2021 Mountain activities
After last year’s ‘saison blanche’, this winter will be one of reunions and getting back basics, especially skiing! The great outdoors are open again and French resorts have been working hard to offer the best of the mountain on the ski slopes. Are you ready to ski again?
Skiing for all tastes
Beginners in the spotlight
The reopening of the ski lifts will make everyone happy, especially beginners. Resorts can see that enthusiasm for the mountains and skiing is stronger than ever. Could this be the year to try your hand at skiing? In Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, as well as the wonderful vista of the ski area, a brand-new beginners’ area is opening this winter at Mont d'Arbois. Learning to ski has never been so pleasant. In Oz-en-Oisans, in Isère, two green runs allow a leisurely return back to your accommodation, also the case in Villard de Lans with their new green piste. On the Peyresourde side in Peyragudes, a new beginners’ area has a covered ‘magic carpet’, special runs and even a floodlit piste for evening skiing. Even better, you can now buy a 3-hour pass for only €16 to try out skiing in complete safety. At Les Orres 1800 in the Hautes-Alpes, the bottom of the pistes has been developed to offer beginner areas and also a toboggan run.
In Les Arcs, in the Peisey Vallandry sector, look out for fun areas allocated to beginners in the ‘Premières Glisses’, ‘Premiers Virages’ and ‘Premières Descentes’ zones. In the Jura Mountains, near Métabief, everything is being done to ensure that beginners in skiing settle in quickly. So, several green and blue runs have been added to ease their first experiences on skis.
Finally: there’s also new areas for beginners n Valmorel in Savoie; in Le Grand Bornand with a ‘magic carpet’ in the Charmieux sector; and a ‘Wild West’ themed carpet in La Plagne.
A challenge for the true ski addicts!
For ski fans, there's nothing like getting back on snow again with some sporty challenges to inspire you. Alpe d'Huez offers an epic descent from Pic Blanc at 3330m to l'Enversin at 1125m in Oz-en-Oisans. That’s a vertical drop of more than 2000m, offering exceptional views and a serious test for your legs.
Alpe d'Huez © Laurent Salino
For powder addicts, a new freeride area in La Rosière is accessible from the top of the Mont Valaisan chair lift. The sector is ungroomed, so a transceiver, shovel and probe are essential, and we suggest you ski with a local guide. In Les Menuires you can discover some exceptional off-piste spots and enjoy powder in complete safety in ‘La Vallée des Encombres’. Further up the Belleville valley, in Val Thorens, the ‘freerando’ zone lets you climb on a groomed track and ski back down to resort via a secured, but ungroomed route.
Fun for all the family
In Orcières Merlette 1850, a ‘Famille Plus’ accredited resort, children can discover the ski area thanks to the ‘P’tits Pros des Cimes’. Every Wednesday during the school holidays, they can put themselves in the shoes of the ski patrollers, even get into a piste-basher. All in all, a first-class experience to tell their friends about when they get back home. Adults can also join the ski patrol at dawn to open the ski area in the company of a professional. In Val d'Isère, younger teens can enjoy the ‘Le Village Perdu’ - a new play area specially dedicated to them. Suspended walkways and chill-out zones offer the chance for a breather after non-stop action on the slopes, as does the ‘Lil Stash’ in Avoriaz.
Le village perdu à Val d'Isère
A fun, snowpark-style course will be great fun for teens at Aillons Margériaz. While in Les 7 Laux, the ‘Tiki l'Ecureuil’ and ‘Taupi Camp’ fun trails have been created to offer even more activities for children, whether on skis or not. In Méribel, ‘La Piste des Animaux’ has had a makeover to allow children (and adults alike) to learn about the wildlife. For families who like to share moments, at rest or play, Chamrousse has opted for wooden chalets around the ski area, making even a short break a real moment to share.
In Les Menuires, make way for the "Friendly Natural Park", a fun ski area where children can try out parallel slalom, moguls, scoot through tunnels and play games, just like in Peyragudes, in the Pyrenees, where the whole family can try out a skier cross area on the Gourgs Blancs piste. In Alpe d'Huez, try the tubing area where your children can enjoy slides galore at the bottom of the Bergers and Grenouilles pistes.
