Featured image – the Vallée Blanche, Chamonix
There have been some huge developments in Europe’s ski resorts, some years (even decades) in the making… Here’s what’s new for this winter, from terrain expansions to brand new lifts to new boozers…
No one makes ski lifts quite like the Swiss. Just reading about the new Matterhorn Alpine Crossing, which opens this season after eighty years in the pipeline, just makes us giddy. The final addition to the project – which provides a year-round link between Zermatt in Switzerland and Cervinia in Italy – is a new 3S cable car connecting Testa Grigia on the Switzerland-Italy border with the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at the summit of Klein Matterhorn.
The lift stretches unsupported for 1.6km over the mighty Theodul glacier and, just to ensure passengers’ vertigo really kicks in, cabins with glass floors maximise mountain viewing. The new Plateau Rosa-Testa Grigia station will have a load of entertainment, including snow tubing and a beginners’ ski area.
DON’T MISS Burn off last night’s rösti with a thigh-burning run from the top of Klein Matterhorn down to Zermatt village on one single run – that’s a 2,200-metre vertical drop. One could call it a day at that…
There’s no denying that the Vallée Blanche remains one of the most epic off-piste descents in the world – it’s a “a bowl of joy, a‘sea of ice’, and a veritable valley full of dreams, adventures and a lifetime of challenges” says FL Backcountry Editor Martin Chester. But in recent years, due to the diminishing glacier, skiers have had to tackle 550 stairs from the end of the 23km descent up to the Montenvers station. Not anymore. A huge new gondola is being installed 600m further up the glacier, complete with a ‘glacier and climate interpretation’ centre opening later in 2024. See featured image
Breath is bated for the new long-awaited Grands Montets mid station (Argentière) to be complete, after the fire destroyed the old one at Lognan (1,972m) in 2018. Works to replace the station and cable car are nearing completion, so it’s likely to be ready for action some time in 2024.
DON’T MISS Les Grands Montets, Chamonix’s most popular sector for easy-access, lift-serviced off-piste. The top-to-bottom reds from the Herse and Bochard lifts are long, snow sure and great for letting the brakes off.
Only 121 weeks! That’s how long it us until 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Olympics and Paralympics kick off. The Dolomiti Superski resort is pulling out all the stops for the event, with various upgrades planned in the run-up, but the big focus ahead of winter 23/24 is snowmaking. Up to €50m has been invested, with the introduction of new reservoirs and snow generators, cooling towers and pipeways. There have also been a slew of lift updates, too: the10-seater at Kronplatz, Alta Badia’s Vallon and Arlara, three more in Val di Fassa, the list goes on…
Now we just need the rumoured ‘Carousel of the Dolomites’ grand plan to actualise, which taunts 1,300km of Dolomiti Superski pistes and 500 lifts connect up (no more buses – but may the horse tug always remain! – creating the world’s biggest ski area).
DON’T MISS Forcella Rossa, a black run by day that moonlights as a women’s World Cup run. It’s 2.2km long, steep and narrow at points, and the scenery is spectacular – take it on first thing in the morning to catch it at its best.
3 Vallées, France
Val Thorens stole the limelight in the 3 Vallées last year with the new Orelle to Cime Carons cable car connection and mega (17,000sqm) sports complex, Le Board. For this season, eyes are on Les Menuires, with the Roc1 gondola renovation adding 300m2 of photovoltaics, which, thanks to the reflective ‘albedo’ effect of snow and ice, contributes far more lift power than ever expected, whatever the conditions. Clever!
Feeling parched? Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, meanwhile, has introduced the valley’s first microbrewery, Brâva Vela, in neighbouring Le Châtelard. Housed in a former goat farm, the brewery sources 97% of all its ingredients locally and offers tours and tastings. Santé!
DON’T MISS Unmissable if you’re staying in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville is the blue Jerusalem run, accessed from the Méribel side, which twists and turns all the way down to the village over a 440m vertical drop. It has been ranked the best piste in France, apparently…
The largest construction project in the history of the resort has been rolled out in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis: a new 10-seater Doppelmayr chairlift from the village of Serfaus to Komperdell 2,000m, that will be able transport 3,500 skiers per hour. Construction of this state-of-the-art cableway was originally planned for 2021 but had to be postponed due to Covid. The valley station will house a large ski depot with more than 5,000 parking spaces, a ski rental shop and a storage area. Meanwhile in Kitzbühel, the tiring Gauxjoch drag and two-seat Trettenbach lifts have been replaced with modern Leitner six-packs – and, with solar energy systems in place, electricity will be at least partly sustainably produced. Meanwhile, skiers can bag double the fun in the Paznaun Valley, as the brand new Kappl & See ticket network now combines the two ski areas in Kappl and See– 80 kilometres of pistes and twice the number of lifts – on one ski pass. Win.
DON’T MISS Signs of Dave Ryding’s entry into the Hahnenkamm wall of fame. After he made history in 2022 in Kitzbühel as Britain’s first World Cup gold medalist, he’s been awarded his red winner’s gondola, which, if you time it well, you can ride up to take on the racecourse yourself… Go get ‘em!
La Plagne, France
Last season saw the famous Bellecôte Gondola dismantled – the vintage ‘70s glacier bubbles went up for auction starting at €500per bubble, all 102 selling within 90 minutes! We’re rather gutted we missed out on those actually, anyway…
This December will see the new 10-seater gondola spin, the first stage of an ambitious project to improve the resort’s skiing above 3,000m. While the departure point will be the same (Roche de Mio), it’ll follow a new line and– here’s the big news – it looks like it’ll open up access to the North Face of the Bellecôte – a bucket-list descent of over 2,000 vertical metres, with more than a dozen ways down, of varying pitch, exposure and hard-coreness.
DON’T MISS The North Face of the Bellecôte, obvs! Just be sure to take a guide, especially if it’s your first time skiing it…