Val D’Isere, is a chic resort filled with glamorous cafes, high end retailers and fashionable skiers donning the finest ski and apres wear. Passing ladies with neat straightened hair covered by fur hats and pearl earrings was a regular occurrence, whilst I rolled past with my ancient salopettes from 10 years ago, unruly hair and walking with an attractive limp whilst I carried my snowboard. I felt a bit of a joke throughout my time in Val D’Isere, a spare part, compared to these smooth and stylish ladies that sashayed their way around the resort, frolicking in the snow and smoking with espressos in the sunshine.
I visited this popular ski resort with my boyfriend and eight of his male mates. All eight of them were lovely and were dedicated to catching as much time on the slopes as possible. Returning to a mountain holiday after roughly ten years, I felt as if a beginner all over again. I had forgotten how stunning the snow-capped Alps bursting through tufts of cloud looks, how marvellous crevices that fall onto a mountain with blankets of snow dusted over look, how incredible the petite wooden buildings from nearby resorts resemble a Lindt advert, and how terrifyingly high some drops off sides of the mountain are- and how painful that would be.
Luckily three of our group were also beginners and it being their first time on real snow, were bursting with excitement and enthusiasm. I held a superior attitude, (I had actually done it before ya’know- and I can ski…) until I realised how much I had forgotten. The first day for all of us was a haze of total wipe outs and bruised bums. Luckily, not every day was like this. Soon I began to get used to interacting with the board, adjusting to my unusual footing (I am goofy, which means I board with my right foot forward but most people who are right handed board with their left) and becoming accustom to bumps and bruises. I found myself taking slopes much slower and with more caution then I had previously done as a child, even struggling over flat bits because I would continuously brake. Was it the sheer drops that I could see on either side of me that did that? Was my first melody of falls acting as a warning for what could come? Or snowboarding with a group of boys, did I not feel that comfortable with speed as they did? What happened to the reckless adventure loving me? Or was I being sensible and approaching the slopes with caution?
I am not really sure what held me back, what made me board safer than the others. But I do think it’s due to the fact that on the first day, one of the three beginner boarders fell so hard he broke his helmet and nearly concussed himself. Returning to our chalet, I heard of other accidents on the slopes; of broken ribs, broken backs and dislocated shoulders. I think knowing that it can cause you so much pain- did make me halter a little. Whilst for example sky diving? A piece of cake in my eyes, you are strapped in to someone who does all the work for you! Skiing and snowboarding is a very dangerous sport, however after reaching the end of the week and mastering tight turns on a blue, I hope on my next visit I will be more confident- and less cocky.
Val D’Isere isn’t the best place for beginner snowboarders and skiers, with just a few greens and quite steep ones at that, it isn’t as carefree as boarding in Vermont. However, the incredible array of blues, reds and black runs that network all through Val D’Isere and through to the neighbouring resort of Tignes, make this destination a playground to those that know how to ski and board with expert ease. There is a large variety of runs which means very few visitors will get bored during their holiday here, as there is so much land you could cover. As well as the vast mountain space, Val D’Isere is known for its achievable snow powder conditions late into the season which makes it a fantastic destination.
Val D’Isere as a resort feels like a collision of worlds. Val D’Isere, once known for its prestigious reputation of royalty and celebrities, is exemplified in its boutique shops that sell luxurious lounge wear, restaurants and cafes that are overly priced with plush interior, and Apres bar’s on the slopes that are funkily decorated with loud reclining sofas or bars that advertise themselves as “Champagne Showers”. But a new wave of tourists has begun to visit, bringing a new attitude and world to the resort. British tourists have always visited this resort, famous for middle aged couples to holiday together, ski in the day and munch on canapes late into the night. But an influx of young, large British groups- predominately male, have started to come to this resort, bringing with them buckets of testosterone and obnoxious boozy behaviour. This classy resort is changing and fast.
It’s always had a slightly party reputation, but now it’s upped a gear. Filled with young university groups who are happy to strip on table tops and pour beer over one another is not what you would think Val D’Isere could ever be like, but it has. You may think I am being hypocritical, coming with a large group of males myself, but in fact we turned out to be more of a serious snow group rather than devilish drinkers. Some of us (only about four of us, including myself) dabbled in both, but we only went out surprisingly twice throughout our trip. And rather chanting at our dinner table acting boisterous in our chalet as did the other group of males, we urged each other to try the snails and even one of our group members cleaned the whole chalet at one point!
Apres Bars in Val D’Isere are known for their atmosphere and scenic vantage points, the Champagne Bar and Cocorico are the most visited. Whilst the Champagne Bar shuts at 4:30pm, most drinkers head straight onto Cocorico to listen to live music and dance on table tops (and crowd surf which I finally was able to do and was so excited about doing so!) Clubs and bars that are open late in the evening remind me of Fresher’s nights at Uni, with grim toilets, dank floors and dark spaces- advertising cheap drink deals and “hot barmaids” like Morris Bar or Saloon, to me they all looked the same. Dixies is the only exception, the sole club that resembles an actual club, but as you can imagine entry prices and queues soar high. My favourite bar was actually The Underground, so check that out when visiting.
Organising our whole trip via Ski World (the second time ever to book a holiday via a travel company), our transfers, accommodation and delicious chalet food (as well as unlimited wine at dinner) was all well arranged. I couldn’t recommend this company even more, the staff members were attentive and the lodging was comfortable and like most of Val D’Isere, posh. Having most of our meals at the chalet, the only restaurant I did get a chance to eat at was La Sana, right on the main slope, which provides a vast scope of choice in cuisine.
When booking a holiday here, remember the two sides of Val D’Isere and if it suits your holiday plans.