With so many options for ski breaks, and competition fierce between resorts trying to attract a market struggling out of recession, now really is a great time for prospective skiers. With reports of North American resorts paying to fly tourists in and staffing airports to speed up customs we thought we’d take a look closer to home at what the European resorts are doing to fill their slopes, and what might attract you to book your next trip.
What’s new for 2013/14?
The Three Valleys (including Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel and St Martin)
With 600kms of interconnected pistes The Three Valleys is the world’s largest ski area – which is one big draw in itself. This expansive domain doesn’t come without a price though, and as with many of the large resorts, lift passes can be a little costly. To combat this though the Société des Trois Vallées have introduced some attractive lift pass options. If you’re travelling as a pair (Duo pass), or a group of three or more (Tribu pass) and you buy a 6-day pass at the same time you can save up to €15 each. The real savings come for families though. If two adults and at least 2 children (5-18yrs) of the same family buy passes together each will pay children’s prices. This is a saving of a whopping €54.40 on a 6-day 3 Valleys pass for each adult and teenager (the latter of whom would normally be considered an adult at 13yrs old).
Events are also the name of the game in the Three Valleys, to draw in the crowds. In January Les Menuires (in the St Martin Valley) is hosting the first Roc’n’Bike festival in mid-January. Have a go at mountain-biking on the snow or watch some of the pros at action. And partygoers might be interested to hear that Méribel is hosting three Ibiza-style party weeks this season with an ice disco, pool party, extreme sports showcase and a bag load of live dj acts. Ibiza Rocks the Snow is the culmination of the Ibiza Rocks events team and tour operator Ski France, with daily events throughout the resort during each of the three weeks.
Espace Killy (Val d’Isère and Tignes)
As in the Three Valleys, the Espace Killy is also offering similar family discounts of lift passes with all members of the same family paying children’s prices on a 6-day lift pass bought at the same time. And if you can’t wait to get back on the slopes and want to get started earlier than ever it’s worth noting that Tignes glacier is open from 12th October, so you can in some pre-season practise!
Val d’Isère has always maintained its reputation as one of the coolest resorts and this year is no exception. In February Val will be hosting the annual Frostgun Invitational, an original freestyle event which features some of the best riders in the world and legendary concerts and after-parties! And then over in Tignes in March there’s the annual X Games to keep the party going.
Serre Chevalier is one of France’s largest winter resorts (250km pistes) and is located just south of Les Deux Alpes and only 25 minutes drive from the infamous off-piste mecca of La Grave and La Meije. The resort has been nominated for a World Snow Award for most improved European resort.
This winter Serre Chevalier is replacing the Chantemerle cable car with a high-speed gondola to get you onto the slopes quicker than ever. Plus, in their quest to keep their Best French Family Resort award they are building a 4km toboggan or luge run called Deval’Bob. The track will snake its way ’round 26 bends, brushing past Serre Chevalier’s larch trees (where our instructors can often be found tree-skiing!). The new luge is designed for 7 years + but big kids will probably find it equally as appealing!
As with other resorts Vallandry is hoping discounted lift passes with lure in the crowds. As well as the family dscounts offered in other resorts in the Paradiski area (of which Vallandry is part of) there are special discounts for young people (18-28yrs) who buy 6-day passes together. This offer is only available online but will save you 20% on full priced passes.
Another of the resorts up there on the cool stakes is Verbier and this winter they’re hosting the Freeride World Tour Final – Xtreme Verbier in March. Watch some of the world’s best freeride skiers and boards take insane lines, huck cliffs and leave the crowds in awe at their ever increasingly insane feats.
Also this year access to the little known satellite resort of Bruson will become infinitely easier with the replacement of the slow Bruson chair (and removal of the bus usage previously required) with a new high-speed link from Verbier to Bruson. Think quiet slopes, untracked powder, miles from anyone and you can see the appeal of this small resort.
So with lots of discounts and events going on in resorts around Europe this winter it’s just made your ski holiday search that bit more complicated, but so much more fun. Happy hunting!