I love coming to the mountains in the winter. The snow, the fresh air, the ski-in/ski-out convenience – what’s not to love? A few weeks back, my friend Mike and I decided to treat ourselves to a ski trip to one of our favourite European ski resorts – Val Thorens in the French Alps. We had a blast, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.
The Best Snow Yet
Val Thorens has been around for longer than I’ve been alive, and aside from some minor improvements here and there, it still pretty much operates like it was 60 years ago, when I first discovered it. Back then, the runs were terraced, the lodge was wood-framed and there wasn’t a lot happening aside from skiing. Nowadays, the resort pretty much stays open all year round, and its offerings certainly haven’t stayed the same.
The snow was superb, as always, but even better than I remembered. There were fewer dustings of snow – which can sometimes be the case in the French Alps – and it wasn’t nearly as cold as we’ve been seeing of late, which is also great if you’re not a fan of overly chilly weather. Basically, it was just what we wanted out of a European ski resort, and we had a blast.
Where Do The Skiers Come From?
Skiing is a sport that transcends all ages and generations, and while the snowboard might be the most popular way to ski these days, it wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, skiing had its roots in the US, where it was popularized in the 1930s. European skiers began to learn how to ski in the 1940s and 50s, and today, it’s one of the most popular winter sports in the world. Who wouldn’t want to be able to glide through the snow on a magical journey to the top of a mountain?
The Difference Makers
If you take a look at modern skiing, you’ll usually see three significant trends: freeride skiing, ski-in/ski-out lodges, and mini-trails.
Fuelling the growth of freeride skiing were the snow parks, which were first introduced to the world in the early 2000s. Before that, skiers would usually engage in some freeride skiing between runs, but now there’s a whole park devoted to that activity, with rails, boxes, and off-piste terraces that allow for all kinds of tricks and turns. Parks and lifts aren’t the only difference makers, either. The ski-in/ski-out lodge, where the snow parks are located, is gradually making its way up the mountains, and what was previously a luxury only available to the rich and famous is becoming a reality for everyday skiers and snowboarders. Finally, the advent of modern day snow parks and lodges means that younger generations no longer have to grow up with the image of a snowy mountain as something extraordinary, reserved for special events and holidays. They can now experience it as something accessible and desirable, year-round.
Together, these three aspects of skiing – the snow, the slopes, and the facilities – mean that the sport has never been more attractive to the general public.
The Future Of Skiing
While the past was certainly a golden era for ski-in/ski-out lodges and European ski resorts, there are indications that this is slowly changing. More and more people are heading to US-style resorts, where the emphasis is on the snow rather than the building. The chairlift is a crucial part of the American ski experience, and something that was only recently added to the European ski scene, so the future of skiing isn’t exactly looking rosy. That’s a real pity, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a big, steep run right at the end of an exhausting day of skiing?
In the face of this competition, the top European resorts have been forced to up their game, adding yet more luxury accommodations and food choices to their already overabundance of offers. The rich and famous may still flock to the bigger resorts, but the rest of us have to settle for smaller, more personal resorts, with just the right amount of luxury to make the whole experience just right.
So there you have it, folks. I hope this article has managed to bring some sunshine into your gray winter days. If you love coming to the mountains in the winter, then you’ve probably already found the answer to how do they make fake snow at ski resorts. The answer is: they don’t. At least not any more. They make real snow, which is far more preferable, as you’ll see.