Telling my friends that I was off to Tignes to meet a snow guru gained a mixed reaction – some thought I sought spiritual enlightenment, others that I’d become yetty ‘yummy’.
Fortunately both were way off the mark. This season leading ski operator Crystal has launched the Crystal Riders’ Lodges (more about those later), which come complete with their own mountain man…A.K.A. a snow guru – expert of all things snow and social.
On first impressions I wondered how our personal powder pounder – he’s all of twenty something – could fill such well-informed boots, but you clearly don’t get to be a Crystal guru unless you’ve got what it takes, and Ashley Stewart soon convinced everyone that this role was likely to be more than a one-season wonder.
Let’s be clear, a snow guru is not a mountain guide, ski instructor, or safety advisor. But ours did come equipped with a great deal of knowledge, and an easy going, fun personality, which made light of handling groups of all ages. He’s also mad about mountains…and that helped!
All Lodge guests can get their guru to show them around the mountains, sharing their favourite spots, off-the-beaten-track runs and perhaps a few tricks. This was great when the weather was bad, as Ashley steered us towards the sunshine, avoiding slopes that were swallowed in mist.
But perhaps the best thing he shared was his enthusiasm, for riding, the impressive park and the video we’d be making. Oh yes, you can all be momentary movie stars at Crystal Riders’ Lodges. They make one each week, and screen them on Fridays.
Our gang was mostly ski press, sharing the Lodge with a group of ski-keen young Scots and couples who couldn’t wait to get out into the mountains – no matter what the weather!
The idea of a group video brought everyone together, and also gave us something of our Tignes time to share with friends and family.
Gurus can also guide to you the best places to eat, drink and party, whether you want a hot dog, sit-down dinner, or to see to the local cover band. In simple terms, they put the icing on the cake.
So what can I tell you about the Riders’ Lodges? There’s currently two in the French Alps – the one I visited at Tignes Le Lac, and another in Val Thorens.
Crystals new concept aims to add a little extra ‘va va voom’ for skiers and boarders. It’s a great fit for freeriders, the budget conscious and for those, like me, who like to blab on forever about life in the mountains.
Think log fires, TV, hearty food, in-house bar, pool table, low sofas and you’re half way to understanding it. Then throw in an Xbox 360, and internet (in the main reception area) to add 21st century appeal.
Our downstairs room had just been refurbished. It was a welcoming place, very comfy, with simple décor, twin beds and a pretty swish bathroom.
You couldn’t say it was ‘a palace’, but the Lodge came free of ski prima donnas and that made it a lot more appealing!
What made it perfect was the view… right by a frozen lake, which oozed icy charm and called for constant use of my camera.
Who will it appeal to? I’d say mostly young people and freeriding fans keen to share their ski and boarding experiences, and to learn more from their time in the mountains.
Added extras such as a free packed lunches four days a week, afternoon cake, free beer and nachos most evenings all boost the appeal for everyone, especially the budget conscious. And that’s before you consider the first-class effort of the Lodge team, which makes me think Crystal is on to a winner.
So who’s behind it? The Riders Lodge is the brainchild of one of Crystal’s assistant product directors, Richard Sills, who’s keen to develop more freeriding opportunities.
What’s the cost?
A six-day area pass costs £211 (adult), £170 (child) and incorporates the wider Espace Killy region (300kms), including Val dIsere, swimming and ice-skating.
The pass also entitles you to ski away day in La Plagne (an extra 425kms), and you can include the saunas at the lagoon pool for an additional E10 (around £8).
A week in the lodge costs from £588 per person and includes flights, transfers, seven-nights accommodation and catering (breakfast, packed lunches, afternoon snack with tortilla chips and dips as well as cakes, three course dinner and unlimited house wine on six nights per week.
Tignes is a three-hour transfer from Chambery Airport, and you can also enjoy bumboarding, ice diving, ice climbing, husky sledging, snow-shoe expeditions, ice driving and snow mobiling at this resort.
Where to party
The snow guru recommends clubbing at the Blue Girl, Couloir, Drop Zone or Jacks in Tignes. Drink and see live bands at The Loop Bar, and Scotty’s Bar – and help spray the champagne at La Folie Douce – between Tignes and Val d’Isère.
For more information on the Lodge visit Crystal Ski holidays