Northern delights!

What can I say….skiing up in Finland was quite amazing and I will be returning next year hopefully. As expected the snow was fantastic and the resort surprisingly good with some great pitches including a FIS slalom piste. The skiing takes place on fels rather than mountains with amazing scenery. Frozen forests as far as you can see and over in to Russia.

Midday sun in Ruka

Midday sun in Ruka

On the slope facilities good with a restaurant at the bottom of most pistes and prices comparable with a mid-priced European resort. Alcoholic drinks in bars not as bad as I thought but more like London prices ( large glass of quality wine €10). Not the place to indulge in heavy après ski!

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We hired our own chalet with had all the luxuries including a sauna! Self-catering super market prices same as the UK.

Back at HQ ( The Snow Centre) we are now in our busiest period and seeing many people honing their snowsport skills on the slopes of the Hemelayers! With the much improved snow situation across Europe people are starting to consider a trip in the spring. After February half term it just gets a little calmer and is a great time to get back on your skis or snowboard. Remember we have snow every day in Hemel Hempstead!

We are now 5 weeks in to our IASI ( Irish Association Snowsports Instructors) course at The Snow Centre and this is proving to be a very successful option for people wanting to gain a basic instructors qualification.

12 week IASI instructor training group at The Snow Centre!

12 week IASI instructor training group at The Snow Centre!

Well my next trip is up to Norway (Voss) to check out the venue for next season. Then it’s back to the Balkans ( Macedonia) for some freeride adventure followed by the usual Austrian courses for Easter.

Flights now booked for Argentina in September so looking forwards to skiing in the southern hemisphere for the first time!

Skiing at the end of the world...Argentina!

Skiing at the end of the world…Argentina!

Think Snow!

Pete

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Hi All Snowsport lovers!

Been a bit lazy in updating this so thought I better get on to it right now.

Well we are right in the thick of it now with The Snow Centre just entering our Super peak season ( December to March) however to be honest winter never really went away. The centre has seen phenomenal success over the last winter ( partly due to the great buzz coming off the winter Olympics). It never really got quiet which is great as I often look out on to the slope and see so many young people engaged in snowsports. This has become for many a lifestyle, just like it is with our Alpine or Scandinavian cousins.

First Alpine trip for me was back in October when I was part of the training team running our annual team training. This trip takes place on the Soelden glacier. Snow was not so good this year but adequate for training purposes. We had a great and I look forwards to getting back out there end of April 2015.

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The week later I found myself in Dubai! This was to take a look at the big indoor slope operating over there. There is so much they do well ( low skilled activities) but the actually Alpine skiing was quiet and mainly expat Europeans. Great slope though I must say. Our senior management team travelled out in search or ” inspiration”! We did find it to be honest.

 

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December saw me back out with the ALPINECOACHING team in our homeland Hintertux, Austria! 5 coaches along with around 30 guests enjoyed great early season conditions on the glacier. Snow on piste was some of the best I have skied at this time of year which is amazing considering most of Europe was suffering a snow drought. We look forwards to getting back to Hinteryux in April 2015. Our team included Dan Gillespie, Guy Nason and Penny Chapman ( All ISIA qualified coaches)

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Me on the Glacier December 2014 ( not bad for an old git)

So as I write this im packing in preparation for my trip to Finland tomorrow. I went to Finland back on May 2014 for the ISIA conference and fell in love with the place. Clean, vast and so different from the Alps. I just had to organise a trip back so that me at 3am tomorrow on my way to Gatwick.

Ruka Finland

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Up and coming we have a Norway trip planned and then it’s back to the wilds of Macedonia for more adventure.

I will check out now but will update soon.

Think snow and stay safe!

Pete

Pete Gillespie

Head of Snowsports / Customer service manager

BASI Level 4 ISIA

IASI level 4 Alpine Trainer

Hi All snow lovers!

 

What a season in some areas with record snowfalls! We are just back from Hintertux running the www.alpinecoachingsnowsports.com Spring coaching courses. Plenty of snow and fresh tracks to be found every day. Despite the holiday period the slopes ( especially off piste) seemed quiet. We would return run after run and still ski ski fresh tracks right next to our last set of lines. Perfect.

 

A few weeks earlier I had been skiing in Pila just above Aosta running a BASI level 1 instructors course. First time in this resort and I must say I was rather impressed. Great slopes, typically Italian ( perfectly groomed) and all the instructors looked like they had their own page in Hello Magazine. I look forwards to skiing in Aosta again in the future.

