We are proud to partner with Ski Aspen Tours for our special après ski party at the Nordic Bar in Soho on Wednesday 19th October…
The Australian based business is launching in the UK this winter and is set to turn the ski holiday industry on its head, with some incredible package deals that include a FREE pair of skis with each booking.
We took some time out to speak with their General Manager and native Londoner, Paul Smythe about why he’s returning back to his roots and ask just what makes Ski Aspen Tour holidays a different type of experience to the typical package booking…
Q: So tell us more about your background in the ski industry?
A: Thanks to a pop-up on the Internet when I was aged 18, I found my way to Canada and became a ski instructor. Over a decade later – I still haven’t made it home to London to go to Uni! Many back-to-back winters on and I have been lucky enough to ski with and teach thousands of holidaymakers and instructors alike. I have literally lived and breathed skiing and I’m now fortunate enough to call skiing my career.
Q: How old were you when you first learnt to ski?
A: I was 11. It was a school ski trip to Italy. A 24-hour coach journey from London with a load of kids; ski all day and cause havoc with the friends all night. It was the introduction that anyone gets to skiing, no matter their age!
Q: How many winters have you done and where?
A: Ok, for the first time ever I’ve worked this out… and shocked myself – 21 winters in 11 years!
Whistler, Canada – 3 winters
Mount Hotham, Australia – 11 winters
Niseko, Japan – 3 winters
Verbier, Switzerland – 1 winter
Aspen, USA – 3 winters
Q: Do you ever get bored of winter?
A: My love of winter isn’t just because of skiing… it’s the whole ski experience. I obviously love to ski, but it’s the après events, the friends who push you to the limit, open fires and did I say après. There is always someone interesting to ski with and everyone is happy! I can count on one hand the times that I’ve not been smiling at the end of a ski day!
Q: How did you get involved with Ski Aspen Tours?
A: Pure luck! And as most stories begin – it was all because of a girl. I was actually looking for “the job” in Melbourne, Australia. “The job” to me was the mythical role that lets you ski as much or as little as you want each year. I was also quite keen on settling in Melbourne thanks to an Aussie girl called Jane – but was also desperately trying to find “the job” so that I didn’t have to give up doing seasons.
The timing could not have been better – and you can’t make this stuff up… The owner of Ski Aspen was looking for someone to join the team and the role offered 2 months a year skiing in Aspen and 10 months a year in Australia (including unlimited skiing throughout the Aussie season). A work colleague at Mount Hotham introduced me to Nick Farr (the business owner). We had about an hours chat on the phone and right there and then, I became a Ski Aspen employee.
Q: Tell us more about what makes Ski Aspen Tours unique?
A: Many travel agents and Tour Operators provide the same old standard ski package. For 21 years, Ski Aspen’s packages have always broken the mould in regards to ski holidays. We provide an instant social network for our guests and create a fun and energetic environment for people to socialise both on and off the snow. Add to this our renowned ski improvement program where skiers can take away as much instruction or simply be guided around Aspen’s four mountains, and we’ve found that we have a recipe that now attracts a guest return rate of 75% (or 74.6% to be exact!)
Oh, and not to forget… every person who books a 2017 Ski Aspen Tour gets a FREE set of skis that you get to choose and keep!
Q: Why are Ski Aspen Tours launching in London?
A: This has been a long time coming. From my very first year with Ski Aspen I saw (mainly) Aussies and Kiwi’s experiencing a different kind of ski holiday. All businesses throw that word around – “different”. But after all my seasons I actually witnessed it and experienced the Ski Aspen difference myself.
We’ve had a number of Brits joining our tours over the years but we’ve never really shared the secrets of Aspen outside of Australia.
So, for the last couple of years I’ve been preparing to bring our ski experiences back home to British skiers. I’ve been lucky enough to ski all around the world (for my job) and in my opinion, Aspen offers the ultimate terrain across four mountains, the most vibrate town, the best restaurants and bars (over 120 of them) and the snow quality is second to none!
Our Ski Aspen packages have evolved into affordable and sociable options that single travelers, couples and groups a like can join and get the best snow experiences from their ski holidays.
Q: What do guests experience on a Ski Aspen Tours holiday?
A: Packages vary in the length of nights, length of ski improvement program, and amount of après events but as a guideline everyone gets:
All Aspen transfers
Lift pass valid at all 4 Aspen resorts
6, 10 or 14 day on-snow program with our Aspen ski team
24/7 in-resort event hosts – with the keys to Aspen in their back pocket
Enough après events to carry you through to next season
Video analysis sessions (on-snow and après-performance)
PLUS FREE SKIS that you choose and keep (including free bindings)
AND free unlimited demos to help you find the right skis for you
*Advertised prices include accommodation based on twin share in 2 bedroom/2 bathroom condos – single supplement options available for your own room and bathroom.
Q: What has been your best ever day on snow?
