ON TO VAL D’ISERE…
7th December 2016 | Katie Bamber, PlanetSKI
PlanetSKI moves through the French Alps and on to Val d’Isere for some luxury, more December skiing and World Cup action.
Val d’Isere opened officially on 26th November and already the resort has had a lot going on.
It hosted the Beaver Creek World Cup on 2nd/3rd/4th December, moved over from North America due to a lack of snow.
But more of the events below – first off, snow!
Val d’Isere had perfect conditions up top, but was a little snow-sparse down in the resort.
The Solaise ski area had never been better: empty slopes with perfect on-piste snow.
I genuinely felt lucky to have experienced the famous Espace Killy ski area so free of people.
See here for a PlanetSKI separate story with videos as we ripped round the pistes of Val d’Isere.
Val d’Isere was awarded ‘Resort of the Year’ by the World Snow Awards and it wasn’t the only title it won.
It was best for apres and most improved in Europe.
“These three World Snow Awards are a wonderful tribute to the attention that Val d’Isère has always paid to the British ski market, and we have concentrated our efforts in this direction in particular over the past two years,” said the Mayor of Val d’Isère, Marc Bauer, to PlanetSKI.
“The British are our biggest clients and we do all we can each year to increase their level of customer satisfaction. They are great skiers – and great après-skiers. What Val d’Isère can offer them as their preferred resort is guaranteed snow cover, a giant ski area, and a warm welcome. We hope that in the years to come our British friends will continue to give us such awards of which we can be very proud.”
You can read more here of Val d’Isere’s accolades from the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard show in London in October.
“Val has really pulled out all the stops with its world leading snow-making factory, which assured season-long skiing even with last year’s difficult early season conditions,” said luxury chalet company VIP SKI’s Gareth Crump.
“The apres ski has always been up there with the best but last season it just seemed to go up a notch with Cocorico and Folie Douce in competition for the post slopes scene continuing, through a fantastic array of bars for all tastes, to the late nights in Dick’s or Doudune.”
(Needless to say, it won ‘Apres Resort of the Year’.)
Whilst hosting World Cup events, the resort was also preparing for its big annual Critérium de la Première Neige, which sees more of the world’s top skiers perform in Val on the slope Le Face this coming weekend.
The winter 16/17 Critérium programme:
- Saturday December 10th : Men Giantthe
- Sunday December 11th : Men slalom
- Friday December 16th : Women Super combiné
- Saturday December 17th : Women downhill
- Sunday December 18th : Women Super G
Here’s a look at last year’s.
The machines were working hard to cover the bottom of the slopes in snow, though the work of the snow cannons on the competition pistes will certainly serve the resort well in insuring a firm and lasting base layer for the season.
The off-piste was decent enough in places on the mountain, especially compared to recent Decembers.
Val d’Isere has completed the final phase of a two-year investment of €16m.
There has been the redevelopment of the old Solaise Express chairlift and even older Solaise cable-car (built in 1938), now replaced with the Telecabine Solaise.
Olivier Simonin, Val d’Isère Téléphérique’s director, since July 2016, described the new gondola as a ‘premium lift’, with the capacity for transporting more people creating less queueing.
3,600 people per hour can be carried travelling at 6m/second, meaning that it now takes 7 minutes from bottom to top (before it was more than 9 minutes).
The gondolas also have wifi, “great for people posting and social media,” Olivier said.
And very clever for some free and instant PR, too.
“The Telecabine Solaise is going to help with congestion, not only with queuing to get up but also to allow more people to get the lift down.”
The routes down from the Solaise ski area to the resort get very busy and the snow can be hit and miss.
It will also mean that beginners can enjoy the skiing up top and travel down to the resort more comfortably.
“It is important for us, to have new customers. We want them to discover the views and skiing up at the top of the Solaise and hope to attract new skiers in the future. That’s the strategy.”
This is a new position for Val d’Isere, for it often attracts experienced skiers.
La Lounge is the new cafe and complex at the top of the new lift.
It has free entrance and a relaxed atmosphere.
It is also reasonably priced, not just for Val but for any resort.
Coffee is €2 and there is a microwave, picnic spots, lounge areas, sunny places to sit with serious views of the area and a kids cinema corner with films on non-stop.
So new, in fact, it was still undergoing the finishing touches.
The best December conditions in years, the piste skiing was not only perfect – I mean this honestly, with hard grippy snow (and blue skies) – but the slopes were empty, too.
The Beaver Creek World Cup in Val d’Isere early December brought a fair few to the resort.
Here’s images of the Men’s Downhill event in the start area:
When asked about the award Val d’Isere received, M. Simonard pointed towards Le Face and replied:
“Of course we have it, look at it. Amazing skiing, not to mention the Criterium events next week.
And indeed Val d’Isere does have a lot of events just this year, in 2016. It will hold eight races in December.
Plans for a new hotel are now at an advanced phase and having been in the pipeline for years, was finally given the go ahead just last week.
The location is to be at the top of the Solaise lift, Val’s first hotel high up, meaning that the gondola would run through the evening.
Val d’Isere has had invested multi millions in the past two years to improving its facilities, earning it its recent titles.
One remaining feature that has surprised me is the rope drag lift back to the Solaise – tough for children to reach or even hold on to.
The magic carpet bringing skiers up the shallow uphills of the bowl towards lifts, though, deserves a shout out.
Next to the best magic carpet I’ve been on were these guys:
Val, thanks for hosting. Hope you get some snow low down in the town soon. Great December skiing…
PlanetSKI had the ironic pleasure of testing out budget supermarket Aldi’s gear in up-market Val, which you can read about here.
To read more about the snow earlier in the season and Val stepping in to host the Beaver Creek World Cup, see here.
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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