What's new this season in ski resorts in Europe, the US and Canada

Schussing off to the slopes this winter? From Gstaad to Lake Tahoe we’ve got the lowdown on fresh developments this season

Ski pass deals

Swiss resorts are improving the value of their seasonal/multi-resort lift passes, possibly because of the poor exchange rate for Brits. A new Magic Pass gives access to lifts in 25 little resorts in five cantons, including powder wonderland Grimentz-Zinal, Crans-Montana, Villars-Gryon and pretty St Luc, and represents a fantastic bargain. Although it’s CHF459 (£356) for adults or CHF299 (£232) for kids upfront, that covers the whole season, from 1 November until 30 April 2018, ideal for those planning multiple trips, or perhaps a ski-safari road trip, taking in several resorts.

Piau is covered by the new Pyrenees 2 Vallees pass.
Piau is covered by the new Pyrenees 2 Vallees pass. Photograph: Laurent Dard/AFP/Getty Images

The four largest Bernese Oberland resorts – Gstaad, Jungfrau Region, Adelboden-Lenk and Meiringen-Hasliberg – have a combined TOP4 season pass for CHF666 (£516), covering 666km of slopes, valid from 1 December until 30 April. But don’t wait too long – if you buy the pass from 16 December onward it will cost CHF950 (£733).

In the French Pyrenees, the new Pyrenees 2 Vallees pass covers four ski areas – Saint-Lary, Peyragudes, Piau and Val Louron. It’s €20 for eight days, then you can buy each area’s day pass as you require, at a 10-15% discount.

Flights and trains

Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria, can be reached by train overnight from London St Pancas with two changes, in Brussels and Cologne Photograph: www.christoflackner.at

New daily sleeper trains with Austrian rail operator OBB make it possible to reach the Tirol overnight, albeit with a bit of luggage hefting. After a Eurostar to Brussels, and a connection to Cologne, skiers pick up the NightJet sleeper, which can be disembarked in various locations, including a final stop at Innsbruck. It’s possible to depart London St Pancras at 15.04 and arrive in Innsbruck by 9.14am the next day, returning from Innsbruck at 20.44 and arriving St Pancras at 14.05. From £215pp return, snowcarbon.co.uk.

A new airline, Powdair, is to run flights to the Swiss airport of Sion from Bristol, Luton, London City, Manchester, Southampton and Southend from December, for around £100-150 each way, between Thursday-Monday. Sion is a gateway to the 36 Valais resorts, including Nendaz, 25 minutes’ drive away, which is lift-linked to Verbier. Free ski and snowboard carriage and 23kg hold allowance are included, and season tickets are available.

Jet2 has expanded its ski flights, with departures for the first time from Stansted to Geneva, Salzburg, Grenoble and Lyon, and from Birmingham to Grenoble, Geneva, Salzburg and Turin. Flights from Belfast to Salzburg and Verona have also resumed.

Accommodation and trips

A room at the revamped Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers, Chamonix
A room at the revamped Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers, Chamonix Photograph: David ANDRE/Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers

One of the most exciting new hotel projects in years sees the reinvention of the old Montenvers refuge, above the Mer de Glace glacier in Chamonix. Built in 1880 to house the first mountaineers in the area, it’s been transformed into the coolly elegant Terminal Neige (doubles from €150, €80 for a bed in a dorm) from Sibuet’s Terminal Neige brand, following its streetwise Totem hotel in Flaine. Original wood-panelling in the lounge is offset by kitsch chairs made from twee embroidered samplers of mountain scenes, and industrial lighting. It is only accessible on the little red Montenvers mountain train from Chamonix town, and from the hotel guests can ski-tour, visit the illuminated ice caves within the glacier, head up to the Aiguille du Midi cable car to ski the Vallée Blanche, and dine in the nearby Le Panoramique restaurant, which has a terrace affording incredible views of the glacier.

