If I am not in when you call round to the studio then you will probably find me somewhere in the surf somewhere in the renowned surf breaks of the South West Coast at Saunton, Croyde or Woolacombe.
When Pete has finished the winter ski season he hangs up his boards and skis and moves into the surfing season in North Devon. Pete has travelled the world to some of the best surf spots he can find but these days focusses on the beaches next to his Art studio and Gallery in South West England at Saunton near Croyde and Woolacombe.
After nearly 15 years Pete has finally made part of his collection of India paintings available for sale as prints and some of the prized originals as now available for the first time ever.
Pete began his painting career many years ago in central India. While travelling the globe he set up temporary home in a place called Meherabad in central India. Borrowing the studio of a well know American artist during the hot afternoons he slowly learnt to paint with some wonderful help by the owner and resident artist. With his camera and paintbrush he started to capture the scenes in which he made his daily life full of life, colour, and vibrancy. The home of Meher Baba, an Indian Spiritual Master who had died in 1969. This place was not only soaked in the strong Indian sun bathing the scenes in deep rich vibrant colours but it was saturated by the immense spiritual presence and power of the Spiritual Master who had made this place home and hosted many of India’s most revered Saints.
This time in India, the light and the spiritual atmosphere, the artists and musicians drawn here were to shape the formative years of Pete’s birth as an artist. Many of the techniques he learnt and experimented with here you can find in his ski art and sunsets and of course in his India Paintings.
In the prints and originals for sale you can find extracts from his studies on the beautiful landscape of the vast Meherabad and Meherazad estate, the Samadhi, the tomb shrine of Meher Baba and of course studies of the Spiritual Masters face.
The study of Meher Baba’s face was profoundly influential on Pete’s art as he studied the movement and expressions of His face. After a vow of silence He was completely silent for most of his life only speaking through gestures and facial expressions leaving the language of Love to flow uninhibited.
Zermatt is one of my favourite resorts with the epic Matterhorn dominating the sky line and the wonderful Gornergrat Bahn mountain railway cruising up from Town up to the ski areas high above at Gornergrat.
I hired a super apartment just above the railway station just so I could soak up the atmosphere of this very special intersection where the Glacier Express Terminates and then across the road the Gornergrat Bahn railway starts. I am not a train geek but I do love the mountain railways of Switzerland and the very special historic atmosphere they bring to a ski resort.
One of the best art galleries in the South West England is Pete Caswell’s Art studio in Braunton North Devon. Its a private gallery and visits are by appointment only. Pete specialises in very colourful and semi sbstract Ski paintings from the Alps and Sunset Paintings mainly from the West Coast of England.
Some of the sunsets are from saunton, Croyde and Woolacombe while some are from Pete’s favourite trips around the globe.
Champery, Champoussin, Les Crosets Ski Paintings and Ski Prints from the ski area of Portes du Soleil are listed on Pete Caswell’s wesbite under the Ski Prints from the Portes Du Soleil ski area which includes Ski Paintings and Prints from both the Swiss and French sides of the border.
Pete’s prints are made in the UK and the EU so where ever you live you can get one delivered. He ships his paintings worldwide. More info on prints here from a shipping to UK perspective, but just reverse it and look for and EU or Netherlands flag for the ship to destination if you live in Switzerland. Swiss Sales tax may apply at the border. For orders to France the shipment is within the EU. https://petecaswell.co.uk/wp2/ski-prints/
This ski resort is not the biggest ski area in the world but it makes a star casting in Pete Caswell’s ski paintings due to its incredible location and views from a high plateau of the Montagne des Mémises giving the most spectacular views of Lake Geneva.
Pete loves to paint trees ski resorts and Lakes in the mountains and this is a rare one where all of them come together in the most fabulous way, only matched in the USA by Lake Tahoe.
These 2 paintings form a spectacular pair. The mountains, lake, trees and pistes just work together wonderfully to create such an absorbing image. These paintings have been sold but Pete has decided to paint a pair of paintings from this area in 100cm x 100cm block canvas just to have another go at capturing this scene. Take a look at the new paintings from Thollon Les Memises and the spectacular view of Lake Geneva which are now available to buy. They are also available as a ski print of Lake Geneva
In anticipation of the Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, La Grave new link which will make the biggest linked ski Domaine in Europe I have made a special series of ski paintings and ski prints to celebrate these wonderful ski areas and their multiple glaciers.
