2022 Mountain activities
Holidays in the mountains are great, but have you ever considered going behind the scenes? Would you like to find out more about how the pistes are prepared and ski area is secured every day. It’s now possible, as you can enjoy these immersive experiences while in resort, and discover what life is like for pisteurs, ‘piste basher’ drivers and other mountain professionals.
Live the Life of a Pisteur
Before you hit the slopes on any day of your holiday, a huge amount of work is done from the first light of day to secure the ski area. It’s the pisteurs who open and close the slopes at the beginning and end of the day, and ensure the safety of the skiers thanks to piste markers and risk prevention work. They’ll also be first on the scene to help whenever there is an accident on the slopes.
Wouldn’t it be great to take advantage of your stay in the mountains to find out more about the world around this exciting profession? In several resorts now, you can!
You can shadow a pisteur before the official opening of the ski area and find out more about their work, while putting down the first tracks of the day in Saint François Longchamp, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Saint Lary Soulan, Valmorel, 7 Laux, Isola 2000, Grand Tourmalet Barèges-La Mongie, Les 2 Alpes and Orcières. In Le Dévoluy, there’s even an option to team up with a pisteur in the Nordic cross country area.
In Val Cenis, every Thursday at 2pm, a pisteur specialising in mountain rescue explains about his work, including the specific tasks to reduce risks in an avalanche situation. It’s a very precise and technical world, but more than anything, you’ll find it fascinating. In Sainte Foy Tarentaise, on Thursday evening during school holidays, you can meet the ski patrol. They will give you an introduction to their rescue protocols, how they mark the pistes, and also teach you about the importance of snow cover to safety. In Les 2 Alpes, workshops are on offer that give you the chance to watch a unique demonstration of avalanche dogs at work, using their incredible sense of smell to find snow-bound victims.
What about Artificial Snow ?
Modern ski resorts take snow cover very seriously, and to enable them to guarantee the best snow cover possible, many employ a new professional: the ‘nivoculteur’ (loosely translated as the ‘snow cultivator’). His key responsibility is the production of artificial snow.
For an insight into how artificial snow is made, Oz 3300, Valmorel, Val Cenis, Chamrousse, Isola 2000, Gerardmer, Les Arcs or Super-Besse all have options. And in Vars or Crest-Voland/Cohennoz in the Val d'Arly you can even visit a snow factory.
If you’d like to know more about the world of a snow groomer (‘piste basher driver’), then take a trip to Saint-François Longchamp, Oz 3300, les 7 Laux, Peyragudes, Puy-Saint-Vincent, Tourmalet Pic du Midi or Val Thorens.
Get ‘Behind the Scenes’
In Pralognan-la-Vanoise, a special guided tour from ski lift employees means you can discover the secrets of their cable car and how it’s maintained.
And if you really don’t want to miss anything ‘behind the scenes’, the resort of Saint Jean d'Arves in Savoie is organizing a unbeatable ‘Coulisses de la Station’ week from 31 January to 03 February. Included in the program is the opportunity to open the pistes with a pisteur as a VIP guest, but also meet other mountain pros such as the operators of ski lifts and ‘nivoculteur’ specialists.
©Tiphaine Buccino - Sybelles.ski
There’s a similar option in Vaujany: ‘Les Coulisses de Vaujany’ (‘behind the scenes in Vaujany’). Depending on the theme of the week, activities allow you to find out more about all the different roles in the ski area, from those working at the ice rink to the cable car through to piste preparation. You can also go behind the scenes and find out more about the inner workings of ski resorts in Val d'Isère or Peyragudes: learning more about artificial snow, piste rescue or even take a visit to see the engines at work.
Kids can Learn too…
Many resorts have adapted workshops especially for children, so they can also discover nuts and bolts of how a ski resort works. In Saint François Longchamp, Orcières or La Bresse (during school holidays) children and resort professionals can meet at the ‘P'tits Pros des Cimes’. The goal is to immerse them in this unique professional world and perhaps even inspire them for the future.
Head to Val d'Isère for ‘Val Kids’, a playground designed for children, to help them understand how the ski area works on a practical basis. Everything has been designed at scale so that children can play out the roles of pisteurs, snow farmers or piste basher drivers.
Photo banner : Val Kids in Val d'Isère @ Andy Parant