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#1 Sky Bistro on top of Sulphur Mountain  

The Sky Bistro is a very unique dining experience, not only because of delicious food and exceptional service that is provided, but also because of spectacular views you get to enjoy whilst having your lunch or dinner up on the mountain. It’s almost impossible to focus on the menu with the distraction of the snowy peaks of the Canadian Rockies, the turquoise Bow River in the Valley, the play of the light, and the clouds moving constantly around you.

From the top of the Sulphur Mountain and Banff Gondola you can see stunning views over the surrounding mountains, the town of Banff and Bow River in the Valley. Why not visit late evening and experience the cloudless sky filed with stars that present you with a spectacle of nature that is so hard describe in words.

#2 Winter Wonderland at Lake Louise

If you would like to capture true Canada in one picture this is the perfect place to do so. Picture this: Lake Louise surrounded by pine forest and dramatic Canadian Rockies, with Victoria Glacier in the background. If this doesn’t sound like the perfect place I don’t know what does. In the winter you can capture people ice-skating on the frozen lake, and in the summer you’ll get canoes paddling across a turquoise blue lake.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offers one of the best hotel room views there is. Situated just at the foot of the lake, it has the best location to enjoy the view from the cosiness of a room.

#3 Athabasca Glacier at Icefield Parkway

Icefield Parkway is one of Canada’s most scenic roads, with plenty of photo opportunities on the way between Banff and Jasper. If I had to choose just one (as hard as it is) it would be the Athabasca Glacier. It is magnificent, huge and can be a little overwhelming (in a good way). Even on a hot day you’ll feel the chill coming from the ice which is thousands of years old. Athabasca Glacier is receding about 16 feet (5 meters) per year – so the time to picture it is now.

#4 Lookout Mountain

The view from the top of the Lookout Mountain in Sunshine Village lives up to its name. It’s worth taking a short break from skiing to embrace the stunning scenery. To get there, take the Great Divide Express Quad chairlift, and hike up a short distance to the viewpoint. From there, on a clear day you can see famous Mt. Assiniboine standing out above countless peaks.

Mt Standish, one of the slightly lower peaks in Sunshine Village, is another good picture opportunity spot. On the top of this peak you’ll get the chance to be in 2 provinces at the same time! You can stand with one foot in Alberta and the other in British Columbia. This is where the Great Continental Divide is, and as the locals proudly say: depending on which side you spill your water it will either go to Pacific Ocean on the West Coast or all the way to Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast.

#5 Banff Hot Springs

Banff National Park and the town was founded after discovery of the natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. The hot springs is still one of the many reasons why so many people come to visit each year. One of the best photo opportunity spots is at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The outdoor hot pool has the most stunning view overlooking Bow River in the Valley surrounded by the snowy mountains.

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A few members of the Ski Independence team were away on a fam trip to Alberta a few weeks ago and stayed in some pretty amazing places along the way. Aodhan has given us a rundown of some of the amazing places they stayed on their trip, Read on to find out his top 5.

Moose Hotel & Suites – Rooftop 2 Bedroom Suite

These spacious units occupy one of the best locations in downtown Banff giving you uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains Cascade, Rundle, Tunnel & Sulphur.  Comprised of two full bedrooms and bathrooms as well as a generous size living room featuring a double sofa bed, these suites work perfectly for families or groups of friends up to 6.  When you’re finished on the mountain for the day, you can retire back to your home from home for the afternoon.

Moose Hotel & Suites – Rooftop Pool Area

Being on the highest level means you’re a stone’s throw from the rooftop hot tubs and fire pit which are a great place to gather, catch up and be humbled by the surrounding mountain range.  If that’s not quite your thing then don’t forget that each suite features a gas fireplace which creates a wonderful atmosphere during the Alberta nights before getting ready to do it all over again.

Rimrock Hotel – Grand View Suite

Rimrock Hotel – Grand View Suite

This property is situated on the perimeter of Banff but this only adds to the awe inspiring views provided by the surrounding peaks and set right into the mountain is the Rimrock Hotel.  Their most exclusive category is a favourite for couples who require a bit more space and a superb level of North American luxury, look no further than the Grand View Suites.  With hardwood flooring throughout, a spacious bedroom and of course expansive living area, these units ooze quality and whether or not you’re in the main bedroom or the living room, expect a full bathroom connected to each.  My favourite thing about these suites, other than the modern feel to them is the wraparound balconies they feature which are best used during the evenings with a glass of wine whilst taking in the skyline.

The Eden Restaurant – Rimrock Hotel

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – Belvedere Suite

Belvedere Suite Upper Bedroom – Fairmont Lake Louise

Where do I start, this room is quite possibly the most luxurious 1100 square feet of hotel space you may ever encounter in your life.  Spread over two floors to accommodate the expansive luxury, this suite is completely self-contained and from its two private enjoys the finest views of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Victoria Glacier & the iconic Lake Louise.  Towering above the stunning frozen Lake below, you can enjoy a large living room with dining area for your room service as well as a comfortable sofa to watch a film on.  When you’re finally ready to retire for the night, maybe catch another glimpse of the icy paradise from the balcony or head up your spiral staircase to the secluded bedroom and enjoy it from your king size bed.

Belvedere Suite Balcony – Fairmont Lake Louise

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – Ridgeline Cabin

Ridgeline Cabin Living Room – Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

For those of you looking for something a bit different, off the beaten path then look no further than Jasper and the Jasper Park Lodge.  These signature cabins really are the jewel in the crown of a property that encompasses both luxury and sense of place in a unique surrounding.  This particular cabin is my favourite as it maintains its humble lodge exterior with a beautifully contrasting modern interior.  With three king bedrooms all featuring an en-suite, this luxurious cabin is also equipped with a large open plan kitchen for mealtimes before you enjoy a vintage vino in the living room.  Heated by a fireplace in case a cold snap sweeps through Jasper, if there’s anything you require to perfect your stay, you have the services of the Fairmont Butler service and vehicle at all times.