I started with some classic paintings of Alpe d’Huez including the longest black run in the world from the top of the Glacier and then moved onto the Glacier twin drag at Les Deux Alpes which leads onto the most incredible off piste area of La Grave.
I love Les Deux Alpes and I love Alpe d’Huez just as much. But for me this area only sounds like La Grave. It is like a mythical land hidden in the depths of the Alpes where old school honesty runs the show and appears to be running on a bit of a shoe string. The magical off piste beast of terrain above and the l most perfect woodland below the peaks keeps this unbelievable area open and going.
If you haven’t skied La Grave before and are tempted beware this is an off piste mecca and at the bottom of the lift they check you have the right off piste equipment with you and there is good reason for this. Its some amazing off piste terrain which you have to respect and take the right safety equipment with you.
Lets hope this new link between Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d’Huez is opened soon so we can all enjoy the luxury of more than 2 glaciers to ski from in the winter
This series of paintings, is all about a feeling, a quite incredible feeling. I am trying to get this wonderful feeling, a special moment in skiing across to you.
Its all about a trip to Argentiere near Chamonix, made all the more special by some well timed powder several years ago.
It started in the UK, car was packed and as soon as there was snow and a lift spinning I was off. As this was before I started obsessing with the ski forecasts this is not quite correct, I was desperate and I just went as soon as the lifts were due to open at the end of November and didn’t even think to check there was snow, I was just naïve.
A quick drive to Portsmouth from North Devon and a sleep on the Lounge floor of the ferry across to the port of L’Havre in the morning. A damp cold and chilly 6am start with engines running, the clanging of anchors and doors and off I went with GB plates in tow and headlights duly adjusted speeding across the French autoroutes. Whoops did I say speeding I meant driving at or below the speed limit.
At Max speed I drove across the motorways of Northern France as I closed in on Chamonix and thinking I had taken note of every speed camera and checked my speed carefully, it was not until I arrived in Chamonix I realised the endless 90kmph limit on the overhead gantries due to pollution really was the speed limit. Wow if only I had know sooner what a shame.
Coffee was called for on numerous occasions to keep the eyes open, but as usual this was pretty dreadful French coffee which seemed to assalut my taste buds, all too used to the USA version. So I kept trying hoping that at last one would turn out to be the beautiful taste sensation I was after. You can make up your own conclusions here.
Here is where it gets really special. I had not had the foresight to check the conditions only that this was the first day the lifts at Argentiere would be open so like many artists who can have their head stuck in the clouds, blind to the reality of the situation about to unfold, this was no different…….but wait, this is the one time in life when it unfolded the other way, Murphy’s law was defeated, really amazing, well almost perfect anyway.
As I crossed the White motorway, L’Autoroute Blanch, above Geneva, there was snow on the tree tops and snow even on the ground. I could feel the excitement inside. At least there should be snow there I thought?
As I drove on past Geneva and the customary boarder inspection singling out all dodgy unshaven young UK males in beat up old cars. They didn’t take kindly to my helpful words of explanation in French so with a lovely French grimace and wince, sent me on my way. I drove up through the wonderful approach to Chamonix past all your favourite names, Flaine, Morzine, Megeve, so many wonderful memories, so many evocative names and such wonderful mountains. It was beginning to cross my mind that there was indeed some snow, but the quality and quantity really had not sunk in.
I approached Chamonix at about 3pm, a little tired but totally elated by the stunning views and the mountain vibes and fbracing fresh air. For my first Chamonix experience, it just blew me away it was epic. As I approached the accommodation heading towards Argentiere further up the valley, I started to notice the snow was piled up higher than my car at the side of the road. This was what I loved, head height drifts at the roadside, so unbelievably exciting, like I was a child all over again.
The next few hours took a little turn downhill but not too much as the French hotelier showed me to the worst room in the totally empty hotel and so I consoled myself or rather couldn’t think of anything else but the powder, so I was oblivious and settled I. It took a while for my senses to adjust but the carpet was drenched with a puddle in the middle and a little stream running through the door. My head was so full of powder that I had barely noticed and this was a proper hotel not a mountain shack. So this lead to a lucky room upgrade out of the pokey leaking dingy loft room without a view to a lovely double room with a stunning view down to Chamonix. Breakfast turned out to be a bit disappointing with some terrible coffee, synthetic cheeses and wobbly ham so I skipped across to the bus with snowboard in hand. No skis today, just too much powder to leave a board behind. No sooner had I put my board down and a lovely English guy pulled up and took me up to Argentiere in a car more battered than mine.
