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|Resort: Val D'Isere
Domain: Espace Killy
Dates: 8th-15th January 2005
Website : http://www.valdisere.com/ is the official site
Basics : 2 to 3 hours southbound transfer from Geneva, in the Haute Tarentaise region of the Fench Alps. Shorter transfer from Chambery, assuming it's open - it was fogbound on arrival day and as a result we diverted to Lyon where we spent two and a half hours on the tarmac before flying back, ruining our plans for an afternoon on the slopes - apparently fog at Chambery is quite a common occurrence, so be warned!
Lift system : Lots and lots and lots. Val d'Isere is linked to Tignes to form the Espace Killy and there are more lift than you can shake a stick at. There are a few drag lifts arond - some pomas, some T-bars - and a few older chairlifts, but little by little the older lifts appear to be being replaced by bigger, newer, faster lifts. We didn't really queue at all, but then the place wasn't crowded. I was annoyed that the only time we did queue (on the new 8-seater Tommeuses lift over to Tignes) we did see a few chairs which weren't full, including one with a single rider - once I can deal with, but in a busy week I'd have been much less happy.
The terrain : Again, lots and lots and lots. I really wouldn't rate this as a resort for beginners or timid intermediates, the grading seems rather high in comparison to other resorts (mainly in other countries) and many of the main routes down the mountain were very icy and *very* busy at the end of the day. For once, the grading seems fairly accurate, with red runs being fairly challenging and the few black runs we tried even more so - although that was in a large part due to snow conditions.
The snow : Very little of it when we arrived, it hadn't snowed for almodst a fortnight, but the pisteurs were doing an excellent job of managing the pistes that were open to keep them in good condition. Usually known for good snow, the high altitude of the lowest lifts means it's a fairly safe bet.
Off-piste : When the snow is there, Val D'Isere is an off-piste paradise, with well-known routes from almost any lift you care to mention. They've also taken the step of re-classifying some of the "in-bounds" routes so that while signed, patrolled and avalanche cleared, they are never pisted, so as to provide a more exciting experience while still providing a modicum of safety
The resort : most runs lead down to one of the main areas of the village. Le Fornet is at the head of the valley, and the road stops here (in summer it continues over the Col de l'Iseran, and over to Val Cenis). From Le Fornet, you can get cable cars up to the Fornet ski area. At the foot of the Valley is La Daille, with a funicular up to Bellvarde, and various other lifts and cable cars heading up the mountain. In the middle of the valley is the main village, offering access to both Bellevarde and Solaise (from where on can reach the Fornet area). If you like shopping, stay in Val village - if you like quick access, don't stay in Le Fornet! There are regular free buses running fromthe village centre to each of the outlying areas, although the buses up to Le manchet and Le legettaz stop rnning at 8pm (and didn't run on theone morning we needed to get them!)
We were pleasantly surprised. It would seem that the French are finally beginning to understand that they are losing custom to North America due to the excellent customer service, and as a result are beginning to make an effort. Finally, I've found a truly French resort that's made it onto the list of "places to return" (the only other "french" resorts on the lift are Serre Chevalier and Montgenevre, both very close to Italy).
There's plenty of shopping, and we'd recommend the excellent PrÃ©cision shops for both renting and demo-ing ski equipment.
The food :
Daytime : We're of the "cheap and cheerful" mentality, eat quickly and get back out. Nowhere stood out as really good in particular, other than the place above Chaudannes over in Tignes. The Folie Douce atthe top of the cable car from La Daille was not too hot, with cold chips and lukewarm soup, even though we ate indoors!
Best toilets on the mountain (and the only one where you didn't have to pay!) are in the "La Taniere" restauarant, halfway down the "Face" black run from Bellvarde to Val village, or alternatively at the top of the Bellvarde chairlift. This is another of the things that really annoy me about french resorts. I've just spent the better part of 20 quid for lukewarm soup and cold chips, why the hell should I have to pay for a pee?
Evening : We only ate out once, but I can whole-heartedly and without reservation recommend a visit to the Perdrix Blanche. The food was simply the best I've found in a ski resort, very tasty and reasonable prices.
Accommodation : bags and bags. Our "chalet" was actually composed of two apartment in the "Jardin Alpin" complex, located in the "La Legettaz" area, between piste "M" coming down from Solaise and "Santons" coming down from Bellvarde. It was basic, but then we didn't pay a great deal. Two bathrooms but only one toilet per chalet seems a bit odd, to me!
Costs : Not a cheap place to go out for apres - 3? a pint was the cheapest we found (Dick's Tea Bar in happy hour - the place was dead!) and prices were more often around the 5? mark, rising above 7? later in the evening. Also not a cheap place to go skiing, at 187? for a six day lift pass.
Tour operator : Ski Val. I didn't book the trip, but they seemed nice and efficient when I rang to check some things. The "chalet girls" (Dave and Ben )) were top chaps, keen to help and very pleasant. Food started "ok" and got better as the week went on.
Pics of the trip available here: http://nbt.valdiseretrip.fotopic.net/
edited to correct my geographical error
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Last edited by A snowHead on Fri 4-02-05 12:11; edited 1 time in total