5th May 2022
We’re off to Val Thorens in France for its closing weekend – La Grande Derniere, May 7th 8th. We were in resort for its opening back in November when there were deep worries about how the winter might pan out with Covid-19 continuing to spread. NEW
It is the highest resort in the Alps at 2,300m and has one of the longest winter seasons, from late November through to early May.
PlanetSKI reporter, Chris Moran, was making first turns as the lifts opened on November 18th 2021.
PlanetSKI in Val Thorens for its Opening
Val Thorens, Image c/o Chris Moran/PlanetSKI
Our editor James Cove is there this weekend, May 7th 2022.
For Chris it was a very different time with Covid-19 concerns, mass testing, compulsory face masks, strict social distancing rules and no real certainty about how the winter would happen – if it all.
Just a few weeks later in mid-December, ahead of the vital Xmas and New Year period, President Macron closed the French borders to most people coming from the UK.
It dealt a hammer blow to the start of the season for the many resorts in France that rely heavily on British skiers and snowboarders.
All they had been planning for over the previous months was swept away at a stroke.
In January, after the New Year Holidays had long ended, the border restrictions were eased:
It led to a surge in bookings:
Further rules in the French resorts were lifted as the winter progressed:
The PlanetSKI editor James Cove is heading to Val Thorens for this weekend to report how the season has gone, and enjoy his final turns of the ski season.
There’s even been some fresh snow this week – up to 20cm.
Guess who’s back? #snow #neige #ValThorens (open until 08 May) #Les3Vallees #InfiniteMountainExperiences pic.twitter.com/jHvWSB4UK3
— Les 3 Vallées (@3Vallees_france) May 5, 2022
Overall the season of 2021/22 turned out to be far better than expected.
James will be reporting back on its success and the massive sigh of relief breathed in the French resort – from holiday skiers and businesses alike.
It will be the 49th different ski resort James has skied in this winter in the mountain ranges of Europe.
Pila, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI
St Anton, Tirol, Austria
Narvik, Norway. Image © PlanetSKI
“It has certainly been a strange winter with all the Covid-19 concerns and restrictions in the early part of the season,” said James.
“These became a distant memory in some resorts as the winter progressed and people were keen to put Covid-19 behind them.
“Switzerland and then France eased them, but there were were still restrictions place in Italy and Austria into the latter parts of the season.
“Mask were needed for much of the winter, but most people I spoke to just got on with wearing them and were simply delighted to be back to be on the slopes after the problems of the previous two winters.
“It was hardly a bumper year for snow across the Alps and the early season promise of December failed to materialise.
“In places April saw more snow than pretty much the resort of the winter put together.
“It generally was one of the worst winters for snowfall in recent times that I can recall, but again it didn’t matter for many as we were just happy to be back in the mountains.
“The pisted slopes were in good condition despite the lack of real snow and my take-away thought is how well resorts can deal with scant natural snowfall with the modern technology and snow grooming techniques.
“The key thing seems to be an early base and then cold temperatures at night.
“I was based in Italy and then Austria from January to March, skiing dozens and dozens of different resorts, but I only took out my powder skis twice.
“One to enjoy a bit of wind-blown snow in the sheltered trees in La Thuile, Italy, after 24-hours of strong winds, and the other when sand blown over from the Sahara fell on the slushy snow in Austria when something wide underfoot was needed.
“There was fresh snow around the Alps, but not where I was.”
It may actually turn out that James needs his powder skis this weekend after 20cm of snow has fallen in Val Thorens this week.
And so the strange winter of 2021/22 ends.
For PlanetSKI it will be a final celebration of a winter that was not great, but could have been so much worse.
Skiing was once again happening and Covid-19 was mainly overcome.
If you want to read about the experience of the closing weekend in Val Thorens , how the resort fared over the winter and whatever springs into James’ mind and out of his keyboard as he reflects on the past winter then do check back…
PlanetSKI at work. Image © PlanetSKI