 

Our adventure trip was once again back to Popov Shapka in Macedonia. This season I took a few customers with me and we spent 4 days skiing on piste, off piste, touring and using the local CAT skiing operation. The terrain in Macedonia is fantastic for freeride skiing and with a short skin you can access for amazing slopes with beautiful scenery. The infrastructure is a little dated so you need to understand this but the local people are very helpful and pleased to have you as their guests. Food is fantastic ( fusion of Austrian / Mediterranean and Turkish). Macedonia will now be a firm fixture in our annual programme.

 

My next trip will be the ISIA (International ski instructors association ) conference in Finland where the worlds professional ski instructors associations meet to discuss various topics ( 39 nations), this will be followed by the lasts Spring bash on the Hintertux Glacier 24th – 31st May 2014. Join us!

 

Hope you enjoy some pictures from various locations (the season 2014)ImageImageImage

 

Think snow!

 

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Just back from a weekend in Switzerland. My son Dan works for the Swiss Snowsports School in Hoch Ybrig which is a resort 1 hour from Zurich.

What can I say….a little gem of a resort! The resort is an easy drive from Zurich and and has some fantastic terrain. I was genuinely blown away with the freeride and offpiste opportunities.

There would be enough skiing here for a good weekend for all the family, in fact at the weekends it attracts a lot of ex pats from nearby Zug.

Village is small but quaint with a few traditional hotels and restaurants. We stayed in the Muller Post hotel.

The real beauty is the ease of access. Skied all day Sunday, back to the airport ( hired a car) for the 21.30 flight home, I was back in my house for 11pm UK time! A real weekend skiing destination from the UK.

I will be going back!

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Image  —  Posted: January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Tux tele December 2013Guy Nason ISIAWhat a great  start to 2013/14 season with record early snow falls. My first trip out was in October as part of our pre season training with our Snow Centre school to partner resort Solden. This was the week before the world cup opener and the snow was fantastic! This week gives our team a great opportunity to train together and get ready for the winter season.

November all current BASI trainers attend our annual refresher and this year this took place in the home of British skiing, Aviemore! It was great to be back up in the highlands and this especially close to me as its where I passed my final technical exam ( Grade 1 National ski teacher) back in the day. As I write this now 2 months on from our conference Scotland is enjoying a good season s far with the resorts open.

Back at The Snow Centre we have seen the busiest winter so far since we opened in 2009. Its great to see people making snowsports part of their lifestyle. The Snow Centre has really provided a venue and opportunity for people to participate on a regular basis and we are now seeing some great performance levels in some of the young children who started here back when we first opened.

December saw our training trip out to Hintertux with my other business www.alpinecoachingsnowsports.com Myself along with trainers Ali Smith, Guy Nason and Richi Grassl had a great week coaching our snowsport fans. Weather was fine ( blue sky) with perfect on pste snow conditions. Great for woring on the technical piste turns ( long and short). Off piste was very limited at during that period although we found the odd challenge : )

Since then its been full tilt at The Snow Centre but I have been getting out on the slope 3 or 4 times a week to train with the team. Next week Im off out to Switzerland ( Hoch Ybrig) for a short trip to see how my son Dan is getting on teaching with the Swiss ski school. Its a new resort for me so looking forwards to that.

Our next big challenge is the Feb half term holidays which is our busiest time, then its the Sochi winter games which I hope will inspire many more people both young and old in to trying a snowsport.

Im leading an adventure trip down to Macedonia in early March ( see last years blog on skiing in Macedonia) to ski some off piste. The snow fall in the Balkans has been more progressive than the Alps so im hoping by March we should have a reasonable base. They had a fresh 10cm last night ( 15/1/14). They still need more as its been little bits at a time.

I will update on the up and coming trips. Enjoy the mountains and stay safe.

Pete

pete Tux

Image  —  Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

Endless winter

Posted: April 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

What a season, when will it stop snowing? People are commenting ” what a great winter we are having this spring “.

Last week myself and Alpinecoaching trainer / ISIA ski teacher Guy Nason ran our Easter course programme in Hinterux Austria. Conditions on the glacier provided fantastic skiing both on and off piste.

