Val d'Isère, Skiing in France

Ski goggles? Check. Salopettes? Check. Suitable attire for apres-ski drinks? Check. Now all you need to do is figure out how to hold those poles.

Going on your first ski holiday can be a daunting prospect, especially if your holiday party consists of both beginner and advanced skiers. If you are chief organiser, the challenge is to find a resort with something for everyone. No pressure, then.

Enter Val d’Isère, situated in the Alps’ stunning Tarentaise valley. This chocolate box ski resort is part of the Espace ski area and boasts an impressive 300km of pistes and 94 lifts. It benefits from an excellent sprinkling of powder (that’s snow to the uninitiated) from November to May. Just over two hours from Geneva airport and an hour and a half from Chambéry, there’s plenty of transport links too.

The first rule of mixed ability group skiing is… don’t stick together. Trying to figure out how to stop in front of mocking friends isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time. So while the rest of the party head for the hills, beginners can make a bee-line for the nursery slope at the centre of the resort. The free lifts are a bonus, but remember, jumping on the drag lifts is harder than it looks!

Once you’ve cut your teeth (and hopefully nothing else), beginners can head to Solaise and Bellevarde – both areas with slow, wide runs and designated beginner areas. If you don’t want to go it alone (and it’s advisable not to), a choice of ski schools provide anything from day to week-long courses.

skiing in france

Your more proficient friends won’t be disappointed either, as Val d’Isère is a haven for intermediate and advanced skiers. In fact, the red and blue runs are pretty much on a par with black runs in other resorts. There’s ample opportunity to go off piste too – accompanied by an instructor you can spend an exhilarating day in the Tour de Charvet, taking in the stunning views with some serious downhill action. Skiers looking to perfect their freestyle tricks should head to the Snowpark at Bellevarde, where there’s jumps, boxes, rails and a giant airbag to cushion your landing.

If you need a break from skis, there’s plenty to do in Val d’Isère away from the slopes. Spend half a day driving a car on snow at Circuit de Glace, and the other half exploring the mountains on a husky drawn sledge (yes, really). If that sounds a tad too adventurous, then the Centre AquaSportif in the village has a great leisure pool for the kids as well as an excellent fitness centre and climbing wall. Rest those weary limbs in its top notch spa facility, before getting ready for a night out in the town’s bustling and lively apres-ski scene.

One thing to note – a holiday in Val d’Isere isn’t the cheapest, particularly if you’re buying lunch on the slopes, but in comparison to some of the more exclusive resorts it does deliver on value for money. And with such a spread of activity choices for everyone, regardless of ability, it’s easy to see why it’s been a key resort on the ski map for over three decades. Next year, you might even learn how to stop.

Image by Benjamin Vander Steen and Wichelfraeulein, used under the Creative Commons license.


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