Val d’Isère – An Insider’s Guide
There is a vast amount of skiing in the Espace Killy area - which is the name given to the combined ski area of Val d’Isère and Tignes. The high altitude slopes mean that snow is more or less guaranteed even during early and late season. It has a buzzy après scene and a wide variety of bars and restaurants - making it the ideal place to get your mountain fix. Here’s my insider’s guide on all you need to know about Val.
The current season in Val d’Isère stretches from 26th November 2016 to 1st May 2017. Val d’Isère village is situated at an altitude of 1850m and the skiing goes up to altitudes of 3400m and 3456m at the top of Grande Motte in Tignes. The lift pass which is priced at €278 for 6 days provides access to the whole of The Espace Killy area.
The resort stretches from La Daille to Le Fornet. The centre of Val d’Isère is in-between these two areas. There is a free shuttle bus that runs every few minutes during ski hours and feeds into the lift system at different access points. In La Daille there is the Funival underground and a gondola that takes you up to the piste.
From the town centre you can walk to the Rond Point – where there are two gondolas - the Solaise lift located on the Soliase side and the Olympique lift located on the Bellevarde side. From the Soliase side Piste M (red) brings you back into resort and on the Bellevarde side there are two runs back to resort – Le Face (black) and Santons (Blue.) All three of these runs can be quite challenging, especially if you’re feeling tired after a day of skiing. I would advise getting the gondola back down into resort. Also, take no notice of the colour coding of the runs. The terrain and colour don’t match up – some blues will feel more like reds.
The ski area is enormous and in a week you can avoid skiing the same run twice. On the Bellevarde side you have the whole of the Tignes area as well. Up on the Solaise side there is a whole network of wide blue runs with spectacular views. However I spend most of my free time, especially on my board, on the Bellevarde side. For snowboarding the best run is Grande Pre.
A day on the slopes is only complete with a visit to one of Val d’Isère’s Après ski bars. On the slopes there is La Folie Douce, which is at the top of the La Daille Gondola and can be reached by skiers and boarders from the piste. It has DJs and live bands on an open terrace and has a lively atmosphere from mid afternoon up until the lifts close. There is also Bananas bar, which is located near the bottom of Le Face. Go in and ask for a gummy bear shot – trust me. There is Cocoricos, an outside Après Ski bar in the heart of Val d’Isère, located at the Rond Point, with live music from 5-7pm. There is also Victors, which is small and buzzy – especially from 9pm-11pm as it’s their happy hour.
For a quick health fix after skiing, Artic Café is the place to go, serving a huge selection of smoothies and juices. In the village I love Maison Chevallot, which is located next to where I work in Aspen Lodge. Maison Chevallot wins the award for the best bakery in Val - my eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach each time I visit.
Food up the mountain can be pricey but Peau De Vache situated on the Face of Bellevarde is highly recommended. It has a cosy and warm interior and serves hearty portions of traditional mountain food – it’s not cheap but it is worth a visit. Also, don’t be put off by the black run home as you can get the chairlift down. For food in the Village, Corniche serves delicious Savoyard food, and is located behind the church. It is open for lunch and dinner. It is perfect for a cosy evening out. There is The Lodge, which also has Savoyard classics however the Pizza there is a must. I frequently get asked by guests where serves the best hot choc and my answer is always Grand Cococor.
I have been lucky to spend my ski season at Val d’Isère. It is ultimate ski resort. The ski area is huge with runs for all abilities and the après ski and food options are extensive.