HO36, Les Meniures, France
A room at ho36, Les Meniures, France Photograph: PR

Elsewhere, ho36 (singles from €35) is a smart “new generation” hostel with private rooms – all dark grey walls, cow hides and bare pine – set to open in December in Les Ménuires, France. And Lenzerheide, the fab large Swiss resort recently linked to Arosa, will be home to the youthful new Revier Mountain Lodge (doubles from CHF94/£73). Though the building may resemble a 1970s college, the 96 bedrooms are cool, pine-clad cubes with beds set into picture windows; the bar is dark grey and industrial, and there’s a club night every Friday.

Other interesting openings include Una Lodge (doubles around £125 B&B including sauna and Jacuzzi), a smart retreat in Switzerland with just four doubles and a suite, right by the lifts in Le Chable, linked to Verbier; and the ski-in, ski-out Franz Ferdinand (doubles from €130) by the lift-station in Nassfeld, the Austrian resort with a quirkier than usual range of snow sports and activities – the hotel itself will boast a big après-ski terrace and club. Further afield the Hotel Becket (doubles from $66 a night), is a bargain new option in California’s epic Lake Tahoe.

Skiers and snowboarders enjoy spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.
Skiers and snowboarders enjoy spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. Photograph: Tim Dunn/AP

Ski Safari’s new Arctic Circle Ski Safari includes Sweden’s Riksgränsen (the world’s most northerly ski resort) and Björkliden, with great off-piste and runs that descend into Norway, plus add-ons to see Santa in Lapland, the Aurora Sky Station, and non-ski activities such as dog-sledding. Seven nights from £1,195pp, including B&B, flights and transfers.

New lifts and resort links

Andermatt, the Swiss resort famed for its powder and wilderness descents around the Gemsstock mountain, will be connected for the first time to Sedrun. A new chairlift is the first step towards merging the two resorts – 14 lifts are planned.

A huge amount of expert terrain has been added in the Canadian resort of Panorama, in British Columbia’s Taynton Bowl, including a steep, 6½km “double black diamond” run (the toughest piste category in North America) called the Monster. It’s part of a 500-acre expansion in the next few years. The resort also boasts Canada’s largest slope-side hot pool.

Although skiers will have to wait until 2021 for the opening of a game-changing new lift linking the mega resorts of Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes, the former is already making improvements, with a new gondola from Vaujany to L’Enversin d’Oz.


A specially converted and graffitied carriage on the Andermatt-to-Disentis train, which takes 70 minutes and calls at resorts including Sedrun, has become the Après Ski Train, with a bar and lounge. Rides are free to those with a lift pass (skiarena.ch)
The Andermatt-Disentis après ski train carriage Photograph: skiarena.ch

A specially converted and graffitied carriage on the Andermatt-to-Disentis train, which takes 70 minutes and calls at resorts including Sedrun, has become the Après Ski Train, with a bar and lounge. Rides are free to those with a lift pass.

A heated, horse-drawn carriage with space to seat 20 people will become a travelling restaurant in Gstaad, hosting cheese fondues while trotting around the village. Book through the Michel Stallbeizli restaurant once in resort (around £58pp).

Giant inflatable airbags that allow freestylers to practise tricks but land safely is an innovation adopted by resorts worldwide. This season Mammoth, in California, has upped the ante and invested in a Progression Airbag, one of only three in the world, which improves on the concept by more closely resembling a real snow jump. It is 200ft long and sloped, features a landing, deck and walls, and sits next to a real snow equivalent that riders can move on to when they’ve mastered a trick. Though Olympians and athletes have been commandeering it over the summer, visitors can book sessions and camps to try it – though details will only be released in the new year.

Délir ’Park, Val Thorens
Ideal for training … Délir ’Park, Val Thorens, French Alps. Photograph: Jérémy Tainmont

Last season, Mammoth boasted its second longest ski season ever, with lifts open for skiers on 270 days of the year. It plans to open even earlier this season, on 9 November.

Closer to home, freestylers heading to Val Thorens in the French Alps can try the new Délir ’Park, an indoor space full of foam pits and trampolines, ideal for practising those spins and flips.


Gemma Bowes

The GuardianTramp

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