The summer of 2017 was once again a busy one for resort crews and lift builders across the French Alps.

Chris Madoc-Jones' full round up of new lifts can be found in Issue 2 of this season's Ski+board

Most of the major ski areas will have a new chairlift or gondola spinning by Christmas, so keep a look out for some shiny new chairs, cabins, pylons and lift stations this season. Alpe d’Huez, Courchevel and Val Thorens have built important new gondolas and a swathe of new six-seater chairlifts have been installed across the country, at resorts such as La Plagne, La Clusaz and Les Arcs.

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Ski+board, read the full magazine online here.

We start in the Three Valleys where the sound of diggers, concrete mixers and helicopters dominated the mountains over the summer. All three of the main resorts have seen a major lift built this summer, further improving one of the world’s best lift systems. So after two new lifts last winter, Val Thorens invested heavily again through building the Moraine gondola. The Doppelmayr D-Line gondola will have ten-seat cabins and should markedly improve access to two of the most popular blue runs in the resort, Moraine and Génépi.

Over the ridge at Méribel, one of the links back to Val Thorens has been transformed over the summer. The Roc de Tougne six-seater chair has replaced two ageing draglifts, drastically improving access to the Belleville Valley from year-old Combes chairlift, taking pressure off the busy Tougnète and 3 Marches links.

Over at the far eastern end of this vast ski area, perhaps the biggest project of the French summer took place at Courchevel 1650. A huge 18.6 million has been invested by the lift company. The new eight-seat Ariondaz gondola has doubled the uphill capacity and the removal of two draglifts has reduced the environmental footprint of the Moriond area’s lifts.

Meanwhile, above the well-known transfer town of Bourg-St-Maurice, the Paradiski area have once again put new lifts at the forefront of their investment plans. Following the grand “Mille 8” project to redesign Les Arcs 1800, the focus has shifted to Les Arcs 1950. Doppelmayr have built a luxury replacement for the Pré-Saint-Esprit chairlift, featuring heated chairs and bubbles – a rarity outside of Austria. It will run from the old lift base below 1950, but extend almost twice as far as the old lift into the heart of the main Arcs 2000 bowl.

La Plagne has also invested heavily over the winter and skiers can expect a fast, new Crozats chair for the 2017/18 winter. The popular area off the l’Arpette ridge above Belle Plagne will see capacity rocket to 3,600 skiers per hour and the journey time slashed to three minutes, thanks to cable speeds of 13mph and the new lift having six and not four seats.

Further up the valley at La Rosière, it was hoped that two new lifts would lead to the biggest terrain expansion in France this winter. However, plans for two new fast chairs running up Mont Valaisan for the upcoming season have been delayed. Although construction started over the summer, both fast six-packs and the five new red runs are not due to be finished until Christmas 2018.

That title instead goes to Samoëns in the Grand Massif ski area, where a new six-seater has opened up three new tree-lined runs above the pretty resort. The brand new Coulouvrier chairlift will also allow for the removal of two old, slow lifts – Lanche and Gouilles – whilst still increasing the skiable area of the resort. A new blue run and extensions to two existing red pistes, Marmotte and Paccoty, have been built – adding variety to the frontside of the Samoëns sector.
Allan Michie

Moving to the Mont Blanc region, two major new lifts have been built ahead of the winter season. The first of these is a brand new six-seater Chamois gondola at Megève. As an important connection between both sides of the Megève valley, the new Poma-built lift promises better reliability and comfort compared to the old gondola.

Halfway between Megève and the linked resort of St Gervais lies Mont Joly, a 2,525m peak. One of the two main lifts, l’Epaule, up this mountain has been replaced for the winter ahead, improving access to one of the most snowsure areas of the resort. In addition, the new six-seater will cut queue times thanks to an increased capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour.

In what has otherwise been a quiet summer for the Portes du Soleil, Les Gets has bucked the trend by building the Ranfoilly chairlift. The new fast six-pack has replaced the oldest detachable lift at the resort, a lift that was due an upgrade after 30 winters of service.

Over at the freeride mecca of La Clusaz, home resort of legendary freeskier Candide Thovex, the Crêt de Merle access chairlift has seen a major revamp for 2017/18. After a remarkable 43 years of service, the old detachable triple – the first of its kind – has been upgraded to a six-pack built by Poma. With a capacity of 2,800 skiers per hour, queue time is certain to be cut in the morning rush up the mountain.

Across the other side of Lake Annecy, the quiet resort of Semnoz saw the construction of a new telemix lift over the summer. Although best known for its cross-country skiing, the new lift will make a big difference to the small but scenic ski area.

Two new major lifts have been built in the southern French Alps, despite a relatively poor season last winter. First at Alpe d’Huez, a key connecting lift has been upgraded to an eight-seater gondola, which can fit ten during busy periods. The l’Enversin lift traverses the valley at the base of the popular La Fare black run to the village of Vaujany and its cable car.

Second, a new six-pack has been built at Foux d’Allos, up and through the centre of town, replacing two long and uncomfortable drag lifts. Two magic carpets in the resort’s beginner have accompanied the new Marin Pascal chair in a complete overhaul of the lower mountain.

Finally, it has been a pretty quiet summer of construction in the French Pyrenees. The resort of Ax 3 Domaines has replaced an old two-way double chairlift with two new four seaters – Savis and Bisorne. Although both are slow lifts, the 12 million investment will revitalise an underused area of the resort and add some new terrain to the 80km of slopes.