IS VAL D’ISERE THE PERFECT SKI RESORT?
I’ll admit to being spoilt by perfect weather conditions, but everything Val D’Isere offers must add up to it being one of the best places for a skiing holiday anywhere in the world. With superb terrain, fast lifts, infamous après ski and a load of other activities, you can see why Val D’Isere is one of the most popular resorts in the Alps.
We arrived just days after a ferocious storm had closed lifts and forced bars and night clubs to shut early for fear that revellers would get caught by the weather on the way home. It meant the picturesque French village and pistes were buried under heaps of soft, fluffy snow. As snow continued to come down, our excitement levels went up.
The mountains above the village were drenched in icing sugar soft snow. Val D’Isere and the neighbouring resort of Tignes link up to form one of the biggest ski areas in the Alps, the Espace Killy. There are 300km of runs to explore that reach to the top of two glaciers. Far more than you can cover in a week. That’s before you even mention the expansive and easily accessed off-piste.
We were staying at The Lodge, Skiworld’s recently acquired chalet hotel. It came with an unexpected bonus in the form of a ‘Snow Concierge’. One of Freddie’s roles was to host guests and help them explore the mountain. Over two days, he took us from the top left to the bottom right of the piste map, on runs we would never have discovered on our own. However, the legality of ski hosting like this is being questioned by French authorities.
The traditional end to a long, cold day on the mountain is a long, cold drink in a bar. And Val D’Isere has arguably one of the finest après ski venues in La Folie Douce . It is little more than an open-air terrace clinging to the mountain, with a long bar and a thumping sound system. Live singers and musicians accompany the DJ, pacing along the bar and stepping over the pint glasses being emptied as fast as they’re filled.
Overhead, giant champagne bottles costing thousands of euros are winched to the VIP area. Be warned though, this bar seduces you to drink long after the last lift has gone down the mountain – you have little choice but to slide home, however you can!
In town, there are bustling bars, restaurants and shops. The look of the buildings is unashamedly Alpine, there are no sixties tower blocks here. It’s very pretty, particularly in the snow at night. Giant snow sculptures sit in the centre of roundabouts and trees are lit with twinkling white lights.
Activities stretch beyond skiing. Every night there is some form of tobogganing on the flood-lit nursery slopes. Our favourite was called Snake Gliss, it translates as ‘snake slide’ and is a series of interlocking sledges that slither down the slopes. You can also ice skate on a wonderful open air rink.
Val D’Isere can be a little posh and a lot expensive. Some of the runs too are pretty fearsome, particularly those back in the village at the end of the day. But you can always get the lift back down. Is it perfect? I thought so.