The great return ?
In France, last winter became known as white season – not a reference to the snow but to the fact that the season was a cancellation. It was a similar situation in Italy; Austrian ski areas were only open to residents, and border closures and blockades affected all ski countries. Powder Byrne, the long-time specialty tour operator, has managed to take just one family on vacation throughout the season; several others went bankrupt.
Now, however, there is cautious optimism. Pent-up demand from skiers has sparked a surge in bookings: Tour operators including Inghams, Powder Byrne and Oxford Ski all say they have more bookings than they would have expected at this point before the pandemic. Ceri Tinley of luxury chalet operator Consensio reports “unprecedented demand”, with revenues up more than 25% from targets. Kaluma, a specialist in St Anton and Courchevel, noted that corporate bookings “are at an all time high” as companies try to reconnect teams.
Most ski countries now accept vaccinated travelers without quarantine, but some potential hurdles remain, including international disparities around the Covid passes required to enter restaurants and public places. In France, for example, those over 12 can benefit from a pass sanitary if they have been fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine. In the UK, 12 to 17 year olds are only offered one dose, which means they would have to take Covid tests every 72 hours to get the pass. Tourism industry players are hoping for a change in the rules before the start of the ski season.
A rental revolution
Renting rather than buying ski clothing could become more common thanks to two new online platforms designed to reduce sports expenses and waste. Vail Resorts, the giant US-based resort operator, has partnered with Kit Lender, so customers can order ski clothing to be delivered to their accommodation and then drop it off at reception when they return. Full outfits, including gloves and goggles, cost from $ 30 per day for adults, $ 16 for children. In the UK, EcoSki launched its rental service last month, with jackets and overalls starting at £ 5 a day. In order to improve the durability of the sport, it also offers a repair service and sells used kits.
The roaring noise and exhaust emissions of snowmobiles have long been a source of antagonism between their users and cross-country skiers, but the problem could be solved by the launch of a silent electric alternative. MoonBikes, developed by an Annecy-based start-up, weigh less than half the weight of a typical conventional snowmobile, can reach 26 mph and travel up to three hours before recharging. Bikes cost € 8,760, deliveries will start in December, but visitors to the French resort of La Plagne this winter can try them out on guided outings with the Oxygène ski school (€ 90 per hour).
Skiing with the stars
The most anticipated ski movie in years is finally due out at the end of next month. List 2: All or Nothing is a sequel to the game-changing movie of 2016 The list, which showed Swiss skiers Sam Anthamatten and Jérémie Heitz using high-speed running techniques on extreme slopes that would previously only have been tackled with careful turns. The new film, in preparation for four years, sees them take the same approach to the high-altitude peaks of the Himalayas. Fans will be able to ski with Anthamatten and Heitz by booking a trip with Turkey Heliski, where the stars will be the main guests this winter.
A week costs from € 7,870 per person; turkey-heliski.pro
19.45 at snowtown
When Eurostar announced in July 2020 that it was canceling its Ski Train, skiers were so upset that they started a petition to save it. This proved unsuccessful, but non-stop night service between London, Moûtiers and Bourg-Saint-Maurice needs to make a comeback, albeit in a slightly different form. La Compagnie des Alpes, the French operator of ski resorts, charters trains to provide a weekly package holiday service on the route and renames it Travelski Express. Seats (there are no berths on board) will be available only for people booking weekly packages in one of the six resorts: Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Méribel, Les Menuires or Val d ‘ Isere. Prices for mid-January start at £ 620, including train, accommodation, coach transfer from the station and lift pass.