6 reasons to visit Val d’Isère
There are so many reasons for families to ski at Val d’Isère, writes Helen Hayes.
Part of the Espace Killy ski area, near the Italian border in the French Alps, Val d’Isère’s wide nursery slopes and fantastic off-snow activities are just two of the many reasons families love Val d’Isere.
1. The village
While a giant in the ski world, Val d’Isere feels small and intimate, with its one main street so easy to get around that it will make you and the kids feel at home. You really do walk in the footsteps of history. The baroque Church of St Bernard de Menthon was built in 1664 – 106 years before Captain James Cook sailed into Botany Bay. The town’s first hotel opened its doors in 1888 and, in 1932, the first ski school began operating. You do get that sense of history as you walk around among the ski shops, trendy hotels and restaurants, with many buildings constructed in the traditional materials of stone and wood.
2. The skiing and snowboarding
Talk about wow. Since the first lift went in 1934, the resort has gone from strength to strength: it now has 79 lifts and together, with neighbouring Tignes, offers 300 kilometres of terrain to explore. The mix is perfect, with plenty of areas for skiers of all abilities and, even if you are an absolute beginner, never fear, they will be spreading their wings after just a few days of lessons in one of the excellent ski schools such as Oxygène. Head up the Solaise, ski down to the hamlets of Le Fornet, Le Daille or Le Laisinant and, to really test the chops of the experts in your family, there is the revered run that hosts a World Cup downhill event every year – La Face de Bellevarde. Even just looking at it going up the Bellevarde Express ski lift, you can see how steep it is.
3. The activities for kids
After the lifts close for the day, there are plenty of things to see and do. Centre Aquasportif has a series of heated indoor pools – do laps, float around in the leisure pool or let the massaging jets do their thing. Let the kids play with the water cannons and bubble baths. Alternatively, get your heartrate up on an aqua bike or by rock climbing one of seven different courses on a 12-metre wall. To make the most of the mountain scenery, go dog sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or sledding. Val d’Isere has Famille Plus accreditation and Village de Enfants offers excellent childcare and ski lessons.
4. Family-friendly dining
There is so much choice at Val d’Isere you won’t have to eat at the same place twice – unless you love it. For lunch, ski down to Le Fornet (or take the shuttle bus) or L'Atelier d'Edmond of dine on the mountain at La Fruitiere la Folie Deuce. In the afternoons, La Folie Douce turns into party central – which is great for older teens. Also on the mountain is Le Peau de Vache – with tables outside and hay bales for seats. In the village, there's cheesy goodness at the Fondue Factory, and easy atmospheres at Sur La Montagne and excellent La Table des Neiges, located in the Hotel Tsanteleina.
5. The new Solaise area
Last season the Solaise area opened a new 10-person gondola with heated seats and WiFi, a beginners' area, tubing course and day lodge. There are also covered magic carpets. You might find it hard to tear the kids away from the Sunny Ride nursery slope though: its fun obstacles are designed to improve their skiing without them knowing it. The resort has even bigger plans, with work starting on the €200 million ‘Le Coin de Val’ project. Over the next five years the resort will be transformed with new hotels, apartments, bars, underground walkways, a nursery, and more. But the locals ensure Val won't lose touch with its past. There will be no high rise, and the traditions of the Savoyard will ring true in construction and design.
6. Great places to stay
There are so many places to stay in this historic village. We stayed at Hotel Christiania, located a few steps from the main street and a short walk from the lifts. The hotel has a warm and cosy interior and features 69 rooms and suites, a spa, fantastic restaurant and friendly staff. The lobby is great for an après ski drink. Another great property is Le Yule.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Fly into Lyon or Geneva, book a
transfer to Val d’Isere or catch the Eurostar
from London or fast train from Paris.
The resort opens from 25 November to 1 May 2018.