Valfréjus installs new gondola and fast chair lift

Valfréjus is installing a new gondola and fast chair lift for 2010. It may be ‘La Crise’ for the French or ‘Credit Crunch’ as we know it around the Globe and in developed world but the current financial difficulties seem not to have reached one small ski resort nestled deep in the Maurienne valley in the French Alps.

Situated in the Savoie Valfréjus lies just above the border town of Modane and next to the Fréjus tunnels linking the French and Italien rail and motorway networks. The resort is just 1h30 from Turin airport and an hour’s drive from Chambery airport.

With the realisation that the best future for the area is through tourism, the municipality of Modane has budgeted and financed a new six seater chair lift and gondola. Construction by the Austrian company Doppelmayer began directely after the end of the winter season. The deadline (1st June) for removing the old building, the pylons together with all of the rest of the old infrastructure was met despite the remaining snow cover from an excellent season. This particularly affected access to the top station at Punta Bagna 2737m above the sea level.

The works continues apace with just 170 days (30.06.09) left until the opening of the new 8 seater gondola and the 6 seater chair-planned for just before Xmas 2009. In times of a recession this type of venture is looking a good few years into the future but for the locals quality and modern lift facilities are the key for bringing the whole area in line with other French ski resorts.

The Maurienne Valley has started to be noticed

The relatively new A43 motorway from Chambery towards the Italian Border/Modane runs beside the river Arc. Their are numerous ski resorts in the Valley but they are best known by the French themselves. The include St Francois Longchamp with links with Valmorel with a new lift to Celliers, La Toussuire, Le Corbier and Les Karellis. These resorts lie at the start of the valley and are closer to Chambery. They names don’t trip off the tongue of every foreign skier or tour operator but the les Sybelles link area is one of the biggest ski domains in Europe.

Further up the Valley one finds the resorts of Valloire, Valmeinier and Orelle (the backdoor into the 3 Valleys via Val Thorens are getting more and more popular not only with the locals but with the other Europeans. Prices in the Maurienne resorts are cheaper than better known areas, the ski facilities are surprisingly good and there are some real jewels, one of them Valfréjus, at 1550 meters altitude it is just 6km from the French motorway network and 9km from the high speed rail (TGV) line, making it one of the most accessible ski areas in France. There are plans to upgrade the TGV line from Lyon to Turin to full high speed status and an exploratory rail tunnel is being dug under the col du Mont Cenis

Valfréjus is a charming, traditional ski resort nestling into the forested slopes of the Maurienne Valley. Strict planning laws have ensured that all chalets are constructed in a typical Savoyard style. It has a friendly, authentic mountain village atmosphere with locals living in the resort year round. Constructed in the early 80’s, Valfréjus was one of the last resorts to be built in the French Alps. The buildings are very uniform (Savoyard chalets) and fit perfectly into the landscape amongst the larch and spruce. As for the skiing, the area is technical enough with a surprising amount of vertical for resort of this size.

The replacement gondola

You may think that Pomagalski would be the obvious choice for the new lift system. Inventor of the modern drag lift (it’s even called a Poma lift in English) the Voiron based company is French to the core. Yes but no…

Doppelmayer the Austrian leader in ski lifts, won the battle and Valfréjus will be a French showcase for its latest designs. There are even rumours of more lifts to link with Valmenier-Valloire and over the border with resorts in the Bardonneccia valley in Italy.  Doppelmayer has made its French headquarters in the Town of Modane.

Facts about Valfréjus and the surrounding Resorts

- Neighbouring resorts La Norma and Aussois are included in the same lift pass (both offering slightly different experience).

- The Nearby resort of Orelle links with the Big One - The Trois Valleys (the gondola takes you straight to the 3300m and into Val Thorens)

- Over the border, through the tunnel is Bardonneccia which was part of the Turin Olympics. It hosted the snowboard competitions. The Half-Pipe and the Snow-Park are one of the best in Europe.

- At the head of the Maurienne Valley there are more resorts: Val Cenis is composed of 3 satellite villages, there is the French cross skiing capital – Bessans. The last ski resort in the long and windy valley is Bonneval-sur-Arc the traditional stone old village, it has won the best village in France competition and has a very good ski area topping out at 3000m. Finally the road reaches the 2700 meter col d’Iseran mountain pass. There is summer skiing here on the glacier (we saw the lifts operating a couple of days ago), the road then descends to Val d’Isere’s, home of the 2009 World Alpine ski championships.

Back to Valfréjus

To help the appetite for information about the construction of the new gondola and lift a new blog with daily updates, photos and articles has been set-up. It has met with huge interest from all of the regulars and locals who have marked this ski place as something very unique and special. Valfréjus ski area may not be the biggest but it is one of the most captivating and intimate with tree-lined ski runs, huge panoramas over to Italy, and traditional mountain restaurants. The local people are warm, friendly and welcoming. Constructed in local stone, and pine, the area’s low rise chalets fit perfectly into the natural surroundings.

In Short: Why Valfréjus?

- A superb setting with excellent facilities for children
- Very easy to access with La Norma, Aussois (joint ski pass), and Orelle (Trois Valles-600km ski runs –the biggest area in the world)within a 20 minute drive
- brand new fast gondola and a detachable 6 seated chair with huge capacity.
- Small and friendly resort offering very good value for money
- Anow reliability and height of skiing available,
- Altitude difference between top and bottom lift,
- Ease of access via plane, train or automobile,
- Low cost of a week’s and season’s skiing in times of a financial crisis.
- Childcare facilities and children’s ski classes,
- Authentic local cuisine,
- Minimal lift queues and crowds,
- The ski area and variety of terrain,
- Proximity to other resorts for daytrips in other ski areas,
- Possibility for just a break in the fresh air

Posted by on Sunday, 05 July, 2009 at 04:50 PM

That’s a long and informative article, but you forgot to give the link to the blog discussing the new lift.