So this is nearly where the paintings start. I had not done a start of season before and this was still in November and so everyone was just as excited as me waiting for the now replaced classic old cable car up to the top. There was no music but the atmosphere inside the tinny Gondola rocked like a ….yes a huge rock concert, a deafening one, but it was so crispy quiet except for the thumping of boots clanging on the metal gantries and the cable car floor. Steamy breath and excited hushed voices. It was so exciting it made for wobbly legs with all the adrenaline. As one of my first early season skis I had not quite realised that they might only have 2 or 3 lifts running, but in thigh deep and waist deep powder it was more than ample.
The place was epic, the atmosphere you could stir with a spoon and the snow would blow away in a light breeze……it was a cold smoke day. How had I missed this?
First day of the season, over a meter of fresh powder and blue sky……coffee was still terrible though. I set off up the first chair. Glancing around, everyone had powder skis or boards, this was a proper place to take on the powder. Despite my most careful preparations and being very fit, by 10.30am I was absolutely burned out, knackered in polite English. No queues, run after run in fresh deep powder, turn after turn of uninterrupted bliss, through the trees, over the rocks, the jumps and banks. Straight down, no tracking accross to find fresh tracks, they were everywhere.
Unbelievable, but my legs could not keep up. It was as if the legend of Chamonix, the history, the mountains had distilled and become super concentrated, poured into mountains of Argentiere and then had exploded into real life. I was on such a high, and not from the coffee, I thought I might pass out… But I got it under control with breakfast mk2 and with recovered legs set off again. By the end of the day I was totally done without barely a leg to move. The long bus queue and the not so good evening meal brought me back down to earth so I could sleep ready for the next day.
The 2 day weekend at Argentiere was probably the most atmosphere I could take anywhere and so on Monday with lifts closed until the next weekend I took a 6am drive through the Mt Blanc tunnel to stay at a historic old hotel where the powder days started all over again in Courmayeur. The Mt Blanc snow magnet just kept playing every day with plenty of blue stuff in between. Courmayeur in the early season with barely another person on the slopes made me feel like I was skiing in Heaven. Even the red and black pistes were virgin powder for days and the little dinky cable car to the top was resplendent with 2 guides as lift attendants to pick out the best line of descent back down. The coffee was unbelievable and at just half the cost of the French version and with a wonderful croissant thrown in, a beautiful smile and a little bit of pleasant chatter about the weather and I wasn’t sure if I was back in the UK or had gone to Heaven. The wonderful waitress woke me from my much needed morning nap and back to powder I was forced to go.
What was most wonderful about this trip was the rather quaint very ancient Italian hotel I had booked into, so friendly that when I was in my room half freezing to death I really did not want to bother them to turn up or turn on the heating. Eventually I got over my over timid polite Englishness and braved the reception to ask for more heat. When I saw the receptionist sat there with heavy coat, gloves, wooly hat and scarf on I realised it was a futile effort and returned to being wrapped up in Bed. It was such a wonderful stay, despite the cold weather indoors, as being the only guest I was summoned to the family meal table every evening to have a wonderful meal with the them and they took great delight hearing about Landrovers and the filming of All Creatures Great and Small which they were great fans of and had been filmed near the Family farm in the Yorkshire Dales.
Better still this Italian resort was still in early season, wonderful and quiet. So much so I though I was in 7th Heaven as not only was the off piste not touched but at 11am I was untroubled by my usual dilemma. Do I take a break at 10.30am and a much needed coffee ? Or will I return to the powder fields and find them trashed and tracked. No such worry here, not only was the off piste deserted, but I could even make fresh tracks down deserted black pistes…even after my morning coffee. Maybe I had found a little gap in the world where the normal rules didn’t apply… But my room was still like an ice cube so it didn’t cover everything.
