Didier Cuche retires in style

After 17 years on the racing circuit, the Swiss racer Didier Cuche retired from ski racing in Schladming, Austria this weekend.

Cuche made his final run dressed in traditional mountain clothing, with a flat cap and a rucksack on his back, and on his traditional wooden skis and leather boots, finished off with the slowest run of his career.

What a way to retire! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house (or on the mountain).

Ski holidays – 10 myths exposed

If you are new to skiing, the whole idea of going on a ski holiday can be quite daunting. On a number of occasions I have seen people who have never skied before worry about things which just aren’t true. So, here I expose the top 10 ski myths:

1. A skiing holiday has to be expensive
Things have changed in the world of skiing – no longer is it an elite sport for the rich. It is quite possible to take a family of beginners skiing and for it not to break the bank. How?

– Go self catered. Self catered ski accommodation is often excellent and doesn’t cost very much per head. You can also choose to squeeze more people in on sofa beds to bring the price down even more. Don’t book via large tour operators – go directly to local estate agents or independent property suppliers.

– Drive. With four people in a car, and if travelling to areas in the Northern Alps, driving is a very cost effective way of getting to a ski resort.
– Try and avoid the main school holidays (Christmas, New Year, Half Term) if at all possible.

– Keep an eye on when budget airlines release their flights and book early!

– You don’t need to go to the world’s biggest ski area if you are beginners. Go to a smaller resort where you will find everything in resort (lift pass, ski hire etc) to be a lot cheaper.

2. Skiing is dangerous
Although skiing does involve travelling downhill on planks of wood without any breaks, the vast majority of skiers who learn to ski with instructors and ski within their limits will have a happy lifetime of incident free skiing. Yes accidents do sometimes happen, but more often than not ski related accidents are less to do with the actual skiing and more to do with amounts of alcohol consumed and not taking care on icy surfaces etc. If you learn to ski properly, you will also learn to ski safely.

3. The weather is cold and horrible when skiing
Well, yes, the weather is usually cold. And sometimes it can be snowing. That is a fact about holidaying in the mountains in winter. However, when the sun comes out in the mountains there is nothing like it. Alpine sunshine, clear blue skies and temperatures of -5 degrees can certainly feel a lot warmer than a UK winter day when the temperature might be 10 degrees. That is why people come back from ski holidays with sun tans!

4. I won’t understand what the ski instructor tells me
Gone are the days when your only choice of ski instructor would be a moustachioed instructor who’s only English was “Bend ze Knees”. Now there are many progressive English speaking ski schools and independent instructors, indeed there are many excellent British instructors working out in the Alps.

5. If I don’t enjoy the skiing, my holiday will be rubbish
If for any reason you don’t get on with the skiing side of a skiing holiday, wintering in the Alps is still an excellent experience. Most resorts have plenty of non skiing activities on offer such as dog sledding, snow shoeing, thermal springs, ice diving, para gliding. Plus many alpine resorts are very picturesque and so sightseeing and shopping aren’t out of the question.

6. Because of global warming, there won’t be much snow
It is true that global warming was blamed for the bad winter of 06/07 in the European Alps. However, this was down mostly to lazy journalists not researching their facts properly. The bad winter that year was down to the weather, and not the climate. Plus, the skiing wasn’t actually bad – it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.

The last few years have seen some of the best winters for skiing on record. Global warming MAY start to affect European skiing over the next 50 years, but at the moment there is no real evidence that it has started.

7. It is a lot of hassle on a ski holiday
It doesn’t have to be any hassle. You can opt for a catered chalet holiday where all you need to do is get yourself to the airport. The rest is taken care of by the chalet hosts. You are picked up at the airport and taken to your chalet, they arrange your lift passes and ski hire, they cook for you, they clean for you and they take you to the slopes every day. Where is the hassle in that?

8. My kids will have problems in French speaking creche/ski schools
Like the point about ski instruction, things have changed a lot in the world of Alpine childcare. Creches and kids’ ski school usually have English speaking staff, and it is not unusual to find a number of British kids in classes during the school holidays. Teaching your kids to ski at a young age is one of the greatest gifts you can give them!

9. I don’t like mountain food
Nowadays, eating out in ski resorts isn’t all about cheese and ham (although there is plenty of that on offer for those who look forward to their annual fondue or raclette). Most resorts now sport a wide variety of restaurants – some with real cosmopolitan ambiance and menus. And if you don’t want to eat out every night, a trip to the local supermarket will reveal that the gap between French and British food shopping has narrowed considerably over the last few years.

10. I can’t take a baby skiing
Nearly all ski resorts have excellent creche/nanny facilities. And for those people who worry about the cold/altitude etc, don’t forget that babies are born in the mountains every year and they do OK!

Hopefully the above will help to dispel the main worries of a nervous first time skier. And if you never try it, you might never know what you are missing!

