There is nothing quite like azure skies, miles of snow and crisp mountain air. That’s why, every year I free up my calendar for my family’s annual ski holiday to The Alps.
When you are living in the bubble of London life, where you squeeze onto a densely packed tube every morning, run alongside roads that are laden with cars and buses and are in constant contact with people, you quite often forget about the heaps of pollution and dirt that you breath in and come into contact with on a daily basis. You also forget to step back and have a little bit of ‘me time’ because so often it is hard to find the space to do so.
I am painting a bad picture here, and in actual fact I absolutely love London, but with that said, when you step out into the fresh air at 6,000 ft nothing can compare. Val d’isère is one of the most beautiful ski resorts I have ever been to and this year we were lucky enough to have a large delivery of snow before our arrival. Stepping out of the transfer at our chalet we were greeted with metres of snow either side of the car park that reached way beyond our heads. It was still snowing and everything about the town felt magical.
Val d’isère as a resort is perfect because it has the much-desired balance of boutique shops, restaurants to suit all tastes, bars, nightclubs, crêperies and more, in addition to an incredible expanse of runs. The town is strung with fairy lights and is made up of beautiful stone buildings that all add to the enchanted feel of the resort. It’s sister town, Tignes, means that whichever you are staying in you get the best of two huge resorts and access to so many runs that you can’t even do them all in a week (if you get a ski pass for both!) It is one of the highest resorts in Europe and despite the 3-hour transfer time from the airport, it is 100% worth it. Hence why we go back every year!
For the last 4 years we have stayed in a chalet provided by Mountain Rooms, which accommodates 8 people. Upstairs is an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area decorated with piste signs, wooden furniture and fur cushions – everything you would hope for in a classic ski lodge! It is a modern, yet quaint chalet that is the perfect size for a cosy and intimate, yet relaxing holiday.
As a family, we love self-catered accommodation, because this means we can spend half of our evenings enjoying what Val has to offer (more to come below) as well as battling it out at Couples Come Dine With Me. It makes everything a lot more stress-free and means you get to spend quality time with your family and friends. For our competitive feasts we had 3-course meals which ranged from raclette with meats and baguette, curry with homemade chapatis, French onion soup followed by risotto and for G and I’s ‘Mexican’ night we made nachos and fajitas with compulsory tequila shots in-between courses. Afterwards there was entertainment which included many card games, Chameleon (recommend this game!), Empires and, of course, ‘who-can-build-the-tallest-construction-out-of-spagetti-and-marshmallows-to-hold-an-egg’ competition. It was the most fun I have had in AGES.
If you are in need of suggestions for restaurants in Val I am more than happy to give you details (contact me here, or comment below). But to mention a few…
La Casserole is my top top TOP favourite place to eat and we go ever year! It is a typical French restaurant serving escargot, huge salads, cheese fondue and my go-to choice… beef fondue (I don’t know the correct French title in the menu). It is for a minimum of 2 persons and you get a boiling pot of oil to cook your chunks of beef in, served alongside salad, their incredible homemade chips and 3 sauces. It is not fancy, it is not insta-worthy, but it is damn good!
Restaurant Le 1789 is also a must, especially if you are meat lovers! Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of blue/red steak, which is how the French serve their beef. However, if you order the Chateaubriand to share you will not be disappointed. The chef brings over your slabs of meat that are inches thick, before throwing it onto a fire to cook. It comes perfectly done to your request (unless you ask for ‘well done’) and is more than you can manage! Their salads are gigantic (I ordered a starter and it lasted the whole table through their mains) and their tartiflette was also mouth-wateringly good.
One more for good measure is Folie Douce. This is a mountain restaurant, rather than the above two which are based in Val village, but it can be accessed on foot by the funicular from La Daille. Now, it’s like Marmite – you love it, or you hate it. My family is split. You don’t sit down to catch up on your day, instead you become a part of a unique show that you won’t see elsewhere on a mountainside. Dancing fried eggs with breakfast trays, men and women alike dressed in heels, capes and corsets, in addition to trapeze artists, men on stilts, a showman that quite literally lay on me whilst I was eating my lunch and fierce twerkers that you’d be scared to meet elsewhere. You go for the atmosphere, the music, the fun and the memories! It really is a performance and makes lunch on the mountain that little bit more exciting. Make sure you get their famous spag bol, put your coolest mirrored shades on and your fur headband and you’ll fit right in!
The saying ‘sleep all day and party all night’ is void here, where instead the party starts at 2:30pm and suddenly everyone stands on top of their tables, they buy extortionately priced drinks and join in on the bizarreness that is ‘Folie Douce’ – their ‘after-après-party’ even continues to the early hours back in the village if you really have the stamina!
Aside from all the indulging, we did manage to find some time to squeeze in the ‘skiing’ bit.
As I mentioned before Val is lucky enough to be next to Tignes which means that you can never get bored of the runs. There is something for all capabilities from one of my favourite runs of all time “Madeleine”, to the Grande Motte glacier and even ‘Face de Bellevarde’, a black-rated piste run used at the Olympics! The height of the resort means that if you’ve had a good dumping of snow before your trip then conditions are great and it never gets too ‘slushy’. Although, due to its popularity the resort can get extremely busy in peak with the lower runs down to the village becoming slightly cut up and crowded in school holiday times.
Like the village, even the mountains have everything to offer, from crazy après bars, authentic wooden restaurants, snow parks, glaciers, viewing platforms, half pipes, slalom and nursery slopes. Whether you prefer to sip on a glass of rosé at Le Panoramic, race your friends at the Borsat boarder cross, dance on tables to Cocorico’s live band or go for a swim at the Aquasportif Center, there is always something to do on and off the slopes. This is exactly why I love Val and I know that anyone who went would love it too.
I escaped London for a week and I cannot tell you how amazing it was. I came away feeling refreshed from the mountain air, my cheeks glowing with a slightly wind-burnt tan and ready to come back to England. You do need to have pit stops in your life, and whether that means you need to go on holiday, get out of a city, or even just spend a day on the sofa, it is so important to recharge and reflect on your current situation.
Skiing gave me the ‘me time’ that I needed because when you are going down a slope you are just with yourself, thinking about anything and everything from what you want for dinner, what you’re going to buy your sister for her birthday, your next holiday, to where your life is going to be in 5 years time – I genuinely thought of all these things, which I never get the time to do on a day-to-day basis. We had blissful weather, apparently the best week of the season, which meant that once I had turned off my work emails I could enjoy the sun and fresh air stress-free!
7 days is an ideal skiing break because whilst you are on holiday, you are still exerting yourself for the whole day (if you’re as keen as my family) and you want to ensure you get the right balance of making memories as well as ensuring you have time to switch off. You also have to tell yourself that it is a week of indulgence, with cheese, hot chocolates, wine and a lot of baguettes galore – there is no point dieting on a ski trip!
If you want any more information about skiing, Val or taking a break in general please leave a comment below and I’d be more than happy to answer questions or give recommendations!