ALPINE CharterS FAQ
Important: Registration requires three stages, The Priority List to determine allotment of spaces, Pre-registration with NTSC and then registration and payment with the tour operator -- generally within 7 days to secure your place, but note that the payment to Vacation Station for Club Med is due within 5 days of your spot being confirmed.
Detailed instructions -- including priority lists and wait lists -- are on the charters registration process page
Yes, if you are ready for something more stimulating and challenging than what you're skiing in on our Alpine day trips. All resorts we'll visit have designated beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, and we generally post the relative numbers (total runs or percentages) of beginner, intermediate, or advanced runs. Almost all of those resorts will have enough beginner runs to keep you interested.
But most people on charter trips will focus on intermediate and advanced runs, perhaps using beginner runs for warm ups or to where they're the only way to get from point a to point b. And so if you only aspire to, or feel confortable on, beginner runs, you may find yourself skiing alone much of the time.
If you're a beginner, but plan to work at your skiing, set your sights on trips later in the year and you shouldn't have an issue.
It depends what are you looking for. Value? Variety? Tradition? Thrills? Comfort? Weather? Culture? Cameraderie?
Our trips are first and foremost about skiing. If you've never skied outside of Ontario, it's hard to convey:
Some of our trips -- especially ski-in/ski-out -- are based in one resort. Others may visit a different resort every day and you may never ski the same run twice. Sometimes the entire club contingent will travel on a bus to the same resort (e.g. Eastern Townships, Vermont Triple Play) while in other cases people will band together and take public transit and scatter (e.g. shuttles in Banff, or in Frisco, CO this year).
Some people like skiing in the dead of winter. Others prefer spring skiing (and spring socializing on a patio).
Some accommodation is luxe (The Fairmont in Jasper for example). For other trips we figure you're only sleeping in your room and otherwise are out and about, in the hotel or on the town. Beds in particular can be challenging. Don't blame the trip leader, they didn't pick the hotel. As a Committee we've learned that standard is better. You may think your room is a bit cramped or your bed is a bit close to your roommate's, but it will be the same for everyone.
The green (circle), blue (square), black (diamond) or double black (diamond) that you're familiar with locally applies across the US and Canada.In Europe, resorts use a colour system to help skiers pick the best slope for their ability. It is worth knowing that the grading system will never get harder as you head down the mountain. If you are at the top on a blue run, you will always be able to make it to the bottom on either a blue or a green run. This is a golden rule of European piste grading. From the easiest to most challenging, they are coded:
Japan uses a color-coded system, but shapes do not usually accompany them. Some resorts, mainly those catering to foreigners, use the North American or European color-coding system, adding to the confusion. When in doubt, check the map legend. The usual ratings are:
Green/Beginner slopes. These are usually near the base of the mountain, although some follow switchback routes down from the top.
Red/Intermediate slopes. At most ski areas in Japan, these constitute the majority of the slopes (40% to 60%, depending on how the slopes are accounted).
Black/Expert slopes. These are the steepest and most difficult slopes at the ski area. The difficulty of these compared to like-classified slopes at other ski areas is heavily dependent on the target audience.
The options available are:
No. If you do not have a roommate we will match you with a same-sex roommate(s). Most trips are based on double occupancy with a bed per person -- unless you ask to share a bed. We try to get you the best roommate possible (smoker/non smoker, partier/quieter). And some trips have a limited number of single rooms (with a single supplement, noted on the page for those trips).
No. NTSC Charter trips are only available to club members. Membership has its privileges. This is a TICO (travel industry) regulation.
The Charters Committee consists of a volunteer Director and a handful of volunteer Committee members. The Committee collectively selects the trips, negotiates the contracts, conducts the sale of spots on a trip, assigns roommates (and ensures that couples get on a trip together), and appoints Trip Leaders. A Charters Committee member may choose to lead a trip -- but we prefer to share the workload and groom future volunteers.
NTSC Trip Leaders are also volunteers who get involved to help create a fun and social atmosphere on the Charter trips. For bus trips we will appoint one trip leader per bus. For larger air trips (i.e. more members) we may appoint a co-trip leader or assistant trip leader.