Some of the best powder of the season was accessible with a simple traverse off the piste. No helicopter, walking or skinning required. One day we skied with the groups over 1000 metres of untracked powder in the first morning with not a person to share it with ( shame )

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With both Guy and myself coaching it allowed us to set up some ” workshops ” as some of our groups had very specific goals working towards the up and coming BASI instructors courses.

It’s was without a doubt an All Mountain experience with the glacier and resort facilities providing exceptional conditions and service levels.

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I’ve been back to The Snow Centre for a week where we are just coming to the end of our Easter holiday courses. The centre had remained busy ( partly due to the endless winter ) and I can report this had been our busiest season since opening almost 4 years ago. People are really tuning in to urban Snowsports and what a great facility we have.

Short trip back to the UK for me as tomorrow I head back out to Hintertux Austria for 2 weeks to join the team of BASI trainers running the spring instructors courses.

Following these two weeks there is still one last opportunity to enjoy this epic winter with us back on the glacier. We will be running our spring course 25th May over the Whitsun week, and with the snow still falling it looks very promising.

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Following that course I WILL be seeking some sun before it all starts again!

Pete

Just returning from a fantastic week skiing in the Monterosa area in the Val D Aosta, Italy.

The plan was a three day training camp developing off piste skiing skills followed by a day Heli skiing, then a further guided off piste development. The weather didn’t allow for the Heli skiing unfortunately but we sill found some great terrain to ski.

Gressoney is a Mecca for adventure skiing with a wide variation of terrain. This is my 8th visit to the area and the more I come here the more I love it’s rugged and wild feel. The upper valley has a unique culture due to its former ( and current ) Walser community ( German speaking people who originally migrated from the Swiss region of Wallis / Vallais just on the other side of the Monterosa.

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There are many itineraries to explore from entry level side of the piste to exposed serious tours involving mountaineering skills. Our group consisted of skiers with off piste skiing experience which allowed us to get in to some of the more challenging routes. I would describe us a ” Slack country skiers ” which is a term for off piste using the lift system for acces with maybe some short walks or traversing ).
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I would describe our week as guided coaching where there is a focus on developing performance at the same time as being safely guided through the terrain. This is a little different from the purely guided groups we came across with mountain guides. These groups are being taken to the terrain but without instruction. For routes that require the use of ropes and crampons ( crossing glaciers ) this is the norm as a mountain guide is required.

We would start the day with a little piste skiing developing specific skills then take these in to the off piste terrain. Our daily development itinerary was the Valle d Olen. This route had a variety of pitches and some good north facing slopes.

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The Punta Indren lift gives access to many wilder routes with some steep gullies. This area is only for serious skiers with warnings and checks at the entry and exit of the lift. Transceiver and avalanche rescue equipment is obligatory.

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The group skied the Eagle gully and the grand gully on this face with a few variations. Skiing on the Balma route was not recommended due to it not being in condition.

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On days in poor light we headed in to the trees to find better definition. There are some fantastic routes lower down when the high peaks are shrouded in fog and white light.

A great week and a place I am sure we will visit many times again in the future. Maybe next time we will get to use the helicopter service to get higher on the Monterosa!

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Thanks to the group for the shared adventure and thanks to Guy Nason ISIA ski teacher and my back marker during some of the more “challenging” descents.

Pete Silver Gillespie

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The wild mountain of Popov Shapka in the North east of Macedonia

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I have always been interested in looking for more adventurous snowsports destinations blending culture and adventure. I think I may have found my new destination!

Before organising a trip for my clients I thought I better go and check out this new destination. With that I booked two tickets for myself and my wife Lea.

So where is Macedonia? Well first we have to establish that I am writing about the Republic of Macedonia, one of the former republics of Yugoslavia. There is also a region bordering the Republic called Macedonia in Greece. This is the subject of much tension and not one I wish to explore in this blog.

Macedonia is in the southern Balkans and shares boarders with Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. Its Capital city is Skopje and this is where our adventure began once leaving Luton on a Wizz air flight. Three and a half hours later you are in a vibrant and ethnically diverse country.

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Alexander The Great is believed to have come from what is now the Republic of Macedonia

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Macedonia has both Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities. In the region around Skopje and Popov Shapka the majority population are of Albanian decent with official signs written in both Macedonian Cyrillic and Albanian. This mix of culture left over from the Ottoman period results in a perfect blend of southern European and Turkish influence most obvious in the food.

