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What’s it Really Been Like in the Alps This Year?

It’s fair to say, this season has been a tricky one to navigate. Probably one for the history books. Trying to organise a ski school and navigate the avalanche of destruction Covid-19 has left behind, has been challenging to say the least. But you know us, always keeping busy, evolving, and making changes for the better. Here’s a little insight into what it’s really been like this winter in the Alps (2021).

Ski Resorts: Open or Closed?

  • Austria – Partly open, partly closed (it’s complicated!)
  • France – Closed the entire season
  • Switzerland – Open the entire season

Some resorts were open to tourists and promoting visitors coming, despite the lifts being shut. Whereas others had lifts running but no restaurants or bars open. It’s been complicated, but every company and organisation has tried to adapt to the changing rules to make the best of the situation.

It’s actually felt like a step back in time. With the rise of ski touring and snowshoeing, there has been an influx of retro ski suits, headbands, and an older generation on the slopes.  The atmosphere in the resort changed, every run was enjoyed as you’d hiked to earn it. Lots of people were still able to enjoy the mountains, despite the lifts not running in many resorts. Feeling the burn on the way up meant people stopped for picnics, enjoyed the view, and took in the tranquility of the mountains. We feel like there is a higher level of appreciation for the environment.

So will next winter in the Alps (21/22) be normal? Who knows. Here’s hoping.

Ski & Snowboard Lessons – Winter 2021

Verbier, Switzerland

Televerbier did a great job in keeping the resort open for the whole season. Strict social distancing measures were in place on all the lifts and there were ‘Covid Angels’ out on the slopes to make sure everyone followed the rules. Watch the video below to see how Verbier kept everyone safe on the slopes.

The slopes have been noticeably quiet, but weekends have still felt busy, with locals traveling to Verbier. That gave us the opportunity to teach more lessons in French which has been awesome. Gordon was so chuffed to say, “I have taught more French lessons than ever before. It was also great to have Emily on the team again and she taught in French a lot too.” This season our confidence has grown and we’ve developed our language skills to enable us to teach in a variety of different languages. Watch this space!

We’ve definitely missed the team socials, due to Covid restrictions in place. We couldn’t all get together as a team, but that can wait until next season when it’s safe to do so. We also can’t wait to catch up with all our lovely clients who couldn’t make it out here this year. We’ll be waiting for you next year, you better be here!

Ski touring in Verbier

Here’s Doug & David out ski touring, skiing lines they haven’t done in years. 

St Anton & Lech, Austria

At the start of the season, it looked like St Anton had put everything in place to have a safe ski season. Unfortunately, with cases rising and falling in such an international resort, the Arlberg region decided to close the station. But, thankfully they kept the lifts spinning for locals, so our team could train on empty pistes. The town was empty too, with no hotels, après bars or restaurants open. Even Dorfstraße (the main shopping street) was quiet. It was quite eerie at times. 

Andrew Campbell, from our Austrian team, highlighted the difference on the slopes this year. “The runs were all totally different to previous years. Kandahar, a steep black, was usually a massive bump field by 11:00 am. But this year it stayed fresh all day. You could still find fresh off-piste two days after the snowfall. It was all very weird.”

Our resort manager, Stefan,  worked hard to keep our instructors training throughout the week, despite the lack of work. He said that “St Anton felt so safe. Nothing was open and everyone was being tested. Our instructors were tested every 48hours, to be able to ski. It was all very efficient and essential for the lifts to stay open. There was a bus for testing, where you enter at the front, have your test, and then leave at the back of the bus.”

We were so sad to cancel and rearrange lessons, but we’re so looking forward to catching up next season when restrictions allow. This season our team focused on training and went on to pass exams after one of the best winters of their career. We’re fitter and ready to teach again next year. Bring it on!

Thinking about St Anton for your next getaway? Our insider’s guide to St Anton gives you the full scoop.

Multiple Resorts across France

Resorts across France have been closed all season long. Many have been grooming specific tracks for ski touring, which made for some super fun ski touring in impressive conditions. It’s got to be said, our team may not have had much work, but they are the fittest they’ve ever been. With the added bonus of exploring more of the Alps due to more time on their hands.

