Powder snow is the Holy Grail for skiers and snowboarders, and winter sports enthusiasts are leaving the boundaries of official ski areas and entering backcountry terrain to find it more than ever. Ski Safari highlights some of the latest and greatest off-piste experiences, which the company features in its holiday programme that spans three continents.
Ski Safari has been creating tailor-made ski holidays since 1996, when founders Richard and Samantha Rice started the company. Back then, only a few UK tour operators were organising ski trips to North America, but Richard and Sam were convinced that other Brits would love skiing in Canada as much as they did. These days, their established and passionate clientele are in search of the ultimate “POW” experiences across the globe. Here is a selection of their recommendations for the up-coming season:
Introduction to Backcountry
Andy Knights, North America specialist, says: “Complete beginners to off-piste skiing should try an introduction into backcountry course. Most of us ski what’s shown on the piste map, but that’s only half of what the mountains have to offer.”
An introductory course aims to bring out the other half of skiers’ ability, to ski and ride powder for the first time off-piste or in the backcountry. Ski Safari offers a selection of courses which do just that.
Whistler’s Extremely Canadian has you covered, whether it’s about having your best first backcountry experience or about making the most of Whistler’s huge untracked backcountry terrain. The trip includes one day on the Intro clinic: the on-point technical instruction and useful tips mean skiers can be arcing the perfect powder turn and dominating Garabaldi Park in no time.
Stay at the 3*+ Tantalus Lodge in Whistler based on four sharing for a stay of 10 nights in a two-bedroom condo, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £1,495 pp on 1 February 2018 departure date. Extremely Canadian add-on from £156 pp. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com
Switzerland’s Angel Mountain, Engelberg, is known for its classic off-piste descents and the resort is keen to pass the passion on with an innovative new course called Snow & Safety Days, which includes avalanche awareness training and guiding. The course is free to anyone staying in a partner hotel in Engelberg.
Stay at the 4* Titlis Resort in Engelberg based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Studio, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £615 pp on 20 January 2018 departure date. For more information on how to add Snow & Safety contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 062 or visit www.skisafari.com
Camps and Courses
Richard Rice, CEO says: “I have been skiing a long time, but my technique is far from perfect. So I still try to have a lesson, or do a ski clinic whenever I can.”
With any sport, it’s all about improving – and the same is true of snow sports, even for experts. Spending time with like-minded skiers from around the world and living the ski dream with newly mastered techniques, pushing to the next level, is in vogue. Ski Safari’s selection of camps and courses will bring out hidden talents, from perfecting technique on steep terrain to skiing with confidence through the trees.
New this season, Ski Safari has partnered with The Warren Smith Ski Academy to run a powder camp in Japan. Based in the authentic Japanese resort of Furano in Hokkaido, home to some of the highest snowfall records and top tree skiing in the world, guests will be guided around the best terrain and have their technique adapted to suit powder skiing by the Academy’s expert instructors.
The Warren Smith Ski Academy Powder Camp in Furano, Japan will be taking place from 24 January to 3 February 2018 and 31 January to 10 February 2018 and costs from £3,079 pp including the five day Powder Camp and three free ski days. www.skisafari.com
Ski Safari is proud to be partnering with Big White in Canada again this season to promote three Masters’ Weeks for the over 50’s. These highly social events are a wonderful way to meet other snow enthusiasts and improve technique in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Stay at the 3*+ Inn at Big White based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Superior room, including flights and transfers. Masters’ Week prices start from £1,515 pp (including exclusive £50 pp saving) on 29 January 2018 departure date. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com
Rupert Hatfield, Canada Product Manager, says: “Spending a day with a guide in Kicking Horse changed the way I play in the mountains.”
Ski guiding is a great way to experience some new challenges and off-piste areas you would be foolish to challenge otherwise. The mountain is a playground of opportunity and a local guide hired privately, or as part of a group, will show the way to untouched snow, both resort-based or off the beaten track. This will help build confidence to safely negotiate the terrain and find the best turns on the mountain.
New: Ski Safari always seeks to partner skiers with the best local guides and this year, they are broadening client’s options for guiding into a true tailor-made experience with Section 8: Canada’s premier in-bounds guiding and coaching service. Available in most Canadian resorts, the qualified leaders will help skiers maximise their time there.
Stay at the 4* Glacier Mountaineer Lodge, Kicking Horse & 3* Sandman Inn, Revelstoke based on four sharing for a stay of 10 nights (two-bedroom apartment/two standard rooms), including flights and car hire. Prices start from £1,395 pp on 22 January 2018 departure date. Two days guiding/coaching add-on at Kicking Horse & Revelstoke with Section 8 starts from £450 pp. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com
For those Japan bound, Ski Safari offers new guiding experiences with Hokkaido’s premier guiding company, Whiteroom Tours. Using Furano or Niseko as base resorts allows the guides to show you these or smaller, unknown resorts you would never otherwise get to.
