Source: National Geographic Traveller
Very proud of team rider Tyler Brown on his spread in the 2015 National Geographic Traveller November issue. Beautiful picture he got in this issue, keep up the good work and we look forward to next years snow kite events. Visit www.sierrasnowkite.com for all your snow kite needs.
National Geographic Traveller | November 2015 full travel article below;
Ski joering, France
My shaggy pony paws the snow with an unshod foot, his warm breath visible against the frosty, pine-tinged air. An Austrian Hafflinger, he’s short and sturdy, but a mischievous glint in his eye makes me glad I’m not getting on his back. Instead, I’ll be taking the reins and keeping my feet firmly on the ground.
If ski joering — being pulled along on your skis by horses or dogs — sounds a little indolent, think again. Thought to have originated in Scandinavia to transport goods during winter, it’s become a niche sport and is often performed at breakneck speeds.
Watch the World Ski Joring Championships in the US (where contestants battle it out for $20,000 in prize money) and you’ll see the skier being propelled by a horse and rider through an obstacle course involving gates, jumps and rings.
Thankfully I’m in France, where competitions tend to involve a rider-less horse, and today we’re planning on skiing at a more sedate pace. But as I listen intently to every tip my instructor, Julien, utters, I’m still not convinced that I’ll be able to stay in control of my direction or my speed. I find myself wishing I had the same luck as my husband, who’s been paired with a pony that seems perfectly content to doze quietly in the spring sunshine. “That chilled out one’s from Spain,” grins Julien, an agile guy who bounds around pointing at various bits of tack that will (hopefully) help us steer the horses. “He’s built for sun and sand but he gets on just fine with snow under his feet.”
Julien assures us that ski joering is as easy as water-skiing and nonchalantly hands me the tow bar. “But I’ve only ever water-skied once,” I say, as I clip on my skis and stand behind my pony, who turns his head and gives me a look that confirms he’s in control.
I adopt the ski joering stance (arms straight, knees bent slightly), and repeat the command for slowing down — ‘whoah-ho-ho’. I’m not likely to want to go faster but I’m reliably told that, should I change my mind, the trick is to simply bend down, pick up some snow and throw it at the pony’s bottom.
We start at a walking pace and progress to a slow trot, the snow hypnotically crunching under the pony’s hooves. As the tempo gets faster, I try to relax but it’s a good 10 minutes before I master the art of turning without clenching every muscle in my body. Another 20 minutes on and we’re flying past densely wooded pine forests, trickling streams and quaint chalets at a canter. As clumps of snow and ice fly through the air I suddenly realise I’m enjoying every moment.
In charming La Clusaz — a picturesque Savoyard resort where cows outnumber people — it seems fitting to abandon the chairlifts and traverse the snowy ground using horsepower.
How to do it
Julien Fournier Bidoz offers a 90-minute private lesson for two people at Aravis Passion equestrian centre for €238 (£172) per person. To take the reins you must be sporty and a good skier (able to tackle red runs). aravis-passion.com laclusaz.com
A combination of skiing, snowboarding and kite-flying, snowkiting hit the headlines after the Polar Trekking team N2i used the method to reach the Antarctic pole. These days, it’s known as a niche sport with a rapidly growing fan base and a thrilling competition circuit.
According to two-time North American Snowkite Tour Champion Tyler Brown — who runs the Sierra Snowkite Center in California’s Sugar Bowl Resort — it’s easier than kitesurfing on water, with children as young as seven able to progress to jumps in the first week. “If you’ve experienced skiing or snowboarding you can be moving in just two hours and off on your own in around four hours, whereas with kitesurfing it’s more like four days,” says Tyler. Keen to promote the sport, he charges a flat fee of $350 (£226)for a day’s tuition but won’t charge you more if it takes you longer to learn the ropes.
No hills are required, just light winds of around 10-20mph to keep the kite in the air — which, Tyler claims, means the sport is less dangerous. “I’ve reached speeds of around 60mph but you can go as fast or as slow as you like. Accidents are rare because we have such wide open spaces and light winds. It’s far safer than downhill skiing, too. The wind isn’t going to lift you off the ground and, while you may see advanced jumpers soar 40 feet in the air, you’d first need to learn how to jump.”
Details: $75 (£48) for a taster session; $350
(£226) to learn. sierrasnowkite.com
Fat biking, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italian Dolomites
They may not be speedy, but fatties — essentially bikes with giant tyres — are catching on. Their appeal lies in the fact that they offer access to stunning off-piste areas and enable cyclists to burn up to 1,500 calories an hour.
With low-pressure tyres up to 4.8 inches wide (nearly double that of mountain bikes), the wheels have good grip on snow and ice. It’s harder than it initially looks, though, and beginners can expect to sweat as they pedal furiously uphill — before hurtling downhill and landing in a deep clump of refreshing snow.
While the sport is already popular stateside, it’s beginning to gain traction in Europe, particularly in Italian resorts. Cortina is currently enjoying its second fat biking season, with two excellent downhill slopes on offer. Hut-to-hut itineraries and night runs are also available here, giving cyclists the chance to stop for a bite to eat or sleep in cosy mountain refuges scattered across the peaks.
