What’s new in France 2017/18

Future of La Grave secured

AFTER a period of uncertainty for La Grave, the future of the legendary off piste area in Les Hautes Alpes has been secured by SATA, the lift company associated with Alpe d’Huez.

SATA has taken on the lease to operate the lift system in La Grave and has pledged to maintain the unique off-piste atmosphere of the area.

The company plans to improve the existing gondola by extending it to 3600m which will allow pedestrians to access the spectacular views of the Ecrins National Park from the summit in both winter and summer.

PHOTO: Les 2 Alpes/B.Longo

Years ago, La Grave was covered by the Les Deux Alpes lift pass as the two areas share the same glacier. But a local source says there are no plans to reintroduce this link with Alpe d’Huez’s neighbour.

However, plans are still being discussed to link Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes in the future.

Les Deux Alpes is also unveiling the world’s first snowmaking equipment to be deployed on a ‘live’ (moving) glacier.

CHATEL:  This season sees Châtel celebrating its 70th anniversary. Saturday 2 December 2017 marks the start of the birthday celebrations at Vonnes, where the first drag lift was constructed in 1947. A inter-domaine lift links was opened in the same area at the end of January 2015 and is the latest major improvement to the ski area. It has made access to the whole Portes du Soleil area even easier for skiers and snowboarders.

VAL D’ARLY: ‘Quirky break’ is the name of new free attractions which are suited to the whole family in the Val d’Arly area between January and March 2018.
Every week visitors can experience thee area’s heritage such as a snowshoe outing into the past or a guided ski tour.

Val d’Arly is located between the Beaufortain, Mont-Blanc and Aravis area and is made up of the four resorts of Crest-Voland/Cohennoz, Flumet/Saint Nicolas La Chapelle, La Giettaz-en-Aravis and Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe.

New chalets

TIGNES: Former freeride world champion and rally driver Guerlain Chicherit continues his radical luxury chalet revolution of the hamlet of Les Brevières, with 4 spectacular new chalets

Chalet Banksy showcases the work of the British street artist and includes 3 original pieces. Chalet Ubud takes its inspiration from the Balinese art mecca of Ubud, Chalet Babylon is stacked with cutting-edge design and technology and an indoor pool and Chalet Raven takes its styling cues from the 1930s. Also in the pipeline and perhaps the most ambitious of all is Chalet Phoenix (opening date TBC), which features as its centrepiece a decommissioned Noratlas 2501 military plane with a 54m wingspan.

LES ARCS: La Halle des Cascades is an elegant ski-in-ski-out 400sqm chalet overlooking Arc 2000 featuring a reading room accessible by a glass walkway above the cathedral sitting room.

MORZINE: The Boutique Chalet Company’s Chalet Joux Plane is the ultimate escape for those seeking peace and quiet. Accessible only on skis in winter it features an indoor-outdoor pool, cinema and gym.

ARECHES-BEAUFORT: Le Coeur d’Arêches dates from1820 has been refurbished as a gorgeous chalet marrying contemporary iron and glass with the original timber beams and joists.

VAL CENIS: The Moulin de Marie, an old 3-star hotel, has been completely rebuilt as an individual chalet sleeping 20.

New hotels

SAMOENS MORILLON: Club med is opening the 423-room 4-trident Club Med Grand Massif. It will offer fabulous panoramic views of the mountains and will include an art studio, a range of activities for all the family, two swimming pools and a spa.

LA ROSIERE: The 69-bedroom Hyatt Centric is the hotel company’ s first foray into alpine hotel territory. Guests will be able to head straight from the slopes to the hotel bar, H40 Bistro

Bar, and the fashionable all day trattoria, La Tavola

SAINT GERVAIS MONT BLANC: The Coeur des Neiges has put the focus on deep relaxation and comfort with guests offered their choice of mattress and pillow, including bamboo, memory foam or even seedbased pillows. Continuing the wellness theme, the hotel serves gluten-free pastries and a range of imaginative teas and restorative infusions.

COURCHEVEL: The 24-bedroom K2 Djola is a 4* boutique lodge-style hotel inspired by its biggerbrothers the K2 Palace and the K2 Altitude. Also new in Courchevel is the 4* Fahrenheit Seven Courchevel

VAL D’ISERE: The 60-year-old Hotel L’Avancher has been almost completely rebuilt to create a comfortable 37-room 4*hotel. It has a gourmet restaurant, wine, spa, sauna, steam room, and games room. There’s even a Tesla charger in the basement.

LES MENUIRES: The HO36 Hostel is the latest ‘budget-boutique’ option. It has 40 quirkily-styled rooms, sleeping two to 10 people, which start at €40/person/night.

New gondolas and chairlifts

VAL THORENS: A 10-person gondola has replaced the Moraine chairlift.

VAUJANY: The Enversin ‘pulse’ lift is being replaced by a new gondola,

improving the connection between the hamlet of L’Enversin d’Oz and

Vaujany centre.

LE GRAND BORNAND: The Rosay gondola’s historic ‘eggs’ are being changed for individually customized by local artists of the “Melting Paint” collective.


PHOTO: Les 2 Alpes/B.Longo

COURCHEVEL: Moriond, l’Ariondaz’s new ultramodern gondola will be the first in France to feature exterior LED panels, powered by solar panel to minimise its visual and ecological impact.

