Skiing after Covid: everything you need to know to find the slopes this year
Ski resort bosses are exploring ways to tackle the energy crisis this winter.
At Selva Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites, for example, station managers are exploring the idea of adjusting the opening times of the ski lifts in order to save energy. valgardena.it
In Serre Chevalier Briançon near Grenoble in France, a spokesperson says the ski lifts could be slowed down slightly to save energy. This measure would add a barely perceptible moment to a 10-minute gondola ride. www.serre-chevalier.com
In the meantime, skiers can use their energy to explore the region’s hot springs and the charming old town of Briançon, which is linked to the ski slopes by a lift.
From train to resorts (or at the very least shared airport shuttles) to renting ski equipment and choosing resorts that commit to environmental best practices, there are ways to ski green.
New UK company ecoski.fr recommends repairing ski gear or using used gear instead of buying new every few seasons. The website paves the way for ski wear rentals at affordable rates and says that if you need to buy new things, try buying “kit with a conscience” from companies like Patagonia, Picture, Icebreaker or Woolpower.
Another way to support the circular economy of skiing is to buy second-hand clothes from thrift stores. They are commonplace in American resorts like Aspen in Colorado, and are popping up in European resorts like Morzine in the Portes du Soleil.
The new face of skiing in Europe
Influential American ski company Vail Resorts has made its first foray into Europe by investing in the Swiss resort of Andermatt, known for its off-piste skiing, ancient business history and five-star Chedi hotel.
As Vail Resorts owns some of the most well-known resorts in America, all eyes are on how it will play out in central Switzerland and how the move could affect skiing at European resorts in the future. vailresorts.com; snow.com
European ski companies are not resting on their laurels either. In France, hotel group Les Etincelles has started buying up properties in Tignes during the Covid lockdown and is busy turning old properties into four- and five-star hotels. The company focuses on six high-altitude resorts in France and has recently purchased hotels in Val Thorens and Les Arcs. etincelles.com
The fun side
Festivals are back in the Alps this winter – from a double ski and rock festival in Soll, Austria in January and March 2023 to pure comedy in Les Gets, France. For the first time, the Montreux Comedy Festival will co-produce an event in Les Gets with French-speaking and English-speaking actors from January 14 to 21, 2023. skiwelt.at; lesgets.com
The Snowbombing Festival is also back in Mayrhofen, Austria, while Snowboxx returns to Avoriaz and Tomorrowland returns to Alpe d’Huez. snowbombing.com; snowboxx.com; tomorrowland.com
Another thing that is coming back to the Alps is karaoke. Whether you are staying at Richard Branson’s The Lodge in Verbier or at the new hotel Vous Vous in Tignes, shameless singing is on the agenda. virginlimitededition.com; do you-hotel.com
On the slopes, new activities include floating ice and moon biking – which involves riding an electric ski bike on circuits or in powder snow.
Rest those tired ski bones
If luxury accommodation is your style, some of the following hotels may interest you…
The five-star Alpin Garden in Ortisei in the Italian Dolomites is adults-only and has a 24-hour indoor pool. alpingarden.com
The five-star Jiva Hill hotel in Pays de Gex is just a 15-minute drive from Geneva (French side) and offers year-round golf and family-friendly ski-in/ski-out access. jivahill.com
In Saanen, near the Swiss resort of Gstaad, Hotel Huus has excellent conference facilities as well as a lounge-style lobby and bar. It’s a quick hop for celebrity spotting and relaxing in Gstaad. huusgstaad.com
If you have your eye on affordability, the Base Camp Lodge hotel and hostel in Bourg-Saint-Maurice offers a creative range of reasonable room options (from €30 for a dorm bed) with free access by funicular to Les Arcs and access to many other French Stations. hotel-basecamplodge.com
In Les Menuires, the Ho36 hostel offers contemporary and affordable accommodation, as does the Mont-Fort Swiss Lodge in Le Châble, linked to Verbier by gondola. ho36.com; montfortswisslodge.ch
Your Austrian solution
Austria remains the number one destination for Irish skiers and snowboarders. New this season is a 10-person gondola in Schladming-Dachstein, which Topflight started offering last winter. topflight.ie
In Bad Gastein, the chic new Hotel Comodo will open at the end of January 2023 and in Ischgl the highly anticipated Silvretta Spa will open its doors in December. In the Arlberg region, which includes St Anton, skiers can also now buy their lift pass online, saving time in resort. thecomodo.com; silvrettatherme.at
If you are exploring transport options or planning a multi-centre trip, there is also a new Ski Express train service from Amsterdam to the Austrian Alps.
Brave new worlds
One change Covid has brought to ski resorts is the “contactless chalet” concept offered by companies such as Ski France.
With 50 contactless chalets in French resorts, their concept means that all food – breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner – is prepared by local chefs or delicatessens, ready to be sautéed in the oven or on the hob.
Guests arrive to fridges stocked with cold beer and wine, beds made and firewood ready for nights of cabin fireside. The menus are of high quality and, mid-week, supplies are replenished. Prices are around €500 per person per week, and keep an eye out for flash sales. skifrance.fr
Best Irish Deals
Crystal Ski presents a new Slope Starters concept this season. From March 11, the company will take beginner skiers and snowboarders on a trip to Flaine, France, with virtually everything included, from flights and transfers, to half-board hotel accommodation, lessons, ski passes ski lifts, equipment rental and a busy week of activities. — from €1,299 pp. Crystal is also offering a “€150 off” offer on all destinations until October 17. crystalski.fr
Meanwhile, Topflight will offer a departure date of April 1 at the end of the season to coincide with the first week of the Easter holidays – a bonus for families looking for a spring ski holiday. They’ll also be offering a five-night Andorra option from January 3, a great choice if you’re missing a vacation. topflight.ie
After Brexit, UK ski operators are clamoring for Irish staff, as there is far less red tape to hire them than UK workers. Tour operators like Inghams and Ski Famille are actively trying to recruit Irish people to work at the resort, with a range of jobs on offer. If you’re considering a gap year, keep an eye on the resort’s Facebook jobs page or contact tour operators directly – recruiters say you’ll be inundated with offers!