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VAL THORENS OPENS - Jane Peel, Val Thorens
Saturday November 24, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI spends the weekend on the slopes as Europe's highest resort opens for the season. So what's it like?






Saturday 24th November - Opening day

It could have been so different.

A week ago, the runs were bare.

Even above 3,000 metres the snow cover was pathetic and it was too warm to run the snow cannons.

Val Thorens had planned to open on 17th November but couldn't.

It's the first time for several years that it's been unable to open on its planned date.

Fingers were crossed for this weekend, the one they were calling La Grande Premiere.

It's the official launch of the winter season with lots of free music and food laid on.

It always draws big crowds, there are discounts on lift passes and accommodation and the hotels are fully booked.

Fortunately, after several days and nights of constant snowmaking thanks to a return to cold temperatures - and a few centimetres of the natural stuff over night - the lifts began to turn.

Val ThorensView of VT from one of the open chairlifts















By no means all the lifts.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of the resort is open for now and the lack of natural cover is clear to see.

Val ThorensLacking in real snow
















But there's enough open to blast around for a couple of hours without repeating yourself, though at times the slopes were so packed that skiing was a bit like being in a dodgem car.

Val ThorensOpening weekend brings out the crowds

















So what did I make of the first morning of my 2018-19 ski season?


Val Thorens, the highest resort in Les3Vallees and indeed the Alps, can be ferociously cold and windy.

It has a lot of north-facing slopes and it's open and treeless.

Day one was quite mild and relatively wind-free, except in the most exposed parts.

Val ThorensNot too cold to sit outside
















It was, at least, cool enough to allow the snow guns to do their stuff and add a bit more depth to the artificial base.

Snow cannonsSnow cannons going full pelt
















Snow plough Snow plough working with the artificial snow














The opening weekend also means a chance to test new skis and snowboards for free all day Saturday and Sunday.

It's popular.

Ski & snowboard testsFree ski & snowboard tests
















Ski & snowboard testsFree ski & snowboard tests
















On Saturday night, there was a big champagne reception for the resort's staff and friends.

It was laid on to celebrate the announcement last week that Val Thorens has been named the world's best ski resort at the World Ski Awards for a third year running.

It picked up another couple of gongs too.

World's best ski resort awardsThe trophies await
















Val Thorens, World Ski Awards world's best ski resortPresentation of the awards
















We're not sure we'd go quite as far as to say it's the best resort in the world....

But if you like high altitude, snowsure (usually) French resorts, then it's got a lot to offer.

And there are some new attractions this winter.

We spoke to Emilie Rouzaud of the tourist office to find out more:


Sunday 25th November

Day two of Val Thorens' season in the high altitude French resort and today PlanetSKI is a guinea pig.

That is, yours truly is benefiting from the very first 'Quick Check' session run by the Ski Cool ski school.

The service is brand new this winter and the concept is simple.

Any advanced skier (level 3 and above according to the ski school gradings) can book a 30 minute one-on-one session with his or her own personal instructor.

The idea is to pick up some quick tips on improving your piste technique.

It's a great alternative for good skiers who don't want to pay for a full private or group lesson.

It costs just 30 Euros.

Florian 'Flo' Auger is my instructor.

Flor Auger of SkicoolFlo Auger
















The conditions aren't the best as the pistes are once again packed with weekenders taking advantage of the sunshine and the artificial snow on the less than 40 per cents of slopes that are open.


"You ski very well," Flo says.

I sense there's a but coming.

"But... you have one problem.  You have too much pressure on your uphill ski.  You need more on your downhill ski" he tells me.

I can't say it's the first time I've heard this.

Skicool Quick CheckQuick check with Flo Auger
















It's a common fault with women, Flo tells me.

"It's not a big issue. In fact a lot of women ski instructors ski like this too."

This makes me feel a lot better.

Flo gives me some drills to work on.

Quick check with SkicoolQuick check with Flo Auger

















They include bringing my downhill ski forward in line or even in front of the uphill ski.

"It's a bit like telemark," he says, which helps only in as much as I've seen telemark skiing but never actually tried it.

The session is really worthwhile and I spend the next couple of hours trying to practise.

By this stage the pistes are silly-crowded and I spot several near misses.

Much as I'd love to continue, it's only day 2 for me of a very long season.

I'll be back on the slopes in a couple of weeks and I decide the best course of action is to call it a day and retire to a bar.


In Val ThorensCheers!



















The resort later informed us that 14,000 skiers and snowboarders were on the slopes over weekend.

*Jane stayed at the 4* Fahrenheit 7 hotel , which has rooms available from €150 a night.

*Find out more about Val Thorens

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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