Luxury catered mountain bike holidays

If you are looking for a mountain bike holiday with a difference, look no further than White-Peak Holidays. We are offering fully guided mountain bike holidays staying in beautiful luxurious chalets with garden hot tubs.

You can choose self catered, B&B, fully catered or a mix of the three. The choice is yours.

Come and explore this excellent mountain bike playground on a hassle free White-Peak Holiday.

Ski weekends

We are proud to announce our new ski weekends program. Get return airport transfers and three nights self catered accommodation in a resort centre apartment from just £195 per person.

Visit our ski weekends page for more information…

Chatel – a rising star in the alps

Ask your average skier if they know about, or have visited Chatel, and they may well look blankly back at you. However, if you do a little digging within the ski world, you will suddenly start to discover lots of people who have visited Chatel or have a chalet/apartment there.

This is the contradictory nature of Chatel – it is the Alps’ best kept secret that lots of people know about.

Chatel is a small farming village-turned-ski resort nestled in the heart of the Portes du Soleil – the world’s largest linked ski area. Its development has been done with a sympathetic eye on its heritage. No high-rise concrete apartment blocks or hotels, just beautiful alpine chalets. Historically, Chatel has always been overshadowed somewhat by its loud and boisterous neighbour, Morzine. However, all that is about to change.

People have started to realise that Chatel has some of the best skiing in the whole ski domain. It is right at the centre of the Portes du Soleil circuit and benefits from easy links to Avoriaz – a high altitude purpose built resort. This is coupled with recent investment over the last few years. Every winter season sees one or two new express lifts, and over the next two years the two ski areas of Super Chatel and Linga will be joined by pistes/lift.

Over recent years, keen skiers have been attracted to Chatel due to a mix of its beauty, the skiing, cheap property prices and the fact that the resort is a little less predictable than some of the more talked about British ski destinations (Mozine, Val d’Isere etc). Those in the know were also aware of the resort’s excellent snow record. Being in the Northern French Alps, the Portes du Soleil never seems to be without snow even when some of the higher, more popular resorts are suffering. Indeed, Avoriaz gets the highest average snowfall (over 9 m) of anywhere in the Alps!

Now that Chatel is well and truly on the map, property investors have started looking at the resort for development, and a number of beautiful, large, luxurious chalets and apartments have been built, or are being planned.

Ahead of the game, White-Peak Holidays has been offering high quality, luxury self catered accommodation in Chatel for many years. They now have an impressive portfolio of high end luxury chalets. White-Peak Property Sales also has a number of planned luxury, large, ski-in chalets due to be completed in 2008.

So, the wind of change is blowing through Chatel. Driven by companies such as White-Peak, the village is quickly getting a reputation for quality and luxury. At the same time, holiday prices and property sales prices aren’t over inflated like other popular resorts. Another important fact is that the village remains very French and doesn’t lose site of its history and tradition. There is no danger of the village turning into another “Little Britain” type resort, because the floods of British property investors will always be drawn to the Meribels, Verbiers and Val d’Iseres, leaving Chatel to those who want to mix French culture with luxury property and excellent skiing.

You can find out more about Chatel by visiting the tourist office website – www.chatel.com.

The benefits of wearing a helmet when skiing or boarding

For years, we have been advising all our guests to wear helmets when skiing or snowboarding. Helmets are not just for the crazy off piste free-skiers or boarders. Anyone who is on a piste without a helmet is potentially at risk. Perhaps not from their own actions, but there are always plenty of other people around who travel too fast and slightly out of control.

FIS has today issued a strong recommendation in favour of the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and boarders. It maintains that new scientific evidence goes a long way to clearing up doubts following the somewhat inconclusive studies of recent years. The latest study is reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (a summary follows)…

FIS strongly recommends the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and snowboarders based on new scientific evidence proving the protective effect of helmets.

Based on new scientific evidence published today in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that helmet use reduces head injuries by up to 60%, FIS strongly recommends the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and snowboarders regardless of skiing ability and age.

The findings of the research conducted among more than 6,000 alpine skiers and snowboarders at eight Norwegian ski resorts mark the first time that a well-structured, case control study has conclusively demonstrated that using a helmet is associated with a reduction in the risk for head injury. Previously, scientific surveys had failed to make an irrefutable case in support of helmet use in alpine skiing and snowboarding, citing problems with reduced field of vision, impaired hearing, and higher risk of cervical spine injuries, among others.

While the use of helmets is mandatory for competitors in FIS downhill, super-G and giant slalom as well as all Snowboarding events, many recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders do not wear a helmet and ski resorts do not typically require helmet use. Only very few countries have legislation requiring the use of helmets by recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders. At the same time, head injury is the most common cause of hospital visits and death among alpine skiers and snowboarders.

