Alf Alderson checks out the early season conditions at France’s highest resort.
It’s an old adage in skiing that if you want to guarantee good snow, ‘go high’. Well you can’t get much higher than Val Thorens in France, which is located at a breathtaking (literally) 2300-metres and as such is the highest ski resort in the Alps.
I’m just back from a long weekend there and, after several days of early season snowfall before we arrived we managed to score sunshine, powder and – on day three at least – virtually empty slopes.
This was the ‘Grand Premiere’, the official opening of the season in ‘VT’, and Saturday morning got us off to a cracking start as four of us scope out a short pitch of shin-deep, sun-kissed powder off the side of the red Falaise piste.
We drop in and scythe through the first ‘real’ snow of the season – our technique is pretty rusty, naturellement, but no hideous wipeouts ensure and we follow this same routine of popping on and off the pistes all the way down to the Moutiere chair, soft chalky snow on the groomers, very acceptable powder (ok, there’s the occasional crusty section, but this is still November) off the side.
Not all the lifts are open this early in the season, so the resort has a bustling feel about it through Saturday and Sunday, but most people head home on Sunday evening so by staying on and skiing through Monday we enjoy slopes that are all but deserted.
I’ve elected to rent my skis from Intersport since it saves the hassle and cost of bringing my own (airline baggage fees from London are around €100 return for a single pair of skis compared to Intersport’s average weekly rental at €62) and best of all this allows me to get acquainted with the new Rossignol Sky7 HD.
This really is a ski that can handle piste or powder with equal insouciance; I’ve gone for an Intersport package that allows me to ski everything from pure powder skis like the Black Crows Camox through to carving/race skis like the Atomic Redster Ti for the same price, but after a brief flirtation with the Camox, I stick with the Sky7 all weekend, despite the fact that my package allows you to swap and change your skis as often as you see fit.
During our stay we get to ski most of the main pistes above Val Thorens along with small stashes of ‘sidecountry’ powder, and had we been a little more organised (i.e. remembering to carry piste maps – duh!) we could have nipped over to Orelle, the Three Valleys’ ‘fourth valley’; but we weren’t, so we didn’t.
A lot of skiers refuse to chance their arm on skiing early season since there’s no guarantee of good snow, but this season the higher slopes of the French Alps are – thus far – looking pretty good if my experience earlier this week is anything to go by.
If you add in the cheap flights that can easily be located at this time of year, budget accommodation that we found in the slopeside Residence Temples du Soleil and the versatile ski rental package I chose for my long weekend and you can easily get in three days of pre-Christmas skiing for not much more than a couple of hundred quid, which has got to be time and money well spent – and a great appetiser for the months to come.
That said I’m now in the market for a new pair of Rossi S7s so it may end up costing a bit more than I’d planned…
Video by Skinets
Images by: Chris Moran at All Conditions MediaLast updated on Aug 14, 2018
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