Ridgeline Cabin Kitchen – Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Fairmont Banff Springs – Fairmont Gold Mountain View Room

Mountain View Room – Fairmont Banff

Back in Banff, nestled by the Bow Valley at the Fairmont Banff Springs, these refurbished rooms have been decorated to the highest standards with all new bathrooms.  With thoughtful use of space and all of the modern amenities you’d expect from a 5* property these rooms offer a perfect haven to enjoy after a day on the slopes.  If you’re not enjoying a coffee or Canadian Royal in the exclusive gold honour bar then I highly recommend taking a look out of the floor to ceiling panoramic windows which look out onto the sprawling valley and river.  Used as a golf course during the summer, once frozen over this is one of the most postcard perfect sights in the resort.

Fairmont Banff

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Alberta is full of hotspots and hidden gems that offer good food and have that all important welcoming & warm atmosphere. The Ski Independence team have spent many hours in the Canadian Rockies, and between us we’ve compiled a guide to our favourite restaurants. Perfect after a day in the mountains working up an appetite.

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria – Jasper

 

Famoso imports its ovens and key ingredients from Naples, & Campania in a bid to serve the best Pizza outside of Italy. The restaurant has a fun & lively atmosphere – perfect for relaxing after a long day on the slopes. From Pizzas to Pasta, there’s something for all at this restaurant. This family friendly restaurant has a great reputation with locals and regular visitors alike, and we can see why.

The Raven Bistro – Jasper

 

The Raven Bistro is located in the heart of Jasper Alberta and offers Mediterranean fusion fare with local flair. The restaurant uses fresh local ingredients to create memorable, high quality dishes. We’re already looking forward to our next trip to Jasper, mainly to eat here.

Alpine Social, Fairmont Chateau – Lake Louise

If you’re looking for hearty comfort food, Alpine Social is the right place. From burgers and fish to fully loaded nachos, this  lake side café is everything you’ll ever need from a restaurant. With an extensive menu of Canadian craft beer, Whiskeys and Cocktails, you’ll be sure to find something that suits.

The Dining Room, Post Hotel – Lake Louise

 

The Dining Room within the Post Hotel at Lake Louise offers one of the most unique fine dining experiences within Alberta. The restaurant’s white table cloths & flowers offer an intimate vibe, and with a wine list comparable to an encyclopedia, you’ll be sure to find something to your taste. From elegant ambiance, superb service, and fantastic fare, you will not be disappointed!

1888 Chop House, Fairmont Banff Springs

Set within the impressive Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, 1888 Chop House offers a modern twist on the authentic chop house with a menu focused on prime cuts of Alberta beef, sustainably sourced wild game, and ocean wise seafood. With friendly service and great food, be sure to add the Chop House to your itinerary on your next trip to Banff.

Eden, Rimrock Resort & Spa

Known as Banff’s finest dining experience, Eden is renowned for its delicate French cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant’s luxury atmosphere takes in incredible mountain views whilst offering an ultimate dining experience.

 

De’d Dog Bar & Grill, Jasper

If you’re at that stage on your trip where you’re growing tired of restaurant food, this place is a must visit. You’ll get great tasting pub food without all the unnecessary frills, and enough drinks to keep you going all night. No nonsense service & great food!

Explorers Lounge, Lake Louise Inn

The Explorers Lounge refers to themselves as the ‘Jack of all Trades’ for dining, offering a casual atmosphere complete with fireplace surrounded by seating, board games, dartboards & a juke box. Their new menu offers revamped classics & signature dishes alike. They even offer a Karaoke night every Wednesday – what’s not to love!

St James’ Gate, Banff

Considering even the woodwork for the building has been imported from Dublin, this pub is the closest you’ll get to Ireland outside of the country itself. The classic dishes are cooked to perfection and drinks are prepared and poured with care. Complete with a friendly atmosphere and capable & fun servers, you’re sure to feel at home here.

Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar, Banff

The Park Distillery is an impressive Banff restaurant with the only distillery in a Canadian National Park. They specialise in serving campfire-inspired meals and house-made spirits. The mains from the wood-fired grill and rotisserie are served on quirky tin platters with patterned crockery. The contemporary ‘alpine-hut’ decor and outdoorsy features are complimentary to the great food on offer. If you book in advance you’ll also be able to get a free tour of the distillery, which run daily at 3.30pm.

And there you have it, Ski Independence’s top 10 places to eat in Alberta. Let us know if you agree, or if you think there’s any other worthy contenders for our list, let us know!

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The walk in to La Vallée Blanche, Chamonix (image: Patrik Lindqvist)

The legendary alpine town of Chamonix Mont Blanc is renowned for its steep, extreme ski terrain and its mountaineering legacy. But did you know that Chamonix also boasts a great range of dedicated novice ski areas? What’s more, many of these areas offer special lift pass rates to save you splashing out on a full area pass until you’re ready to venture beyond the beginner slopes. Below is our short guide to Chamonix for beginners:

Chamonix Centre

Les Planards: very close to Chamonix town centre and the Montenvers train station, you’ll find a chairlift up to 1,249m servicing a long blue and two red runs. There are also easy drag lifts for access to two green slopes, a kids snow garden, 45 snow cannons (guaranteeing good snow conditions all winter), as well as a chairlift which other beginner areas in Chamonix don’t offer. 4-hour passes are available on site from €24.50 (16 years or older) and from €22.50 (4-15 years).

You’ll also find the Luge Alpine Coaster at Les Planards, which is great fun!

