Wednesday, 23 March 2011

It's not about the spa ...

My sensitive trip radar has been assaulted recently by a few things:
1) A recent edition of Outside magazine reported on the 3G reception now available on the summit of Everest by saying thus: 'now the race is on to see who will be first to update his facebook page from the summit.' Couldn't decide what appalled me most - the thought of people updating facebook from Everest or the fact that Outside automatically assumed the next person on the summit would be a chap. Mind you all those ropes and oxygen tanks are hard to handle when you're filing your nails and applying lip gloss at the same time, so perhaps they're right. Jeez.
2) There seems to have been a mass agreement in the travel media recently that while men will be spending the upcoming long Easter break doing boys weekends away rock climbing, mountain biking, scratching their balls et all, us ladies will be jumping at the chance to go to a spa, drink champagne and eat chocolate with 'our three best girlfriends.' Well, naturally. Seeing as the option of summiting Everest is now out of the question.

So then I thought: where are some funky accommodations in places where you can also be seriously gnarly? You know, for those people who like a few creature comforts after they've shed their bodies' store of adrenaline? Voila!
1) West Coast Wilderness Lodge, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada
Don't be put off by the fact that people get married here - they do it because the view across the Sechelt Inlet is superb. The accommodation is in wooden suites complete with stonewalled bathrooms with windows opening onto the sea as you shower. The coast is perfect for sea kayaking - which hurts your arms more than you'd think it does. The resort is also 3km away from the Skookumchuck rapids - the fastest saltwater rapids in North America, complete with whirlpools. Gnar. Ly. Mountain biking and hiking de rigeur here but then you are in BC so goes with the territory really.
Gnarly rating: 3/5

2) Velo Pyrenees, Barousse valley, France
If you fancy upping your game in the old trail running stakes or you'd like to be able to enjoy road riding in the Alps without the pressure of climbing Alpe d'Huez every five seconds, Velo Pyrenees is your place. A guesthouse run by Lee and Julie it combines great food and cute accommodation with kick ass exercise. Julie is a triathlon coach (a woman! How does she find the time?!) and Lee has spent many years bike racing. They will provide you with itineraries and maps for your runs and rides along with advice and encouragement to help you reach your potential.
Gnarly rating: based on the altitude it gets a chunky 4/5

3) Bjorkliden, Sweden
Thought Europe's pathetic snow season had scuppered your plans for powder runs? Think again buddy! Scandinavia is where it is at for late-season, knee deep snow and Bjorkliden in the Arctic Circle is possibly the cutest resort on the planet with one of the most eye-crushingly epic vistas. You can stay in the resort's one hotel but you'd feel like you were on a Soviet school trip in 1974 if you did. Better to stay in one of the cabins which are arranged like a little town, with streets and dead ends. View is of Lake Tornetrask with the Lapporten Gap looming in the distance.
Gnarly rating: the remoteness ups the ante from the mellow gradients of the off-piste - 4/5

4) Nuit-Nature, Combloux, France
If you thought ski resorts were like living in a bubble then Nuit Nature is the physical manifestation of that. Literally a room in a giant bubble, with 360 degree views of Mont Blanc, the Chaine des Aravis and the Pont Percee. Combloux has it's own chairlifts in winter although it is close to Megeve and St Gervais as well. In the summer there are, of course, the Alps on your doorstep and you're not far from Les Contamines which has some pretty good sport climbing. But hang on a sec. This bubble is also the height of luxury - with a four-course meal served to you by the chef who arrives in a rugged 4X4.
Gnarly rating: oh if we're honest probably a 1/5. But for you certainly need a sense of adventure for this one.

5) More Mountain, Morzine, France
Morzine is mountain biking when summer arrives. No other resort in France (Europe?) has embraced the sport with quite so much panache. Which obviously is still crap compared to Whistler but hey you gets whats you can right? Rather than jump on the MTB band wagon and create your bog standard chalets full of smelly lads in awful, awful bike outfits trying to do wheelies every time a chick walks past, More Mountain have stayed true to their mantra of stylish and contemporary accommodation while also offering kit washing, bike storage and the services of Jon the most enthusiastic and downright scary bike guide on the planet. Like MTBing but also like a plush leather sofa, massive TV, iPod, room that doesn't smell of trumps and the thought that you might be a bit cool? Best check out More Mountain.
Gnarly rating: depends on you really. But based on my experience of being spat off the Pleney DH run, I'm giving it a chin-in-the-air-even-though-you-looked-like-a-pleb 5/5

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