Jules in Val: A Snowboarder’s First Trip to Val d’Isere


Thoughts, feelings and feedback following my first-ever ski holiday to Val d’Isere.   

Some co-workers here at IR gave me weird looks when I told them I’d skied Japan and the States but not the Espace Killy, and I couldn’t blame them. I mean, it’s right there, just a few hours travel from London. I’d also never done the whole spring skiing thing, instead invariably opting for the depths of winter in the hopes of maximising powder potential.

So, this year I amended that: my brother and I booked a cheap getaway to Val d’Isere from the 19th of March, and in yet another first we went for a neat deal with flights, transfers and accommodation included – which was an absolute breeze.



Val d’Isere as seen from the traversee du laisinant

The Town

Okay, is Val d’Isere pretty or what? On all sides there were sheer, snow-packed mountains, the chalets were quaint timber-and-stone builds and the town’s historic church made a marvellous centrepiece.

In the afternoons, a walk around the shopping arcades in the resort centre was a pleasure. In the evenings, staggering back to our accommodation after a few beers, I was liable to stop and stare at the fairy lights strung in the Christmas-like pine trees and slung on the streetlamps. Beautiful.

Of course, Val’s après ski deserves an article all to itself, so here’s something one of our writers prepared earlier.
 



First day back on the piste

The Ski Area

Now, the mountain, what a wonderland. My brother and I systematically ticked off about 90% of the runs across the piste map, and there was only one run that was somewhat of a pain (more on that in a sec). For the most part, planning our days on the mountain came down to, “Okay, which of these awesome runs did you enjoy more.”

Orange off the top of the Marmottes chair quickly became a favourite, especially for first tracks - one morning we awoke to find the piste cordoned off for slalom practise and I needed a cup of mulled wine to calm down. The beauty of Orange was its succession of dips and lips around the top, which were great fun to hit at speed. On what must have been our 11th run, I took a massive tumble soaring down said piste – no serious damage but my several cartwheels garnered applause from the chairlift above. 

Other favourites included La Face – carving down the steep descents was brilliant late-morning after the sun had softened up the snow a bit – and pretty much the whole area over in le Fornet. On the far left side of the Espace Killy map, le Fornet holds a bounty of rollercoaster-like runs, from the thrilling reds off the Cascade chair and Montet t-bar to the Petit Bois piste further down – a “blue” that isn’t really a blue.

View near the top of the Cascade chair

Again, I have to emphasise, while these are the favourites, the whole Espace Killy was ripping fun. If you’re intermediate and above, you will find no shortage of fantastic runs to enjoy. In one of the biggest updates the resort has seen in decades, there's a brand new gondola on Solaise as of summer 2016, transforming mountain access for the 2016/17 season and whisking up to 3,600 passengers per hour to the slopes above swiftly and efficiently.

Spring Ambiance  

The moment I arrived in Val, I thought, why on earth haven’t I skied in spring before? The sky was clear. The temperature was perfect – there were no freezing fingers by day’s end and pleasant conditions persisted past 3000m.

Even better, the snow quality was far better than I had expected. The base-depth was up to 260cm when we arrived, with all the great snow from February and early March packed nicely.  

Most days, there was ceaseless sunshine. The panoramic views of sprawling mountains against perfect blue backdrops were so dazzling I almost skied off the mountain - best to enjoy the sun and vistas while more stationary with a beer or glass of wine.


 

Accommodation

My brother and I picked The Lodge for three reasons: low price, great facilities and convenient access to the slopes. For just over £550pp, we had a spa, sauna and brilliant food – each evening, we were taken aback by the delicious three course meal plated before us given how little we’d paid.   

From The Lodge, like many places in Val, walking into town/to the slopes was easy, and on lazy mornings we caught the free bus that stopped a few metres down the road.
 

Overall Verdict: So good that I wish I could get back for another spring week before the season ends!

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