For those of us with busy work schedules, ski weekends – or mid-week short breaks – are a great way of squeezing extra slope time out of the ski season. Dan Fox, MD of specialist operator Ski Weekends, enjoyed them so much that he created a company that specialises in them. He has recently expanded his programme to include variable-length holidays to more than 60 resorts.
I think there are so many interesting resorts which have around 100km of skiing, which you wouldn’t want to spend a week in but are fantastic for a few days: Les Houches in France, Galtur in Austria, most of the Pyrenees, Engelberg in Switzerland and Sierra Nevada in Spain to mention just a few.
So can you name the ski resort with a Picasso sculpture? Or the Austrian village where the Beatles played a secret gig? If not, then read on. Ever since winter sports rescued mountain communities from poverty, they’ve been bustling with activity and invention. Here are 20 weird and wonderful facts about some of my favourites – both big and small:
The Site of France’s First Drag-Lift
Alpe d’Huez was where Jean Pomagalski created the first drag-lift in France in 1935 when he watched the French team training – climbing up for each run. He went down the valley, found a tractor engine, wired it up with a rope and pulley…and voila…The Pomagalski lift empire was born!
Also, the longest lift-served run in the world (but this is disputable) goes from the top of the Pic Blanc down to l’Enversin d’Oz – a lengthy 2230m vertical.
Photo of Jean Pomagalski on his first poma lift in Alpe d’Huez.
Stay at Hotel Le Pic Blanc, which is in an excellent location.
The Resort with Shady Origins
Fresh from his success in the downhill at the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics in 1960, a local lad from Morzine was given the job of creating a new resort up the mountain at Avoriaz and linking the ski area to neighbouring villages in France and across the Swiss frontier. His name was Jean Vuarnet and he managed to create the largest linked ski area in world…..sad that Jean, still going strong, is remembered best for his sunglasses.
Photo: © OT Morzine-Avoriaz.
Stay in the quirky and luxurious Hotel Des Dromonts.