at the foot of the French Alps, and close to the ski resorts of Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, Courchevel, Megeve and La Grave, as well as the resorts of Meribel, Les Gets, Morzine and Les Houches.

Munich, in Germany, offers easy access to ski resorts in Austria and Germany, including the well known resorts of Ellmau, Zell am Ziller and Mayrhofen in Austria.

Friedrichshafen, in Germany, is located close to Germany’s borders with Switzerland and Austria, and provides access to a number of ski resorts that are located close by, including Alberschwende, Bergen, Dunserberg, Missen-Wilhams and many more.

From September 2012, the airline is also offering a new service to Munich in Germany, from London Luton airport.

For its summer season, the airline has reported a 16.61% increase in passenger numbers in May 2012, compared to May 2011, with around 519,893 passengers travelling to destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean regions.