Switzerland, Europe

Pre-Xmas Off-Piste Skills

This early season course is 4 full days of top class ski instruction with 5 nights half-board accommodation.

The Swiss resort of Zinal is a great destination for coaching off-piste skiing and has a good snow record in previous pre-xmas weeks. You will be staying at the Chalet Edelweiss in Mottec, without doubt one of the outstanding places to stay in the Val d'anniviers! Your hosts Eric and Penny have been working with us for close on ten years and have the art of chalet hosting absolutely nailed. With the combination of amazing quality skiing and stunning catered accommodation, this 4-day course will certainly not disappoint.

The focus of this course is on honing your off-piste skills ahead of the coming winter. Depending on conditions it may also include sessions on avalanche safety, transceiver use and ski touring equipment and techniques.

We rate Zinal and the Val d'Anniviers as one of the very best places to ski off-piste in the Alps and this course is ideal for off-piste skiers looking to find their off-piste mojo, to get the season started with a bang!

Day Itinerary

  • Travel to Zinal

    Evening meeting and briefing with the Mountain Tracks team.

  • 4 Days of intensive off-piste instruction and skill training

    There will be technique sessions covering both on and off-piste skiing. On most evenings there will be some video analysis of your off-piste skiing and we'll also include sessions on avalanche safety and equipment.

    The itinerary is flexible depending on the weather and snow conditions, the preferences of the group and the recommendations of the instructors.

  • Depart after breakfast

The price includes 4 full days of ski instruction, 5 nights half-board accommodation (4 evening meals) in fully catered chalet (twin rooms).

The price does not include travel to Zinal, lift pass, lunches, personal insurance and equipment hire.

We are proud to offer all of our returning customers a £50 discount.

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Ski Club Winter Arrangements limited (trading as Mountain Tracks)
Registered in England No. 2099115. VAT No. GB 461 5692 34

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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Off-Piste Coaching courses.  On these courses you’ll be staying in a comfortable catered chalet or hotels. When skiing you need to carry just a small day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items you may need.

  • This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.
     
    • A good quality pair of ski trousers. They must be made from a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex or similar. It’s useful to have some venting zips on the legs either inside or outside thigh or full-length side-zips. Integral snow gaiters and some pockets for handy items are good features.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. We advocate the ‘layering principle’ and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • Comfortable underwear with good wicking properties. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Ortovox. They are comfy, breathable, warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Several thin (rather than fewer thick) layers between your skin and the outer shell - an approach that gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’.
    • Insulation layer like a down or primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • Good quality, ski gloves or mitts if you suffer from cold hands and 1 thinner pair of gloves made from a softshell or fleece material if the weather is warm. These are particularly useful if you do any ski touring or hiking on the trip as thick gloves quickly become too hot.
      Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer from cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • We continue to see big changes in ski, boot and binding design and technology, which make off-piste skiing and ski touring much more accessible.

    For our Off-Piste Coaching courses, good downhill ski and boot are required.

    Skis
    This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. The MTN 95 is an award-winning ski with great stability at high speeds whilst the MTN 88 is a best-selling lightweight touring ski. The QST’s are slightly heavier and therefore suited to charging; perfect for day-touring.
    Lockwoods Ski and Outdoor are supporting our guides and we suggest that if you’re interested in any of the MTN or QST skis, you should make Lockwoods your first point of call. 

    There are many ‘all-mountain’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Salomon, Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for your height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-100mm under the foot - is perfect for getting to grips skiing off-piste and these skis give you floatation in powder snow but are still easy to handle and carve on the piste.

    Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com  
    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com  
    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com/  
    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us/  
    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

    There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.


    Boots
    For off-piste performance courses, standard downhill ski boots are ideal, they offer rigidity, responsiveness and flex depending on the snow conditions. If you have ski touring boots or a pair of the hybrid freeride/touring boots with a walk mode, then these are fine too, bring them with you. We do not recommend you come on a trip with brand new boots.

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit’ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit, they can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf¹ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. 

    Bindings
    Standard downhill bindings.

  • The “Safety Trilogy” - applicable for all our off-piste courses
    Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon 
    Snow shovel
    Avalanche probe

    We recommend Simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+


    Avalanche airbags/rucksacks – if you wish to ski with one of these on our courses you are welcome to do so, they are not mandatory but we always support the use of available safety items.

    You can hire avalanche rucksacks in a lot of resorts, makes are usually Snowpulse/Mammut, ABS or Ortovox Avabag. Prices vary from shop to shop and resort to resort but a guide line price would be from €30 / CHF 35 per day 

    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out http://mountaintracks.co.uk/discipline/winter-mountaincraft

    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility.
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 25 – 30 litre rucksack with straps for carrying skis. If you wish to use an avalanche airbag/rucksack you are welcome to, you can now hire these in most resorts.
    • 1 – 1.5 litre water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favourite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve

The Val d'Annivièrs is the most easterly French speaking valley in southern Switzerland. From a skiers point of view five of its many idyllic and picturesque villages: St. Luc, Chandolin, Zinal, Grimentz and Vercorin operate ski lifts and pistes all on the same ski pass. Each is a ski area in its own right and stretch between 1200m – 3000m in altitude. With skiing on all aspects of the compass the valley is renowned for its variety of snow and the scope of its freeriding.