The Luge Alpine Coaster (image: Pierre Raphoz)

Brévent Flegère

The Savoy: situated at the foot of the Brévent telecabine, you’ll find two drag lifts, a magic carpet and snow garden for children, to help beginners practice their very first turns.

Ski for 4 hours from €18.50 for adults and from €15.70 for children (5-14 years). Under 5s ski for free.

Plateau 2000: At the top of the Planpraz gondola, the Funi 2000 (a 16 people funicular) gives beginners access to the Planpraz plateau and the Teleski 2000 drag lifts. A good area for beginners who don’t want to be stuck at the foot of the lifts. Be aware that it can get quite busy here!

Argentière

Les Chosalets: located only a short distance from the Grands Montets ski area and a small walk uphill from the Chosalets bus stop, the area is served by two drag lifts and the slopes are good for absolute beginners.

Buy lift passes on site: starting at just €12 for a half day. Children under 4 ski for free.

Le Plateau de Lognan: a brand new beginners ski area with two drag lifts and a free snow tubing slope.

La Balme-Le Tour-Vallorcine

La Vormaine (copyright: McPix Photography)

La Vormaine: located at the bottom of the Charamillon gondola in Le Tour, these gentle, sunny slopes are ideal for beginners. Drag lifts provide access to green slopes and one blue run, and from here there’s easy access to the easy and wide slopes of Le Tour (after a bit of practice).

4 hours of skiing is €15 for adults and €12.80 for children.

Les Houches-Saint Gervais

Ski Camp: Located at the top of the Prarion gondola in Les Houches, here you’ll find a beginner space, with a small chairlift and a magic carpet.

Ski school on the slopes of Les Houches (image: Christophe Boillon)

For more information on skiing in Chamonix for beginners, or any of our featured destinations, simply contact our team of Ski Specialists on 0131 243 8097 to create your perfect tailor-made itinerary.

*Quoted lift pass prices correct at the time of publishing.

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I’ve just returned from incredible Colorado multi-centre trip thanks to Colorado Tourism Office and Norwegian Airlines. I wanted to share a few of my standout experiences and recommendations.

Steamboat, Colorado

Flight with Norwegian

The trip started off with an excellent flight with Norwegian Airlines from Gatwick to Denver – one of the great things about this flight is that you’re taking off at 10am so arriving in Denver around 1pm, with the full day ahead of you – so whether you’re heading straight up to the mountains, or into the city for a few days, it’s perfect.

On board the service is friendly and relaxed and in the Premium cabin you are served a range of drinks and meals throughout. One of my favourite features was on the touch screen: along with the usual entertainment of movies, TV shows and games they have ‘snack bar’ which allows you to order and pay for drinks and food without moving from the comfort of your seat – when you’re in the middle of movie, it’s always nice to have cold beer delivered to your seat!

Denver

Union Station, Denver

Our first couple of nights were spent in Denver at Hotel Born which is a fantastic base for exploring the city – right next to Union Station if you’re coming from the airport by train and with lots of tourist spots within walking distance. Until this trip I had never really thought of Denver as a destination to visit but now I’d more than recommend it before going up to the mountains to ski. For one, it helps you adjust to the altitude slightly before then heading up even further and you can tell just from walking down the street that there has been a huge amount of investment in the curb appeal creating quite a hipster feel (particularly in the LoDo area). Here are a few of my recommendations for things to do and places to eat in downtown Denver:

  • History Colorado Centre is a museum which you can easily reach by using the city public transport or on a sunny day you can walk the scenic path along the river. This museum is particularly excellent for families with lots of interactive exhibits taking you through the history of Colorado.
  • Avelina was the stand-out restaurant from my whole trip, serving seasonal New American Cuisine. The atmosphere is sophisticated yet relaxed, with laid back but faultless service and extremely knowledgeable waiters. They serve delicious cocktails and craft beers alongside a menu of sharing plates, charcuterie and large plates (the Rohan Duck Breast was favourite for us!).
  • If you’re looking something a bit more casual then Denver Milk Market offers an open space with selection of local dine-in and takeaway restaurants and bars from burgers and tacos to ice cream and craft beer. There are also weekly pop-up events including wine-tasting and live music.
  • For the beer enthusiasts, Denver is short of a craft beer bar or brewery. Blue Moon Brewery is about 10 minute drive from the city centre where you can take part in a brewery tour, enjoy the VIP bar with unique beer blends and sit down a pub style lunch afterwards.
  • There are also an abundance of art galleries to visit including Clyfford Still Museum and Denver Art Museum.

The Blue Moon Brewery

Winter Park

Ski resort 1 of 3 for this trip was Winter Park which is ideal for families looking for big mountain skiing but still with easy navigation for the children. The ski area is split into seven zones with the lower part of the mountain offering excellent intermediate and beginner terrain and the upper mountain and gladed areas offer more advanced skiing. New this year from the base village is ‘The Gondola’ which surprisingly is a new gondola which whisks you up a lot quicker than the previous Zephyr express lift so even if there’s a queue here in the morning you will be up the mountain in no time and have four different routes to take depending what zone you’re heading for. If you’re looking for exciting gladed forest skiing and pockets of fresh snow even days later then head to Eagle Wind and Vasquez Ridge before heading back over to Lunch Rock to re-energise for the afternoon!

Winter Park

Steamboat

After a day of exploring Winter Park, we were up early and off to Steamboat for a couple of days and my new favourite US resort. The ski area is an intermediate’s paradise and with pretty much every run being tree-lined it makes for stunning scenery too. One of our group’s favourite routes was to take the Sundown Express chair up to Sunshine Peak then down One O’Clock or High Noon and connecting with Rolex for an exciting black run down where you will find the Taco Beast* waiting for you at the bottom. Taco Beast is essentially food truck on the back of snow-cat serving freshly cooked tacos all day in the sunshine (until they run out) and are some of the best I’ve ever had! * The Taco Beast sometimes moves around so it’s not guaranteed to be here.

