By Shannon Burke
With little over a month left until 1,700 students embark for Val Thoren, Europe’s most popular ski resort, anticipation is building for Palatinalps 2016. With events ranging from a club night at Summit with Durham’s very own Arc, to the final night party featuring Chase and Status, the week is shaping up to be the biggest yet.
Previous trips have visited some of the best resorts in the Alps, including Alpe d’Huez, Tignes, and most recently Les Arc. Now, Palatinalps is finally taking on Val Thoren: part of Les Trois Vallées, the largest ski area in the world. Easy access to Meribel, Courcheval and Orelle means that the varied ski opportunities are rivalled only by impressive après-ski choices. The nightlife is also infamous, boasting 130 bars and clubs including the famed Malaysia.
The post-Christmas passage to the Alps has become a staple in many Durham students’ social calendars, with 2015 seeing hordes of excited skiers embark on the grim 18-hour coach journey to Les Arc. With coaches divided by college, for many the journey marked a reunion with friends, and the party atmosphere was palpable as the coach pulled away. Upon arrival, a bleary-eyed supermarket trip for supplies and a lengthy wait for ski equipment marked the beginning of a wild night out for some, but a chilled evening in for many before the first day of skiing began.
From complete beginners to competitive skiers, the trip catered for all abilities. Lessons were offered at a range of levels for two hours each morning, allowing ample time for those being taught to reunite with friends to explore the slopes before enjoying après afternoons dancing on tables at L’Arpette. The unsteady slalom down the mountainside as the sun began to dip was both risky and fun in equal measures. There was a really friendly atmosphere, though, which meant that more experienced skiers were often found helping those too worried, or too tipsy, to make it down the slope alone.
As on any uni ski trip, the fun didn’t end post-skiing. Palatinalps has been known to host a range of legendary acts, from DJ Fresh to Sub Focus and Eton Messy, with last year’s lineup beginning the week with Sir David Rodigan, and closing the trip with an amazing set from Wilkinson. Whilst the igloo parties, although undoubtedly beautiful, were cramped and short-lived, Les Arc’s Feast on the Piste was an unexpected highlight, marking for many the best night of the trip. With intercollegiate ski championships also featured, as well as individual competitions such as ‘Big Air,’ the range of not-to-be-missed activities meant that even the aching shins and week-long hangover couldn’t keep people off the slopes.
Val Thoren’s position as the highest resort in Europe means that the best January snows are near guaranteed for next year’s destination. This, coupled with an unforgettable nightlife and the biggest crowd we’ve had to date, could make Palatinalps 2016 the best trip yet.
Photograph: Charly Pooler