Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Sunday, 29 September 2013

VALMOREL: Upwardly mobile?

Compared with the big resorts further up the Tarentaise, Valmorel has a different feel. Although the ski area is still pretty big by most standards, it can't compete with the mega resorts beyond Moutiers, and in recent years has been marketing itself to skiers from southern France and Spain.  

In many ways the area is now more noted for summer pursuits.  The Col de la Madeleine is a regular on the Tour de France, most recently in 2013.

Valmorel used to be a mainstay of the brochures in the 1980s and 1990s, but these days doesn't merit a full chapter in Where to Ski and Snowboard - although there is a useful online write up here.

But there is certainly some investment going into the area.

Five years ago, the new Celliers gondola was opened, linking this remote valley with the Grand Domaine:

Two new lifts opened on the Valmorel side last season, and a new "Soleil Rouge" lift over in St Francois is coming on stream for 2013/14.

And the recent arrival of Club Med suggests that investors are willing to put their money into the future of the resort.  It boasts about being the nearest Tarentaise resort to Chambery, Lyon, Paris - and its accessibility is certainly a plus.

We likened Valmorel to Premiership team Reading, who were then duly relegated.  Will Valmorel make a return to the big league during the coming years?  The signs are promising...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

NEW SKI SEASON: Where to Ski and Snowboard 2014

The new edition of the skier's bible is out - full details on the Where to Ski and Snowboard website.

Looking at the book's editions through the years enables us to chart the winners and losers - as measured by which ski resorts have been awarded a chapter of their own, and which are relegated to the appendix.

This year's winners - promoted to having their own chapters - are:

Les Carroz.  For more about the Grand Massif, click here.
Val Cenis - on the other side of the Col de l'Iseran.  Here's a trip taken by the Telegraph in January 2012

The little-known Rauris
Zell am See, which makes a welcome return to the big league

Meanwhile, Puy St Vincent (FR), Alpbach (AT) and the resorts of the Trentino (IT) have been relegated to the back of the book.

Other highlights include the heated debate about piste length, with many resorts having been exposed by new analysis showing significant over-reporting of the true size of their ski area.  The most extreme case is apparently Courmayeur, which reports 100km, of which some 64km are, er, off-piste.

There is also an enjoyable rant about the re-branding of various resorts (eg "Val Thorens United, the abolition of the name "Courchevel 1850".  The new "Alpe-d'Huez grand domain Ski" (sic) is the subject of particular ridicule.

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Updates on new developments in ski resorts inevitably centre on the replacement of Lift X with a new fast 6-pack, or perhaps a new MGM or Club Med development.

Les Arcs has something completely different under construction: a new chapel, due to open next summer at Arc 1800.  It will be on the bend in the road at Chantel, between the covered car park and the Centre Bernard Taillefer.

The idea of a chapel is nothing new.  Back in 1979,  Les Arcs' creator Robert Blanc was clear that the chapel was the missing link in the developing jigsaw.  Recent years have seen open air masses taking place in Place Miravidi at Christmas, and more recently at the Centre Taillefer.

But now the funding is in place, thanks to various benefactors.  And the Chapelle de St-Esprit, designed by Robert Falcoz, is starting to take shape.  Robert Blanc's daughter Claudie Blanc is closely involved.

Local painters are working
on designs for the interior

Full details can be found on the chapel's very professional website.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

NEW SKI SEASON: More new things in Les Arcs

In addition to what's here, a few more things to look out for this season, courtesy of the excellent www.peisey-info.com.

The Les Arcs Film Festival isn't exactly new, but deserves a plug as the anchor event of the first week of the season, from 14 December, with "Yugoslav" films under the spotlight.  Much to the delight of the manager of the Spa in Charvet, various British university ski trips are also expected in Arc 1800 this week...

To celebrate Paradiski's 10th anniversary, there will be a tightrope walk between the cabins of the cable cars, by what are billed in the press release as "the world's greatest": Julien Millot and Tancrede Melet.  They will be 380m above the ground, and it may look something like this:

The two Vanoise Express cabins will also have a makeover, in the form of designs by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac which will be in place all season.

Apart from that, the only other "nouveaté" is in the form of a small draglift above the Replat lift in Villaroger and some behind-the-scenes work to the artificial snow-making. The big changes this year are over in La Plagne, which sees defunct black pistes re-appearing and a reshuffling of the lifts ahead of the opening of the Montalbert telecabine in 2014: more here.

Panic on the pistes of La Plagne:
The black Derochoir piste
Big changes are being planned for Les Arcs, however, with the Chantel area due for a complete overhaul.  Here is the planning permission application for the new "Telecabine des Villards".  But this  is only part of the story...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

NEW SKI SEASON: What's new in Les Arcs

Regular visitors to Les Arcs will notice a number of thrilling new developments this season...

At the start of the Category 1 climb to Les Arcs, there is an exciting new roundabout, complete with snowchain-assembly area.  The powers that be have also decreed that the official way to the N90 is along the (newly resurfaced) minor road by the river, rather than going via Super U and the McDonald's roundabout at the entrance to Bourg.  This seems a little odd, as the road is very narrow as it approaches the Isere.

The "new"way back to the N90

One of Les Arcs' drawbacks is that the front de neige is set back from the foot of the pistes, which means there are no convenient hostelries where big groups can meet up during the day.  It lacks the equivalent of a Bissac at Flaine, or indeed the cluster of restaurants at Plagne Centre.

Although not on the front de neige, the new mountain restaurant on the golf course is going to really help - and it looks like it will be ready for December:

Just above the golf course on the home runs

And at the foot of the slopes, the new Aiguille Grive hotel/restaurant will (finally) be open. Les Arcs legend (and former landlord of the old restaurant on this site) Gilles ready to welcome guests.

Pierra Menta (2714m) in the background

Meanwhile, just by the Vagere lift, a sign informs us that planning permission is being sought for a new "Telecabine des Villards".  To be continued...