French Alps ski resort named world’s best once again

For the third time in four years the French Alps ski resort of Val Thorens has been named the best in the world.

French Alps ski resort named world's best once again
All photos: AFP

Val Thorens in Savoie is the highest ski resort in Europe and it’s also the world’s best, according to the latest World Ski Awards.

The resort that is already open for the winter season thanks to large snowfalls in recent days was named ahead of Kitsbühel in Austria which was last year’s winner.

Zermatt and Gstaad in Switzerland, Aspen and Vail in the Rockies and Courchevel in the French Alps were the runners up.

The title went to Val Thorens after an online vote involving some 1.6 million ski fanatics from 85 different countries.

“Val Thorens: It’s a new world resort that combines the best of skiing with the best of atmospheres,” reads the World Ski Awards website.

“With its ever-present pioneering spirit, breath-taking natural environment, remarkable amount of sunshine and exceptional snow conditions, it is both unique and cosmopolitan, boasting a lively, sociable and welcoming atmosphere.

“Here, you can progress exactly the way you want to, at your own pace, dipping in and out of experiences and atmospheres with you family or friends, for an unforgettable holiday!”

In a statement the managers of the resort said the origin of their success, which also saw them named best ski resort in 2013 and 2014, lay in a questionnaire given out to holidaymakers six years ago.

They said the responses led them to carry out many initiatives and “reinvent hospitality” in the resort.

The resort manager Gregory Guzzo said the reward recognized the long-term plan and “unmatched and constant investment” – some €839 million for “innovation” between 2010 and 2020.

This year the resort is to launch a “SKiFlux” system which will alert skiers in real time to how busy each piste is.

Val Thorens opened for the season on Saturday.

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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.