Growing up with Lake Tahoe in my backyard and Vail and Jackson Hole only a short flight away, I’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to choice of ski resorts. I recently dusted off my skis and went to Val d’Isère for a long weekend to see what one of Europe’s most loved resorts in the French Alps had to offer. The snow was incredible, we ate far too much cheese and I’m proud to say we did the après-ski scene proud.
It was such a memorable weekend, I’m already planning my trip for next season! Val d’Isère has one of the longest seasons in Europe and stays open until early May, so you can still fit in a last minute spring ski trip! If you’re a die hard ski bunny already planning ahead for next year or are weighing up your options of which resort to go to, here is what I loved about Val d’Isère.
It goes without saying the skiing in Val d’Isère is out of this world. The resort has 300 km/180 miles of runs to choose from with one ski pass, so you definitely won’t find yourself repeatedly going down the same slope. If you’re a complete beginner, the Espace Killy skiing area is available to novice skiers free of charge, so you can practice gaining your on-piste confidence without any damage to your wallet. Here are some photos I took from the chair lift towards the top peak of Val d’Isère. We were truly skiing amongst the clouds!
Unlike American ski resorts, the meals both on and off the mountain were seriously delicious- further reason to hit another run or two post lunch. It’s hard to beat a rewarding lunch at La Fruitiere, situated on the mountain right next to party central, the Folie Douce!
Walking into La Fruitiere with my goggles and ski clothes on, I looked around and immediately felt a bit too casually dressed. This is a luxury sit down French restaurant with waiter service and French Anthropologie chic fittings and furnishings. Non-skiers or snowboarders even take the chair lift all the way up just to have lunch here! Feeling a bit overwhelmed with choice of French comfort food, our waiter suggested one of the restaurant’s specialties which was served in a metallic pot, slow-cooked Boeuf Burgundy. The succulent red meat fell off the bone and had the most incredible flavour, which was paired perfectly with warm polenta and a glass of red wine. If you can, save room for the chocolate tart and local cheeses!
Speaking of cheese, you can’t go skiing in the French Alps without trying Tartiflette, a tempting melted mixture of cheeses (typically Reblochon) cooked with potatoes, cream, ham and wine – with a small salad on the side to ensure you get your daily dose of greens! This is my absolute heaven on a plate, but beware a strong food coma that will imminently hit you like a snow plow afterwards.
If you find Tartiflette too filling, then opt for another on-piste lunchtime favourite, a ‘light’ dish of melted Camembert with toasted bread, dill pickles, cured meats and a side of salad and potato. Served best with a glass of crisp rosé or Aperol Spritz of course!
For a truly cheesy experience (sorry, not sorry!), have dinner at one of Val d’Isère’s local family-owned farms, Ferme de l’Adroit, where you dine next to the farm’s cows. Wear loose clothing and order the house Raclette, which arrives in a contraption that looks like a medieval cheese torture chamber.
Using a wooden spoon, scrape off the freshly melted cheese as it oozes on to your plate and enjoy with meats and breads. How French women stay so thin remains a mystery!
La Folie Douce is Val d’Isère’s daily on-piste party with a lively atmosphere like none other. Treat weary ski legs to an afternoon of boozing in your ski gear to DJs and live music while taking in the ‘best of Euro’ on-table dancers and cabaret show. La Folie Douce is truly the Mardi Gras of the slopes- leave your inhibitions at your chalet and get ready to let loose!
We also tested out the latest après-ski joint in town, Cocorico, which is conveniently located at the bottom of the mountain for end of day celebrations. If you’re a night owl, Cocorico’s nightclub stays open till the wee hours!
When you’re not on the slopes, there is a wide variety of shops, spas, bars, restaurants and local attractions in Val d’Isère to enjoy. Navigating around the village is easy, and keep an eye out for locally designed ice sculptures, which change on a regular basis.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie and speed riding on the slopes isn’t enough to get your pulses racing, then try Ice Driving day or night. We went whizzing around an icy race track in a BMW racing car and were relieved to tell the tale afterwards. Avoid eating or drinking anything at least an hour before. For a more PG version, try ice-karting instead!
I can now see what makes Val d’Isère so special, but I hope my next ski trip here will be for longer. Offering fine food, fantastic skiing, fresh mountain air, a buzzing on and off piste atmosphere and gorgeous scenery, it’s no wonder so many skiers return to Val d’Isère year after year.
For more information about Val d’Isère, visit www.valdisere.com or ring +33 (0)4 79 06 06 60.