Tuesday, 21 January 2014

2014 Swatch Skiers Cup - Zermatt

Swatch Skiers Cup - 4-10 January 2014

Zermatt was once again proud to host the Swatch Skiers Cup in our beautiful town. The 2 continents battle it out for freeskiing supremacy, with America yearning for vengeance after last years defeat.

Both captains Julien Regnier for Team Europe and JP Auclair for Team Americas have made their picks for the head-to-head matchups for the Big Mountain competition in Zermatt. Athletes will get two runs each, with a cumulative winner being decided from each heat.

The competition got off to a fierce start with the Backcountry Slopestyle heat. Team America came out on top of the first day, winning 9 rounds to match Europe's 7.

Despite the imperfect weather forecast, it was a beautiful, mostly sunny day in Zermatt, with a blanket of untouched snow covering the course. The first round was full of historic matchups with Nicolas Vuignier (SUI) taking down Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA), and Richard Permin (FRA) defeating Dane Tudor (USA) to notch points for Europe. In the clash of the legends, Seth Morrison (USA) won a point for the Americas in his match against Sverre Liliequist (SWE). Fabio Studer (AUT) had the most aggressive run of the round, with a nearly landed double flatspin off the first air, two high-speed double cliff drops, and a perfect cork 720 tail grab to finish, defeating his opponent Tim Durtschi (USA). Sam Favret (FRA) also laid down an incredible run for the European side to take out KC Deane (USA) with a huge switch 540, a cork 360, and insane 720 to finish. Team Europe held a 5-3 lead after round one.

But in round two the tables turned. Team Americas came out firing, winning the first four matchups. Tim Durtschi (USA) defeated Sam Favret (FRA), finishing his run with a double cork 1080. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA) threw down the most creative run of the day, linking two unrepeated cliff drops with stylish left-side and right-side 360s, topping an impressive run from Kevin Guri (FRA). But the highlight of the day was the final run, when Americas captain JP Auclair (CAN) stepped up to the plate. A smooth run up top lead him into the final jump, where he threw a gigantic double backflip. He seemed to hang in the air forever, landing further down the landing hill than any other competitor, stomping the air perfectly.

“I was smiling as I approached the final jump. I got a good chance to feel out the jump on run one, so for run two I was feeling really good,” explained JP Auclair (CAN). “I don’t do doubles very often unless it’s the perfect moment, and this was one of those times.”

Auclair’s win over Team Europe captain Julien Regnier (FRA) put an exclamation point on Team Americas’ day one victory. Final score: Team Americas 9; Team Europe 7.

Unfortunately the competition was cut short after the first days riding due to unpredictable conditions. JP Auclair’s crew held a 9 to 7 lead over Team Europe after Backcountry Slopestyle day, leaving Big Mountain on Thursday to decide the ultimate winner. But due to high winds and warm temperatures worsening the already-thin conditions, Big Mountain was called off, giving Team Americas the victory after one day of riding.

After the teams spent the morning visually inspecting the venue and a forerunner skied the face to test the snow, Team captains Julien Regnier (FRA) and JP Auclair (CAN)held a meeting with all riders. It was decided that conditions weren’t safe enough to run the event due to the unpredictable snow and numerous rocks hidden dangerously below just a few centimeters below the surface. The event was called off, giving the title to Team Americas.

The Team Americas victory ties the score for the history of the event, with each team claiming two wins for their side. “I’m definitely proud to lead the team to victory,” said Americas captain JP Auclair. “But it does feel a bit incomplete. Both teams really wanted a chance to face off again today.”

“Sure its disappointing, as we wanted a chance to make a comeback,” said Europe captain Julien Regnier. “But we tried everything possible, searching far and wide in the helicopter for the ideal venue and waiting for the ideal day. In the mountains sometime you try everything but it still doesn’t work out. In the end I really like how this decision was in the hands of the athletes -- this is what makes the Swatch Skiers Cup special.”

Though the official event was cancelled, since all the athletes were already in the starting gate each rider took a no-pressure run, putting on a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition for the gathered spectators. Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (USA) and Seth Morrison (USA) simultaneously skied a scary line down a zigzagging ramp on the largest cliff on the face. Kevin Guri (FRA) laid down one of his signature high-speed lines,flashing down the mountain in just a few seconds. Dane Tudor (USA) found a natural air over a roll at the bottom of the face for a huge 720.

Everyone here is such a strong skier, and both teams have a lot of fun together on and off the snow. But they’re also really intense competitors who are serious about winning their runs. That’s why it was important to call it off – these guys aren't going to hold anything back even if conditions aren't perfect,” explained event co-founder and Team Europe rider Sverre Liliequist (SWE).

But the Swatch Skiers Cup story is far from complete. Thanks to the ongoing support of Swatch, the Swatch Skiers Cup is confirmed for 2015.


