2016 News and events
Every year, ski areas invest money in modernising their ski lifts. The result: higher-performance equipment and improved transportation rates, which means less waiting at the bottom of the slopes! For the 2016-2017 season, 55 new ski lifts are opening in the French mountain ranges. Meanwhile, the focus for ski runs is on artificial snow and contemplative and fun skiing.
Always more fun on the slopes
Because skiing takes place in dreamy landscapes, this year the focus is on contemplating our surroundings. In Les 2 Alpes, the new “Skywalk” viewing point walkway lets you admire the view at 3,400 metres; in Châtel, the brand new Selfie Tour lets you discover 10 magnificent spots marked by signposts, where you can record the moment for posterity on your smartphone.
BELLS, XYLOPHONES AND MOGULS ON THE RUNS
Because skiing is also a form of play, each mountain range now has themed ski runs featuring wooden or metal structures, mascots and new discoveries to make. For example, among the new developments for this year, Valloire is equipping two runs with bells and xylophones. In Mont Dore (Auvergne) you’ll find a new run with challenges to tackle and agility tests to pass (L’Entraînement des Gaulois – The Gallic Workout).
Boardercrosses – runs featuring shaped terrain such as banked turns, little waves (woops) and jumps – are all the rage. Valmorel’s “Pirate Adventure” fun area has been expanded with a new boardercross this winter (the resort has three such areas). The Nordic ski areas also have fun zones, with new spaces in Autrans Méaudre and Montgenèvre (the site of the ‘Trail Blanc’ race).
BEGINNERS ARE GUESTS OF HONOUR
There’s no age limit on learning to ski! For years now, resorts have offered “Zen”, “cool skiing” and “peaceful” zones… In le Grand Bornand this year, the ski area has put its all into welcoming beginners and offering the best possible conditions for learning to ski by fully renovating the Rosay plateau. In Tignes, access to all green runs will be free of charge! And so you can start or restart enjoying the pleasures of snowsports as a family or group of friends, the French Ski School is adapting its products to suit everyone with the ‘ESF Autrement’ range (Learn to ski with friends, introductions to hiking and off-piste skiing; Nordic & ‘Vitalité Soft’ packages; skating etc.).
Ski lifts: 55 new lifts
55 new ski lifts have been installed in the mountains this summer. For 15 years, between 50 and 80 ski lifts were built or replaced each year. For winter 2017, there are 6 new lifts in the Southern Alps, 7 in the Pyrenees, 1 in Vosges and 41 in the Northern Alps.
Of particular note is the construction of La Plagne’s next generation ‘made in France’ chair lift: a new 6-seater detachable ‘made in France’ lift on the Montalbert sector. If offers several major innovations: cutting-edge technology, departure and arrival stations designed to reduce environmental impact even further, and redesigned ergonomic seats.
In Val d’Isère, the Solaise sector has been completely renovated with an ultra-fast, comfortable 10-seater gondola lift featuring on-board Wi-Fi. At the top is a new secure area dedicated to beginners: magic carpets and snow tubing at the heart of a breath-taking landscape with ideal snow cover.
In Val Thorens, 2 new ski lifts have been built: a new 6-seater ski lift replacing two drag lifts, offering a new, more fluid, direct route back to the resort for residents at the top of the resort, and the replacement of the 4-seater Boismint chair lift by a 6-seater detachable chair lift.
In Alpe d’Huez, a Télémix lift (alternating between gondolas and chairs) will replace three drag lifts and a chair lift.
What’s new for 2016 in detail:
- 17 drag lifts: Albiez Montrond, Gréolières, Gerardmer, Ax Les Thermes, Chamonix, Val Thorens, Corrençon, Samoens, Le Grand Puy, Le Corbier, Saint Jean d'Aulps,Devoluy and Bramans
- 1 detachable gondola lift: Val d’Isère
- 15 magic carpets: Grand Bornand, Morzine, Ax Les Thermes, Cauterets, Les Menuires, Saint Lary, Tignes, Huez et le Corbier
- A Télémix lift in Alpe d’Huez
- 11 detachable chair lifts: in Les Saisies, Chamonix Brevent, La Plagne, Val Cenis, Val Thorens, Les Carroz D'araches, Chamrousse, Le Corbier, St Jean D'arves and Le Collet Allevard
- 10 fixed grip chair lifts: in La Toussuire, Grand Tourmalet, Tignes, Alpe D’huez, Samoens, La Norma, Le Grand Puy, Le Corbier and Le Devoluy
Une matière première : la neige
In order to provide comfortable skiing at all times, resorts continue to invest in snow production and snow management technology.
That’s notably the case in Saint Sorlin d’Arves, Villard de Lans / Corrençon, Valmorel, Peisey Vallandry, Les Menuires, Praz de Lys Sommand, Morzine, Saint Gervais Mont-Blanc and Courchevel. At the same time, resorts are also installing snow barriers to retain snow when it’s windy, and optimising production using new technology. In Les Gets, the piste groomers have been equipped with GPS, allowing snow to be produced as closely as possible in accordance with the existing snow mantle.
In France, 32% of ski runs are covered by artificial snow, which means the majority of ski areas’ lower sections. Snow is produced in cold weather (below -5° is optimal) by blasting water at very high pressure a few metres above the ground. The micro-droplets that form turn into flakes of ice that resemble snow.
Sources: STRMTG ; Alpine Geography Review 103-2 | 2015; French ski areas