Arnie Wilson is back for another season of exciting ski news. We’ll be talking all things new in resort, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for our ‘Resort Round Ups’:
Now – or almost now – is the winter of our content! Say goodbye to sizzling summer, and get ready for scintillating snow!
That oh-so-important first layer is building up fast in the Alps. Cervinia, in Italy, was fully open from the beginning of November. Its Swiss neighbours Zermatt and Saas-Fee also had terrific early snow, with some runs open. Verbier too started opening slopes at weekends. The Grand Motte glacier at Tignes in France has opened, and so has Austria’s Obergurgl. Even though it doesn’t have glacier skiing, it always seems to get good early snow.
To celebrate the arrival of the new winter season, many resorts have invested handsomely in new lifts, new runs and other projects to make their skiing and snowboarding experience more attractive.
Ischgl has come up with another huge improvement, replacing the old Pardatschgratbahn four-seat gondola with a luxury 28-seater gondola system. Reaching the Pardatschgrat peak at 2,624m in under 10 minutes, the 31 cabins will incorporate the world’s biggest vertical height difference for a tri-cable gondola: 1,251m, with no mid-station.
Austria’s largest ski region, SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental has invested €23m in upgrades, giving it a grand total of 280km of interconnected runs. The changes include a new 1.2km long red run in Brixen, a new hi-tech eight-seater chairlift at Scheffau, which will ease the journey at busy times between Brixen/Söll and Scheffau/Ellmau/Going. Four new snowcat groomers have been added to the fleet, as well as 25 additional snowguns.
At the so-called Saalbach-Hinterglemm “Skicircus”, a new eight-seater chairlift with heated seats and bubble protection has replaced the old Polten quad chair. And the new Steinbergbahn 10-seat cable car means Leogang will have a second lift to access the neighbouring Saalbach-Hinterglemm slopes
At the recently linked Skijuwel resorts of Alpbachtal and Wildschönau, the old triple Gmahbahn chair in Alpbach has been replaced with a six-seat chair with bubble protection.
In France, the Portes du Soleil ski region, which spans the French-Swiss border, with 13 ski areas and a network of 650km of pistes, has improved one of its key links, eliminating the need for a bus ride. This winter the region has invested €16 million in a major project to liaise properly with Super-Châtel: two new high-speed detachable chairs (one a six seater, the other a quad) plus a new piste to help things along.
And Morzine, which recently installed a new cable car with 54 cabins, each with seating for 10 skiers/boarders at Pleney, has now added two new high speed six seat chairs to Super Morzine’s terrain. The Séraussaix chair will take beginners and intermediates to the top of Super Morzine, while the new Proclou chair should eliminate queuing in what is a particularly busy section of the Portes du Soleil.
In Val Thorens, skiers can now take advantage of a full-sized ski-cross stadium built alongside the World Cup run with a 1.4 kilometre course. The ESF will be offering training sessions. And there’ll be two new ski schools operating in the area. L’Office de la Montagne is a “one-stop-shop” for skiers who enjoy exploring with specialist off-piste ski instructors and high-mountain guides.
And Evolution 2, already thriving in other French resorts is now setting up in the 3 Vallées, with Val Thorens as its base camp.
The Plan de l’Eau chair has been replaced by a six-seater detachable chair. Reaching higher than it used to, the lift will provide a direct link to the Caron sector. And the La Portette chair lift has been replaced by another six-seater detachable chair, improving its role as a link to Val Thorens’ northern runs.
In Switzerland, Zermatt will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by the British climber Edward Whymper, and the Zermatt mountain guides Peter and Peter Taugwalder, father and son.
Davos Klosters has spent 23 million Swiss Francs (£15m) on a new cable car to serve the Jakobshorn ski area – one of the five winter-sport regions. It will transport guests from Davos Platz up to the Ischalp.
In Canada, Sunshine Village has received approval from Parks Canada to construct a new high-speed quad chair to replace the existing Tee Pee Town double-chair built in 1979. The new chair will include heated seats, footrests and orange bubbles for wind and weather protection – the first of its kind in Canada. The chairlift will be fully operational for the 2015/16 season.
But the coming winter isn’t just about the feel-good factor! It gets pretty creepy in Austria’s St Anton on the evening of December 5th during the 17th Arlberg-Pass “Krampalar” Devil’s Run. So-called “Krampalar” devils wearing scary masks and “devil skins” join St. Nicholas as he walks through the streets. Not to worry, says the resort, behind their disguise these beings are really rather friendly. Oh yeah?