The Taco Beast

A couple of dining recommendation’s here:

  • Timber & Torch is a great après spot right at the base of the mountain so can you stumble on in here and have a refreshing drink in hand within minutes. There is also a great dining area in here which was filled with families when we were in and the quality of food was excellent. If you’re in here on a Friday night, you can nip out onto the terrace and watch the weekly fireworks display.
  • Down in Steamboat Springs town which is a short shuttle ride away you’ll find some excellent restaurants and bars for all group sizes and budgets. Low Country Kitchen was a winner for us where we spent Happy Hour enjoying cocktails, beers and ‘Chicken Biscuits’. Much to all of our surprise a Chicken Biscuit is a piece of breaded chicken inside what I would call a scone (see below) and tasted absolutely fantastic! They also have a full dinner menu featuring Southern Fare which looks very tempting and I’d definitely recommend pre-booking a table here especially at peak times.
Breckenridge

Breckenridge – Imperial Lake shoots hike

Our trip ended with a couple of nights in Breckenridge staying at the Doubletree by Hilton which is just across the road and easy ski down to the QuickSilver Super 6 chair lift. Alternatively, you can walk up a little further from the hotel and link in with the Beaver Run Super Chair if you want quicker access to more intermediate and advanced terrain. Fortunately our first day skiing here was the day of the Superbowl so by lunch time the mountain had cleared and we had the chance to get fast laps in over Peaks 10 to Peak 7.

The town of Breckenridge is one of my favourite US ski destinations – with it being an all year round town it has a true American character and Main Street is lined a mixture of traditional bars, a wide selection of restaurants and tonnes of shopping opportunities. We had an excellent evening exploring a few of the popular spots including The Gold Pan Saloon (Breckenridge’s oldest bar), sampling tasters of gin and whisky at the Breckenridge Distillery followed by a delicious dinner at Blue River Bistro.

The perfect end to amazing Colorado road trip!

Multi-Centre Itineraries

If you’re looking to visit more than one destination on your next ski holiday, our multi-centre trips allow you to build your own bespoke itinerary for the adventure of a lifetime. Resorts and city destinations can be linked together in a multitude of ways to create an individually tailored multi-centre holiday. Our team of Ski Specialists have expert knowledge to advise you on what works, and how it can be done in the most effective way. To book a Colorado multi-centre holiday, get in touch today on 0131 243 8097.

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With such world-class ski resorts, you’d be forgiven for thinking skiing and snowboarding were the only winter activities on the menu in Alberta. But this beautiful Canadian province is packed with opportunity.

Whether you’re stargazing in Jasper, treating yourself to spa day in Banff or dog sledding in Lake Louise, Alberta offers up the chance for adventure and indulgence in equal measure.

Whet your appetite with a sneak peek at our choice of the best winter activities away from the slopes:

Go stargazing

Jasper National Park – Dark Sky Preserve

Alberta boasts some of the largest dark sky preserves in the world. Protected from artificial light pollution, Jasper’s vast national park is the perfect place to gaze at the constellations. During the winter months, there’s also a good chance you may witness one of the most breath-taking phenomena in the world: the Northern Lights.

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held every autumn. It’s a fantastic celebration of stargazing, hosting informative workshops and events for all ages.

Drive the Icefields Parkway

Northern Lights over the Icefield Parkway

Widely agreed to be one of the most beautiful drives on the planet, the Icefields Parkway winds its way from Lake Louise to Jasper. Rent a car and experience over 200km of awe-inspiring scenery.

The route takes you on a journey past ancient glaciers, soaring peaks, thundering waterfalls, thick pine forests and emerald lakes. Expect to stop countless times as new viewpoints appear turn after turn and make sure your camera is fully charged.

Relax at a spa

Willow Stream Spa

Whether you have aching skiers legs or not, there’s always a reason for a little spa indulgence. We love the luxurious Willow Stream spa at the five-star Fairmont Banff Springs, where the unique environment of the Rockies is harnessed to create a rejuvenating experience.

Unwind in mineral pools, cascading waterfalls, and outdoor whirlpools surrounded by glorious mountain vistas. Their spa treatment menu offers a selection of restorative experiences from blissful customised massages to purifying herbal wraps.

Or why not enjoy a visit to one of nature’s spas? Alberta is home to several natural hot mineral springs, including the Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Ride the Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola observation deck

Drink in the best views in Alberta with a ride on the Banff Gondola. You’ll ascend 698m in just eight minutes, before alighting at the summit of Sulphur Mountain for sweeping views of no less than six mountain ranges and the stunning Bow Valley below.

There’s plenty to see and do at the ultra-modern summit building, including a multi-sensory theatre, innovative exhibits, two excellent restaurants and an incredible panoramic rooftop observation deck. Or head out for a hike along the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk or the South East Ridge Trail.        

Join a yoga class

Yoga Class at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Alberta is a lovely destination if you’re interested in holistic therapies and wellness. From sunrise yoga sessions to meditation retreats, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to bring balance and calm to your holiday.

For a yoga class with a difference, take to the skies for a Heli yoga experience. You’ll fly by helicopter above breath-taking valleys and glaciers to a remote hilltop where you’ll be guided through a mindful hatha yoga practice amongst the dramatic peaks of Banff National Park.

Try dog sledding

Dog sledding has been a mode of transport in Alberta for hundreds of years. So whether you want to try your hand at mushing (driving your own sled) or snuggle under a cosy blanket as a guide drives you through a winter wonderland, this is an unmissable itinerary must.

