Once a place for hard skiing and harder apres skiing Val d’Isère is now a luxurious alpine wonderland
Words: Will Moffitt
Glinting 1,400 metres up above the lift station, Val d’Isère’s La Face de Bellevarde was fashioned into the world's steepest giant slalom course for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Etched into alpine folklore and the resort’s DNA, the white knuckle run will forever be synonymous with those knife-edge races that beamed into living rooms around the world, crystallising “Val’s” reputation as a high altitude playground for serious skiers.
Still blessed with ample snow due to its lofty altitude and its colossal artificial “Snow Factory”, today’s Val d’Isère is a chic, cosmopolitan resort dotted with luxury hotels,
high-end restaurants and boutiques. The palatial five-star Hotel Airelles is the latest jewel in a hospitality portfolio that is becoming ever more polished.
There are plenty of chalets too, most of them dotted around the village. Fusing rustic alpine charm with contemporary flourishes, Chalet Jupiter has floor-to-ceiling French doors, a roaring log fire and a balcony with a jacuzzi. The chalet also offers a fitting service that comes direct to the door; perfect in a blizzard.
The resort is perfectly put together with slick lift service and 153 pistes to ski on. The off piste is excellent, but newbies are advised to traverse tougher terrain with guides and to lay off La Face de Bellevarde after a long afternoon in La Folie Douce. Birthed here long before it conquered the Alps, the apres-skiing mecca remains riotously popular.
For those with more refined tastes, Gigi serves up delicately presented Italian dishes and eye-watering views across Vanoise National Park and René, a family-owned restaurant on the Mangard slope, prepares its meaty dishes in an open kitchen.
In town Hotel Airelles has three top restaurants: La Grande Ourse, serving traditional Savoyard treats, Loulou bringing La Dolce Vita to the alps and Matsuhisa, a contemporary Japanese-style restaurant helmed by the eponymous Nobu creator where resident DJs spin funk-pop remixes long into the night.
For non-skiers there’s still plenty of options, including ice floating on Lake Ouillette or Fatbiking, where former downhill racer Frederik Van Buynde beckons you through twisting mountain trails.
This growing roster of non-skiing activities exemplifies the resort's willful evolution. Still faithful to its hard skiing roots, Val d’Isère is looking beyond the slopes to accommodate an increasingly diverse clientele.