One of the most respected ski centers in the world, Zermatt, Switzerland is as unique as it is recognizable. It is here that the most impressive peaks and largest glaciers in the Alps come together with cutting edge skiing infrastructure and an unmatched five-star village experience. From the Matterhorn to the Gornergrat, these timeless symbols of the Alps are just part of everyday life for those lucky enough to come to this magical valley. Climbers and skiers have had centuries to explore the fantastic mountain terrain that surrounds Zermatt. Yet new chapters are written each season, with people such as local guide Samuel Anthamatten pioneering new climbing and skiing lines on the walls that tower above his village, and events like the SWATCH SKIERS CUP bringing renewed energy to this special town.

For more informations for trips to Zermatt - visit otp.co.uk

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Big Freeze to hit Saas Fee! - UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup 2014

In the next two weeks Saas Fee will once again become home to the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup 2014, one of the oldest and liveliest stops on the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup circuit. From the 18th to 25th January 2014, the Saas Valley will become a Mecca for all ice climbing fans from across the globe. An action packed programme of sporting events and legendary ice climbing parties in the multi-storey car park. 

After 15 years of hosting this prestigious event, Saas Fee really knows how to put on a show. Two weekends of events in the Saas Valley around ice and snow. The car free alpine village has a very unique competition wall for the event, built inside a circular car park at the edge of the village set against a backdrop of the towering Swiss Alps. 

The unique location for the speed and lead climb competition

Competition organisers build a lounge area on the ground floor of the 10 storey high parking garage called The Cave, home to the after-party, which gives a new meaning to the word ‘cool’. To celebrate the 15 years milestone of the Ice On Tour, there will be a concert on Friday 24th, rock ‘n’ roll band ‘Whole lotta DC’ the AC/DC tribute band from Switzerland to set the competition off to a flying start! 

Programme Preview

Saturday 18th January - Open Swiss Championships
Friday 24th January - Lead Open Men and Women, Speed Finals Women and Men 
Saturday 25th January - Lead Semi Finals and Finals for Men and Women

Studying the wall before a Lead climb (Photo: UIAA)

Click here to see the organisers website

Come down to Saas Fee and check out this amazing annual event. It is a real special event on the winter calendar, one not to be missed! 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

New Gondola in Nendaz!

History of the ski link and the new gondola

When the new gondola running between Siviez and Plan Du Fou opened up this week it was more than 60 years since the first Nendaz ski lift was put in (before 1952 the only way the first skier’s could get up the mountain was by a type of coach on a sled).

The real skiing began in 1958 when they installed a cable car between the village of Haute-Nendaz and the plateau at Tracouet. This is when Nendaz became more than just a local farming village. Gradually throughout the 1960’s ski tourism really began to take off and the Telecabine was not enough to cope with the demand so the first big investment was made. In 1968 1,700,000 CHF was spent on upgrading the Nendaz Telecabine, more comfortable cars, greater capacity, and new lifts on some of the slopes leading to and from Tracouet.

By 1976 the surrounding areas of Veysonnaz and Verbier had also developed their lift systems and so a link was made, by means of Super-Nendaz, today known as Siviez. This new link meant that skiers could ski a very large area, with 80 lifts, all on one ticket! As the eighties began Nendaz drew its new partners attentions to Mont Fort, high enough to ski all year round, at which point a joint investment with Televerbier saw a cable car to the top of the 3,300m glacier operational by 1983.

For most of the 1980’s there wasn’t so much development as investing to maintain and secure, keeping the lifts they had maintained, and buying up land to ensure the ski slopes would always be available for use. At the same time, advances in technology and awareness about the possibility of unfavourable conditions, also led to investment in snow canons. Ensuring guests could still ski in high season, no matter the weather.


By this time the village itself had really started to develop into a popular ski resort, with the Swiss Ski School operating from 1962, with Mariethoz Sports opening up ski shops at the same time. A large amount of apartment buildings were constructed in the late 60’s and early 70’s and a number of hotels and auberge’s. In the early 1990’s the Telecabine was upgraded once more and a second Ski School, Neige Aventure, was set up, along with its own rental shop. By this time there were already a number of hotels, restaurants and bars doing a good trade with tourists from all across Northern Europe. Throughout the turn of the 21st Century the development continued, including the resorts popularity increasing with English and American tourists, and the construction of more hotels and apartment blocks.

Nendaz is now a popular holiday resort with a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants, shops, ski schools, non-skiing activities such as the spa within the new 4 vallees hotel and night life, and a lively après-ski, suitable for families, couples, groups. Frequented by a varied and even mix of people from around the world, both in terms of residents and tourists, as well as the friendly locals still maintaining a way of life held for generations.

OTP has been offering holidays to Nendaz for 20 years and are experts in the region. With easy access from all Swiss airports, Les 4 Vallées is a brilliant place to ski.

Click on www.otp.co.uk to go to our Nendaz pages, also with live lift information.

See you soon!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

FIS Ski World Cup Wengen

FIS Ski World Cup – Lauberhorn, Wengen

With it being less than eight days until one of the worlds most prestigious downhill, slalom and combined races on the skiing calendar the Jungfrau region has once again turned into a bustling hive of activity. From the 17th - 19th  of January 2014, it is expected that up to 30,000 spectators will come to watch the 84th  International Lauberhorn Races.