A: Aspen Highlands – and this is not a bias decision because of working for Ski Aspen… see photos for evidence and I don’t think there’s much more to explain!
Q: Favourite ski movie of all time?
A: Imagine if “Hot Tub Time Machine” actually happened! I feel like this movie reflects some real ski world moments!
Q: Funniest moment on the mountain?
A: 21 seasons in - it’s hard to pick just one moment! I would have to say in Whistler, teaching a kids group. I span around to ski backwards to do a head count next to a lift. I didn’t realise there was a huge slush puddle that I was skiing straight for. Tails of the skis hit the water, I flew backwards horizontally through the air and ended up complete submerged - in full instructor uniform! Quite possibly the funniest, most embarrassing and wettest moment in my ski career!
Q: Best ever moment on the mountain?
A: There’s been a few epic powder days followed by legendary après sessions but I would have to say skiing with my best friend taking me to incredible terrain via the scariest access/entry I’ve ever been exposed to…
We’re on a narrow ledge. Tails of the skis hitting a vertical rock wall. Front of the skis (nearly to the binding) hanging over a massive cliff. Side stepping for what felt like an eternity (and admittedly swearing at my mate for taking me here at the time) – but when we made it to the “hidden bowl” in a resort I will keep “a secret”, the ski down was the highlight of a lifetime.
Q: North America or Europe?
A: Hands down North America – and for so many reasons. Big mountains, big terrain (to suit all), snow quantity and quality, atmosphere on and off the snow, endless choices of restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping. And the guest service is literally second to none - You feel like the resort has just opened for you to ski – and in Aspen there are NO LIFT LINES… even in the “busy” times of the year. It doesn’t make any sense!
Q: What’s the future of the ski industry?
A: I believe that with the sharing economy (think Uber/Airbnb etc) opening up so many opportunities for people to do things differently, we will soon see a change in ski industry. I feel that our ski packages are on the cusp of a bigger picture where the normal and often “same old” ski packages are getting brought into our modern world.
Our goal is to offer people something ridiculous in the hope of making all the ski industry take notice, so that in the long term the average ski holidaymaker has so much more value associated with their ski holiday. I truly believe there is a better way to enjoy ski holidays and we are trying to edge the ski world closer to changing “the norm” for good.
Q: How did it make you feel when you passed your APSI Level 4 Ski Instructor exam?
A: Without a doubt - the proudest moment of my ski career. I can say that it was the catalyst to changing the way I did many things in my life. The focus and determination that I learnt I could harness was more than I ever knew possible (from me). The result of my trainers and peers working with me – pushing me mentally and physically to achieve more of myself than I ever thought possible… well this changes a person. To be the only person to achieve this certification in 2012 was more of a humbling experience because it showed (me in a sense) that if you work hard and believe in something – you can be unstoppable. The energy I discovered from this is now focused entirely on Ski Aspen.
Q: Proudest moment as an instructor?
A: Plain and simple. The mother of a family I taught stopped me one evening after a dinner out, looked me in the eye and said she could not have ever imagined skiing how she did that day. This statement was followed by a hug so tight it squeezed the air out of my lungs. It’s moments like these that keep me so engaged in the ski industry.
Q: Biggest wipe-out?
A: Cartwheeling into a lift line with one ski missing in an instructor uniform – my entire class watching on in hysterical laughter. I was so winded after taking out some of the lift line fencing that I picked my ski up, struggling to breathe, and limped on to the chairlift – lying across it while hugging the ski that let me down!
Believe me – it was my shout at the bar after that crash!
Q: If you could only ski one run for the rest of your life which would it be and why?
A: Again, this might sound bias – but if you’ve never experienced Aspen Highland Bowl it has to be put on your bucket list NOW. Take the chairlifts as high as they go. Jump on a snow-cat for 5-10 minutes taking you higher. Then a 30-40 minute hike to the peak. Reach the summit and it feels like the world is your oyster. An endless run of absolutely anything you want is about to begin – big mountain lines offering steeps, trees or bumps. You don’t need anything else after skiing the Highland Bowl.
Q: Favourite après ski party song?
A: TOO MANY! Literally any song they play at Aspen Highlands Cloud 9 – my favourite après venue in the world… and I’ve tested most of them!
Q: What do you enjoy doing off the slopes?
A: In my off-mountain life I love the beach. I try very hard to surf, but am in truth a complete novice after many years of trying. While these days I live in the snow for about 4 months a year, in my earlier days I was on-snow for 9 months a year – so I always like a little bit of time to thaw out and get my vitamin D back to where it should be! If you haven’t been to Fiji or Bali… put them on the list (after Aspen! Ha!)
Buy your tickets to Après Ski London online here. Ticket holders will receive an exclusive £250 discount off all Ski Aspen Tour holiday bookings, in addition to receiving a FREE pair of skis and unlimited demos during your Ski Aspen Tours holiday experience!