Fun over and the trip part 1 was complete. Next was to dig the car out of 5 feet of snow for the 3rd time in a week and collect the family to head to Verbier. Destination a deserted little village at the bottom of a huge Cable Car leading up to the best off piste in the world with no queues on a powder morning ever. We were heading for some of the best off piste skiing I had ever skied and Heaven had followed us too….. and the room was toasty warm and so were the ski lockers and the floor…but that is another storey.
What makes these paintings so much fun. Its all about a feeling, that special feeling, the one which makes you feel just exhilarated, happy, fun and free. Its all in the painting and the painting is all in the snow.
When I started to paint ski resorts I tried so hard to capture that very special, very free and very beautiful inner feeling which seems to make you glow from the inside out. Its the mountains, the air, the buzz of the lifts, the cold dry breeze, the intensity of the rocks, the peaks, the views. Then the thrills and the spills , the soft powder landings, the relentless turns, the jumps and hops, banks and trees. Over all this is cast the the bright sunny light beaming from Dawn to dusk, the perfumed scent of snow vaporising in the drip drip of melting ice and daylight so intense it has a noise in it. As skis descend the sweet smell of pine fills the air as you descend to the peace and warmth of wooded slopes below before the clanging whirring lifts swirl you back for another go.
From this spawns the great scenes of the mountains of rocks, of heights, drops and cliffs, topped with snow and mighty peaks. All scaled by great machines of whirring humming power gliding you cleanly and peacefully without effort back to the top.
And in the day of powder before comes the very special time if you are brave enough to try. In winds and storms and blizzards of white, of tingling fingers and only white so bright. Inside this cave of whitened snow blown which hammers like pins across the cheeks, and into mouths and across your eyes, tipped down you neck and up your pants. On the lift in total white a howling wind in the trees above, but within as white around is peace inside, a warm glow sheltered from the icy cold by layers and layers, but still waits and waits for that Cafe, coffee, croissant and burning log fire. and maybe something a little stronger or maybe a fresh pot of tea.
Top 10 European Alpine Ski Resorts and Snowboard Resorts. Its a hard call but someone has to do it and test them out. As part of my ski paintings work, if you can call it work, I have travelled to most of the main Alpine resorts in Europe and skied and boarded them at various times in my life. I first skied Norway at age 3, then Austria at 4 and then Flaine at 5 so I have been around a fair few places, the States and New Zealand too, and even skied the Yorkshire Dales with James Heriot and above the set of Withering Heights .
I am a pretty picky person when it comes to resorts. But one thing that doesn’t really go into the equation is nightlife for me. So other than a recommendation that if you want nightlife head to Austria where it is just great, then I will stick to the day time pleasures on offer; Lunches on the slopes, scenery, access, height, expanse, variety, challenges, snow and all that goes into an epic days skiing.
I can’t pin down a real perfect resort as so much depends on conditions and time of year,,,, but in the top running for me are Tignes / Val d’Isere, Verbier, Zermatt, Portes Du Soleil, 3 Valleys. These are the epic resorts you should all ski before you get too oland and are a good bet . This doesn’t mean to say that the others are not as good. In fact in the right conditions some others may be better, cheaper, and more fun. But these big resorts cover the widest rages of options and have more top end fun.
My four top picks are Tignes / Val d’Isere and Verbier, Portes Du Soleil and 3 Valleys. Its hard to choose between these 3 resorts as they each have their own plus points and all are not to be missed.
Tignes and Val D’Isere in Espace Killy are one of my favourites. Its a great choice for early season skiing and a bit of early off piste action. Unlike a lot of resorts the off piste is ready here a lot earlier needing less snow cover. Its high and the Grande Motte Glacier is a super expanse of open space which can attract some wonderful snow conditions. When you reach the top of Grand Motte Glacier on the cable car you will see why I love this place, even in a snow storm this place rocks. Try a coffee at the top of the Funicular first to put you above cloud 9.
