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

Saturday, 21 December 2013

DREAM OR REALITY? The Fast Track to Flaine

As the Vanoise Express celebrates its 10th birthday, plans for another similarly ambitious project are resurfacing.

Le Dauphiné, 17 October 2013

Step forward Le FuniFlaine.  This new link would take skiers from Magland (down in the valley, just 45km from Geneva) to Flaine in 15-20 minutes, creating 80 jobs in the process.

It's been muttered about for decades, indeed for some 40 years.  A rudimentary cable car was set up to transport materials up the mountain during the constuction of Flaine, and apparently an electricity pylon remains to mark the spot.

The engineering challenge is making sure the lift
can cope with the steep cliffs and wind on the Magland side

Middle station at Les Carroz (1100m)

From a technical point of view, the plans seem to be well advanced.  The route would take in 1,350m vertical, with 6 pylons.  There would be several large cabins, rather than a gondola-style lift.  It would use some of the latest technology (along the lines of that recently deployed at Avoriaz, apparently).   Meanwhile, the latest economic feasibility studies are positive, despite the crisis.  That said, funding from regional and national government would be needed, given the €80m cost.

Perhaps more importantly, it does not appear to have universal support locally. Politicians from rival ski areas (eg St Gervais) are not particularly keen, while those from the valleys (eg Sallanches) are rather more positive about the idea...

For more on what to expect when you do get up the mountain, click here.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

NEW SKI SEASON: 10 Things You (Possibly) Need To Know

Here are some fascinating facts you can use on the chairlift to impress/bore your companions:

1.  We have lost 300,000 British skiers since the start of the recession.  Last year just 900,000 of us hit the slopes.  France remains the market leader, with Austria in the ascendency and North America in freefall.  More here.

2.  This has contributed to a pretty flat market in France.  The financial results of lift operator giant Compagnie des Alpes are disappointing, and the French ski resort association is in open revolt about changes to the French school holiday calendar which mean the Easter break now starts after many resorts have closed.

3.  Even if a slow recovery has started, the concern is that skiing, never a cheap activity, is losing market share to other travel destinations/pursuits.  This has been the spur for various rebranding initiatives, for example Méribel, Chamonix and, most notably, Val Thorens (United):

#WantToSki: Website here.

4.  Other resorts are looking to build their share of the wallet by developing new products.  The 100% freeride area below the 2877m Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees looks a neat idea, not least if it is accompanied by a night in the observatory at the summit.

5.  Swiss Connections No1: 2013/14 sees resorts coming together in bids to enter the premier league.  Lenzerheide joins with Arosa in a CHF50m project which will create a 225km area.  It opens in January, apparently.

6.  Swiss Connections No2: The Val d'Anniviers is celebrated by all those who visit. This year the previously separate Grimentz and Zinal ski areas will be linked by a new cable car.

7.  The original and best?  The Vanoise Express celebrates 10 years of Paradiski with a makeover of the cabins.

8.  On the Les Arcs side, there are some new developments for 2013/14.  There is a new roundabout at the foot of the climb, a new 4 star Aiguille Grive hotel, and a new mountain restaurant on the golf course.  More here.

9.  And there are BIG CHANGES planned for Les Arcs over the coming years. The masterplan for Arc 1800 includes a reorganisation of the Chantel slopes, a new indoor pool and new links to both Edenarc and Arc 2000.

The Alpages du Chantel and Edenarc developments
will (finally) be linked to Arc 1800 over the next few years

10. The "British ski hosts banned" row rumbles on, with Crystal now having done a deal with the Evolution 2 ski school.  The ESF is starting to respond/think about the implications of all this, for example offering free hosting in La Rosiere on Sundays - more here via Planet Ski.

Saturday, 7 December 2013


Paradiski is 10 years old this season:

To celebrate, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has given the Vanoise Express a makeover.

There will be tightrope walking on 16th December, again at the Vanoise Express.  A "world premiere" is promised, with a 60m walk between the two cars:

It's also the 10th anniversary of Arc 1950, whose arrival marked a complete departure from the original Les Arcs' approach.  (See interview with Claudie Blanc for some history).  I personally find it hard to love the place, but it certainly means that Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry can offer a pretty full range of accommodation options, for all budgets and tastes.  And it certainly has helped fund the transformation of Les Arcs' lift system.

Here's the official Les Arcs press release on Paradiski's 10 years.