The Lauberhorn is a mountain situated between Wengen and Grindelwald, north of Kleine Scheidegg. Although, when compared to the mountains which surround it such as the Eiger and the Jungfrau it is very much belittled, its summit still reaches an elevation of 2,472m (8,110) above sea level.  Whilst attracting thousands of tourists during the winter months, the mountain is best known as the site of the Lauberhorn alpine ski races. The downhill course itself boasts the longest run in the world, with an enormous length of 4.455km (2.768mi). However this does not seem to prevent racers who score run times of two and a half minutes (about 30-45 seconds longer than the standard downhill races). Skiers reach speeds of up to 160km/h (100mph) on its Haneggschuss, some of the fastest speeds reached on the FIS World Cup circuit.

The Lauberhorn downhill run itself is argued to be one of the most picturesque in the world. As previously mentioned it is surrounded by the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau above the Lauterbrunnen valley. As the race is annually held in mid January, blue skies and perfect weather grace spectators and racers alike. Its spectacular surroundings certainly do not take away from the set up of the run itself. The most impressive being that of the Hundschopf, a signature 40m (130ft) jump over a rock nose. Seconded to that has to be the Kernen-S, where skiers pass over a bridge at approximately 80km/h (50mph) and finally racers underpass the infamous Wasserstation tunnel which acts as the viaduct for the local railroad – Wengernalpbahn.

Unfortunately, many of the sections of the course are named because of the severity of the occasionally fatal crashes and falls that occur. The Minsch-Kante is where Josef Minsch fell in 1965 and was hospitalized for weeks. The Canadian Corner is named after two of the Crazy Canucks, Dave Irwin and Ken Read, who aggressively attacked this part of the course in 1976 and subsequently fell during the race. The Kernen-S was renamed for 2003 winner Bruno Kernen after his crash in 2006 at the former Brüggli-S. The Silberhornsprung was introduced in 2003 with the pyramid-shaped Silberhorn mountain in the background for television viewers. The Österreicherloch (Austrian hole) got its name in 1954 when almost all participating Austrian skiers (including Toni Sailer) fell there; 1960s Austrian great Karl Schranz later fell there as well.
In 1991, a tragic death occurred during training for the race at the Ziel-S (Finish-S). The young Austrian skier Gernot Reinstadler was not able to finish the S-curve properly and therefore jumped into the slope boundary (because he was too far to the right), where he hooked one ski in the safety netting and suffered severe injuries to the lower body. He died shortly after the accident from internal bleeding. The race was not held that year. In reaction to this tragic event, the slope boundary at that place was also equipped with rejection canvas and the gates were moved upwards and more to the left.

The best-known sections of the Lauberhorn downhill race are the following (in descending order)
       Russisprung (Russi jump), named after Swiss Olympic champion Bernhard Russi, in the upper treeless part of the course
       Hundschopf (dog's head), the Lauberhorn's signature jump over the rock nose, about a third of the way down the course
       Minsch-Kante and the long fall-away curve
       Canadian Corner
       Alpweg trail, very narrow and only 3 m (10 ft) in width
       Kernen-S (formerly the Brüggli-S), consecutive right-left 90° curves separated by a small bridge), which reduces speed considerably
       Wasserstation (water station), a small tunnel underpassing the local railroad Wengernalpbahn
       Langentrajen where the slope becomes significantly flatter
       Haneggschuss, a pitch after the flats where top speeds approach 160 km/h (100 mph)
       Silberhornsprung (Silberhorn jump)
       Österreicherloch (Austrian hole)
Ziel-S (finish-S) which is endurance challenging and finally a finish jump (reduced in recent seasons)

The Lauberhorn downhill race has continually taken place annually since 1930 and is one of the oldest ski races in the world. As a vast spectator sport the Russisprung was originally built in the spring for a television show and was incorporated into the course by organizers the following year. Snowmaking was added to the course in the mid-1990s, and the combined race has been a run as a "super combined" since the World Cup debut of the format at Wengen in 2005. The super-combi is two runs (one shortened downhill and one slalom) run on the same day, rather than three runs (one downhill and two slalom) of the traditional combined. On the World Cup circuit, the traditional combined is usually not run as separate races, but determined "on paper" from the results of the primary downhill and slalom races, which are run on separate days. (The Olympics and world championships are the exceptions, holding entirely separate races for the combined.) At the Winter Olympics, the super-combined format replaced the traditional combined in 2010.


A live count down is available at http://www.lauberhorn.ch/en/home and as the international teams start to gather in the area, we at OTP Swiss Holidays look forward to welcoming those arriving.

With easy access from all Swiss airports, the Jungfrau region offer brilliant skiing and at OTP we offer holidays based in Grindelwald and Wengen (www.otp.co.uk)

If you simply want to get to see the races for a day, www.swisspasses.com provides discounted travel passes and ski passes too!

See you soon...