Val d’Isere needs no introduction as one of the world’s top ski resorts with 300 kilometers of ski runs. We recently enjoyed a long weekend discovering its many charms, some which we’d heard about and others which came as a pleasant surprise. We’re sharing some of the best Val d’Isere ski and apres-ski hotspots that you’re sure to enjoy!
First Impressions of Val d’Isere
There’s no denying that Val d’Isere is a picturesque place, that has retained its village charm yet managed to modernize its facilities. I’d been here several years ago so knew that the skiing was top notch but was keen to see how it had changed since then.
Skiing in Val d’Isere
Before tackling the slopes, we needed to get kitted out with skis and all the trimmings. We headed to Snowberry, one of the best Val d’Isere ski shops. They have brand new equipment and who fitted us out with skis as well as comfy boots – no mean feet as I seem to have sensitive calf muscles! They advised us to take insurance for our skis or to keep them within our sights whenever we stopped for lunch. The new 10 person Solaise gondola has heated seats and free WiFi, reaching the top in 7 minutes. It’s opened up a whole new high-altitude area for beginners with 3 magic carpet lifts. I’ve been on a few of these “conveyor belt” type lifts in my time but never on a covered one before!
We came across this superb crocodile sculpture created by Richard Orlinski at the top of the Solaise ski lift. Richard is the highest selling contemporary French artist and his works have been snapped up by Paul McCartney, Sharon Stone and Richard Branson. So taken was I with this beast, that I was on a mission to spot his other sculptures dotted around the resort…
My favourite was this magnificent bear that we finally found at the Fornet glacier – doesn’t he look fierce!
The snow quality was excellent wherever we went. In fact it was so good that the International Ski Federation chose to reschedule the Beaver Creek World Cup ski races from Colorado where there was very little snow to Val d’Isere. You can actually ski until the first week in May on one of the glaciers. On one of the days we were treated to a ski lesson by New Generation, who know the area like the back of their hand.
Events in Val d’Isere
The Criterium de la Première Neige, or Men’s Downhill Slalom was taking place during our stay. It seemed that all the village had turned out to watch the contestants race down the slope at record speed. There are quite a few festivals taking place throughout the year, such as the Winter Golf Cup, the Adventure & Discovery Film Festival and the Yoga Festival in April.
Dining in Val d’Isere
For the best Val d’Isere dining on the slopes, head to Le Signal, which has won several awards for its gourmet cuisine. We admired another Richard Orlinski work, the red DJ Headphones, before tucking into a traditional pot au feu casserole. There’s also a more casual self-service restaurant on the ground floor.
Another good place for a relaxed lunch is Bar de l’Ouillette, with its beach area – yes really! OK so there’s no sand but there were some nifty sun umbrellas…
Parked just outside there was this nifty snowmobile which was just crying out for a photo – I was soon joined by these crazy characters ;-). Back in the village, don’t miss Fondue Factory which has a display of vintage skis as well as delicious fondues in a stylish decor.
Apres-ski in Val d’Isere
I knew that Val d’Isere was famous for its nightlife but what I didn’t realize is that many of those places are outdoors, so remember to dress up well! Cocorico is a fun place with live music and people dancing on the tables – a good way to keep warm!
Perhaps the most famous or should I say infamous of the bars is La Folie Douce, meaning Sweet Madness. It’s reached via a rather steep slope but we weren’t going to let that stop us.
As we got closer, I saw more people dancing on tables but I’m told that the party atmosphere gets into full swing a bit later.
If you’re seeking a change from skiing during the day, check out the Aquasports Centre. Located in the heart of Val d’Isere, it houses a pool, hammam, gym, climbing wall, driving and golf simulators. There’s also an ice driving circuit in the village, as well as a natural ice rink.
Getting to Val d’Isere
Chambery is the closest international airport, with Geneva also being convenient. From Chambery it was a scenic 3 hour drive to Val d’Isere with SnowDrone, a luxury transfer service with complimentary WiFi.
Where to stay in Val d’Isere
We had a really fantastic stay at Kilco Penthouse, one of the best Val d’Isere luxury chalets, being located a few minutes from the main ski lift. It’s actually owned by the Killy family, relatives of famous world record holder Jean-Claude Killy. Managed by Hip Hideouts, it’s a beautiful building with floor to ceiling windows and a very cosy interior. There’s a plunge pool, steam room, large garage and kit room as well as a chauffeur to collect your ski kit. The food here is truly high end, with a different chef cooking each evening and afternoon tea being available every day.
Best Val d’Isere Highlights
We had some fantastic experiences but were particularly impressed by:
- Cool temporary artworks on display
- Virtually year-round snow and great new facilities
- Amazing après-ski