A LOCALS GUIDE TO VAL D’ISERE
Back when I started mediamarmalade.com, I focussed heavily on my passion for clothes, shopping and styling. I adored blogging my daily outfits, but looking back I don’t know why I didn’t start sharing my travels, city recommendations and holiday guides with you sooner, because truth of the matter is travel has always been an absolutely huge part of my life.
Holidays back then were that, holidays, so I didn’t think to share them with you. These days though travel blogging is one of my favourite things to do, i’m fortunate enough to travel the world often but sadly i’ve only shared a small smidgen with you on here so far. Many trips to Europe, Scandinavia, Australasia, South Africa & more went undocumented on my blog, so in my quest to share my travel stories and tips with you, I plan to head back to my favourite cities and this time create content for my city guide blog posts in the coming months.
And I thought what better way to start than in a small mountain village in France i’ve visited every year, at least once, for 20 years. Val D’isere. A place I know like a second home, yet one I’ve barely mentioned on my travel pages before now.
Truth be told, skiing holidays are far too full of skiing, eating and drinking to have a moment to stop and take pictures. So whilst i’ve been writing this post for near on 4 years now I’ve never taken a day off the slopes to properly shoot some editorial.
This year I left my DSLR at home & took my new Olympus micro four thirds, taking the pressure off, but some kit just in case I wanted to shoot some pics … and the irony is, this year I did take quite a few shots and so I thought what better time than now to share my Val D’isere travel guide with you.
Terrible timing as the season is coming to an end, but there’s still three weeks left in the snow I predict, and knowing Val throughout the years, I know these tips will be just as valid next season as they are this. Not much changes you see, and that’s quite why I like it.
VAL D’ISERE TRAVEL GUIDE
The Skiing in Val D’isere is vast, the Espace Killy takes you from Le Fornet (3600 meters) where at the top Italy is just in sight, to the Grande Motte at 3450 metres with views over Mont Blanc in good light, to Tignes Les Breviere a tiny village at 1550. There’s glacier, serious on and off piste mileage and a great variety of runs to fill your day with. Having skied in Val for years upon years, I certainly have my favourite areas, routes and off pistes to explore. From Le Face, to Double M, to a trek through the Lost Valley or Sunnybowl, there’s a ton of skiing and adventure to be had especially for advances skiers (I used to slalom race so the variety available is great).
If you’re new to L’Espace then the mountain guides are fantastic, especially if you’re looking for off piste days, but if you’re up for something more leisurely I find planning your days around the mountains incredible lunch spots to be the prefect route planner. You can easily ski from Val across to Tignes les Brevieres (via the ever picturesque Aiguille De Pierce) in just an hour or two, so there’s no excuse not to ski the full Espace Killy on your trip.
The village is packed with a ton of different ski providers and kit lenders, I personally have my own kit, but always visit Eskiador (towards Le Cret) or Killy (in the centre of town) for any new season buys I want to make, my Kjus kit and Zag ski’s were all bought in Val over the years. I’ve left a little shoppable edit at the bottom for you, with some of my favourite pieces this season (probably just in time for some end of season sales bargains).
Throughout the years we’ve tried pretty much everything Val has to offer, apartments, friends chalets, hotels, Marc Warner packages, and of course my favourite type of accommodation catered chalets. Most years (for the last 10 years at least) we’ve stayed in 5* catered chalets, mostly booked through Scott Dunn (The Eagles Nest has been by far my best experience to date) or VIP Ski. Both chalet providers pull out all the stops, make your stay one of luxury and have some of the most beautiful chalets in Val.
This is where the fun truly begins, Val D’isere not only has some of the best snow and chalets in the Alps, it also has some of the best restaurants too. Many of my favourite restaurants in Val we visit season after season, with the same menus, matradies and owners to welcome us … it’s like time hasn’t passed at all from one year to the next.
