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Aiguille Rouge, by Pete Caswell. Click on the painting to visit his site

Sunday, 26 October 2014

NO TOUR FOR THE TARENTAISE: #TdF2015

The Tour de France route for 2015 has been announced.

This blog is in an official strop, due to the continued absence of the Tarentaise.

No offence to our neighbours in the Maurienne valley, but the repeated presence of St-Jean-de-Maurienne and La Toussuire, is getting boring.

In 2010 we had St-Jean-de-Maurienne as a stage finish.  Modane was a start town in 2011.  Then we had St-Jean-de-Maurienne and La Toussuire in 2012.  And now we have St-Jean-de-Maurienne (twice), La Toussuire (again) and Modane (again).

In recent years, the Tarentaise has been restricted to the Col de la Madeleine and having Albertville as a ville départ.  Now, we know the Tour is all about business, but....

We love the Maurienne valley dearly, but we do feel it's time for a return to the cycling capital that is the Haute Tarentaise.  A stage finish on the Col de l'Iseran is mooted, so we look forward to seeing that on the 2016 parcours.

Rather than carry on moaning on about the 2015 route, therefore, we mark the announcement by publishing our favourite Tour de France maps:

The 1996 Tour was hampered by snow
in the Alpes, and notable for Miguel Indurain
running out of steam on the road to Les Arcs

The 2009 Tour saw Lance Armstrong struggle
over the border crossing between La Thuile and La Rosiere.
The riders then stayed in Les Arcs

For more on Le Tour in La Tarentaise, including epic visits to Les Arcs, La Rosiere, La Plagne, Tignes and Val d'Isere, click here.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

LAKE EXPECTATIONS: Tignes

A round-up of what's new, 18 months on from this update on Tignes (for its wikipedia entry click here).

1. Tignespace opened: "the most innovative sports and conference centre in the Alps", according to the website.  It is an example of how Tignes is always looking to innovate and try new things.

2. The X-Games have moved back to the US - much to the  irritation of resort bosses.

3. A shiny new Aeroski lift lift opened in 2013.

4. The new upmarket development billed as Tignes 1800 also opened for the 2013/14 season.

5. The Tignes dam featured centre stage in The Returned, which featured on British TV screens during Summer 2013: a new series is coming soon.

6. And the dam features in the Telegraph this month, showcasing April's visit to the drained dam by Andrew Aird of Ski Adventures.

7. Some of our nation's finest young minds will be in resort from 13 December - aka the Sussex Snow winter ski trip.

It's a fascinating place - less attractive than Val d'Isere maybe, but with bags more character.  The history is quite something: the flooded valley, the new resort built up at Le Lac, its embracing of everything "sportif", the fresco on the side of the dam.  If you've ever got time to kill, take a look at the exhibition at the Maison de Tignes at the heart of Lac.


Before the deluge.
Paris Match, 1952
Park at Les Brevieres and make
the Sache black run or Corniche blue
your last descent of the day, taking in
the unique Aiguille Percée 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

LA PLAGNE: The end of the Bellecote bottleneck?

The Perso La Plagne site notes that La Plagne isn't always very good at spreading the word about developments to the ski area - indeed that was one of the reasons why they up the site 12 years ago.

With the construction of the 8-seater Colosses lift, however, things are different.  Partly because it's such a bottleneck at Plagne Bellecote, it would be criminal not to put the word out.  And partly because the resort is dead proud that its own team from the S.A.P. has led the work.  La Plagne TV takes up the story.  And here is the coverage from TV Mont Blanc:


For more on the background to the latest upgrades in La Plagne, including the plans for the new Montalbert gondola click here.

The 1966 marketing poster.
Click here for some history

Saturday, 11 October 2014

NO LONGER NO 1: The French Ski Market

"France loses its No 1 spot as the world's top country for skiing" says the new press release from resort association Domaines skiable de France.

The release goes on: "...a place it would have kept had it not been for the new school holiday calendar".

The "reforms" to the French school holiday calendar have left the ski resorts foaming at the mouth.  Easter holidays now don't start until mid April at the earliest.

The result: business is down by 70% at this time of the year, and it now makes up just 2-3% of the season's business, compared with 8% before 2010.

Looking at 2013/14 specifically, skier days are down 4.5%. and away from the lifts, resort takings are down 2.3%.  The Vosges and Jura had a complete nightmare.

Also in the firing line are increases to VAT and dodgy weather during January and February.  The general decline in the number of French people going on holiday completes the gloomy picture.

The best the resort association seems to be able to come up with is that last season is broadly in line with the average for the previous four seasons (2012/13 having been better than normal).

The French border above La Rosiere
Their new report  includes loads of fine statistics.  For example:

  • The US now records 56.2m skier days (-1.2%)
  • France has 55.3m (-4.5)
  • Austria 50.8 (-6.3)

And:

  • For every €1 spent on lift passes, 6€ are spent elsewhere in the resort 
  • There are 120,000 seasonal jobs in France - 90,000 of which are in the Northern French Alps
  • 68.1% of skiers are French; 11.6% are Brits
  • French ski passes are apparently 11% cheaper than those in Austria and 17% cheaper than the Swiss.  (Not too convinced by this one!)

For the full stats fest, click here.

Seasonal workers at Les Arcs

STILL GOING DOWNHILL: The British Ski Market

The British ski market continues to struggle.  The latest Crystal report, summarised here by the energetic folk at Planet Ski, finds just 867,000 Brits making the journey to the slopes last year, down 3.6% on 2012/13.

Back in 2007/8 the number of British skiers stood at around 1.2m.  Click here for more on the long term trends.

Alongside economic woes (there are now 5m "lapsed" British skiers and indoor slopes in the UK are booming), indifferent snow and a late Easter are deemed to be important factors.

Independent skiers are down 5.8%, while the school market shows a small fall, at -1%. France and Austria continue to dominate the market, welcoming more than 60% of the remaining British skiers.

Switzerland is on the rise, albeit from a small base.  It has seen its share increase from 4.9% to 6.5% in two years.  But that is now under threat following new labour laws which have promoted some chalet operators to pull out.  More on that story here.

The Planet Ski summary finds many tour operators claiming to be bucking the trend - but it is very much a battle over share of wallet in a market which is static at best.

At Arc 1800, Compagnie des Alpes is investing millions
in reshaping the Chantel slopes below this point - more here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

WINTER OLYMPICS 2022: A Two-Horse Race

Planet Ski reports that Oslo is the latest candidate to quit the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

In doing so, the Norwegian capital joins Barcelona, Munich, Davos/St Moritz, Stockholm and Krakow.

This leaves Almaty in Kazakhstan and Beijing as the only two remaining candidates.

Perhaps there will be a French bid for the 2026 games.  Then again, after the shambles of the Annecy 2018 bid, perhaps not.

La Plagne (looking over to Les Arcs).  The resort's bobsleigh track
was wheeled out as part of the Annecy 2018 bid