France claims the world's largest ski resorts; Switzerland claims it created winter tourism, and will celebrate 150 years of snow play in 2015.
Both countries aim to encourage Americans to visit the Alps this winter, not just for seemingly endless runs and riveting views, but for novel attractions including ice-diving, ski-jogging and suspension-bridge-hiking.
Les Trois Vallées in France, one of the largest ski areas, encompassing 380 miles of interconnected runs, recently introduced the world's highest zipline at 3,230 meters (10,597 feet), effectively a unique ski lift stringing one peak to another.
This winter it will introduce ice-diving,scuba diving below the frozen surface of Lac du Lou, and "jogging on skis," after-hours uphill hikes followed by ski runs down. In the 3 Vallées town of St.-Martin-Bellevue, novices will be able to try the winter sport of biathlon with the French Olympic medalist Vincent Jay as the instructor; participants will use air rifles for target shooting on a cross-country ski course.
Opening in December, the area's 384-room Club Med Val Thorens Sensations will offer all-inclusive stays with meals, lift passes and ski instruction from $1,399 a person for seven nights.
But it's Switzerland that says itinvented winter tourism in the Alps in the Graubünden region, where in thewinter of 1894-95 visitors first came to Davos for the clean frigid air, and thehotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered English tourists that if they stayed the winter and didn't enjoy it, he would pay their way (they did, and he didn't).
Events are in the planning stages, but Alpine resorts from Andermatt to Zermatt have added new hotels, and new lifts now link the Arosa and Lenzerheide ski areas for a combined 225 kilometers (140 miles) of runs. In the ski village of Les Diablerets, a new 170-foot-long suspension bridge known as Peak Walk at the Glacier 3000 ski resort will offer access to hikers year-round at over 9,800 feetwhen it opens in November.