Most ski resorts are constantly being improved, both to meet greater demand and to incorporate new technologies. Some improvements are bigger and better than others, but a lot of small changes can also make a huge difference. At the end of the day, the best ski resort improvements are those that completely change the ski experience for the better.
The annual skiers bible, Where to Ski and Snowboard, have been reviewing ski resorts around the world for 20 years. This year their Anniversary Alpine Awards have named their most improved resorts based on their last two decades of experience.
So, which are the resorts that have improved the most since 1994?
Then: Back in 1994, the Where to Ski and Snowboard guide said that Tignes was a great place to ski with good slopes and reliable snow. But they also pointed out that it was ‘one of the ugliest resorts in the Alps’. After the loss of the old village, a new resort was created higher up the slopes using some less than appealing 60s architecture.
Now: Thankfully it’s a much more pleasant environment. Tignes-le-Tac has made a particular effort to improve its appearance, with some of the original eyesores being transformed into chalet-style accommodation. The road through to Val Claret has been buried in a tunnel giving the place a more peaceful atmosphere. Tignes has innovatively kept itself one step ahead of the rest through association with competitions such as the X-Games and Brits and by hosting various festivals throughout the year. It’s latest addition Tignespace has been hailed as the most innovative sport and conference centre in the Alps.
Find out more: http://www.tignes.net/
Then: Huge peak season queues meant very long waits to get on the slopes. Especially for the Hahnenkamm cable car out of town, which had an hourly capacity of just 380.
Now: One of the best lift systems in the Alps, including the Hahnenkamm gondola which carries a massive 2,000 an hour up to the slopes. There’s also the groundbreaking 3-S gondola that carries 30 people in each, and links the main ski area to the Wurzhöhe. It has the highest above ground span in the world and forms a key part of the resorts 56 cableway and lift facilities.
Find out more: http://www.kitzbuehel.com/
Val Gardena, Italy
Then: Always a pleasant place to ski, the Val Gardena resorts of Selva, Santa Christina and Ortisei had previously suffered from a lack of fast lifts. But the biggest problem had always been the lack of reliable snow, meaning you were never guaranteed to experience the best of the Dolomites.
Now: The resorts have become a lot more polished, with some serious new lift systems and gondolas carrying people at high speed to the slopes. However, by far the biggest improvement has been the snowmaking, which covers a massive 95% of the slopes and guarantees good skiing all season long. Combined with stunning scenery, this is one of those resorts where you now pray for sun rather than snow. It’s also easy to see why this resort has traditionally been home to some of skiing’s biggest and best races, including the Saslong Classic.
Find out more: http://www.valgardena.it/
Then: In the 1994 edition of Where to Ski there was a special feature criticising Verbier for its dreadful lift system, serious queues and overcrowded pistes – the Holy Trinity of a bad ski experience. There was also the appalling piste map and signposting, and shortage of easy pistes. This all added up to a less than spectacular resort.
Now: Given all of the above, the transformation has been pretty remarkable. Most of the issues have been addressed and last year’s gondola link to Brusson has made things even better. It’s well worth a place on the list as one of the best ski resort improvements. It’s also recognised as one of the best off-piste resorts in the world.
Find out more: http://www.verbier.ch/
Where to Ski and Snowboard was first published back in 1994 and keeps the skiing and boarding public informed about which resorts are leading the way. The 2015 edition is available now and contains comprehensive information about everthing from terrain to lift passes. It’s an impartial, reliable and no-nonsense guide including more details about the best ski resort improvements of the last 20 years.
At the time of publishing you can pick up a copy of Where to Ski and Snowboard for the 1994 price of £14.99 including postage. You can order it here: http://www.wheretoskiandsnowboard.com/