When it comes to mountain eating Le Signal, The Grizzly, Edelweiss and L’Armaily are by far my most recommended spots to visit. Le Signal & Edelweiss serve up the most delicious savoyarde cuisine, mountain fine dining, the alps best Cafe Gourmand, with impeccable views over the village (both sun traps too). L’Armaily provides the perfect french affair after the end of a long ski to Tignes Les Breviere, their house salad is definitely one to try (don’t let the word salad put you off, the selection of baked cheese adorning it make it a serious dish). And perhaps one of my favourite, understated mountain pit stops is The Grizzly, a wooden and shearling den, tucked away in Val Claret. Their all season long barbecue is by far one of my favourite lunches on the mountain, the vin chaud is perfection and the Tarte Myrtille is one of the best on the mountain (and that says something). The Grizzly is always on the list of coffee stops, let alone lunch.
Off the mountain the food only maintains the high standards, from L’Atelier Edmond Val D’Isere’s very own 2 Michelin star restaurant, to Taverne D’Alsace mastering Alsatian home cooking to a tee. The owner and matradie are here every season and the sauerkraut and sausages never fail to deliver. But sometimes something a little more simple is needed and that’s where the Roxy Burger Bar and Chez Paulo’s pizza restaurant come in – if you want brilliant basics, then these guys knock up a sterling burger and pizza respectively.
And last but not least, the drinking scene. Like most Austrian & French resorts Val certainly knows how to party. The infamous Folie Douce & Cocorico set the apres tone like no one else, from the live saxophones, to the theatrical performances, the whole crowd is dancing on the tables in a matter of minutes. If something a little more low key is preferred then Chez Jules in the village serves up a fab Aperol and always has live music playing and people dancing along in the streets.
If you’re in town to party then season after season Dicks Tea Bar (where the Folie crowd & bands tend to follow on to), Bananas, Le Petite Danois (a real seasonaires drinking hole) and Cafe Face pull in the crowds. From the seasonaires partying each night, to the week longers’ having a few big blow outs, these bars are always on and always a reliable destination for a proper party. Back in the day The Moris & Pacific bar were the cool place to hang, but they’ve got a little left behind in the last 10 years.
But it’s not all down and dirty drinking, Le Blizzard and Baraque are two of my favourite spots for a slightly more respectable bars to enjoy a tipple of two. Le Blizzard is one of my favourite cocktail spots in town, with it’s cosy log fire, dapper bar men and bar canapes it always pulls me in for a celebratory drink or two during my stay. Baraque is a little more low key but a fab bar, with live music each night and a regular crowd of locals and well versed Val D’isere travellers.
And if it’s simply a morning coffee or a healthy juice your after, in Val village look no further than the newly opened Artic Cafe, a little scandi style in the middle of the Alps, La Chevolet with it’s infamous patisseries (just try and resist) or Cafe Gourmandine, a totally unassuming cafe right in the heart of the piste serving up the mountains most impeccable hot chocolate (never say no to the cream on top).
There’s little more to say other than Val is expensive. From 6 euro cafe au laits to an average of 30 euros a dish on the mountain, you’re not going to find yourself a bargain. You can definitely get yourself a last minute bargain with the chalet providers, but rates are still between £1000 – £2000 a week if you’re looking for something quality (or even more if you fancy going for something like the Eagles Nest). That being said, it’s all part and parcel with a resort like Val D’isere so my best tip is to suck it up and keep a relative mindset.
SHOP SKI WEAR
Having Skied most resorts in the Alps, Val is always my firm favourite, from the food, the bars to the incredible and vast piste (and off piste). If you’re visiting this season or planning your trip for next season, I hope this guide helps inform your stay & inspires your itinerary a little. And just in case you do happen to be heading out for the end of season, i’ve shared a few of my favourite ski pieces this season, including the new season version of my own Kjus ski kit. And finally, don’t forget to check out my latest Val D’isere address book here.
Happy Skiing (and shopping | eating | drinking | chalet-ing).