Sleds are pulled by teams of four or six highly-trained huskies. You’ll find several picturesque dog-sledding trips in the Lake Louise area, as well as some wonderful tours leaving from Canmore, not far from Banff.

Watch an ice hockey match

Ice Hockey on Lake Louise

Experience the excitement of ice hockey by joining the spectators at a match. Canada’s national game is a thrilling, action-packed spectacle that will quickly see you cheering along.

Travel to Calgary to catch the Calgary Flames in action, one of Canada’s top National Hockey League teams. Or you’ll often find locals taking advantage of Alberta’s beautiful frozen lakes to enjoy an impromptu pond hockey match. Lake Louise has to be one of the most scenic rinks in the world.

Dine out

Mount Fairview Dining Room at the Deer Lodge

The restaurant scene in Alberta is thriving. Discover delicious eateries serving everything from colourful vegan dishes to locally sourced Alberta steaks. This province is also famous for its craft breweries and distilleries, so you’re never far from a top-notch tipple.

Nourish Bistro in Banff is an elegant haven for vegetarian diners. Feast on inventive plant-based dishes using sustainable ingredients and creative cocktails using exclusive boutique spirits. Or visit the Mount Fairview Dining Room at Deer Lodge in Lake Louise for Rocky Mountain cuisine amongst charming rustic décor and spectacular scenery. You’ll find local delicacies like elk and bison on the menu.

Take an evening canyon walk

Exploring Maligne Canyon

A peaceful night-time walk through frozen waterfalls and steep canyons makes for a truly memorable holiday activity. Join a guided icewalk to experience Alberta’s natural wonder in a completely different light. Torchlight, that is.

You can take an evening canyon walk through Johnstone Canyon in Banff or Maligne Canyon in Jasper. Tour providers will equip you with ice cleats for your shoes and headtorches to help you illuminate the icy features.

Embark on a wilderness adventures

Fat biking on Maligne Lake

Alberta’s mountains are a winter playground like no other. Head out to explore the jaw-dropping beauty of the Canadian Rockies with a unique wilderness adventure, tailored to you by an expert guide.

Perhaps a winter snowshoe or fat bike adventure through snow-laden forests appeals? Or how about a wildlife-spotting trip to catch a glimpse of native species such as elk, cougars or even mountain lions?

With its spectacular scenery, amazing snow record and superb choice of activities, Alberta is undoubtedly one of our favourite winter holiday destinations in Canada.

Fancying joining the fun? Simply contact our expert team of Ski Specialists on 0131 243 8097 to create your perfect tailor-made itinerary.

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Photo Credit- Tristan Greszko/Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Our latest blog post comes from a long-standing Ski Independence client and veritable food, drink and skiing connoisseur. John shared his Jackson Hole ski resort review with us after he recently returned there many years after his first visit.

“I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.”

Johnny Cash

Jackson Hole is a town-sized dude ranch. That’s not a criticism, it is a proper western town, but one can’t help noticing that the day of the cowboy and the wild west is more legend than present day reality. Still, I love the place.

The Town Of Jackson

When first we visited many years back, having exited Yellowstone Park at the south gate and driven through the Grand Teton National Park admiring moose, elk and coyote en route, Jackson had a population of around five thousand and, whilst one didn’t exactly see horses tethered outside the saloon, there was the feeling that the cowboys might be out of town on a roundup and would any minute return, driving a few hundred head of longhorns before them.

In the intervening years the population has doubled and the pickup truck has replaced the horse. The centre is largely unchanged and the town square still boasts four substantial arches made entirely of elk antlers. On the south side stands The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, topped by the biggest, rotating-est neon sign in town. An institution almost since its opening in 1937, the bar is a tourist magnet where customers sit on bar stools with genuine western saddles – stirrups, pommel and all. It’s good fun, but disappointingly, in a town with its own breweries, it does not serve draught beer. Downstairs is the grill where they serve steaks the circumference of a Stetson (well, almost) and other traditional western fare; the food is not exceptional, but the price is.

The Wort Hotel

Indeed, if you want a good steak, I’d recommend another Jackson fixture, The Wort. The grande dame of the town’s hotels, The Wort is home to the Silver Dollar Bar, named for the two thousand odd mint silver dollar coins embedded in the bar top. Adjacent is the Silver Dollar grill which serves excellent international fare. The French onion soup is exceptional and a grown-up size portion a delicious meal in itself.

Many of the bars in town feature live music, mostly country style, and there are more art galleries than seems probable for such a small town. There is a little two-screen cinema, which is quaint and shows the latest Hollywood releases. And of course, there’s the shopping. If you want anything from a saddle to a silver mounted belt, a Stetson hat or tooled leather cowboy boots you’re in the right place.

Teton Village

On this occasion we were in Wyoming to ski and chose to stay at the Hotel Terra in Teton Village, just half an hour from Jackson. Plenty of skiers choose to stay in town, perhaps in order to ski Snow King as well as the more extensive slopes of the Tetons, but for us proximity to the main ski area is of paramount importance. Only the Four Seasons offers genuine ski-in, ski-out, but The Terra, which combines self-catering condos with a full-service hotel, is ski-in with a relatively short walk to the lifts on outward journey. Don’t fancy carrying your skis at all? Well, there’s a ski valet station adjacent to the gondolas.

Hotel Terra Jackson Hole Infinity Pool

The Terra is very comfortable and the customer care excellent. If you get fed up with catering for yourself there are two options within, Il Villaggio Osteria and Bar Enoteca. The former is a relaxed Italian restaurant where for diner I had a sweet green salad with pecorino and anchovy dressing followed by rabbit confit, which was delicious. The breakfasts are also excellent. The Bar Enoteca is very casual with a short order menu, local draft beer and speciality cocktails. The Roadhouse Brewing Company’s impressively named Sacred Creed Saison is a cross between lager and an IPA and is fruity, hoppy and admirable, as is the four-cheese polenta, a satisfying light bite.

