3 Valleys launches its winter season

15th October 2020, by Dave Watts

The new race course in Courchevel built for the 2023 Alpine World Championships will be open to the public from this season

The new race course in Courchevel built for the 2023 Alpine World Championships will be open to the public from this season

This week the 3 Valleys (Méribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, St-Martin-de-Belleville and Brides-les-Bains) held a virtual launch of its 2020-21 ski season for the UK media on Zoom. In ‘normal’ times the launch would have been a big party in London.

The season kicks off in Val Thorens with La Grande Première on 21 and 22 November.

Of course the influence of Covid-19 was high on the launch agenda. Face coverings will be compulsory on all lifts, in lift queues and in all public enclosed spaces unless you are seated at a table in bars and restaurants.

The 3 Valleys has designed its own Snood which will cost €15, is ‘soft, warm, adapted to your nose’ and can be worn round your neck while skiing and pulled up when face covering is required.

Après-ski will be a much quieter affair than normal with only table service allowed and no raucous singing and dancing – so the chain of Folie Douce venues will have a very different vibe this season.

Two new gondolas are planned to speed you from Orelle in the Maurienne valley to Cime de Caron, over 2200m higher, in 35 minutes

Strangely, in my view, there will be no special limits on the numbers of people allowed in gondolas, cable cars and on chairlifts. So you could still end up in a gondola packed with strangers. But, as elsewhere in the Alps, lifts are considered as public transport and relevant regulations set by the government apply.

They are, however, expecting lifts to be less busy than normal. Skier numbers were down 20% last season because it was curtailed in mid-March. They don’t know for sure, of course, but Oliver Desaulty of the 3 Valleys Association thought that skier numbers might be down a further 20% this season – so the slopes and lifts might be half as busy as normal.

This season sees the new Eclipse run in Courchevel open. This has been specially designed to host the men’s races in the 2023 Alpine World Championships which Courchevel and Méribel are jointly hosting. It is 3km long and has a drop of 900m vertical. The bottom section is what used to be the black Jockeys run – one of my favourites when the snow is good and has been freshly groomed.

Also new for this season is a six-seater chair which will replace the top Plattières 3 gondola above Méribel Mottaret.

The Alain Prost ice driving circuit in Val Thorens is going green, with electric vehicles to try this season

Val Thorens will have a new 400sqm natural ice rink this season. And its Alain Prost ice driving circuit will be the first in France to have only electric vehicles (2WD cars and 270cc go-karts) to try.

Plans for the 2021/22 season include two big new gondolas in the fourth (Maurienne) valley that will be the fastest in France (travelling at around 7m per second). One will go from the valley at Orelle to Plan Bouchet (the base of the pistes), the other from Plan Bouchet to Cime de Caron at 3200m. This will be a huge improvement, offering an alternative way to Cime de Caron to queuing for the cable car up from the Val Thorens side.

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