This year, it’s finally all systems GO on the French Alps and we can hardly wait. Michael Barry gives a round-up of what to expect from an expectant winter tourism industry in France this coming winter
After a dormant couple of years due to Covid-inspired regulations, it looks like nothing will stop the ski runs running and the tourists touring this winter.
One of the few advantages of the over-the-top Lockdowns (and France’s version of virus-fighting was only marginally less loopy than Ireland’s) is that it has allowed the French resorts to have a good old think about how they can make improvements to their offer. For those that get their insulated backsides over to the French slopes this year, they will notice an increased range of non-skiing activities, as well as a number of added facilities around the place.
Take Les 2 Alpes, for example: they’ve added a new blue run as well as a spanking new gondola. Over in La Plagne, they’re pushing the moon bikes this year, and every resort is redoubling its efforts to be the most green and sustainable resort that every was – something which all sounds like too little too late to many ears, but any effort in that regard is to be welcomed.
According to Tim Blostone of Heaven Publicity, representing Pierre & Vacances holidays, there has been an impressive level of investment in the French Alps, with P&V in particular offering a strongly French-flavoured holiday (which I, for one, always prefer to the Anglo-oriented atmosphere which is all too ubiquitous nowadays) and such crazy things to do as building your own igloo and sleeping in it.
According to Sahra Ronc of Peisey-Vallandry (part of the 425km-long super-resort of Paradiski), the resort has invested €15 million in improvements for this season and it has proudly been a Station Verte (Green Resort label) since 2017.
“We have lots of options for families and visitors,” she says. “You can watch the animals while you do cross-country skiing… there are reindeer walks and a museum space.” Their accommodation includes everything except four or five-star hotels and their glamping options (yes, really!) are always booked out.
On the 27th of November, it will the turn of Tignes to open up to the ski-hungry public. As one of the highest ski resorts in Europe, it also has the longest season. With the neighbouring Val d’Isère, it forms the super-resort known as Espace Kily. It’s known as a bit of a Mecca for advanced skiers but beginners are welcome – so welcome, in fact, that they can ski for free while they’re learning. They also have ice-diving, moon-biking and a host of other activities, with new four and five-star hotels opening in mid-December.
From the ‘greening’ point of view, virtually every station is battling to outdo every other one in the race to become the most green resort in France. Ski resorts arguably feel the effects of global warming the most. Serre Chevalier became the first one to produce its own energy and hopes to be able to provide 30% of its own energy by 2023. Meanwhile, the very unpretentious resort of La Plagne (also within the aforementioned Paradiski) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, not forgetting the very sobering thought that their glacier skiing ended back in 2004. So get your ski legs ready, get booking and enjoy it while you can!