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ALPINE CharterS FAQ

How to I register for a charter trip?

Registration for all charter trips will be done online at www.ntsc.ca

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 are on the charters registration process page


I'm a beginner skier or snowboarder, SHOULD I go on a Charter trip?

  • 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.

  • If you are concerned about the level of difficulty of a resort talk to a member of the Charters Committee who can advise you on the best trip given your abilities. And see the following.

what trip is right for me?

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:

  • the sheer majesty of a big mountain range that stretches over two or three valleys, with a vertical drop almost 10X that of a southern Ontario resort,
  • skiing Olympic or World Cup runs in Park City, Whistler, Lake Louise, Hakuba, Lake Placid, Cortina, or Albertville, 
  • skiing in two different provinces in the same afternoon (BC and Alberta at Sunshine Village in Banff), or two different countries -- not this year, but past trips to Europe may have had runs into Austria and Switzerland from the same lift (no passport required),
  • sitting at a bar and meeting people from the UK, Lebanon, Croatia, and Russia and Austria, and singing beer drinking songs in a newly discovered language by the end of the night,
  • purpose built ski resorts (like Whistler or Tremblant) vs. trails that snake through a farm village or resorts in real mining towns,
  • side trips -- to Yellowstone, Innsbruck, or Tokyo,
  • planes, trains and automobiles (and funiculars or horse drawn tow ropes from run to run),
  • If you are concerned about the level of difficulty of a resort talk to a member of the Charters Committee who can advise you on the best trip given your abilities. And see the following discussion on difficulty.

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.


How do difficulty ratings in different countries compare?

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:
  • Green: A green route will signify beginner or practise slopes. If you’ve never been skiing before, you’ll want to start here.
  • Blue: These runs are likely to be well-groomed with a shallow slope with a gradient of less than 25%. A European blue is closer to a North American green.
  • Red: These routes are steeper or narrower (or a combination of both) than blue slopes. Suitable for intermediates, they are usually groomed with a gradient that will not exceed 40%. A European red is closer to a North American blue.
  • Black: While best suited to experts, what is classified as a black route is ambiguous. In some resorts, they might only be slightly trickier than a red route. In others, it could be terrifying. A good rule of thumb is to judge a black route to the red route in the same resort.
  • Yellow/Orange: Recently, many European black routes have been reclassified as yellow. This colour signifies a run that is not groomed, is unpatrolled and considered off-piste within a marked area.

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 trip I wanted to go on is full, what should I do?

    The options available are:

    1. Choose another trip to join.
    2. Go on the priority list for your first choice trip and in the event that a spot opens up (someone on the list cancels) or we are able to obtain more spots, we'll offer it to members on the waiting list in the order they signed up. While we cannot commit to anything, it is common for 5-8 people to be offered spots in the last couple of weeks prior to departure.
    3. If you're really determined you may be able to book directly with the same tour operator for the same resort at the same week as the club. Just be prepared to pay a bit more, and check with the Committee to explore constraints (for example you may be able to book a room at a resort, but if we have a decicated bus to drive us to the hills and that bus will be full, we can't accommodate anyone who isn't signed up through NTSC).

    When I book a trip, do I have to find a roommate?

    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 or quieter). And some trips have a limited number of single rooms (with a single supplement, noted on the page for those trips). 


    Can I register a friend who is not a member of NTSC to join me on a Charter trip?

    No. NTSC Charter trips are only available to club members. Membership has its privileges. This is a TICO (travel industry) regulation.


      Can I TAKE A LESSON WITH THE NTSC SNOW SCHOOL WHILE ON A CHARTER TRIP? 

      • NTSC Snow School instructors are not insured to teach at out-of-province resorts.
      • You could sign-up for lessons with the resort snow school. (And this year's Club Med trip to France includes 5 days of guiding/instruction from their ski school)

      What does a trip leader do and how is a trip leader different from a Chairperson?

      The Charters Committee consists of a volunteer Director and a handful of voluntary 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.

      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.

      • On each trip the leader will host a welcome party, so that members can meet each other and to create a social atmosphere on the trip. Often trip leaders will organize other social events on the trips.
      • Examples of Trip Leader duties:
        • Send out last-minute information on the trip to registrants prior to the trip, including roommate information.
        • Provide a high-level itinerary of key dates and events.
        • Be available to answer questions and help solve problems that impact the group. So if you have individual problems with the resort or the hotel, that's probably your responsibility to sort out. Ask the trip leader, but that's not why they're on the trip. They're skiing too.

      Can I snowboard on all Charter trips?

      • 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.

      • Ask a member of the Charters Committee for information on snowboarding on the trips.

      what do i need to understand about deadlines and why are some so early?

      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 expectaton 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. 


      Why does the weekend trip show it is full but the bus has available seating?

      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.

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      CAN I STAY AND SKI/BOARD FOR LONGER THAN THE CLUB PLANS?

      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). 

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      WHEN, HOW, AND WHY, DO WE PICK OUR DESTINATIONS?

      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.

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      I HAVE AN IKON/EPIC PASS; CAN I USE IT ON A TRIP?

      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.

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      WHAT SHOULD I BRING ON A CHARTERS TRIP?

      Everything you would bring on an Alpine Day Trip, plus:

      • More of it; enough to last 6-7 days.
      • Some resorts will have laundry facilities, but don't count on it. If they do (check the hotel's web site), then one travel size laundry detergent will suffice.
      • Anything you don't want to pay inflated resort prices for should you forget it (although liquor may be cheaper at our destination than in Ontario).
      • For everyone: a Passport for outside of Canada, and if you're not a Canadian citizen, verify visa requirements. Verifying visa requirements is your responsibility! If you are turned away at the US border it is your responsibility to make your own way home from the border.
      • Ear plugs -- your assigned roommate may not know they snore; and if they don't know, we won't when we assign you to the same room. Ear plugs may also be useful on bus trips.
      • Boot dryer (unless you know your roommate has one or you like skiing/riding in wet boots).
      • Flip flops for the hot tub/sauna, and a bathing suit -- but ask about sauna customs in Europe :)
      • Weather appropriate layers -- if you've never skied a big mountain, the difference between base and peak and between morning and afternoon can vary drastically; and mountain weather is notoriously variable.
      • If the trip is to a resort noted for its powder you may want to consider powder straps to lessen the risk of losing a ski.
      • DVD's or CD's (buses generally have a player, or the bus may support the connection of a phone or other device with downloaded tunes). You may wish to share your musical tastes with the group (or not, in which case bring headphones). We show videos after the dinner stop of return bus trips; see above re: sharing your tastes.
      • Many people will bring food and drink on bus trips to share; more is always better. We will leave earlier this year for bus trips and so should arrive at the resort in time to stock up there (especially condo style rooming with a kitchen). But if you'd rather not shop after a 9-10 hour bus ride, bring enough to get you through the first night/next morning.
      • Overseas, you may wish to buy a SIM card for your phone (at the destination) to avoid excessive roaming charges.
      • Medical/cancellation insurance -- options are generally included on each trip's web site.

       


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