The area has a large network of lifts servicing 200km of pistes up to an altitude of almost 3,000m. The whole area is characterised by stunning high alpine terrain, deep valleys and charming villages. The main ski domains of Zinal, Grimentz, St Luc-Chandolin and Vercorin are well-connected by local buses. The area also has the advantages of being relatively unknown (and therefore not so busy) and easily accessible from Geneva, Zurich or Sion airports.

We rate Zinal and the Val d'Anniviers as one of the best areas for off-piste and backcountry skiing in the Alps.

Our top reasons to visit Zinal

  • The off-piste terrain is as good as it gets anywhere in the Alps!
  • Fresh tracks can be skied here for days after other resorts have been tracked out
  • Off the beaten track, but still within 3 hours of Geneva Airport - 2 hours if you hire a car as 3/4 of the journey is motorway!
  • Luxuriating in the wonderful hospitality on offer in Chalet Edelweiss
  • Among many excellent descents is the classic run down to the Moiry Dam, a must on a blue-sky powder day!
  • The Imperial Crown Haute Route - a majestic 5-day ski tour that knocks the spots off many more well known ski tours

 

Resort Height: 1,670m

Highest Lift: 3,000m

Nearest Airport: Geneva or Zurich

Accommodation in Zinal

For many of our weeks in Zinal we stay at the comfortable Chalet Edelweiss run by our good friends Eric and Penny Kendall. They have created a fantastic chalet in the village of Mottec just 2 minutes from Zinal. The chalet has 5 comfortable twin or double rooms, all with ensuite facilities, complimentary toiletries and fluffy towels. The lounge area has plenty of seating, a large fire place, library, TV/DVD/satellite and music system plus an internet corner and wifi. Penny's cooking is exceptional and you will be fed and watered extremely well all week with breakfast, tea and a 3-course evening meal. It’s possible for the vast majority of the winter to ski directly back to the chalet off piste all the way with over 1500m of descent, arriving to well deserved tea and cakes!

The chalet has a ski room with boot dryer and private car park. They also hose a Scott Ski Test Centre at the chalet with many pairs of freeride and touring skis for hire and test. You can book ski hire with the chalet direct before you travel. If you need to hire boots then this needs to be done at the local ski shop in Zinal village. Find out more about the Chalet at www.skizinal.com

We also work with some of the hotels in the village of Zinal for other weeks like the Hotel Besso and Hotel Europe. Both offer comfortable accommodation plus good food. The village is small with a few shops and a good après ski bar called the Bar e VoX close to the bottom of the main lift at Sorebois.

Recommended Travel Options

The most convenient airport is Geneva followed by Zurich. Train is the best option for the onward journey from the airport to Zinal. Connections are regular and the total travel time is approximately 3hrs 15mins from Geneva with 2 changes and around 4hrs with 3 or 4 changes from Zurich Airport. To look up train timetables use this link Swiss Railway Timetables You can travel as far as Sierre in the main Rhone Valley by train, here you have to change to the Swiss Post Bus (Yellow) and you travel up the Val d'Anniviers by bus (you may need to change in Vissoie). If you are staying at Chalet Edelweiss, you must ask the driver for Mottec (as it’s a request stop) and the bus stops right outside Chalet Edelweiss. This is the large balconied house alongside the road.

Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport, driving time to the Auberge is approximately 2 hrs from Geneva, and 2.5 hrs from Zurich.

 

  • It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.

    For UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
    If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
     

  • The most convenient airports are Geneva or Zurich airport, from where you can take the train to Sierre (Geneva 2 hrs, Zurich 2.5 hrs).

    At Sierre catch the yellow Post Bus to Zinal (you may need to change in Vissoie). Ask the driver for Mottec (as it’s a request stop) and the bus stops right outside the Auberge Edelweiss. This is the large balconied house alongside the road.
    Train and bus timetables can be found at www.sbb.ch/en

    Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport: driving time to the Auberge is approximately 2 hrs from Geneva, and 2.5 hrs from Zurich.

    You should arrange to arrive in Zinal by late afternoon on Day 1 and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight for mid to late afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!

     

  • This course will be led by our team of BASI Ski Instructors which includes Dave Meyer, Will Evans and Greg Jones. They are all extremely talented ski coaches who are passionate about off-piste skiing. Our instructors consistently prove they have the ability to teach skiers how to hone their technique and confidence in off-piste terrain.They'll ensure you have a fantastic week.
  • The minimum number is 4. The maximum group size is 12. For groups of 8 or more, the off-piste ski instructor will be joined by a mountain guide and the group will alternate between skiing with the instructor and the guide.
  • Our base is Chalet Edelweiss in the hamlet of Mottec, 2km from Zinal and at the foot of one of the valley’s best off-piste routes.

    Our hosts Penny and Eric renovated the old building themselves, providing a luxurious chalet with great facilities for skiers - 5 ensuite bedrooms, a range of Scott freeride skis to test, ski-room with boot dryer, warm booting-up space and a stop for the free ski-bus right outside.

    Our groups have loved this home from home, with its huge double-sided fireplace, ample seating and extensive library, as well as vin chaud evenings around the outdoor firepit. Penny’s delicious food is a highpoint - not just the cakes, fantastic evening meals and local wines, but also the lavish breakfasts devised to send you out prepared for the ski day ahead!
     

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