Il Villagio Osteria

Another dining option in the Village is The Alpenhof, a slightly incongruous Swiss chalet with an American twist. There’s a bistro that offers all the usual fare, but for fine dining their Alpenrose Restaurant is recommended. Eat surrounded by decorated pine and be served by waiters in traditional Swiss costume. Even if you find that a touch bizarre, the food is good; the schnitzel and apfel strudel are, as you might expect, particularly so, but if you want to go totally Swiss, they offer cheese or meat fondue. As with everywhere to eat, a glass of wine is expensive at between $10 and $15 a pop, so the smart choice is to buy a bottle, drink what you want and take the rest with you. A wine selling for $10 a glass is available for around $30 a bottle, it’s a no brainer.

If you are eating in, it’s worth noting there are only two options for groceries and wine in the Village, the deli market below The Mangy Moose and Bodega; both are expensive, but the former has a better choice. The sensible option is to take the SMART Bus into Jackson – frequent regular services for just $3 – and get what you need at Albertsons, a vast supermarket with everything you could possibly want.

Of course, no visit to Teton Village would be complete without dinner at The Mangy Moose Steakhouse, an institution since 1967. If you want character and ambience this is the place; hunting trophies (including the eponymous moose) adorn the walls along with hundreds of posters for old movies. It gets very busy so a reservation is recommended, but the service is efficient and cheerful. We ate there twice. On the first occasion I enjoyed one of the specialities, American meatloaf with bison, and on the second I challenged my appetite with a double pork chop, both very hearty, substantial dishes after a hard day’s skiing. There’s an impressive draught beer menu too.

We were not so enamoured of The Spur restaurant in the Teton Mountain Lodge. It’s not that the food wasn’t good or that the service poor, indeed it would be unfair to criticise either, but this is a mid-market family hotel and the restaurant was crowded and so noisy it was difficult to hold a conversation. We asked to be moved to a slightly less raucous table, but still noisy children racing around the restaurant didn’t make for a relaxed evening.

Skiing in Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole Powder (image: Eric Seymour)

We were there to ski so a word or two on that. Jackson Hole has a reputation for being a challenging resort with appeal for expert skiers and a good ski school, but not much in between. It’s much better than that. Yes, there is more than enough to keep the expert challenged with double blacks a plenty, but there are also miles of blues and double blues, mostly well groomed, to keep cruisers entertained. The resort has also built a new ski school facility below half way on the Sweetwater gondola above multiple easy blue and green runs. The facility also boasts a buffet restaurant which a local described as a well-kept secret. It is principally for the use of the school and although not promoted it welcomes all comers; it also has the best restrooms on the mountain.

The Tram

The Tram to the top of Rendezvous, the bigger of the main peaks, is always busy and at weekends the queues are prodigious. Not particularly keen to stand in line we tended to use the adjacent Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas from the top of which the range of quad chairs lift you to all points. The Sublette chair takes you almost as high as the Tram. The whole vast area is well served by interconnected lifts and runs from the Rendezvous to the Saratoga bowls at opposite ends of the range.

Corbet’s couloir

It is also home to the famed Corbet’s Couloir. For the uninitiated, a couloir is a narrow gully and Corbet’s is accessed via a daunting drop-in before a long steep chute leads to the Tensleep Bowl. Years ago, younger and foolhardier, I attempted it and came away unscathed. This time on older legs, one with a new knee implanted, I wondered whether I should chance it. Fortunately, any temptation was removed – the couloir was closed as it was being prepared for a special occasion, the annual Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event that sees brave young men and women hurl themselves down the couloir for prizes. Good luck to them, nowadays I think I’d prefer a beer in Corbet’s Cabin.

Whether you are a skier, a wildlife enthusiast, a fan of the American west, someone who appreciates breathtakingly beautiful scenery or all of these things, Jackson Hole is recommended with enthusiasm.

John Henwood

February 2019

To create your perfect ski holiday for 2019, contact our passionate team of expert Ski Specialists today. We’ll listen to all of your requirements and tailor-make an individual itinerary just for you.

Talk with a Ski Specialist today on 0131 243 8097 or request a tailor-made quotation.

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From packing eco-friendly kit to the choices we make when in resort, there are so many ways to limit your footprint when heading off on holiday. Here at Ski Independence we’ve come up with some of our favouite eco-friendly travel tips to help you pack – and travel – more sustainably.

Your Resort

Beautiful Saas-Fee (PHOTOPRESS/Saas-Fee)

Choose Switzerland!

Named number one eco-friendly nation in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, measuring a wide array of factors including climate & energy, air quality, water & sanitation, biodiversity & habitat, Switzerland boasts amazing air quality and champions environmental best-practice. Benefit from the extensive (and highly efficient) Swiss Rail network and car-free environments in resorts such as Saas-Fee and Zermatt – keep an eye out for the silent electric taxis though!

Hotel Eco-Policies

Take advantage of policies like the Eco-Stay Discount at the Sun Peaks Grand – you can save 5% on your stay by opting for every 2nd day housekeeping. Remember to leave your towels hanging up in the bathroom to ensure they’re not replaced after you’ve been out on the mountain; we don’t tend to wash towels every day at home, so why do it on holiday? Alternatively hang up your ‘do not disturb’ sign up regularly to reduce housekeeping visits and resulting energy consumption.

The Sun Peaks Grand

Seek Out Local Food & Drink

Whistler is a champion of eating locally, ethically & sustainably. One of Whistler’s top restaurants, the Alta Bistro, buys locally produced and ethically sourced ingredients, as well as returning all their organic waste to a nearby farm for composting. For a less formal setting, Mount Currie Coffee Co. serve the ‘Best Coffee in Whistler’ according to Pique Magazine, all the while using compostable packaging and organic local produce.