Our local taxi driver (Baze) picked us up from Skopje airport and drove us the one hour journey up to Shapka. On route we took a short detour to the family of a Macedonian friend of mine (Dragi) who had organised home made red wine (Crno Vino) and Mastika (like ozzo) as a little welcome gift.

As we leave Skojpe the journey takes us past some beautiful villages that would not be out of place in an Alpine valley. The only one obvious difference is the villages were centred around a Mosque.

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From Tevoto the road begins to wind up around hairpin bends as we climb higher. The snow on the side of the road is over a metre deep and getting deeper the higher we climb. After about 20 mins of what I will describe as a white knuckle ride we arrive in our destination Popov Shapka! The mountain a head looks wild and already I can see the adventurous opportunities. To our left is the main ski area which is a collection of old Poma lifts, chair lifts and a T bar. The place is rammer with weekend skiers in equipment that back in 1988 would have been top of the range.

After a bit of a struggle Baze get his taxi up to our accommodation. The grand hotel Slavjia!

We had an idea of what to expect having spent time in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia in the past. However the hotel Slavija took the top prize for being the most run down hotel I have ever stayed in! It is clear to see that 30 years ago this would have been the pride of skiing in Yugoslavia, but it was also the last time it had a lick of paint. Despite the very run down accommodation the staff running the place were nothing but helpful. Having exhausted my limited Serbo / Croatian I switched to English but to no avail. So my last attempt was the wild card……German. Much to my delight two of the staff spoke very good conversational German having previously worked in Switzerland.

Food in the hotel was really very good and typically Balkan. Lots of fresh salads, white cheese and grilled meats. Bar was unbelievably cheap with a half litre of wine coming in at around £2.50.

The Skiing

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The night skiing on a floodlit piste ( 7 – 10pm) came in at a whopping € 5.00.

Next morning waking up to fresh snow we make our way down to the lift pass office (porto cabin) and purchased a day ticket at €15.00. The pisted area is not huge and serviced by old but functional lifts. Terrain is quite interesting with lots of ” just of the piste” off piste. Ideal for developing all terrain skills. There are……well basically NO on slope facilities (restaurants and toilets) apart from a few shacks and a place to get coffee.

The closest thing to a restaurant up the mountain was an on the slope bazaar selling crisps, nuts and bottled drinks. Toilets……portaloo!

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The more adventurous skiing

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A long cold chairlift takes skiers and snowboarders high up on the the main peak. It is here that the opportunities for off piste and freeride became obvious. A loosely marked piste mianders down the mountain but either side awaits a mix of powder bowls, steep gullies and tree skiing. With a set of skins or snowshoes the more adventurous rider would be in heaven. I did spot a British group with their guides out enjoying the terrain. They where using the local cat skiing service (a mechanised alternitive to heli skiing) to access some more remote areas.

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Don’t expect the ambulance to get out of this station in a hurry!!

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In summery Popov Shapka has huge potential and is great mountain to ski. The facilities are old and the standard of accommodation is like nothing you would have seen before. Creature comforts are not high on the list! This would not be for everyone and only the open minded should consider it. The cultural experience is a refreshing change from the normal snowsports vacation. Would I bring my kids here….no. Will I be back…..yes!

Pete and Lea Gillespie in Popov Shapka

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Will it snow???

Posted: January 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Well I was all ready to head up to Scotland this weekend to deliver a BASI (British Association Snowsport Instructors) level 2 instructors course……and it cancelled! BASI had to make the call based on conditions last week when it warmed up and a big thaw set in. Ironically now we are being told that we should ALL be expecting snow in the UK. Looks like I may be heading up to the Chiltern hills (my local hills) with the kids for a little sledging soon!

Very busy here at The Snow Centre with this weekend being the busiest so far this season with over 950 people attending group lessons. It super peak season now for sure!!

My next trip will be down to Macedonia in 3 weeks time where it is snowing very hard (40cm in the next few days). Lift pass €15 a day so looking forwards to that!

PSG

Think snow

Happy new snowsport year!

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hi Snowsport fans!

Looking forwards to a white 2013, season in Europe looks like it going well. I have my next trip to Cairngorm booked (2 weeks running BASI courses), Macedonia is booked followed by Gressoney Heli skiing! Cant wait

The Snow Centre has been really busy in the last 2 weeks with a great feel around the place.

2012 was great but I feel 2013 will be better!

Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!

Pete