In La Clusaz, the blue Reblochon run is a voyage of discovery about the local fauna, farming and, of course, reblochon, thanks to games on the mountain. Finally, a magical, nocturnal path lights up the the Pays des Ecrins. Guided by interactive LEDs, you can immerse yourself in a bright and unique spectacle in the heart of nature. It’s an experience not to be missed.
La piste du reblochon© La Clusaz - Pierrick Aubert
Ski areas at the cutting edge
New and upgraded lifts
There’s plenty to look out for in terms of new lifts this winter. The long-awaited ‘3 Vallées Express’ link between Orelle and Val Thorens will open, allowing skiers to reach the Cime Caron at 3200m in only 20 minutes from Orelle. In Les Menuires, the new Pointe de la Masse gondola will carry skiers and pedestrians over 1050 vertical meters in just 8 minutes.
Still in the Savoie, Arêches-Beaufort will welcome the new ‘Le Bois’ gondola which will connect the two sectors of Planay and Grand Mont. There is also something new on the Isère side with a new valley lift: Eau d'Olle, connecting the final leg to Oz-en-Oisans, and meaning cars can be left at the valley floor.
Other lifts to watch out for:
The replacement of the Belvédère chairlift in Morzine with a detachable 6-seater and a capacity of 2800 skiers per hour
A new detachable chairlift in Contamines-Montjoie to replace Roselette
A completely re-designed Funiplagne base station to improve the skier experience in La Plagne
A new chairlift from La Lovatière to La Plagne to provide a link between La Plagne Center and Champagny en Vanoise
A new gondola in Peisey Vallandry
The new detachable Biollène chairlift in Valmorel replacing the old 4-seater chairlift and two drag lifts
The new Gaston Express in Saint Jean d'Arves
In Méribel, Plattières 3 gondola has been replaced by the fast Bouquetin chairlift, taking just 2 ½ minutes
The new Super Venosc gondola to access the Vallée Blanche sector
In Vaujany, a hybrid gondola/chairlift telemix to replace a 4-seater chair
Another new ‘telemix’ replacing Marmottes 1 in Alpe d'Huez
The replacement of the Prébois and Préclaux chairlifts by a 6-seater detachable chairlift in Les Orres
Two new chairlifts in Vars
A new ski lift in Auron on the slalom stadium
New chairlift Contamines-Montjoie @SECMH
Look out for Dynamic Lift Passes and digital deals
The dynamic pricing trend is evident in the ski industry this winter. As well as Val Cenis, Aussois and Pralognan-la-Vanoise, both resorts in Savoie, have started offering great prices to skiers booking their ski pass early. With deals up to 80% less expensive, there are great savings to be made.
On the practical side, “Pay-As-You-Go” options are becoming more common. In Praz de Lys Sommand, the ‘Frizzki’ offer allows you to pay only for ski. At Grand Tourmalet in the Pyrenees, the ‘Flex’ card allows you to pay only for the time spent skiing, without even having to go to the ticket office. This card has family discount deals as well. Always at the cutting edge of innovation, Avoriaz is offering the ‘Shred Experience’, the first lift pass operated purely on your phone. The advantage? No need to stand in line, your lift ticket loaded in one click and a pass that you can almost never lose. Finally, in La Rosière and Valmorel, the passes are available directly from your accommodation receptions to make life easier.
Take to the slopes at night
For when the days are not long enough, some resorts have found a solution: night skiing. In Praz de Lys Sommand, a cross-country ski run is lit up after dark allowing you to ski under the stars one night each week. In Auron, one piste will be floodlit to allow you to enjoy the magic of night skiing. In Puy Saint Vincent, it’ll be full moon evenings that you can take to the slopes. Finally, in La Clusaz, in the Haute-Savoie, the Merle piste will be lit up at the end of the day, for special activities and events.
More French Facts:
- 30%: the average slope of the new Eclipse slope in Courchevel, which will host 2023 World Championships
- 3000 people / hour: The new speed of the 6-seater Arpettaz chairlift in Sainte Foy Tarentaise
- 1992: The year the Olympe gondola from Brides-les-Bains was created for the Winter Olympic Games. This year, they are getting a well-deserved facelift.