Endless Winter

What a season, when will it stop snowing? People are commenting ” what a great winter we are having this spring “.

Last week myself and Alpinecoaching trainer / ISIA ski teacher Guy Nason ran our Easter course programme in Hinterux Austria. Conditions on the glacier provided fantastic skiing both on and off piste.

Some of the best powder of the season was accessible with a simple traverse off the piste. No helicopter, walking or skinning required. One day we skied with the groups over 1000 metres of untracked powder in the first morning with not a person to share it with ( shame )


With both Guy and myself coaching it allowed us to set up some ” workshops ” as some of our groups had very specific goals working towards the up and coming BASI instructors courses.

It’s was without a doubt an All Mountain experience with the glacier and resort facilities providing exceptional conditions and service levels.


I’ve been back to The Snow Centre for a week where we are just coming to the end of our Easter holiday courses. The centre had remained busy ( partly due to the endless winter ) and I can report this had been our busiest season since opening almost 4 years ago. People are really tuning in to urban Snowsports and what a great facility we have.

Short trip back to the UK for me as tomorrow I head back out to Hintertux Austria for 2 weeks to join the team of BASI trainers running the spring instructors courses.

Following these two weeks there is still one last opportunity to enjoy this epic winter with us back on the glacier. We will be running our spring course 25th May over the Whitsun week, and with the snow still falling it looks very promising.

Following that course I WILL be seeking some sun before it all starts again!




Off piste adventure Gressoney

Just returning from a fantastic week skiing in the Monterosa area in the Val D Aosta, Italy.

The plan was a three day training camp developing off piste skiing skills followed by a day Heli skiing, then a further guided off piste development. The weather didn’t allow for the Heli skiing unfortunately but we sill found some great terrain to ski.

Gressoney is a Mecca for adventure skiing with a wide variation of terrain. This is my 8th visit to the area and the more I come here the more I love it’s rugged and wild feel. The upper valley has a unique culture due to its former ( and current ) Walser community ( German speaking people who originally migrated from the Swiss region of Wallis / Vallais just on the other side of the Monterosa.


There are many itineraries to explore from entry level side of the piste to exposed serious tours involving mountaineering skills. Our group consisted of skiers with off piste skiing experience which allowed us to get in to some of the more challenging routes. I would describe us a ” Slack country skiers ” which is a term for off piste using the lift system for acces with maybe some short walks or traversing ).

I would describe our week as guided coaching where there is a focus on developing performance at the same time as being safely guided through the terrain. This is a little different from the purely guided groups we came across with mountain guides. These groups are being taken to the terrain but without instruction. For routes that require the use of ropes and crampons ( crossing glaciers ) this is the norm as a mountain guide is required.

We would start the day with a little piste skiing developing specific skills then take these in to the off piste terrain. Our daily development itinerary was the Valle d Olen. This route had a variety of pitches and some good north facing slopes.


The Punta Indren lift gives access to many wilder routes with some steep gullies. This area is only for serious skiers with warnings and checks at the entry and exit of the lift. Transceiver and avalanche rescue equipment is obligatory.

The group skied the Eagle gully and the grand gully on this face with a few variations. Skiing on the Balma route was not recommended due to it not being in condition.


On days in poor light we headed in to the trees to find better definition. There are some fantastic routes lower down when the high peaks are shrouded in fog and white light.

A great week and a place I am sure we will visit many times again in the future. Maybe next time we will get to use the helicopter service to get higher on the Monterosa!


Thanks to the group for the shared adventure and thanks to Guy Nason ISIA ski teacher and my back marker during some of the more “challenging” descents.


A great week and a place I am sure we will visit many times again in the future. Maybe next time we will get to use the helicopter service to get higher on the Monterosa!

Pete Silver Gillespie





Macedonian snowsports adventure

I have always been interested in looking for more adventurous snowsports destinations blending culture and adventure. I think I may have found my new destination!

Before organising a trip for my clients I thought I better go and check out this new destination. With that I booked two tickets for myself and my wife Lea.

So where is Macedonia? Well first we have to establish that I am writing about the Republic of Macedonia, one of the former republics of Yugoslavia. There is also a region bordering the Republic called Macedonia in Greece. This is the subject of much tension and not one I wish to explore in this blog.

Macedonia is in the southern Balkans and shares boarders with Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. Its Capital city is Skopje and this is where our adventure began once leaving Luton on a Wizz air flight. Three and a half hours later you are in a vibrant and ethnically diverse country.


