Skiing après-Covid: everything you need to know to get back on the slopes this year
Many skiers may be returning to the slopes for the first time since Covid hit. So what new trends and developments await? From green skiing to ‘shameless singing’, here are the latest updates on European resorts
Ski-resort bosses are exploring ways of fighting the energy crisis this winter.
In Selva Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites, for example, resort chiefs are looking at the idea of tweaking lift-opening times as a way of saving energy. valgardena.it
In Serre Chevalier Briancon near Grenoble in France, a spokesman says that lifts may be slowed down slightly in order to save energy. This measure would add a barely noticeable moment to a 10-minute gondola ride. serre-chevalier.com
In the meantime, skiers can use their energy exploring the region’s hot springs and the lovely old town of Briancon, which is connected to the ski slopes by lift.
Skiing with a conscience
From taking the train to resorts (or at the very least, shared airport shuttles) to renting ski gear and choosing resorts that are committed to best environmental practice, there are ways of skiing green.
New UK company ecoski.co.uk recommends repairing ski clothing or using pre-owned gear instead of buying new every few seasons. The website is leading the way with ski-clothing rentals at affordable rates and says that if you must buy new stuff, try to buy “kit with a conscience” from companies like Patagonia, Picture, Icebreaker or Woolpower.
Another way of supporting the circular ski economy is to buy pre-owned clothing in second-hand stores. They’re a common sight in US resorts like Aspen in Colorado, and are popping up in European resorts such as Morzine in the Portes du Soleil.
The changing face of skiing in Europe
Influential US 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 trade history and the five-star Chedi hotel.
As Vail Resorts owns some of America’s best-known resorts, all eyes are on how it will proceed in central Switzerland, and how the move might affect skiing in European resorts down the line. vailresorts.com; snow.com
European ski companies haven’t been resting on their laurels either. In France, hotel group Les Etincelles began buying up property in Tignes during Covid lockdown and is busy transforming old properties into four- and five-star hotels. The company is focused on six high-altitude resorts in France and has most recently bought 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 ever, the Montreux Comedy Festival will co-produce an event in Les Gets featuring both French- and English-speaking comedians between January 14 and 21, 2023. skiwelt.at; lesgets.com
Snowbombing Festival is also back in Mayrhofen, Austria, while Snowboxx returns to Avoriaz and Tomorrowland is coming back to Alpe d’Huez. snowbombing.com; snowboxx.com; tomorrowland.com
Another thing that’s returning to the Alps is karaoke. Whether you’re staying at Richard Branson’s The Lodge in Verbier or the new VoulezVous hotel in Tignes, shameless singing is where it’s at. virginlimitededition.com; voulezvous-hotel.com
On the slopes, new activities include ice-floating and moon-biking — which involves riding electric ski bikes around circuits or through powder.
Rest those weary ski bones
If luxe accommodation is your style, some of the following hotels may appeal...
The five-star Alpin Garden in Ortisei in the Italian Dolomites is adults-only and features an indoor swimming pool that’s open 24 hours a day. alpingarden.com
The five-star Jiva Hill hotel in Pays de Gex is just a 15-minute drive from Geneva (on the French side) and offers year-round golf as well as access to family-friendly ski slopes. jivahill.com
In Saanen, close to the Swiss resort of Gstaad, Huus hotel features excellent conference facilities and a living-room-style foyer and bar. It’s a short hop to celebrity-watching and chilling out in Gstaad. huusgstaad.com
If your eye is firmly on affordability, hotel-hostel Base Camp Lodge in Bourg-Saint-Maurice offers a creative range of reasonable room options (from €30 for a dorm bed) with funicular access to Les Arcs plus access to a number of other French resorts. hotel-basecamplodge.com
In Les Menuires, Ho36 hostel offers contemporary and affordable accommodation, as does the Mont-Fort Swiss Lodge in Le Chable, which is linked to Verbier by gondola. ho36.com; montfortswisslodge.ch
Your Austrian fix
Austria continues to be the number-one destination for Irish skiers and snowboarders. New this season is a 10-person gondola in Schladming-Dachstein, which Topflight began featuring last winter. topflight.ie
In Bad Gastein, the chic new Comodo hotel will open at the end of January 2023 and, in Ischgl, the long-awaited Silvretta Spa will launch 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’re exploring transport options or planning a multi-centre trip, there’s also a new Ski Express train service from Amsterdam to the Austrian Alps.
Brave new worlds
One change that Covid 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 chefs or local delicatessens, ready to be popped in the oven or on the hob.
Guests arrive to fridges stocked with cold beer and wine, beds made, and firewood ready for cosy fireside chalet nights. Menus are high quality and, halfway through the week, supplies are replenished. Rates are from around €500 per person per week, and keep an eye out for flash sales. skifrance.co.uk
Top Irish deals
Crystal Ski introduces 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 to transfers, half-board hotel accommodation, lessons, lift passes, equipment hire and a jam-packed week of activities — from €1,299pp. Crystal also has a ‘€150 off’ offer on all destinations until October 17. crystalski.ie
Meanwhile, Topflight will offer a late-season April 1 departure date to coincide with the first week of Easter holidays — a bonus for families in search of a spring ski break. They will also offer a five-night Andorra option from January 3, a great choice if you’re short on holiday time. topflight.ie
Post-Brexit, British ski operators are crying out for Irish staff, as there’s far less red tape involved in hiring them than UK workers. Tour operators like Inghams and Ski Famille are actively trying to recruit Irish people to work in-resort, with a range of jobs on offer. If you’re thinking of a gap-year escape, keep an eye on Facebook’s resort jobs page, or contact tour operators directly — recruiters say you will be inundated with offers!