5 ways to... Ski in Val d'Isère
From off-piste runs to top chalets, this resort has it all.
Wednesday 11 December 2013
Val d'Isère (00 33 479 060660; valdisere.com) has long been a British favourite. The French alpine resort offers all the ingredients you need for a successful ski trip: the facilities of a vibrant town, plus a giant ski area, the Espace Killy, with 300km linked to neighbouring Tignes and a huge vertical climbing more than 2,000m above from an already snowsure altitude.
There's been skiing here since the early 1930s, but in 2009 Val d'Isère reached a new milestone when it staged the Alpine Ski World Championships, becoming the first resort in the modern era to host the top three skiing contests, including Winter Olympic events in 1992 and the Alpine Skiing World Cup, which rolls in to town every December.
Val d'Isère is world famous for its extensive off-piste terrain and there are many opportunities to make the best of it with a guide, the safest way to explore the backcountry. Powder White (020 8877 8888; powderwhite.com) offers a "White Tracks" package that is a "full-immersion, back-country experience". You'll enjoy three days of off-piste guiding, with technique and avalanche awareness training, finding the fluffiest of stashes. The seven-night package costs from £718 per person, including a fully catered stay at the Chalet Hokkaido, departing 4 January, including three days of off-piste guiding. Travel not included.
Since the French started allowing five-star hotel gradings in 2010, Val d'Isère (along with Courchevel) has rapidly moved up the table and now has five in this top category. However, its stock of luxury private chalets is even more staggering. White Pearl is one of three Val d'Isère properties in this year's Luxury Chalet Collection, a selection of 20 of the world's most decadent pads updated annually (luxurychaletcollection.com). Sleeping 10 with a staff of four, including butler, chef and driver, its facilities include a pool with jet stream, a hammam and cinema. The Oxford Ski Company (01993 899421; oxfordski.com) offers an off-peak price of €16,000 per week from 19 January.
With the family
Although the resort is better known for its tough slopes and expensive chalets, there's plenty of family friendly terrain. The town also has a pedestrianised centre, some enticing boulangeries and patisseries and the excellent Aqua Leisure sports centre. Esprit Ski (01483 791900; espritski.com) is offering the central Chalet Hotel Ducs De Savoie for £749 per adult, based on a family of four (two adults and two children under 4) at £2,284. travelling on 9 February. The price includes return flights from Southampton to Geneva, transfers, free babysitting and seven nights' catered accommodation. Esprit Classic Child Care is available from £209 for a week of exclusive ski lessons.
On a budget
It can be a challenge to holiday in Val d'Isère "affordably", especially as there are more hotels and chalets and fewer self-catering apartments than the French norm (although lower-priced chalets can offer overall value, compared to eating out). Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) offers a week's catered accommodation at the four-star Crystal Finest Chalet Reuben from £689 per person based on two sharing. The price includes flights from Gatwick and transfers, departing 11 January. A special offer to buy one adult lift pass get one child lift pass free, or get one adult lift pass half price is also available. Lift passes are from £223 for a six-day adult pass.
For Christmas and the World Cup
The FIS World Cup (fis-ski.com) comes to town this month with the Men's Giant Slalom on Saturday 14 December, then the Ladies Downhill on the OK piste on Saturday 21 December, and a giant slalom race on Sunday 22 December. These are free-to-watch events, and there's carnival atmosphere in resort.
It's a good way to experience Val d'Isère's racing heritage, which dates back to the early years of downhill racing in the 1930s. With the Sochi Olympics starting only seven weeks later, the tension should be palpable. Ski Collection (0844 576 0175; skicollection.co.uk) offers a seven-night, self-drive, self-catering break in the ski in/ski out three-star superior Eureka Val apartments on 14 December for £176pp (based on five sharing a two-bedroom apartment and including return Eurotunnel crossing). On 21 December the same holiday is £388pp.
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