We started running Lift-Free Lessons to locals, seasonnaires, and French tourists to enable more people to enjoy the mountains safely. We held sessions on avalanche safety, intro to ski touring and intro to cross country skiing. It was really great to connect with locals, who might have not necessarily had time in a normal winter to continue their backcountry learning or to learn a new skill. We also had some fun days touring close to home – which again, in a normal winter we don’t have time to enjoy.

Davide, from our team in Tignes, has been ticking off his endurance adventure goals all season. Follow along on his adventures with Marta here. Our legs hurt just watching them climb up couloirs!

Ski touring in France

Zoe, Sam & Rob out for a social ski tour in Courchevel 1650.

In-Resort Atmosphere in the Alps

  • Buses and in-resort transport have been running, but wearing a mask has been compulsory.
  • The majority of bars and restaurants have been shut across France, Switzerland & Austria. 
  • Many restaurants have set up outside hatches where they can serve a small selection of drinks and snacks. Some others delivering takeaway food to nearby mountain villages to mix up having to cook from home. *sigh, washing up*
  • Supermarkets, pharmacies, and other essential shops have been open. (Bakeries are essential if you were wondering!)

Snow conditions in the Alps – Winter 2021

We’ve been having lots of chats in the office, about the difference in snow longevity this year. We’ve been lucky to enjoy some incredible snow conditions this winter (2021). And we’ve still been skiing powder in late April! But, has it lasted longer because there are fewer people on the mountain? Or does it normally last longer when it’s compacted down by the snow groomers? There are so many different factors that contribute, but with fewer people skiing, and less pollution from the lifts, hotels, cars (etc!).  We feel like the snow lasted longer this year .. maybe due to a smaller human impact? We’ve been chatting about it over on Twitter, join in on the conversation.

We’ve also experienced some bizarre weather here in the Alps. Back in early February, we experienced a real-life sepia filter. In a rare weather phenomenon, Sahara dust hovered in the air giving everything an orangey-brown glow. So what caused it? Strong winds from Africa lifted sand into the sky and sent it north until it hit the mountains. It does happen every so often, but usually in the summer, not winter. For weeks after, it was fascinating to see the layers of orange dust in the snowpack. Lucky it didn’t stop us from getting out for a ski tour.

 

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Making the Most of Winter 2021

This time has allowed us to reshape our company, reassess our values and our position in the market. We’ve had multiple meetings about what our goals are and how we’re going to achieve them. It’s been a really exciting time to be part of New Gen.

Challenging Ourselves

Many congratulations to Doug Bryden and Niall MacKinnon on passing their BASI (Brtish Association of Snowsports Instructors) level 4 ISTD teach exams this season. A great way to end an epic season of training. Big thanks to the Mentors Tom Waddington and  Jon Ahlsen for putting in hours of dedication to help make dreams a reality.

Tackling Climate Action

Having a little more time on our hands than usual has given us the opportunity to improve our impact as a company. and tackle climate action. So, we’re pleased to announce we’ve joined forces with POW to make their Pledge to commit to being Net-Zero by 2028.

POW Pledge

To find out more about our Pow Pledge, click here.

The POW Pledge is a toolkit that helps organizations take climate action. We as ski industry professionals, and wider society, need to take action towards carbon neutrality. We’re so privileged to call the mountains in the Alps our office. And we are committed to protecting them to ensure future generations can enjoy skiing just as we have. This is the first big step for New Gen in our climate action plan, and we look forward to sharing our learnings along the way.

Oh, and in case you missed our new uniform reveal, here’s what we’ll be rocking on the slopes next year. It’s made of 90% recycled materials!

Winter 2021

It’s been a wild ride. But we hope this gives you a little insight into what we’ve been up to. We’re raring to go for next year and can’t wait to catch up after such a long time off snow, for so many of you.

If you haven’t booked or rearranged your lessons for next year already, head over to our live lesson availability to schedule some in. We’ve got some hot chocolates to drink, tables to dance on and some mountains to explore. See you all soon.

 

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