Varsity trip booking site shut down

Helen Spokes and Emily Handley 15 October 2014

NUCO, the travel company for the Varsity ski trip, has shut down its website after it was inundated with requests, requiring urgent maintenance work after ticket sales opened at 8am. 

Some students managed to pay for their ticket before the website went down, but there was confusion as to whether payment had been processed in light of the errors.

Alexander Addison, the Communications Director for the trip, told The Cambridge Student: “The Varsity Trip website itself dealt with the extremely high level of web traffic it experienced. Unfortunately the booking form, which is hosted by NUCO, was unable to deal with the demand. Currently we are unable to pinpoint exactly how large that demand was, however we assume that it was significantly larger than expected to have this effect. 

“We are extremely sorry to all those who have struggled to get a place on the trip. Booking is provisionally set to re-open at 6pm today, at which time we will welcome  people to start or continue their reservations.”

A college representative on Facebook confirmed students with an email confirmation from WorldPay and not from NUCO have a space on the trip.

Lucy Irving, a second-year HSPS student, expressed her frustration: “I kept having to reload the web page. It was only when I changed the browser that I could actually book and even then it took at least an hour. The college rep, Olwen, was really good but NUCO has been terrible”.

The trip, which is regularly attended by more than three thousand Oxford and Cambridge student, began in 1922 after being organised by the Blues ski teams of both universities.

Despite its illustrious history, the event has attracted controversy in recent years. Following the 2010 trip, Facebook photos showed participants behaving inappropriately in the Valley Rally ski race. Images of the challenges during the race, which included breaking an egg “in the most creative way possible”, caused the trip’s main sponsor to cancel its commitment to finance the trip and were reprinted in the national press.

Last year, two coaches returning from the trip in Tignes also crashed at 3am after skidding on black ice, although no serious injuries were reported after the incident.

The trip will return to Tignes this year, with accommodation, skiing passes and après-ski parties all included in the £333 ticket price for the week. The organisers have not yet announced the entertainment for the upcoming trip, but have promised students that they will be “raising [the] bar” to attract an impressive line-up which has included acts such as Calvin Harris and Chase and Status in recent years. 

Those students who missed out on a ticket will be able to access the NUCO site at 6pm this evening and accommodation upgrade costs have provisionally been extended until 8pm.