In Val d’Isere at teatime next Tuesday winter reluctantly comes to an end as the lifts close on a record season. Even before that, it looked like being a particularly snowy final weekend to add to the extraordinary current 135/275m base. It’s one that would bring a smile to your face in any resort in mid-January, let alone nearly a month after Easter.
But if you’re feeling withdrawal pangs and November now seems a light year away, don’t be. For Val d’Isere is reopening its winter lifts for summer skiing on June 3 – just 33 days later!
The resort has a justified reputation as the most snowsure resort in Europe, but this is breaking new ground. Let’s get this crystal clear – we’re not talking about high-altitude glacier skiing. We’re talking about regular pistes at 2800m in June, just above the resort and the Folie Douce apres-ski venue.
These will include the top of the OK World Cup downhill and the less demanding Verte, along with more runs if snow conditions permit. As in winter, skiers will reach the area by the Funitel funicular from La Daille. The runs are served by the six-person Marmottes chair. The lifts and pistes should remain open for a full fortnight until summer creeps further up the mountain. At that stage, skiing switches to the Pissaillas glacier above Le Fornet.
Of course, by the beginning of June, seasonnaire chalet staff will all be long gone and only a handful of hotels will be open to cater for hardcore snow addicts. But apartments are still available. I finished my season staying in Les Sorbiers, a delightful luxury self-catered apartment on the main drag just up from the Tourist Office roundabout. It’s a spacious home-from-home with an outdoor hot tub on the terrace, huge living area, modern kitchen, an office/snug, and five comfortable bedrooms.
If you’ve hankered after staying in a Consensio chalet but think it’s out of your price league, look no further…this apartment is self-catered but it’s Consensio-run and of an extremely high standard. It costs from 7,700€ for a week – that’s not per person but for the whole thing with its five bedrooms.
However there’s the problem of getting from and to Geneva airport at that time of year, because there are no buses. But instead you could book with Val d’Isere-based SnowDrone, which offers shared and private taxi services at reasonable prices.
June skiers will include the French national team and other slalom racers in training. So if you’re missing the snow, why not go and join them?
The extra fortnight of winter skiing in June gives the resort’s overworked pisteurs more time to clear the col de l’Iseran, the highest paved road in Europe and summer gateway to the Maurienne Valley and Italy beyond. Right now there’s at least five metres and drifts of as much as 10m in places blocking the pass.
The pisteurs joke that with a bit of luck, they should manage to shift the drifts just in time before the pass closes for next winter. In reality, the road should be clear well before the end of June.
Overall Val d’Isere has recorded a mighty nine metres of snowfall this winter, more than in any year since accurate records began in 1990. Will it get the same next season? “We’ll just have to wait and see,” said a spokesman for the resort, “But we’ll be open as usual with our guaranteed snow cover in late November. If nature doesn’t fully provide, we’ve got Europe’s largest snowmaking plant to give us back-up if required.”