Ski testing for the Val Thorens opening weekend

26th November 2014, by Abi Butcher

Carving on my favourite Atomic Clouds — who needs to buy when hire skis are so good?

Carving on my favourite Atomic Clouds — who needs to buy when hire skis are so good?

Despite the fact that I have been skiing now for nearly 30 years, I always feel a certain amount of trepidation before the start of the season. Last week was no exception. After checking in to Crystal’s Odalys apartments in Val Thorens on Friday night, and a quick supper, I tossed and turned in bed all night wondering whether I would even remember how to turn. Does anyone else do this? I would like to blame it on altitude (Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe at 2,300m) but freely admit it was apprehension.

Saturday (22 November) was opening day in the Val Thorens and the much-hyped snowfalls across the Alps had the crowds out in droves. The resort reported a record-breaking turnout, with 16% increase on the number of lift tickets sold in 2013, the result of which was quite busy slopes…but a really high proportion of good skiers. I’m finding this is the pattern everywhere before Christmas — only the really dedicated hit the slopes as it’s often an “extra”, squeezed in before the real ski holiday of the year. It’s a fallacy that December is cold — we had sunshine and warm temperatures all weekend and in my opinion people should consider pre-Christmas skiing more.

The French ski resort of Val Thorens was busy on opening weekend

We were here not only to enjoy some early turns but to sample some of Intersport’s fabulous rental ski collection, and over three days I took out three band new pairs of women’s skis. With no new snow for a few days, I chose a pair of superlight Head Absolut Joy skis — and they were (sorry) an absolute joy. A piste ski through and through, they were easy to turn, really responsive and great fun. This is my second season back from an ACL injury and although my knee is strong my confidence still needs some help and these skis gave it to me in spades.

We found a little bit of powder to test our freeride skis

Half a dozen lifts were open over the weekend, the Funitel Peclet and Thorens, Portette, Moraine, 2 Lacs and Cascades. On Saturday morning the slopes were in fabulous condition — lovely confidence-boosting blues and reds to cruise around. We quickly spotted a few sneaky places for powder adventures, so once things had warmed up, went back to Intersport to swap to freeride skis (any guest can do this — it’s all part of the service). Not a fan of the colour pink being used on kit for women (WHY?), I was aghast to see Rossignol’s Saffron 7s, the women’s version of the fantastic Sin 7s, were white and pink. These are 70% for powder, 30% for all-mountain and much heavier than the Heads. Despite their girlie colour they were brilliant for the few freshies we found — and as the pistes got more and more cut up they just cut through the crud and gave me a great feeling of stability. Stiffer to ski than the Head Absolut Joy, but so much fun.

Intersport technician Sasha prepares my Rossignol Saffron 7s

The sun was shining on Val Thorens all day — it was one of those days that makes you so glad to be alive. That night the resort threw a huge impromptu party (helped by the news that it had won best resort in the world for the second year running) so there were a few dusty heads on Sunday morning, and skiing was slightly slower.

Monday morning, when the crowds had disappeared, dawned with warmer temperatures so I did my last swap to a pair of Atomic Clouds — my favourite of the weekend. Empty corduroy slopes, carving skis, sunshine — what’s not to like? I got completely out of breath time and again pushing these skis to their limit down the blue tête ronde, a big fat grin on my face. A brilliant start to the season, thank you VT, it was a pleasure to spend time with you!

Monday morning gave us empty ski slopes in Val Thorens

I tried skis from Intersport’s top-of-the-range gold and black packages, which currently cost €110 for a week’s rental (around £87 — only £27 more than taking my own with easyJet, around the price of an edge and wax). If you plumped for a lower category, prices start from €53 for a week (£41) total bargain!

Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8939 0726) offers a week’s stay at the three-star Odalys Tourotel Apartments in Val Thorens, France, from £320 per person (based on four sharing) including flights from Gatwick and transfers departing on 17 January 2015. Doorstep skiing, WiFi Direct flights available from all major UK airports.

Back to all blogs

Recent blogs

Share |