The view from Val d'Isere

By Alistair Scott, Evening Standard

Last updated at 15:02 17 December 2003

Arriving on Friday, I was greeted by the hiss of snow-guns at full throttle. This was good news: since the encouraging late-November start to the season, a warm period has brought rain as high up as 3,000m, rendering snow-making equipment useless.

However, low temperatures in the past few days have allowed machinery to fill the gaps left by Mother Nature. Piste skiing was respectable, main runs back to valley open, and the best skiing could be had at the Le Fornet end of the Espace Killy, near the Italian border, where far more snow had fallen than in Tignes.

Saturday dawned cold and sunny. At the top of the Solaise Express were good cruising pistes with dry snow. I took the new Les Lessières six-seater, high-speed up-and-over to Le Fornet. It is far more technically advanced than the ancient two-seater it replaced, but your stomach churns as you cross the summit and travel downhill.

Skiing was excellent on the upper slopes of Le Fornet and the Pissaillas glacier, but below the top of the cable car the piste comprised artificial snow, icy in places. Halfway down I dropped in on the launch of a new mountain restaurant, Chalet Edelweiss, the first in Val for years. It has a spectacular sun terrace with views to Italy and the Grande Motte. Food (lamb cutlets with thyme sauce) was more than reasonable: E19 for a two-course set lunch.

In town, as evening snow fell lightly, bars were full of satisfied skiers. Val regular Paul Goldstein, from Hampstead, said: "Sure, it's not exactly a vintage start to the season, but I've been very impressed by the skiing I've had in the past few days. The pisteurs have done a great job preparing the slopes."

As I left Val d'Isère on Monday afternoon, it was still snowing lightly, but there was no sign of the big dump of the white stuff we would all like to see.

Snow latest: best conditions in Europe are in Italy, especially Cervinia and Courmayeur. Other parts of the Alps remain uncertain, with the weather refusing to do as predicted. Austria, after an especially slow start, has had snow over the past few days and things look more promising.

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.