Is there anything special about the new Gondola construction?

Posted by davidof on  Sunday, 05 July, 2009  at 06:57 PM

Hi there is the blogsite.
The new gondola is designed with the most thoughts about the enviroment.
The gondolas/cabins are going to be stored at the top station-2200m with special storage hangar blending into the steep slope.
This way at the bottom station there will be minimal bulk views so to speak.
The design is the one with curvy wood shapes so the ugliness of the metal and aluminium is to the minimal possible.

Aslo I think on the blogspot site you can follow, bit by bit every stage of building ‘a ski infrastructure’ following everything from removing the old metals the way they are transformed away from site and day by day measures,placing new pilons, concrete posts etc and following it all the way to the complete finish hopefully before Xmas2009.
It is kind of book of ‘’a good practice’’.

The fact itself(Austrian company doing business in France there Poma is King is fascinating too)
Already around the area everyone says that Doppelmayer is the Mercedes of the ski facilities and Poma is the Renault / Citroen of the same.

I have witnessed and been amased how within roughly a month all of the old constuction was removed clinically without afecting the roads which had not accumulated any mud or durt.
Like a surgeon removing something without widespread damage.Just brilliant!

I realise that Valfrejus is not well known in the ski world but it is a fact that the best competitions in the valleys(Maurienne) are always held in the tiny by bed numbers only but huge in a off piste skiing and good snow coverage-Valfrejus.Being deeper into the sides of the valley it seams that if in the other neighbouring resorts there is just a sun or a high temperature Valfrejus is covered with clods and it is snowing(which is the thing we all want at the end of the day)
Valfrejus is with height 1550 and going up to 2737m and with a prospect of linkage with Valloire-Valmenier and maybe who knows one day (sonner)with Bardonneccia (even now there are few weekends each season of decends from Valfrejus into Bardonneccia on the Italian site but with returns via the Frejus tunnel.

I am not prejudice about this resort but in my opinion for a typical holidaymaker with a week on the slopes the smaller resorts WORK BETTER.
1.You get to know most of the people on that week because you will meet them on the slopes.
2.It is safer to ski because there is no conflict points on the slopes for families skiing in different levels and in different groups it is very easy to meet eighter on the slopes or in the resort.
Give just a example- a typical day skiing in Val Thorens and in the main arteries into the resort is like M25 but a level busier.Try to keep in the same loose group and you will have a bit of a problem.Loads os accidents just waiting to happenthere.Get into some popular connection and you are for a rough push.We all have done it some of us don’t want to abmit it but it is not far from the truth.
3.The views from the top station are just A1.
4.The local municipality has realised that this is the wayso Modane now is associated in tandem .
5.You can’t ignore the fact that Valfrejus is just 6km from French motorway and 9km from TGV station.there are not many stations having the same convenience(the only thing is that the numerous airports are not next door -about 1-2 hours )
6.The lift passes are miniscular compare with the big boy’s places.(seasonal lift pass is below 200euros covering 3 resorts-thats cheap) times for tightening the belts the smaller places are the answer for new discoveries.

I have skied all over the world first as a racer, then helper/rep etc and holidaymaker and ski instructor and still try to get a 2 months on the slopes per season , but this place captivated my imagination and I think it has many advantages(the clear majority) and deserves even better
Starting to be more popular (which is inevitable I think) and this I am sure will bring and new challenges like coping with demands, more skiers etc.
Well when this is a fact , The locals will deal in appropriate manner I am sure.

Posted by  on  Sunday, 05 July, 2009  at 09:00 PM

Miro, I agree about smaller resorts.  I fell in love with Sainte Foy this season just gone.  Have you been?  If so how does it compare with Valfrejus in feel and terrain?

Posted by  on  Saturday, 11 July, 2009  at 07:16 PM

Sam you are spot on.
Sainte Foy I think is kind of similar .I can remember it was only chair lifts in there.
The Tarentaise Valley is famous with the big players around you but ,
I still believe that smaller is better.The big ones have exhosted themselves and becoming too monstrous to be enjoyed in a typical weeks hols-kind of Benidorm of the Alps so to speak-some like it -very young and noisy but for the families and settle skiers/snowboarders smallet players are the future.
For that reson and SF has an advantage.
I have skied once only in there for an afternoon few years back.Is it similar? primarily French affair and mainly direct bookings with the owners of hotels etc?
As for the terrain height is similar maybe a little smaller your place is but nontheless charming.
I still keep good feeling about Sainte Foy.
The issue I think is the last stretch of the incoming road (Imagine Sat morning driving up the N90).
But hey if you avoid the weekends you can have a hell of a pleasant experience for a week you are right.
Hope you have found your ski place.

Posted by  on  Saturday, 11 July, 2009  at 10:16 PM

I just read this and was interested to read about Valfrejus, I quite want to visit now, I think I must have driven past on a tour op’s bus on the way to Val Cenis last Easter.  On the Dopplemayr-in-France argument I was down in the Pyrenees last winter too and St lary had installed a POMA gondola and nearby Cauterets a Doppelmayr one.  I joked with the managers at Cauterets about the decision not to buy POMA and they said Dopplemayr cost more but was a smoother lift and most important the after sales was much better.  So it seems the buy-POMA-because-its-French argument seems to be finally ending in France…

Posted by  on  Friday, 23 July, 2010  at 09:47 AM
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