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‘Fresh cord’, ‘groomers’, ‘bashed’, whatever you call it, it is always a pleasure to discover a freshly pisted run on the mountain. Your skis run smoother, grip better and your turns just seem to flow like a hot knife over butter.
Having been a skier for 35 years I have been fortunate to travel all over world and experience some of the most perfectly groomed ski runs. Here is a short guide to some of the best pistes in the Alps and it will hopefully give you something to think about the next time you find a perfect piece of piste.
The Best Pistes in the Alps: The Criteria
In order to narrow down my list of the best pistes in the Alps, I thought long and hard about what really makes a well groomed piste so enjoyable. I have therefore come up with 5 categories, that I believe equate to the perfect piste.
What is the view like? It is, of course, vital that we look at the piste in front of us whilst we are linking our turns down the mountain. However, it is often possible to have a look around us, and enjoy the views that give the run it’s atmosphere.
Speed is an interesting one. Not everyone wants to ski quickly. In fact, most pistes are best enjoyed at a controlled, leisurely pace. Therefore, for my grading system, speed is a reference to being able to ski the piste at a gentle pace without the need to walk or pole across flat sections, or work really hard on the steeper, more icy parts to control excess speed.
The all important factor. If our skis don’t grip the snow well, we can’t execute our turns as we’d like. If we can’t make our turns as we’d like, we can’t enjoy the piste. Well groomed, good quality snow will give excellent grip.
It’s finding the balance between a lovely piste that is not too difficult to get to, whist finding somewhere away from the crowds that can be fully enjoyed, edge to edge.
Flow is really important. It’s about how nice it feels if you were to ski the run as a whole. Start to finish, top to bottom. Is there a good, interesting variety allowing you to express your skiing perfectly?
The Super Seven
Based on these criteria, here are seven of my favourite pistes…
#1 Piste 200, Lech
From the upper section of the Lech ski area, through Oberlech and finishing up in the resort centre, Piste 200 in Lech is one not to be missed. This long, wide and cruisy blue is a dream to ski and a great opportunity to practice your technique. When you are in the rhythm you can take a glance at the beautiful surrounding views across the Arlberg. Skiing in Lech doesn’t get much better than Piste 200; ski it for yourself, it’s up there as one of the top ski runs in Austria.
#2 Genepy, Val d’Isere
Super smooth with amazing flow, Genepy in Espace Killy is arguably one of the best green pistes in the Alps. Groomed to perfection, piste Genepy just keeps going! It’s located in Val d’Isere’s main hub of green and blue runs, the Bellevarde area, meaning it is perfect for beginners with a sense of adventure, or anyone else who fancies a relaxing cruise down the mountain. From the bottom of the piste hop on the Fontaine Froid lift for easy access to the Folie Douce for an alfresco aperol.
#3 Le Creux, Courchevel
Courchevel has some of the best skiing in Europe and it could be argued that this glamourous resort is what puts the 3 Valleys on the map. High up in Courchevel 1850, it’s worth seeking out Le Creux. Take a minute at the top to get your camera out and snap a picture of the beautiful view before sweeping down this cruiser, through the trees, all the way to the Aiguille de Fruit lift. This vast, sweeping blue piste gives incredible width and endless edge to edge fun. Add it to your list during your luxury holiday in the Three Valleys.
#4 Cospillot, Courchevel
Another Courchevel favourite on my list of the best pistes in the Alps is the blue Cospillot piste. Dropping through the trees in Courchevel 1850, the Cospillot piste has real flow and huge ‘surprise and delight’ factor. Along with the easy accessibility, this tree-lined piste is perfect for the low visibility days when skiing in Courchevel.
#5 Merles, Tignes
Tignes boasts some of the most diverse pistes anywhere in the world, and, unaccountably one of it’s finest hidden treasures is Merles. A luxury ski holiday in Tignes would not be complete without a trip down Merles as one of the best pistes in Tignes. For anyone in need of an extra shot of adrenaline, this piste also leads to the BunJRide, where thrill seekers can tackle a ski jump whilst secured to bungees! What’s more, you can retire to one of Tignes best catered ski chalets after your day exploring.
#6 Belle d’Arbois, Megeve
The beautiful Belle d’Arbois is next up on the list of the best pistes in the Alps. Swooping through the trees of Megeve, it’s a rolling paradise. South-facing, and with views over Rochebrune and the Mont Blanc region from the perfectly pisted ski run, Belle d’Arbois is arguably one of the best pistes in Megeve and should be on your list during your luxury ski holiday.
#7 Marmotte, Megeve
For the last piste on my ‘Super Seven list’ we’re staying in Megeve but heading up to the black slope of Marmottes. A challenging piste and one for the experts, but this perfectly groomed ski run in Megeve boasts great grip and flow with stunning surrounding scenery. Just look at that view – it’s no wonder that Megeve features on our 5 most picturesque ski resort in the Alps.
The Evolution of the Piste Basher
The best pistes in the Alps would be nothing without the helping hand of the piste basher. For many years now, piste bashers have remained pretty much the same; huge, diesel powered tractor machines with large metal tracks running down each side and a really low centre of gravity to keep them steady on the steep, icy slopes. However, over the past few years, the team at Pisten Bully, have been working hard to develop an Eco-Friendly, low emission piste basher, and in 2014, the first 600 E+ machine hit the slopes of Courchevel. The machines cost €350,000 EUR each, but offer offer fuel cost savings of 30%.
Since the success of the 600 E+ the development team at Pisten Bully have announced the launch of the 100 E, the worlds first, fully electric, 0% emission piste basher. Whilst this is very much the ‘baby brother’ of the 600 E+, it does mark a huge step forward in the way the issue of climate change is being addressed by the ski industry and it’s associate partners. It also goes to show how much investment is made by resorts in ensuring their pistes are kept in the best possible condition.
If this has fired up your desire to explore some of the most pristine pistes in the Alps and make your own ‘Top Trumps’ cards of your best pistes, then you can book your next ski holiday to Val d’Isere, Tignes, Megeve, Courchevel, Lech or a host of other luxury ski resorts with Ultimate Luxury Chalets. Get in touch with the team by sending an email or calling on +44 (0)1202 203653.