LES ARCS: A new detachable chairlift in the Pré Saint Esprit sector of Arc 2000 claims to be the longest in Europe at 2850m.

VAL D’ISERE: The old fixed grip Datcha chair has been upgraded to a detachable quad.

SAINT GERVAIS MONT BLANC: A new chairlift has replaced the Epaule du Mont Joly which dates back to 1979.

LA CLUSAZ: A new lift incorporates ski lockers and a lift-pass sales kiosk.

LES GETS: Le Ranfoilly Express will open this season along with a selfie spot at the summit.

CHAMROUSSE: The resort is celebrating 50 years since the 1968 Grenoble Olympics with a new chair.

Foodie news

LA PLAGNE: Mayfair & Elystan Street, Chelsea is opening an intimate new restaurant in Montalbert.

TIGNES: A new restaurant concept at the 5* Les Suites de Nevada hotel has been named Ursus after the last species of bear to be sighted in Savoie. The restaurant will feature woodland walkways from one table to the next, with 390 replanted pine trees and foliage hanging from the ceiling. The menu features local forest ingredients like truffle, Jerusalem artichoke and salsify.

LES GETS: Go Vino is a new ‘all in one’ restaurant, wine and tapas bar.

LES ORRES: Maison Cimes is a boutique guesthouse serving gastronomic dishes of predominantly organic healthy local ingredients like juniper, rabbit and wild spinach.

New Michelin stars

In recognition of their innovation and excellence, the 2017 Michelin guide awarded seven new stars to French mountain restaurants.

Les Explorateurs in Val Thorens, Le Roc Alto in Saint Veran (Queyras) and La Palégrié in Corrençon en Vercors have all won their first Michelin stars. Le Montgomerie and Le Kintessence (both Courchevel) and Marc Veyrat’s La Maison des Bois in Manigod each won a second star, while Yannick Alléno’s 1947 at the Cheval Blanc in Courchevel joins La Bouitte (Saint Martin de Belleville) and Le Cheval Blanc (Megève) at the French mountains’ top table with three Michelin stars.

Wine-tasting week

SAMOENS: For foodies and wine-buffs, Samoëns Winegrowers’ Week is a celebration of fine wine, food and skiing. Now into its 8th year, the village welcomes 20 winemakers for the festival, which is stacked with tastings, workshops and foodie feasts!

Ski touring on the up and up

Ski-touring has become one of the hottest trends in skiing.

La Clusaz and La Plagne are among the resorts to open new dedicated ski-touring paths, while Morzine is offering free introductory sessions with an ESF instructor to try it out in a safe and controlled environment.

It is highly advisable to enlist the services of a qualified professional either from the ESF (French Ski School) or one of France’s many independent ski schools and mountain guiding outfits.


PHOTO: Les 2 Alpes/B.Longo

Les Deux Alpes’ Freeride Attitude is a free workshop laid on by the resort in partnership with the Guides Bureau. On the programme are briefings about the risks involved and how to mitigate them, avalanche rescue training sessions and freeride sessions with a guide.

New for beginners

Two new dedicated beginner areas open in December 2017, one at the summit of the Sétaz gondola in Valloire, the other in Châtel– served by its own brand new button lift.

Val Thorens has a new blue piste in the Plein Sud sector which will enable less experienced skiers from the rest of the 3 Valleys to get back, particularly at day’s end.

New themed kids’ runs

New for the coming season are a ‘fun-cross’ in La Rosière, ‘Lil Stash’ (a fun run through the forest featuring a variety of wooden obstacles) in Avoriaz, a new ‘fun run’ in Alpe d’Huez  and a reconfigured ‘Walibi Gliss’ run in Les Menuires.

Over in the Pyrenees, huge snow sculptures by local artists await skiers at the top of each of the main lifts in Saint Lary Soulan.

Into the wild

Two new refuges are opening for those with a sense of adventure. The Refuge du Lou by the picturesque Lac du Lou (between Val Thorens and Les Menuires in the Belleville valley) is the culmination of a €1.2 million project.

The 30-bed refuge is accessible skiing off-piste from La Masse (Les Menuires) or Cime de Caron (Val Thorens).

Refuge de Terre Rouge in the Neuvache valley near Valmeinier sits at the foot of the Pointe de Terre Rouge, one of the five access points to the Tour de Mont Thabor. Five years in the making, the 40-bed refuge is a converted ‘chalet d’alpage’.

In the pipeline for 2018 and beyond

Le Coin de Val is a £170m redevelopment of the heart of Val d’Isère which is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

Two new hotels (3* and 4*), two new apartment complexes, a new bus station, a new piste and underground travelator, a crèche and eco-friendly design and systems across the board make this the most ambitious resort redevelopment project in a generation.

Also in Val d’Isère, the oldest cable car station in France at Tête de Solaise – it dates back to 1942 – is being transformed into a 40-bedroom hotel that will be the highest in France. During the winter the hotel can only be reached by the new Solaise gondola or by snowcat.

Les Deux Alpes is set to add 3500 new tourist beds by 2020 and Alpe d’Huez will open its first 5* hotel in December 2018.

Categories: France, News

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