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Magic pass is .... magic

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Pressed the button on the first day of availability 2018. Easy decision. Four of us, and we ski 6-10 weeks per season, and with the summer now included we get uplifts for DH and XC mountain-biking and the occasional uplift just for fun. We have the luxury of a hovel on the hill in the Valais at 1100m - sounds grand but has ski gear, climbing hardware and bike kit pouring out of every cupboard and piled here and there. 60 steps up to the front door, so last year we moved 100 cubic metres of snow to get in - three hours of digging. But it serves the purpose. We never really work out what it takes to run the place, but I reckon around 5,000 gbp per annum - or two weeks normal ski vacation. And we get a lot more than that out of it.

Get in the car with the Groms, straight out of school. Try to remember to take jackets for the journey. Winter tyres fitted at the end of November. Keep the chains in the car so they don't get left behind. No need for skis, boots, anything snow-related - it's all out there. We use the very useful flexi option on P&O ferries, which gives us an eight hour window to get to Dover. Which sometimes we need if the Dartford Crossing is fouled up. The ferry is good, since we can get supper on it - works out about the same as the train plus a food stop. Get to France at 10pm-ish. Then drive for an hour. Drive into to the B&B Hotel in Arras - four-bed room with breakfast for 82 Euros. Excellent. I used to drive all night. No more, too exhausting and messes up my body clock. My partner says 'no problem...I will take turns to drive...' but she has a tendency to drop instantly to sleep whilst driving on the motorway, which freaks me out. So Arras it is. Groms useless at getting themselves organised in the morning...massive prevarication and extended breakfast-fiddling. I chivvy them along and we get going at a reasonable time.

We have never had any queues on the autoroute - apart from the snowy winter of 2010-11 - a few long stops and frightening moments as people on summers slide all over the place just in front of us. We head down to ChateauVillain and the last Paul's, fro decent sandwiches and salads - and some coffee that will keep me awake and safe. East at Dijon - along to Besancon and to the Hyper U at Pontalier for great meat and a veg shop. Then, through the Jura to cross into CH at Jougne. If the traffic is backing up we turn off right into the village and run parallel to the main road, popping back on just before the Duoane posts. Then it's the last slog along lake Geneva and into the Valais. The tunnel at St Christophe is always telling - if the Eastern end as we exit is a couple of degrees warmer than the Eastern entrance, then there's most likely a Foehn blowing and a melt will be on. If the temp drops, we're happy.

The traffic is always thin by now, and we get to the chalet around 9pm - typically nine hours from Arras to the hovel. The hope is that the 60 steps will have only minor coating of snow, or neighbours Elizabeth and Heiner may have cleared them. If not, it's everyone to the tools and a flurry of digging. Once in, quick bowl of pasta, get a fire on, turn up the heating, and make the hot water bottles for the Groms. The chalet will be around 16 degrees and won't really heat up until the sun hits it in the morning. Now...the Magic Pass kicks in.

Christmas we ski at Crans Montana - ten minutes up the hill - but also hit Nax when the sun is out and we won't freeze on the chairs. Nax is a fabulous place - great parking next to the piste at the top car park - free parking at that - and then ski down to the desperately rickety chair at the base station. But once off the second chair, the resort has huge possibilities for off-piste in the rolling forest - wide pistes for Groms - and wide open, empty pistes from the top of Mont Noble. Wonderful. Always grins all round and heavy sleeping as we wend out way back to the hovel at the end of the day - 40 minutes to get back. Later in the week we head off to use the Majic Pass at Leysin - which turns out to be wall-to-wall ice and pretty damn challenging. Even the local ESS instructors are sliding down sideways; only ValaisGrom manages to put tight turns in on the boilerplate. A long drive - 90 mins door to door, but worth it. Then Chandolin the next day - easy access to the large area of Chandolin-St Luc. Magic Pass bleeps all the gates. Excellent. Nightmare button lift up to the Illhorn - huge fun. Great food at the Chandolin restaurant - manic and friendly chef who does wonderful food at low prices. Forty minutes back to the chalet - major zzzzzz's from Groms in the car on the way back. Couple of days at Crans, luxury lunch at Chetzeron - rated one of the best altitude restaurants in the Rhone Valley and really not that expensive - Sami the proprietor as welcoming as ever. Rubbish snow on the South facing slopes but all good from the top of Plaine Morte at 3000m. Next day it's over to Grimentz - where we can choose Zinal (ice fest) or Grimentz (lovely) and exhaust ourselves before getting a pizza and driving back - yes, 40 mins - to the shack. Next day and a few more days of Crans-skiing and an evening soaking in the open thermal bath at Leukerbad - which next year is on the Magic Pass...great stuff. Tonight it's New Year's Eve, and four households all get together for snacks, drinks and midnight hugs. Excellent, and the fireworks all down the valley are good too.

Then it's back to UK after 15 days of local and road-trip skiing - we do the return in one hit - leaving at 6am, getting back to the village near Cambridge around 11pm. ZZZZZZZ.

Half term - repeat. All on the Magic Pass. Bad day when we head to Anzere (on the Magic Pass) only to have the lifts close two minutes before we get there, due to wind. Grrrr.

Boys' weekend - repeat, but fly from Luton and get four full days in. On the Magic Pass.

Easter - repeat. On the Magic Pass. Only add Ovronnaz - again, a small resort well worth a day's visit - even in the boiler-plate at 9am and melting mess at noon which is Easter ... large grin factor and much sun on the lunch terraces.

Magic. And all for the price which people pay fro one week 'normal rate'.

Roll on Summer and DH and XC and climbing....all on the Magic Pass
snow report     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I passed on the CHF399 initial offering whilst I waited to see what the Snowpass comes up with. I watched the countdown hoping that the new rate wouldn't be a big increase, thankfully it only went up by 30 francs and is valid until after the Snowpass releases full details on 6th May.

Good to see that several of the new resorts are suitable for the motorhome.
ski holidays     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Excellent
ski holidays     
 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
brilliant, thank you
ski holidays     
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Here is me thinking the Top 4 is fantastic, 666 for the season. Magic sounds too good to be true! Interestingly you visit some of the none mainstream resorts many of which turn out to be real gems .
I head over to Meiringen quite frequently and dragged my British mate and his Swiss girlfriend over on one occasion.
They could not believe the expanse of the area even though it only has around a dozen lifts.
Interesting that you mention Leukerbad joining next year.
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
I like that idea that you end up visiting lots of some of the smaller resorts that you wouldn't normally get to.

Snowpass does look interesting - it will all depend on what they have to offer. I spoke to the Commercial Director of Ax 3 Domaines last month, who had already met with them and was discussing response with other local resorts. His main concern was that they would be giving away their regular season pass traffic for free.

FWIW you can listen to him talking about their lift pass marketing on Episode 33 of The Ski Podcast:
https://theskipodcast.com/resorts/tignes/episode-33-drug-dealers-in-ski-resorts-mogul-technique-french-pyrenees-skiing-at-220-km-h/
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@valais2 - delighted to say that I mentioned your season in Episode 35 of The Ski Podcast, when we chat about Magic Pass and the new Snow Pass
https://theskipodcast.com/podcast/episode-35-val-thorens-zip-wire-magic-pass-v-snowpass-grimentz-zinal/
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