Alexander The Great is believed to have come from what is now the Republic of Macedonia


Macedonia has both Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities. In the region around Skopje and Popov Shapka the majority population are of Albanian decent with official signs written in both Macedonian Cyrillic and Albanian. This mix of culture left over from the Ottoman period results in a perfect blend of southern European and Turkish influence most obvious in the food.

Our local taxi driver (Baze) picked us up from Skopje airport and drove us the one hour journey up to Shapka. On route we took a short detour to the family of a Macedonian friend of mine (Dragi) who had organised home made red wine (Crno Vino) and Mastika (like ozzo) as a little welcome gift.

As we leave Skojpe the journey takes us past some beautiful villages that would not be out of place in an Alpine valley. The only one obvious difference is the villages were centred around a Mosque.


From Tevoto the road begins to wind up around hairpin bends as we climb higher. The snow on the side of the road is over a metre deep and getting deeper the higher we climb. After about 20 mins of what I will describe as a white knuckle ride we arrive in our destination Popov Shapka! The mountain a head looks wild and already I can see the adventurous opportunities. To our left is the main ski area which is a collection of old Poma lifts, chair lifts and a T bar. The place is rammer with weekend skiers in equipment that back in 1988 would have been top of the range.

After a bit of a struggle Baze get his taxi up to our accommodation. The grand hotel Slavjia!

We had an idea of what to expect having spent time in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia in the past. However the hotel Slavija took the top prize for being the most run down hotel I have ever stayed in! It is clear to see that 30 years ago this would have been the pride of skiing in Yugoslavia, but it was also the last time it had a lick of paint. Despite the very run down accommodation the staff running the place were nothing but helpful. Having exhausted my limited Serbo / Croatian I switched to English but to no avail. So my last attempt was the wild card……German. Much to my delight two of the staff spoke very good conversational German having previously worked in Switzerland.

Food in the hotel was really very good and typically Balkan. Lots of fresh salads, white cheese and grilled meats. Bar was unbelievably cheap with a half litre of wine coming in at around £2.50.

The Skiing


The night skiing on a floodlit piste ( 7 – 10pm) came in at a whopping € 5.00.

Next morning waking up to fresh snow we make our way down to the lift pass office (porto cabin) and purchased a day ticket at €15.00. The pisted area is not huge and serviced by old but functional lifts. Terrain is quite interesting with lots of ” just of the piste” off piste. Ideal for developing all terrain skills. There are……well basically NO on slope facilities (restaurants and toilets) apart from a few shacks and a place to get coffee.

The closest thing to a restaurant up the mountain was an on the slope bazaar selling crisps, nuts and bottled drinks. Toilets……portaloo!


A long cold chairlift takes skiers and snowboarders high up on the the main peak. It is here that the opportunities for off piste and freeride became obvious. A loosely marked piste meanders down the mountain but either side awaits a mix of powder bowls, steep gullies and tree skiing. With a set of skins or snowshoes the more adventurous rider would be in heaven. I did spot a British group with their guides out enjoying the terrain. They where using the local cat skiing service (a mechanised alternative to heli skiing) to access some more remote areas.

In summary Popov Shapka has huge potential and is great mountain to ski. The facilities are old and the standard of accommodation is like nothing you would have seen before. Creature comforts are not high on the list! This would not be for everyone and only the open minded should consider it. The cultural experience is a refreshing change from the normal snowsports vacation. Would I bring my kids here….no. Will I be back…..yes!



Will it snow???

Well I was all ready to head up to Scotland this weekend to deliver a BASI (British Association Snowsport Instructors) level 2 instructors course……and it cancelled! BASI had to make the call based on conditions last week when it warmed up and a big thaw set in. Ironically now we are being told that we should ALL be expecting snow in the UK. Looks like I may be heading up to the Chiltern hills (my local hills) with the kids for a little sledging soon!

Very busy here at The Snow Centre with this weekend being the busiest so far this season with over 950 people attending group lessons. It super peak season now for sure!!

My next trip will be down to Macedonia in 3 weeks time where it is snowing very hard (40cm in the next few days). Lift pass €15 a day so looking forwards to that!


Think snow


1 Comment

Happy new snowsport year!

Hi Snowsport fans!

Looking forwards to a white 2013, season in Europe looks like it going well. I have my next trip to Cairngorm booked (2 weeks running BASI courses), Macedonia is booked followed by Gressoney Heli skiing! Cant wait

The Snow Centre has been really busy in the last 2 weeks with a great feel around the place.

2012 was great but I feel 2013 will be better!

Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!


1 Comment