The ski season ahead in 2011-12

Patrick Thorne has the rundown of all this year's news

Do we have lift off?

Today should have been a big day in the new 2011-12 ski season. Europe's highest resort, Val Thorens (00 33 479 000 808; valthorens.com) in France was due to open with – it was hoped – 10,000 skiers and boarders in resort to celebrate and test out the new season's gear. But warm weather and limited snowfall in the Alps has led to the opening being postponed by a week; the same decision has been made at Switzerland's Andermatt and Davos.

 

How's the snow?

So are we looking at the start of another poor snowfall season? Hopefully not: colder weather is expected imminently. In Scandinavia, where some resorts had expected to be open over a month ago, Finnish resort Ruka (00 358 860 0200; ruka.fi) finally opened on Wednesday – a positive sign. Parts of the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees had healthy snowfalls earlier this month too, allowing some areas to get a good base of snow built up ready for fresh falls.

Across the Atlantic it's a much better story. Revelstoke (001 250 814 0087; www.revelstokemountainresort.com) in British Columbia is opening a week early next weekend after nearly two metres (193cm) of snow has fallen so far. All three ski areas at Banff are already open, too.

 

American beauties

There are changes afoot in New England, which seems to fluctuate in popularity with British tour operators but where the ski areas are generally easy to reach with a flight in to Boston and the use of a hire car to drive north on the I-95. Here the ski areas are smaller than those further west, but they're still adequate for those who appreciate the upside: a shorter flight and less jet lag.

Maine's Sugarloaf (001 207 237 2000; sugarloaf.com), pictured below, is expanding and has spent $3m (£2m) on a fast new chairlift, opening up more terrain in its plan to overtake giants such as Killington (001 802 422 3333; killington.com) and become the largest ski area east of the Rockies by 2020.

More remarkable still are the fruits of $240m (£160m) spent by Vermont resort Jay Peak (001 802 988 2611; jaypeakresort.com), a chunk of which has gone on an indoor water park that opens on 12 December. This vast facility brings a whole new angle to après ski, including a 60ft freefall chute that sends its users into an upside-down loop at speeds of 45mph. Suddenly the terrain park seems passé.

 

Back to the Club

In France, another large sum, the equivalent of £75m, has been spent in Valmorel by Club Med (0845 367 0670; clubmed.co.uk) on what the firm is describing as its greatest village yet. Club Med was the European company that pioneered "Western" ski holidays in Japan at Sahoro in the 1980s, long before everyone else caught on. More recently, it was the first Western company to open in China, at Yabuli last winter. But with Valmorel, pictured right, Club Med has returned to its roots. The village's importance as a revenue-generator is underlined by the fact that the French Prime Minister, François Fillon, will be carrying out the official opening next month.

The pedestrian-only resort has, we're promised, been meticulously integrated into the local landscape and has a traditional Savoyard atmosphere thanks to the efforts of architect Pierre Diener, who used local wood, stone and slate in the construction. Featuring four- and five-"trident" accommodation (the rating used by Club Med), it also has the company's complete range of children's clubs, for youngsters from four months to 17 years old, and there's ski-in/out access to 150km of piste.

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