Stay at the 4* Shiki Niseko in Niseko based on four sharing for a stay of seven nights in a two-bedroom apartment, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £1,725 pp on 1 March 2018 departure date. Guiding add-on from £470 pp for up to six with one guide. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 067 or visit www.skisafari.com
Andy Hemingway, Scandinavia Product Manager, says: “The saying, “earn your turns”, definitely applies to ski touring. If you like to put skins on your skis or split board and hike up mountains, you can enjoy the serenity and peacefulness of skiing away from the crowds. You also earn the respect of your peers when you lay claim to a line on a distant mountain that you hiked to and made your own.”
If you are looking for a new challenge then ski touring could inspire your skiing and riding and take it to a new level of enjoyment. Without boundaries and weather restrictions it allows you to pick your own route, develop your mountain skills and sample the powder that others can’t reach without the intervention of a snow cat or helicopter.
New for this season, Björkliden in Sweden offer a superb range of introductory through to advanced courses complete with safety equipment and expert guiding.
Stay at the 4* Myrkdalen Hotel in Björkliden based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Double room, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £1,095 pp on 18 February 2018. Ski touring add-on from £35 including equipment. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 068 or visit www.skisafari.com
Andy Knights, Product manager, says: “Niseko Weiss Powder Cats in Japan – quite possibly the most fun and easiest cat skiing you’ll ever experience. For first timers to the world of cat or off-piste powder, there is no better introduction. Enjoy mellow powder, cruisy tree runs and an incredibly comfortable snowcat to relax in between runs.”
Less than half the cost of heli-skiing, more expensive than a lift ticket, but easier than ski touring, cat-skiing is often seen as heli-skiing’s poorer cousin. But in fact, it allows easy access to some of the best alpine and trees in the world with down days due to poor weather almost unheard of. Ski Safari particularly recommends it if a client is new to off-piste skiing, as they’ll get to rest their legs on the snowcat ascents between each run. Make no mistake when it comes to vertical, cat-skiing is the best way to ski the most powder without the cost or unpredictability of heli-skiing.
Ski Safari works with some of the best cat-ski operators in the world. Weiss Niseko in Japan was once a ski resort but now privately owned by the cat-ski operator, Niseko Weiss Powder Cats. The beautifully gladed runs are only accessible by snowcat, and offer a unique day cat-ski experience in the pristine Hokkaido powder.
Stay at the 3*+ Always Niseko based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Standard room. Prices start from £1,695 pp on 27 February 2018 departure date. Cat-skiing add-on from £275 pp. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 067 or visit www.skisafari.com
In British Columbia, considered the home of cat-skiing, skiers and snowboarders have the opportunity in Red Mountain, Revelstoke, and the powder meccas of Whitewater, Whistler and Fernie.
Stay at the 3* Sandman Inn in Revelstoke based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Standard room, including flights and car hire. Prices start from £1,325 pp on 22 January 2018 departure date. Cat-skiing add-on from £350 pp. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com
Andy Knights says: “For some, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but for many who try it, it’s become an addiction that Ski Safari can’t recommend enough. Our team have been fortunate to experience heli-skiing in Alaska, multiple resorts in British Columbia, on Zermatt’s Monte Rosa and in the wilds of the Arctic Circle.”
For the ultimate thrill, nothing beats the rush of heli-skiing. From the moment you board the helicopter to your first touchdown atop pristine mountains blanketed in untouched virgin snow, the excitement is like nothing else. Arcing giant powder turns on a white canvas with a bluebird sky above is all in a normal day’s heli-skiing.
New for this season, Ski Safari’s programme includes access to heli-ski terrain as large as the Netherlands far north in the Arctic Circle from the Swedish resort of Riksgränsen.
Stay at the 3*+ Riksgränsen Hotel in Riksgränsen based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Skier’s room, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £879 pp on 8 April 2018 departure date. Heli-skiing add-on from £425 pp for three drops. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 068 or visit www.skisafari.com
Ski Safari work with long time heli-ski partners at Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Panorama and Whistler in Canada and Alaska in the USA. Alyeska’s Chugach Powder Guides have a vertical guarantee of 16,000 feet for a day of heli which will quite literally leave you breathless – twice what you get from other heli operators. They also offer some of the most awe inspiring heli-ski terrain on the planet enjoyed as a single or multi day experience.
Stay at the 4* Hotel Alyeska in Alaska based on two sharing for a stay of seven nights in a Deluxe Double room, including flights and transfers. Prices start from £1,850 pp on 21 February 2018 departure date. Heli-skiing add-on from £1,085 pp. For more information contact Ski Safari on 01273 224 060 or visit www.skisafari.com