Le Gourmand Zermatt

Similar eateries are cropping up all over the Alps too. Le Gourmand Zermatt is a great little café which caters for all your organic, vegan, and gluten/lactose free needs, once again based around local ingredients. As well as serving healthy fast food, they use and sell bamboo straws, reusable cups and paper bags.

What to Pack – Clothing

Our top piece of advice? When it comes to your ski jacket, trousers and gloves, invest in great quality items that will last, and choose a classic style & neutral colour, so you don’t end up throwing things away as often.

Patagonia

This pioneering company aims to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” From recycled wool, cashmere and even Goretex, to reclaimed cotton and down fillings, Patagonia clothing is made to the highest spec and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more transparent & ethical supply chain. Their Worn Wear project encourages you to repair rather than replace existing & worn technical kit and clothing.

Surfdome

If you’re in need of more than one item of kit or ski clothing, head over to Surfdome for an eco-conscious purchase. Environmentally friendly practices are at the heart of their business. From one of the most sustainable warehouse operations around, use of renewable power, a delivery policy which aims to minimise the use of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable packaging and a wide range of sustainably-minded products.

Holmlands

With t-shirts & sweatshirts produced from organic cotton printed in a renewable energy factory, and with 50% of profits donated to their charity partners, Holmlands’ clothing range aims to generate fundraising and awareness around ethical clothes manufacturing.

What to Pack – Ski Gear Lonely Mountain Skis

A business close to our Scottish hearts, LMS is a tale of one man and his workshop. Lonely Mountain Skis is artisan ski maker Jamie Kunka’s creation. Based in a small studio in Perthshire and inspired by the nearby Scottish Highlands, Jamie painstakingly hand-crafts every pair of skis, manufactured from FSC-certified wood and bio-resins. Sustainability is front of mind at every stage in the process – from 100% sustainably sourced power in the workshop, to the off-setting of every pair of skis made.

These beautiful skis are designed for all mountain conditions, and are light enough for ski touring too. The Sneachda model was ISPO 2016/2017 Gold AwardTouring Ski winner.

Photograph by Christopher Thomond – more at www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2018/mar/01/the-mountain-artisan-skis-crafted-from-wood-in-pictures

Not content with a low-impact ski to slide on? Opt for an eco-friendly ski wax such as fully biodegradable Toko wax to keep your skis running smoothly.

Drysure Boot Driers

Drysure Boot Driers

Even if you prefer to rent your kit when in resort, avoid the unpleasant sensation of putting on still-wet ski boots with a pair of boot dryers. Drysure will dry your boots twelve times faster than air drying, with no need for electricity or batteries. So you’ll have less of an impact on the environment.

Travel Accessories

Cut down on single-use plastic with some of the following recommendations:

The Stojo Biggie – collapses flat for easy packing

  • Pack a reusable water bottle to use at every stage of your trip. Airports these days have water fountains right after you’ve cleared security, so you can stay hydrated throughout your journey with no need to buy plastic water bottles. Use your bottle when flying too, instead of grabbing another single-use plastic cup from the cabin crew every time you need a drink.
  • Can’t live without your coffee? Then make sure you get hold of a reusable coffee cup to avoid throwing away yet more coffee shop cups. Handy for keeping your baggage on the lighter side, a collapsible cup is your friend when travellin. Stojo have a great range including the ‘Biggie’ which you buy in John Lewis.
  • One item on every skier’s packing list is sun cream. Convenient and planet friendly, Shade is just one example of an all-natural sunscreen which contains just 4 ingredients and comes in a handy – and recyclable – 15ml aluminium tin, the perfect size for your ski jacket pocket.

The world is really switching on to the need for less waste. Some other great eco-conscious traveller’s companions include reusable shopping bags, solar powered power banks and bamboo or stainless steel straws.

Offsetting

Offset your travel with an organisation like Mossy Earth. They offer both carbon offsetting and rewilding options from as little as £2 for every hour of flight time. Simple to set up, if you want to reduce the impact your air miles why not invest in offsetting?

To arrange your tailor-made ski holiday, contact our team of Ski Specialists. Call the team on 0131 243 8097 | Request a Tailor-made Quotation

Let us know if you have any eco-friendly travel tips to add to the list!

Ski Independence are proud supporters of Protect Our Winters UK, partnering with them to help mobilise the snowsports world in the fight against climate change.

Protect Our Winters UK is a charity formed to educate and support UK outdoor sports communities to mobilise and take positive action on climate change, starting with snowsports. They engage individuals and organisations through their snowsports livelihoods and passions, educate them on the risks of climate change and support them to take effective action.

The post Eco-Friendly Travel Tips and Ski Gear appeared first on .

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the whole team at Ski Independence. If you need to contact us please call 0131 243 8097 and below you’ll find details of our festive opening hours.

Festive Opening Hours 2018/19

  • Monday 24th December, Christmas Eve: 9am – 1pm
  • Tuesday 25th December, Christmas Day: Closed
  • Wednesday 26th December, Boxing Day: Closed
  • Thursday 27th December: 9am – 5.30pm
  • Friday 28th December: 9am – 5.30pm
  • Saturday 29th December: 9am – 4.00pm
  • Sunday 30th December: Closed
  • Monday 31st December: 9am – 1pm
  • Tuesday 1st January, New Year’s Day: Closed
  • Wednesday 2nd January: 9am – 5.30pm
  • We then revert to normal winter hours: Monday – Thursday: 09:00 – 18:30 | Friday: 09:00 – 17:30 | Saturday: 09:00 – 16:00 | Sunday: Closed

Image Nicolas Ansourian, Megève Tourisme

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Best Ski Holidays in 2019

The 2018/19 winter season is upon us, so what better time to let us plan your 2019 ski holiday?

