Adam Hurrell recommends the world-famous ski resort in the French Alps, Val d’Isère
Val d’Isère (affectionately known as Val) in the French Alps is one of the world’s premier ski resorts. The town has been inhabited since before Roman times and its church was built in 1664. Skiing first became popular there in the 1930s after a drag-lift was built on the Solaise mountain. This was soon followed by a cable car and the resort has been evolving ever since.
Val d’Isère is part of the Tarentaise Valley, which is renowned for having the biggest concentration of world-class ski resorts in the world, with places like Courchevel, La Plagne, Tignes and Méribel being other top resorts in the area.
Just 5km from the Italian border, Val d’Isere also joins the Vanoise National Park, which was created in 1963. The resort was home to the men’s Alpine skiing races in the 1992 Winter Olympics, with the exception of the slalom that took place in Les Menuires.
My favourite place
On my fourth day in Val, we got the free ski bus from the centre of the town and travelled to the next village, Le Fornet, from where we boarded the Vallon de l’Iseran cable car. At the top, we got out and skied down the blue run to what is locally known as the “up and over”. To give it the official name, the Leissieres Express is a chair lift that literally takes you up and over the top of the mountain and back into the main valley of Val d’Isère, to an area known as the Summer Ski on the glacier that links up to the main resort runs. The sky was clear and the view was a spectacular collection of brilliant greens and blues. The Leissieres Express is known as being one of the most incredible chair lifts in the world and no trip to Val is complete without going on it.
The highlight of my trip had to be the skiing. The snow was really good with lots of fresh powder and great pistes, with brilliant weather as well for the most part. I was able to get in some excellent skiing and enjoyed the surroundings and amazing environment.
On our fifth evening, we went out into the town and saw a vibrant and colourful street festival taking place with music, dancing and ice carving. The main streets were closed off and there were entertainers and huge shapes that had been inflated and lit up, which looked impressive against the night sky.
For most people, the only potential lowlight of a skiing trip is crashing and getting injured. Luckily for me, my trip was without injury, but it was not without a couple of crashes. Val d’Isère is eye-wateringly expensive, so go with deep pockets.
There are plenty of places in the main town that sell all kinds of ski-related souvenirs from snow globes, to dish clothes and mugs. There are also some seriously high-end shops selling all manner of designer clothes and luxury ski equipment.
Where to stay
I booked my trip with an operator called Le Ski, which organised all our flights and transfers and put us up in luxury chalet accommodation. Alternatively, the Ormelune is a charming boutique hotel in the centre of town, about 100 metres from the slopes. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that they do a marvellous hot chocolate.
Top 5 things to do:
1. Take a ride on the “up and over”
2. Visit the church
3. Ski as much as possible
4. Stop for a hot chocolate on the slopes at one of the many cafés
5. Take in some of Val d’Isère’s street scenes