What's New This Season (2017/18)?03/10/2017 10:52:11
It’s all change in Andorra, as the umbrella organisation that manages the Pas Grau and Soldeu – El Tarter areas is set to be dissolved at the end of the 2019/20 season.
If this does go ahead, the currently interlinked area may well revert back to the separate areas it was once made up of – i.e. Pas de la Casa and Grau Roig, and Soldeu, El Tarter and Canillo.
But tensions have been rising between the two factions. The reason? Revenue is split between the two factions based on where a skier enters the lift system. Which sounds fair enough, right?
The problem is that the large car park in Pas Grau makes it the most convenient entry point for most skiers, meaning that sector tends to receive the lion’s share of the income.
However, Soldeu has been on the up in recent years, thanks to significant investment in their lift system. And it received a further boost when it was awarded the opportunity to host the Mens World Cup Finals in 2019. But this was conditional on several alterations to the area, which despite breaching planning regulations, was approved by the Andorran government.
Part of the project includes building a large car park which will be free. And this has raised objections from the owners of Pas de la Casa/Grau Roig, because it could threaten their income as more skiers choose to enter from this sector.
All of this led to the decision to dissolve the joint Grandvalira venture. But what does this mean for you?
Well, up until the 2019/20 ski season, you really shouldn’t notice any difference and will be able to use one pass to access the whole area. It’s not yet been decided if a joint pass will be operated by the two separate areas after the 2019/20 season.
Of course, it’s in the interest of both sides to not put skiers off coming to this part of Andorra and, therefore, it is hoped that they will be able to come to an agreement where it will be possible to ski the whole area.
The new areitXpress will open on 8th December, replacing the old Areitbahn.
The Areitbahn has been ferrying skiers from the Schüttdorf up to Areitalm for the past 29 years. It’s estimated that it carried over 25 million visitors over that time!
The new areitXpress is a state-of-the-art gondola, with 10-person cabins boasting comfier seats and more legroom than its predecessor. It also boasts an almost silent motor, reducing the level of noise pollution and enhancing the natural atmosphere.
You’ll also be able to board at ground level and enjoy WiFi as you travel up the mountain – perfect for posting updates to Twitter & Facebook.
And while the Areitbahn was able to transport 2,400 passengers per hour, the areitXpress will be able to transport a further 50% - that’s 3,600 people an hour! And that means less waiting in queues for you!
La Plagne will open from 16th December until 28th April, weather permitting.
In August a new project was announced to link La Plagne to the railway station at Aime by cable car.
In theory, this would allow visitors from as far away as Paris to be on the slopes in just over four hours. And they will also construct a new underground car park by the station, essentially creating a ‘park ‘n’ ski’ option.
This new cable car link is estimated to cost €13 million, with the car park and other facilities expected to cost a further €12 million.
Banks and investors are currently being sought and it’s expected that a final decision will be made on the project next summer (2018).
La Plagne is already benefiting from a significant amount of investment – it’s expected that €220 million will have been invested by 2024.
Work is already underway on the largescale renovation project at Aime 2000, which will see the highest part of La Plagne completely rejuvenated. The aim is to turn this into a real 21st century ski station, increasing the bed capacity by 2,450, and developing the après-ski to include an interactive art gallery and gourmet restaurant.
Les Arcs will open from 16th December until 28th April, weather permitting.
British Airways has announced a new Grenoble route for 2017/18, meaning that you’ll be able to travel from Heathrow on Saturdays from 2nd December. Which is great news if you’ll be taking your own skis, as it’s free to do so with BA, as long as they’re under 190cm and under 23kg.
Further investment in the resort has also been announced by ADS, the lift company. They’ll be upgrading the Pré Saint-Esprit chairlfit located in Arc 1950.
The current chairlift, built in 1980, will be replaced by a much faster 6-seater lift. The ride should be much comfier, with heated seats and a tinted plastic cover to protect guests from the elements.
This new chairlift should vastly improve the flow of skiers and, therefore, reduce waiting times. It will be able to carry around 2,500 skiers, with the journey from bottom to top taking just 8 minutes.
There will be a slight change of route, which will help to improve access to the Plagnettes chairlift and reduce queues at the Arcabulle lift.
The new base station will boast storage for the chairlift seats and snow cannons (when not in use), toilets and a picnic area.
And even more upgrades are expected to the resort’s lift system in 2018!
The resort will open from 21st October until 1st November and then from 2nd December until 28th April, weather permitting.
The resort has also announced plans to expand their snowmaking capabilities, with the aim of being able to cover 30% of the ski area in artificial snow.
In part, it is because the timeframe in which they are able to make snow is getting shorter and shorter thanks to climate change.
The project will begin by putting in a second water pipe to supply the Crêtes snow factory. As this will allow all the snowmakers to work at the same time, it will speed up the production rate significantly.
Once that’s been achieved, the next step will be to install six snowmakers along the Puy-Salié ski tow, which will replenish the glacier’s snow and should help to preserve it. This is a world first, as snowmakers have not been installed directly on a glacier before.
Bidding closed at the start of September for the building of a new €6 million 6-seater lift. The aim is to have it open by December, although they will need to work fast and are at the mercy of the weather – but we’ll keep our fingers crossed!
The new Malghette chairlift will be unveiled at Folgarida/Marilleva on Saturday 2nd December. Featuring an innovative ‘bubble’ design to protect skiers from the elements, the new chairlift will make it both quicker and easier to reach Monte Vigo, from where you can reach Folgarida, Marilleva, Madonna di Campiglio and Pinzolo.
The journey from bottom to top will take just over 4 minutes and offers great views over the new red Malghette piste, which allows access to all 150m of the Campiglio Dolomiti di Brenta ski area.
Fantastic news for one of our favourite resorts in Italy, as the 3Tre Audi FIS Ski World Cup has been confirmed to continue taking place in Madonna di Campiglio until at least 2020.
A new piste is in the pipeline for Monterosa – the environmental impact is currently under consideration.
The piste would be located between Indren and Gabiet, allowing for alpine skiing in a zone that’s currently dedicated to freeriding.
Supporters argue it would make better use of the lift system and would prolong the ski season for Monterosa, as it would provide access to higher terrain.
Indeed, the President of Monterosa Ski has explained that he believes climate change means that in 30 years Monterosa will need pistes at a height of over 3,000m in order to survive.
However, critics are concerned about the effects on the environment of carrying out the work to build the piste. So this is one developing story to keep an eye on as the season progresses!