Details: Rental costs €35 (£25) for a full day, €25 (£18) for a half day. Cycle independently or hire a guide for €100 (£72). cortina.dolomiti.org
“Forget the snowplough — skiers in St Moritz are instead being taught how to do the warrior pose and sun salutation at altitude”
Yoga on the slopes, St Moritz, Switzerland
Forget the snowplough — skiers in St Moritz are instead being taught how to do the warrior pose and sun salutation at altitude. The world’s first yoga piste opened on Corviglia’s Paradiso piste, fittingly known as the ‘chill out slope’.
Snowsport instructor and Hatha-Vinyasa yoga teacher Sabrina Nussbaum has chosen four scenic sites or ‘quiet zones’ just off the red slope, where skiers can breathe deeply and strike their best poses. Visit independently or book a half day (three hours) or full day with Sabrina, who uses yogic principles to help guests improve their technique in between asanas.
Details: Booked via the Suvretta Snowsports School, prices cost from CHF 510 (£355) per day and can be split between a group (minimum three people). suvretta-sports.ch/en
Cat skiing, North America
For those who want to carve fresh tracks through the powder but can’t justify the cost of hopping into a helicopter, cat skiing — which sees snowmobiles used to transport skiers — is a far more affordable option. Technological advancements mean snow cats are now better climbers, able to access steeper gradients and offer a smoother, quieter ride (and yes, they’re also heated). Red Mountain Resort in BC, Canada, has introduced a cat shuttle that swifly transports intermediate skiers up to the peak of Mt. Kirkup, providing access to approximately 200 acres of gladed tree skiing and a vertical drop of 1,600 feet for just CN$10 (£5) a run. Seats are sold on a first come, first served basis. Utah’s Powder Mountain offers a similar single-ride cat skiing service that takes participants to the top of Lightning Ridge with access to over 700 acres of challenging pristine powder snow and an impressive 2,100 feet vertical drop for just $18 (£11.50). Meanwhile, resorts such as Park City also offer a day’s cat skiing where you can enjoy repeat runs covered in untracked powder and epic panoramas.
Details: Single runs from CN$10 (£5). Day Cat trips from around US$459 (£295). redresort.com powdermountain.com pccats.com
Espace Killy, France
Essentially the performing of tricks on a snowboard, freestyle boarding has become so popular that most resorts now have a snowpark with rails, boxes, kickers and half-pipes.
Freestyle boarders tend to use shorter, lighter and sometimes wider and more flexible snowboards, which make mid-air manoeuvres easier — and they’re also more forgiving on landing if something goes wrong.
If you’re keen to learn serious tricks, a growing number of resorts, such as Tignes in south-eastern France, are installing BigAirBags.
A Dutch invention, these inflatable pillows are similar to the giant fall cushions used by professional stuntmen and will help you nail that front flip or double-cork. With epic park riding and the infamous Tignes superpipe, the Espace Killy region has fast become Europe’s freestyle mecca and Val d’Isere is offering a week-long Freestyle Snowboard Course in 2016 (20th-27th March). Bookable through Ticket to Ride, the course caters to all abilities. Giving both beginners and more advanced boarders the chance to learn and develop spins and slides, the course will boost confidence and let your true riding style and expression develop.
Details: Val d’Isere’s Freestyle Snowboard Course is priced from £595 including transfers, self-catering accommodation, lift pass, 16 hours of coaching, equipment, clinics and video analysis. tickettoridegroup.com
Snowshoeing, France and Bosnia
One of the fastest growing snowsports in the world, snowshoeing is perfect for those who want to amble along above the tree line, enjoying the fresh air — but there are also more difficult treks on offer for adventurers who want something a bit more challenging. Responsible Travel now offers over 20 snowshoe combination holidays in countries including France, Iceland, Romania and Canada. For complete beginners, the company recommends a week in an auberge in the French alpine valley of Champolion, snowshoeing through the pristine winter wilderness. Travellers looking for a more testing adventure can head to Sarajevo, the host city of the 1984 Winter Olympics, to snowshoe through the remote mountain ranges featuring pine forests, crystal-clear streams, glacial lakes, frozen waterfalls and snow-covered summits.
Details: Snowshoeing in the French Alps from
£722 (eight days) excluding flights; Bosnia snowshoeing holiday from £949 (eight days) including flights. responsibletravel.com
This low impact sport is another that’s quickly growing in popularity. Not only do you get to escape the crowds and enjoy the quiet of the mountains, it’s also kind on knees. Cross-country skiing seems to particularly appeal to those keen on improving their fitness.
If you’d like to give it a go, plan a trip to Engadin, Switzerland, in March 2016 to take part in one of the largest ski races in Europe, where over 13,000 participants will be picking up a well-deserved medal at the finish line.
English Ski Council coach Eric Woolley offers participants a five-day practice holiday comprising cross-country skiing along the groomed tracts of the Engadin valley. Woolley aims to ensure all skiers are confident come race day and that they’ve tried out each section of the 42km course.
Details: Engadin Skimarathon, £1,549 per person for eight days including flights. exodus.co.uk
National Geographic Traveller | November 2015