Its also pretty close to drive too from the UK. The pistes are varied with some real challenges on and off piste. The resort is pretty expansive and great fun to explore. The off piste is easy to access. Lift access from the resorts is pretty amazing and at 2000m you usually have snow to the back door. The only downsides are lack of wooded areas for those white out days, not much for the beginner and can get a bit busy early season when its the only place with snow….. and the typical French issues of crazy skiers, terrible coffee and food which is nearly edible, but really not that great. So self cater and take your own coffee machine with you in your back pack and that sorts out a lot of these worrying issues. The Sun Cafe in Val is a good stop for me. One of the small downsides to this area is getting there is not so easy from Geneva Airport, but it can be done by train or bus Bens Bus, or Alti Bus or better still hire a car. Other options include the Snow Train to Bourg Dt Maurice and then the local Alti Bus which is a different option or to Grenoble or Chambery and get the bus, Bens Bus, or Alti Bus or slightly more complicated the SNCF Train as you have to get to the train station.
My second pick is Verbier in Switzerland or the Four Valleys . This choice is a bit of a conditional choice. If you have fresh power and are not there in peak season then this place is just epic. In fact it rides well above epic, its in the Heavenly region, with fluffy white clouds and angels floating around dropping star dust. You don’t believe me, but fresh powder in early December and at the top of Mt Fort on a narrow snowy ridge, with 2 cable cars worth of descent ahead of you into wide open powder bowls,,,, then tell me angels don’t exist.
But you have to avoid the crazy prices which means trying not to stay in Verbier. Take a look at dare I say it Siviez, one of my favourites. Anyone of you would look at Siviez and spot 3 apartment blocks, one bar in a tent and a minute shop….. But then think about it and look at the piste map here as it has the most unbelievable off piste access you can get. Take a look at Siviez and imaging after a big snow dump…. who will get to the snow first Verbier or Siviez ? So when this place dumps you get these incredible off piste patrolled areas under Mt Fort and these are huge indeed and such a blast in the early morning after a dump. Huge big bowls of powder and from the top of Mt Fort to Siviez that is one amazing descent of free flowing powder junkies heaven on wood. There is a little bit of wood land for white out days but not a lot, and over in Verbier can get too busy. Coffee is still not great but maybe a little better than the French unless you have a bulging wallet and can afford a boutique mountain cafe. Again self cater and take the portable coffee machine up the slopes with you and that beats it. Outside of Verbier the apartment rentals are actually pretty reasonable. You can get there by train and bus easily from Geneva Airport. Also Alpy Bus for shared transfers Its just the food that gets a bit pricey, but in my last visit in 2019 I noticed the mountain restaurants had tamed their crazy prices and they were actually a bit cheaper.
After these 2 resorts I have to put the next 3 in a kind of raffle for next prize. Why, because they all have something special but don’t quite tick the very top box, but they are pretty close to it and again sholdn’t be missed.
Portes Du Soleil, including Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets some beautiful small Swiss villages, Chatel, Champery, Montriond, MorginsTorgon, St-Jean-de Aulps, Abondance, La Chapelle d’ Abondance, Val-d’Illiez Les Crosets , Champoussin . This is a new entry onto my list. I have always discounted this place. Not challenging enough. Not enough good off piste options off the lift, and too low. But then I went there in a perfect week with lots of fresh snow and perfect conditions and it blew me away. While on paper it seems just as expansive as Tignes / Val and 3 Valleys it appeared to be a Tardis of a ski area and seemed never ending. Partly I am sure as it was my first trip, but it seemed to have lots of nooks and Crannies which went on forever and gave a real feeling of exploring a vast area of intricate villages. Take a look at the list of Beautiful Swiss villages in this ski area and you will see what I mean, this is quite some list of villages to ski between.
Morzine seemed to have a wonderful buzz about it for a French ski resort and Avoriaz was ok but being higher it had the better access to the mountains. So skiing being the trump card we stayed at Avoriaz, but my stomach would have quite liked Morzine. There were lots of friendly tasty cafes especially above Morzine and Les Gets which is not that common in these big French ski areas. At the top of the Swiss Wall there was an excellent cafe with great coffee, tea in large tea pots and smiling waiters. I think this was something to do with it being on the Swiss French Boarder line that somehow teleported it to a place outside of these 2 countries into an international zone where the food was weirdly good and the waiters oddly happy. The scenery over the Swiss wall was really epic, just stunning. Over at Morzine and Les Gets there was lots of tree line skiing for those snowy days. Very close to Geneva Airport makes this a really great choice with bus, Easy Bus and train options. SNCF Train to Cluses and then the local bus Alti Bus The only slight downs are no real epic top peaks to ski off, not really high for early season skis and not too challenging. But these are only very small downs in what is a great place.