“We at FIS are concerned about the relatively high levels of head injuries suffered by recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders worldwide. These research results are very significant in supporting our efforts to make our sports as safe as possible. We call on the entire alpine skiing and snowboarding community to take steps, including drafting new policies or rules, which will lead to an increased use of helmets,” said Professor Bengt Saltin, Chairman of the FIS Medical Committee.

In the research study conducted by a group of scientists led by Roald Bahr, Director of the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, there were 578 head injuries (17.6%) among the 3,277 injured skiers investigated. Even after adjusting for risk factors such as age, sex, skill level, and type of equipment used, their analysis found that the protective effect of helmet use and reduced risk for head injuries was consistent across all skier and snowboarder groups.

As announced on January 24th, 2006, FIS is in the process of developing an Injury Surveillance System (ISS) for the FIS disciplines at the elite level, demonstrating the active stance that the organization has adopted to help reduce injuries in its disciplines through new rules and regulations, as well as playing a leading role in drafting and coordinating injury prevention programs for all skiing disciplines.

JAMA summarises the study findings as follows:


Although using a helmet is assumed to reduce the risk of head injuries in alpine sports, this effect is questioned. In contrast to bicycling or inline skating, there is no policy of mandatory helmet use for recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders.


To determine the effect of wearing a helmet on the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders while correcting for other potential risk factors.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Case-control study at 8 major Norwegian alpine resorts during the 2002 winter season, involving 3,277 injured skiers and snowboarders reported by the ski patrol and 2,992 noninjured controls who were interviewed on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The controls comprised every 10th person entering the bottom main ski lift at each resort during peak hours. The number of participants interviewed corresponded with each resort’s anticipated injury count based on earlier years.

Main Outcome Measure

Injury type, helmet use, and other risk factors (age, sex, nationality, skill level, equipment used, ski school attendance, rented or own equipment) were recorded. A multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between individual risk factors (including helmet wear) and risk of head injury by comparing skiers with head injuries with uninjured controls, as well as to skiers with injuries other than head injuries.


Head injuries accounted for 578 injuries (17.6%). Using a helmet was associated with a 60% reduction in the risk for head injury (odds ratio [OR], 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.30-0.55; adjusted for other risk factors) when comparing skiers with head injuries with uninjured controls. The effect was slightly reduced (OR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.34-0.59) when skiers with other injuries were used as controls. For the 147 potentially severe head injuries, those who were referred to an emergency physician or for hospital treatment, the adjusted OR was 0.43 (95% CI, 0.25-0.77). The risk for head injury was higher among snowboarders than for alpine skiers (adjusted OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.22-1.91).


Wearing a helmet is associated with reduced risk of head injury among snowboarders and alpine skiers.

White-Peak Ski Chalets

News and weather – 18.01.06

Well, I was about to write about how all the pistes were in great conditions, but that we needed a bit more snow to freshen things up, and then the heaven’s opened. We got about 50-70 cms of snow overnight. Some of the higher lifts have been shut due to avalanche danger, but hopefully must areas will re-open tomorrow, in time for the clear blue skies arriving!

Ski holiday choices – convenience vs charm

from White-Peak Ski Holidays

When choosing their next ski holiday, many callers from the UK seem disappointed that Chatel isn’t a “ski-in/ski-out” resort. To many people, the idea that some resorts can involve walking, driving or bussing to the slopes can often come as quite a shock.

I grew up with non ski-in resorts, visiting Scotland, Bulgaria, North America and real town French resorts such as Chamonix. As a result, when I look for a ski holiday I look at how good the skiing is and how picturesque the resort is, not how close my front door is from the nearest piste.

When I ski through Avoriaz (a purpose built resort in the Portes du Soleil), I can undertand the convenience of stepping out of your apartment block, putting your skis on and skiing off. But then I just look at the place and I think “no thanks”.

I believe that if you’re not careful you can lose sight of the fact that your holiday is meant to be exactly that – a holiday. What can be nicer than getting back from a day’s skiing and relaxing in a hottub watching the sun set over a picturesque chocolate box alpine village?

Not much in my opinion.

Give me 10 minutes on a ski bus to get back to my beautiful view any day rather than skiing to the front door and spending the night in my concrete horror of an apartment block!

I know that this is simply my opinion, but the point of this post is that I think many holdidaymakers make up their minds before trying a real resort. The proof of the pudding is when families who have been dragged kicking and screaming away from their usual ski-in apartment complex reluctantly try Chatel for the first time, and then come back year after year after year!

Obviously I have first hand experience of this happening in the Portes du Soleil, but really it is the same story wherever there are beautiful well kept secret resorts. Those in the Northern French Alps also benefit from manageable drive times from the UK, so if you have a real aversion to public transport you can always drive. Or even hire a car at the airport. And how difficult is it anyway to jump in the car in the morning to drive to the nearest ski lift? Not very.

As with many things in life, staying in the best ski resorts requires a little bit of effort, but in the big scheme of things it isn’t that difficult!

White-Peak Ski Chalets