As the UK’s leading tailor-made ski specialist, our experienced team will take the time to fine-tune every element of your ski holiday, from flights and accommodation to ski schools and restaurant reservations. Choose from hand-picked ski destinations around the world and make 2019 your best year on the slopes yet. We’ve carefully chosen an outstanding mix of world-class ski resorts to appeal to British skiers in:

  • France: home to some of the most extensive ski areas in the world, it’s no surprise that France is Europe’s number one ski destination.
  • Canada: superb skiing, an enviable snow record, staggering scenery and ski resorts with something for everyone.
  • The USA: uncrowded slopes, amazing powder snow, first-class lodging and unparalleled customer service, wherever you ski.
  • Switzerland: Switzerland exudes charm and our clients love the laid-back yet refined atmosphere of our featured resorts.
  • Austria: excellent hospitality, a warm and friendly welcome, lively après-ski and luxurious spa centres.
  • Italy: extensive terrain, good snow records, fabulous food & drink and some of the most stunning scenery in Europe
  • Japan: Japan’s outstanding success as a ski destination can be summed up in one simple word – snow. You really have to ski it to believe it!

“The booking of our ski holiday for 2019 was handled very efficiently by the Ski Independence staff and we look forward to our winter break. The staff were very friendly, welcoming and obviously knew their ski centres!” Steven, November 2018.

La Clusaz (image: David Machet)

Featured Ski Destinations for 2019

Looking for a short ski break?
  • It takes less than 90 minutes to reach the romantic French resort of La Clusaz from Geneva Airport, giving you maximum time to enjoy being in the mountains.
  • A short sub-two hour transfer from Zurich Airport will see you arrive in the stunning Swiss resort of Andermatt, where you’ll find a unique blend of traditional alpine style and luxurious modern facilities.
Fancy making memories together on a family ski holiday?
  • Snowsure Avoriaz in France is one of our favourite family-friendly resorts, with superb ski schools, slopeside accommodation and a lovely car-free resort.
  • Families will appreciate the relatively short transatlantic flight to Tremblant, Quebec. This spectacular resort has relaxed pedestrianised streets and a wealth of child-friendly activities.

The Village des Enfants in Avoriaz

Dreaming of a luxury ski escape?
  • The high-altitude French resort of Val d’Isère is one of Europe’s premier ski destinations, thanks to its breath-taking scenery, chic hotels and traditional Savoyard charm.
  • Follow the lure of guaranteed pristine powder to Niseko, Japan. The resort is home to the beautifully contemporary AYA Niseko hotel, where guests are treated to unrivalled 5-star indulgence.

    Hotel Village La Mourra & Private Collection Chalets in Val d’Isère

First-class Ski Hotels for 2019

Our selection of properties includes ski hotels, condos, apartments, self-catered chalets and private home rentals. Browse our collection for yourself or let our Ski Specialists recommend somewhere special. Here’s a little taster of some of our 5-star luxury hotels:

  • Hotel L’Apogée in Courchevel is situated right on the slopes. Whether you’re soaking in an open-air hot tub with incredible mountain views or dining in the sleek Japanese restaurant, this is a truly stylish hotel.
  • The historic Hotel Jerome is an iconic Aspen property. From sumptuous rooms and suites to the famously attentive USA service, it’s easy to relax in these elegant surroundings.

For something really luxurious, take a look at the Ski Independence Private Collection, an exclusive selection of private chalets and apartments in the most sought-after European ski resorts.

Hotel Jerome Aspen

Exciting Ski Itineraries for 2019

Why choose just one ski resort when you can experience the delights of a multi-centre itinerary? Our Ski Specialists can share some of our most popular itineraries or create a tailored one that is personal to you.

Need a little inspiration?

  • Banff, Lake Louise Jasper: this classic Alberta itinerary links some of the top ski resorts in the Rockies.
  • Panorama, Kicking Horse Revelstoke: tour the best of British Colombia with this adventurous self-drive itinerary.
  • Tokyo Niseko: combine metropolitan culture and unbelievable powder conditions with a dual-centre Japanese itinerary.
  • Epic Pass or Ikon Pass road trip: Enjoy unlimited resort access to Vail Resorts or Alterra Mountain Company resorts with these multi-resort season passes spanning resorts from Park City, Utah to Whistler, Canada.

So far this season, we’ve planned multi-centre ski holidays for our clients taking in as many as 16 resorts in one trip, so we’re confident we can make your perfect itinerary happen.

Banff National Park (image: Renaud Cheyrou)

The Ski Independence Complete Service

Our tailor-made approach ensures we’ll find you the best possible ski package to suit your individual needs. We offer you:

  • Flexibility: No two ski holidays are alike, so we always create a bespoke holiday just for you.
  • Expertise: The Ski Independence team are all avid skiers or snowboarders who can provide expert first-hand advice and personal recommendations.
  • Experience: With 25 years’ experience tailor-making ski holidays for our clients, we know exactly how to find the best options for you.
  • Security: All Ski Independence bookings are ATOL protected and ABTA bonded to give you complete peace of mind.
  • The Ski Independence price guarantee: We offer excellent value, but if you find the same holiday at a lower price with another tour operator, we guarantee we’ll beat that price.

“I would just like to say this is the best service we have ever experienced when booking a holiday. Nothing was too much, and everything was organised to a tee making it a completely stress-free and enjoyable holiday.” Kate, February 2018

Get in Touch

To create your perfect ski holiday for 2019, contact our passionate team of expert Ski Specialists today. We’ll listen to all of your requirements and tailor-make an individual itinerary just for you.

Talk with a Ski Specialist today on 0131 243 8097 or request a tailor-made quotation.

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