All but three U.S. resorts (Alta and Deer Valley in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont) permit snowboarding. We would not book a charter to stay at one of those resorts. But in the case of Utah we might visit those two over the course of a week and you'd have to find an alternative (there would be several) for those days.
Or the shorter answer is Yes for all practical terms.
There are trip/club deadlines and individual deadlines. They are almost always imposed by the tour operator, and sometimes by the resort. Club Med in particular is very strict about deadlines, and even when the trip is later in the season (e.g. La Plagne 2100 in March) they will insist on early registration. This is why we must put that trip on sale even before new members can join.
Deadlines enable us to grow a trip in size, or reduce numbers (and in a worst case scenario cancel a trip).
Trip/club deadlines apply to the entire trip. NTSC pays a deposit and we are subject to penalties (as much as $10K) if we cannot meet minimum group requirements. The Committee plans the season with the expectation that we will comfortably exceed those minimums, but in case we make a mistake we reserve the right to cancel the entire trip. But a more likely outcome of a poor choice on our part is that we will 'return' excess seats. Once we return seats to the tour operator its unlikely we can get them back and we will close registration. So the sooner people register, the more we can ensure group rates for hotel and flight and not incur a loss. Earlier registration may also guide us in requesting additional seats or accommodation if a trip proves surprisingly popular. In the case of bus trips, it may be the difference between adding a second bus or not.
Individual deadlines are typically driven by trip deadlines. Once we close a trip, you can't sign up for it. The other important deadlines relate to 1) initial payments and final payments, and 2) individual cancellations. Different trips will refund different amounts for cancellations at different times prior to departure. The club's registration fee ($25 for bus trips; $40 for air trips) is non-refundable after you've paid. Payments to the tour operators may be returned (in whole or in part) depending on whether and when we can find a member to take your place. Additional fees may be imposed or payments forfeited (especially for air trips, where airline penalties are being passed through). Details are on the trip pages and vary by trip.
There may not be availability at the hotel. The tour operator blocks off an estimated number of rooms that are adjusted as needed. If by a certain date we do not fill them, we release them back to the hotel. We may or may not get them back later depending on availability.
Most tour operators' proposals will allow a limited number of diversions, and may surcharge to do so in order to maintain group airfare. And it is a common requirement to join the club for the outbound leg of the trip. Most trips will also offer a 'Land Only' price for members who want to arrange their own airfare (or are flying on points). Those members are not bound by the dates of the club's trip (but are on their own for arrangements outside of the club's reservations).
A Charters Director is elected every year at our Elections Social in April. They are responsible for selecting a committee charged with reviewing and selecting resorts, and scheduling trips throughout the winter and spring. With the competitive nature of groups booking popular resorts, the committee is typically investigating resorts before the new committee is constituted, as some decisions need to be made immediately following the election of the new Charters Director. We usually have the lineup firmed up in July at which point we start to focus on pricing and marketing plans.
We typically pick a trip that will appeal to a wide variety of members -- notably a variety of terrain, but also off-hill activities (especially, but not exclusively, night life) and general ambience; and at price points that aren't cost prohibitive.
Unless we don't. Some trips are just too appealing even though we know that they aren't for everyone.
Except for perpetual favourites (Whistler and Tremblant for example) we try to change things up and not visit the same resort more than once every three years.
We try to time the trips so that snow conditions are ideal (higher altitude or more northerly resorts early or late in the season) while spreading trips as evenly as we can from mid-December through early April. We'll avoid some holidays (esp. US holidays) but embrace Ontario ones (to minimize the time off work). We try as best we can to offer a March Break trip every year unless the premium is prohibitive.
We have periodically offered pricing for "no lift tickets included", but this year especially we have pushed for that option because of the growing popularity of all inclusive passes -- especially the IKON pass which is valid for Blue Mountain,Tremblant and Banff (and selected other mountains). So if you have an EPIC or IKON pass, you may wish to decline lift passes from the tour operator (but check blackout days and other restrictions on your pass). For more background on passes click here.
Another reason for declining lift tickets is that several of the resorts we'll be visiting offer Nordic options.
Everything you would bring on an Alpine Day Trip, plus: